QuizUp Story: From Million-Dollar Funding to Shutdown

QuizUp, a mobile trivia app, was developed by Plain Vanilla Games and later acquired by Glu Mobile. Founded by Thor Fridriksson in 2013, the app allowed users to compete in timed multiplayer, multiple-choice trivia matches. With over 1200 topics, players could challenge friends or random opponents.

Gameplay and Rise:

Users signed in via social media accounts and answered questions for scores. Each match consisted of seven rounds, including a bonus round, scoring points based on accuracy and time. QuizUp quickly gained popularity, launching on iOS in 2013 and Android in 2014. Within weeks, it amassed millions of users, securing venture capital investments and reaching 20 million users by May 2014.

Business Model and Growth Hacks:

Rather than active advertising, QuizUp adopted native advertising. Partnerships with companies led to questions related to their offerings. For example, Google collaborated on geography-related questions to promote Google Maps. The app’s growth hacks included socializing the application, encouraging users to share achievements on social media, and allowing volunteers to submit questions, fostering user engagement.

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Challenges and Monetization Struggles:

Monetization was a persistent challenge. While QuizUp focused on word-of-mouth publicity, the absence of active advertising, premium memberships, or in-game purchases impacted revenue generation. The inability to monetize led to difficulties in maintaining the game’s user experience.

Downfall and Acquisition:

After NBC canceled the planned television game show in 2016, Plain Vanilla Games sought buyers for QuizUp. Glu Mobile acquired Plain Vanilla Games in 2016 for $7.5M. Despite various attempts to make the game profitable, maintaining a user base of 80 million proved unprofitable. In January 2021, QuizUp was removed from app stores, and its servers were shut down on March 24, 2021.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Monetization is Crucial: QuizUp’s failure emphasizes the importance of finding viable revenue streams to sustain user experience. Relying solely on word-of-mouth without effective monetization can lead to downfall.
  2. Balancing Growth and Revenue: Growth without a parallel focus on revenue can be unsustainable. Burning through venture capital funds to scale must be accompanied by efforts to establish profitable models.
  3. Adaptation is Key: QuizUp’s reluctance to adopt active advertising limited revenue opportunities. Startups should remain adaptable and explore various monetization strategies.
  4. Customer Acquisition vs. Retention: While QuizUp excelled in customer acquisition, maintaining profitability with a large user base proved challenging. Balancing acquisition and retention strategies is essential for sustained success.
  5. Experimentation and Innovation: QuizUp struggled to innovate ways to monetize its product effectively. Experimentation with different revenue models is crucial for startups to find what works best for their audience.
  6. Initial Revenue Generation: Closing the first sale and establishing initial revenue sources can be vital for startups. It provides a foundation for sustained growth and operations.

The QuizUp story serves as a reminder for startups to prioritize sustainable monetization, adapt to changing circumstances, and strike a balance between user growth and financial viability.

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