Colin Kroll, co-founder of Vine and HQ Trivia, dead at 34 after suspected drug overdose in New York flat

  • Kroll was the chief executive of the HQ Trivia app, which live-streams short trivia shows to users
  • He also was a founder of Vine, which was an app built around six-second videos, and worked for a period at Twitter
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 12:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 10:54pm

US tech star Colin Kroll, who co-founded Vine and popular gaming app HQ Trivia, was found dead Sunday in New York of an apparent drug overdose.

Police found Kroll, 34, unconscious and unresponsive in a bedroom of his Manhattan flat with drug paraphernalia around him after his girlfriend called authorities because she hadn’t heard from him, sources said.

Kroll reportedly took cocaine and heroin before his overdose, according to TMZ. Police said an investigation was underway.

“He had so much talent and had accomplished so much at such a young age,” his father, Alan Kroll, told The New York Times.

“It truly is a waste. At 34, imagine the things he’d done and the skills he had.”

Kroll co-founded Vine, the popular short-form video service acquired in 2012 by Twitter that is now defunct.

In September, he was named the chief executive of HQ Trivia, a smartphone-based trivia platform.

Rus Yusupov, who co-founded HQ Trivia with Kroll, remembered his friend in a tweet Sunday.

“I will forever remember (Colin) for his kind soul and big heart,” he wrote.

“He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.”

At its height, HQ Trivia drew more than 2 million players a game, and in March banked US$15 million in venture funding, giving it a reported post-money valuation of US$100 million.

But its popularity has waned in recent months – HQ Trivia did not have a place in the iPhone App Store’s top 200 most downloaded free apps as of Sunday, despite having spent much of last year in the top 10.

“We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll,” a spokesman for HQ Trivia wrote on Twitter.

“It’s with deep sadness that we say goodbye. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”

HQ Trivia launched months after Vine, which allowed users to upload six-second videos, shut down. Kroll, Yusupov and Dom Hofmann launched Vine in 2013, and Kroll was the company’s general manger between 2013 and 2014.

Vine was acquired by Twitter in 2012; Kroll was later let go by the company for “poor management”.

He apologised in a statement to Axios in March, writing that his ouster was a “painful” but “eye-opening” experience.

“I now realise that there are things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable,” he said.

Kroll was previously an engineering manager at Yahoo! from 2007-09 and the chief technology officer at Jetsetter from 2009-13, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Despite his illustrious tech career, neighbours said Kroll wanted to move out of his SoHo flat because the rent was too high.

“He was saying it was awfully expensive. I think he might have been trying to talk to (the super) to lower his rent,” said one neighbour.

In recent months, the entrepreneur, who was otherwise “very quiet, very soft-spoken,” seemed more active.

“The last two months he seemed very upbeat. And very happy. And he was walking his dog at least three times a day,” the neighbour said.

“I think he worked long hours. And smoked a lot of weed. You would smell it.

“It’s a very difficult thing to handle, the rejection … as entrepreneurs,” he added.

“It’s sad.”

Agence France-Presse, Tribune News Service, Associated Press