All Failed Startup Stories
Quizup

Quizup

Social Media

General Information

Industry Social Media Country Iceland Started in 2013

Failure

Outcome Shut Down Cause Couldn't Monetise Closed in 2021

People

Founders 1 Employees 25-50

Funding

Funding Rounds 6 Funding Raised $45.1 Million Investors 21

What was Quizup?

Quizup was a mobile trivia application available on Android, iOS, and Windows, originally developed by Plain Vanilla Games but later acquired by Glu Mobile. It’s a multiplayer game where you would compete with other players in a timed multiplayer, multiple-choice question format.

Thor Fridriksson founded Plain Vanilla Games just three years before launching Quizup in 2013. Before starting the company, Fridriksson worked in marketing roles at various companies like Vodafone.

How did Quizup Challenge work?

There were more than 1200 topics available to users, with questions voluntarily submitted by content contributors. 
Users could sign in using their existing Facebook, Google or Twitter accounts, allowing them to connect with their friends in-game and challenge each other. They could also log in through their email. 
Users had an option to play with their friends as well as challenge random strangers. Each match included seven rounds, including one bonus round. In each round, the same question was given to each player with ten seconds to choose an answer out of the four responses provided. They were scored on the basis of accuracy and time with a maximum of 20 points per round, which doubled in bonus rounds.
You could also see how your friends are doing in the leaderboard section.

The Rise of Quizup

Quizup was initially launched only for iOS on 7th November 2013, followed by an android version in March 2014. Within just two weeks of the launch, Techcrunch reported that more than 1.5 Mn users had signed up, and 70 million matches have been played in the past ten days. They raised more than $26 Mn from venture capital investments.

By May 2014, they had reached 20 Mn users, and over a billion games had been played since launch. They had users from around 197 countries, with an average user spending close to 40 minutes a day.

On 30 September 2015, Plain Vanilla Games announced a 10-episode television game show with Universal Television, the production company of NBC. The show was to air on 5 March 2017, but NBC rescinded the show in August 2016. 

Quizup Business Model

Plain Vanilla Game didn’t resort to active advertising to generate revenue. Instead, they were using native advertising.

They tied up with different companies and worked with them to develop questions related to the company's offerings. For example, Google wanted to promote Google Maps. They associated with Quizup on geography-related questions.

Monetisation was the only problem they faced from the very beginning. They could have used active advertising, launched premium membership or in-game purchases to generate profits.

Quizup growth hacks lessons

While the founder of Quizup believes they are gaining traction from word-of-mouth publicity, we noticed a few growth hacks they employed:

  1. Socialising the application - People nowadays want to show off their knowledge. The share feature posts something like “I just beat Emily in Ballet” on their social media. This sparks curiosity among their friends, and they too start downloading the application.
  2. Allowing volunteers to write questions - They needed new questions to keep the app interesting. Hence they allowed users to submit questions on whichever topic they were interested in. An expert reviewed those questions, and users were given a contributor badge if they were approved. This was useful for users as well as the company. They didn’t have to hire freelancers for writing questions, the game remained exciting, and the users felt privileged to be part of app creation.

What happened to Quizup - Was Quizup discontinued?

After the cancellation of their television show by NBC, Plain Vanilla Games laid off all their employees and started looking for buyers for the application. By the end of 2016, mobile game developer Glu Mobile acquired Plain Vanilla Games in a deal valued at $7.5M. This was disappointing for investors who had backed Plain Vanilla earlier. They had raised a $22M Series B round of funding in 2013 led by Sequoia and Tencent.

The developers have struggled to monetise their application since the beginning of Quizup; Mobile gamers are, in most cases, unwilling to pay for the games they play. Farmville can be a perfect example to understand this. Farmville’s significant revenue came from a single-digit percentage of users.

They couldn’t innovate ways to monetise their product while keeping the same traction. Glu Mobile tried various ways throughout the years to make the game profitable.

While the company admitted that the revenues were growing very well, maintaining a user base of 80 million was not profitable.

On 20 January 2021, Quizup was removed from the app store, and on 21 January, Glu mobile announced the discontinuation of Quizup on 22 March 2021. Finally, on 24 March 2021, QuizUp's servers were taken offline, and the application and web service became inaccessible.

Lessons from Quizup’s failure

Although user experience is essential, not being able to generate revenues to maintain user experience can be a disaster. Quizup refused to do active advertising, which could have saved the company from failing.

This is a case of growth without the monetisation. Burning the venture capital fund to scale and not being able to find the right ways to charge customers.

Make your first $ without worrying about the process. Do everything you can to close the first sale.

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