When his original startup concept flopped, Thor Fridriksson decided to give the app markets one more try. The Oxford MBA graduate and CEO at Plain Vanilla Games was operating off his fascination of emerging technologies and went into heavy brainstorming. “I really believe good ideas come through hardships,” says Fridriksson. And after two years of destitution, out hatched trivia sensation QuizUp, with more than 15 million registered users just five months after its launch. All trivia competitions are free to play and users can select from hundreds of topics to play against friends or strangers. QuizUp’s target audience varies: it’s not just teenagers with time to spare, and Thor says the company adds fresh content daily to stay ahead of competition. Internet Week caught up with Thor, who is currently based in Iceland, for a conversation around perseverance, finances and gaming.
Taj Tsonga: How long after you formed the idea for QuizUp did it take to get it in development?
Thor Fridriksson: After I came up with the concept, I needed funding. I was bankrupt and I hadn’t payed myself a salary for months. My partners and I knew the idea was ambitious and it wasn’t just a quiz game — we wanted to launch a whole social platform around it. I really believed in the idea and I took a chance. I purchased three plane tickets to San Francisco — I’d never been there in my life. The only objective was to have my engineers build a prototype of the product and my goal was to have investors give us money. Five months after QuizUp’s launch we had over 15 million registered users.
IWNY: Wait, so you went to San Francisco without a prototype?
QuizUp: Yes that is correct, we didn’t have anything. We didn’t have an investors stack, I didn’t know how much funding to raise and we didn’t have a product. Combine that with the fact that we are not US citizens — we were on a tourist visa and we could only stay in the US for 90 days. It was the ultimate all-or-nothing kind of trip. I had 90 days to build the prototype and find investors for the seed round or I would just quit, it was my last chance.
IWNY: Where can I find your app?
QuizUp: It’s a free product for iOS devices and Android.
IWNY: What are the ways you are marketing?
QuizUp: 95% of our users are organic users. They are installing the app from word of mouth. We see this going on a lot and we think people are doing it because they are playing something they are really passionate about so it makes it viral. Our main distribution is word of mouth. We are also expanding into other countries, so we are shipping QuizUp in much larger language markets so we are very excited about that.
IWNY: How many employees do you have?
QuizUp: We have 50 employees and we have about 50,000 writers contributing to our content.
IWNY: Who are your competitors and what are you doing to protect your brand?
QuizUp: There are thousands of quiz apps out there and we are the biggest trivia game in the world on mobile. We are in a fortunate position to be very well-received by our users and we constantly evolve our platform. We are adding new content every day, keeping it fresh, and we are making it easier for users to communicate. The social networks are competitor as well, as a lot of people are utilizing QuizUp as a social platform, to meet new people. They are communicating with people they’ve never met before around topics they are passionate about, and this is something we are very excited about. We think QuizUp is a great place to meet people who share your interests.
IWNY: What is the biggest challenge in growing QuizUp?
QuizUp: Scaling a company is always challenging. A year ago there were10 of us and now there are 50 of us. So being able to scale a company but still keeping profitability high is still a challenge. It is a lot of work but I think we are on the right track.
IWNY: What is your target audience for users?
QuizUp: It is actually very wide. We have lots of topics, we have over 400 topics and we see our demographics are very widespread. They are split between age and gender. It just depends on what people are interested in.
By Taj Tsonga