Interview

We had a $1 million UA launch fund but only spent a fraction, says Plain Vanilla CEO of US #1 hit QuizUp

We had a $1 million UA launch fund but only spent a fraction, says Plain Vanilla CEO of US #1 hit QuizUp

As game launches go, the performance of trivia quiz game QuizUphas been pretty much perfect.

Developed by small Icelandic developer Plain Vanilla, the head-to-head multiple choice game - only available for iPhone - has been in the US App Store top 10 in terms of downloads since its early November.

It also peaked at #1 in the US and in the UK.

CEO Thor Fridriksson was in a happy mood, then, when we recently caught up with him to talk about the company's recent new funding round, its iOS launch, and its plans for Android.

Pocket Gamer: You previously raised $3.6 million so why do you need another $2 million?

Thor Fridriksson: It's a funny story. We were not actually looking to raise another round before the launch of QuizUp.

We were in private beta for about a month before launch. Some of our Series A investors were participating in the beta and kind of showing it off to other investors. That is how both Sequoia and eVentures got excited about investing in Plain Vanilla before we actually launched the product itself.

When we got the offer, we were already running a bit low on cash and we thought it might be a good risk mitigation strategy to get some additional runway just in case the QuizUp launch would not be as successful as we hoped.

We actually got the wire to our account at launch day and two days later we are the top app in the App Store. I guess you can say that the investors made a pretty good bet that day!

You now have a relatively large number of investors. Do you worry this will cause issues from a management point of view?

I'm incredibly lucky with my pool of investors. I really recommend to get in as many investors in the seed round as possible.

Seriously, I have investors all over the world, and they have all been incredibly helpful along the way.

It also gives the CEO more creative freedom during the first year as the investors are spread around and just trust the entrepreneur

Sequoia is well known for being a hard-nosed VC company, so does its involvement mean you will looking to aggressively accelerate future growth and/or exit strategy?

Sequoia has an awesome reputation for creating incredible value. My aspirations are totally aligned with theirs.

We will definitely be scaling the company quickly. We have already grown from 20 employees to 35 last month alone.

QuizUp has launched well, but why aren't you on Android?

Mainly resource restraints I guess. Plain Vanilla was born as an iOS development studio and we have more experience with iOS.

Given QuizUp sudden rise to fame we have accelerated our Android development quite a bit and QuizUp on Android will launch in January 2014.

QuizUp has been in the top 10 chart for the most downloaded games on iPhone in the US since launch - via App Annie

We hundreds if not thousands of emails every day from Android users and we are doing this as fast as humanly possible.

How much have you spent on launch marketing and user acquisition?

Before we launched we were told by industry experts that the only way to get to the top 5 in the App Store would be through ad spending. The App Store is hyper competitive these days and it seems that the only way to make it to the charts is to have some serious marketing muscle.

It was important to us to get QuizUp in front of users and we planned to spend up to $1 million dollars in the initial launch campaign. When we launched though, we quickly discovered that most of our downloads were organic or viral so we quickly turned down our ad campaigns.

To-date we have only spent a fraction of our initial budget and we are still the #1 game on the US App Store. I'm thrilled to prove that a game can still thrive in the top download section because of the quality of the game instead of the size of the marketing budget.

Do you worry that in the longterm you'll end up with 500 topic categories in the game but only 50 that people actively play?

We will rely on the users when it comes to the creation and maintenance of our topics. We have already received tens of thousands of applications from users to become content contributors.

We are keeping a close eye on all the topic stats and we are still trying to understand what kind of topics people play the most. We do believe though that QuizUp should be a place where anyone can find something that they are passionate about.

You have a lot of players, but QuizUp doesn't have a decent monetisation system. What's your plan?

To be honest, we did not put a lot of emphasis on the monetization at launch. We do have the option to buy XP boosters in the game but we are not really promoting at all.

We see a lot of interesting monetization possibilities down the road, especially by working with content owners in bringing high quality content to our users.

I don't like traditional mobile ads as they can decrease the user experience of a game.

Thanks to Thor for his time.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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