Thor Fridriksson can barely contain himself. The founder and CEO of development studio Plain Vanilla Games has reason to be excited: In just over a week since his company launched launched QuizUp, the startup’s addictive trivia app, the service has already signed up 1.5 million users, who have clocked in roughly 70 million games played--more than enough to rocket the app to the top of iTunes.
But today, the Iceland native is gushing for a different reason. Following a week of glowing press attention, Plain Vanilla today announced that it had closed a $2 million round of series A funding led by Sequoia Capital. The round of capital, which the company was sure to specify was closed before the launch of QuizUp, will help Fridriksson build on the initial success of the trivia game that’s been praised for its clever social features and slick design.
QuizUp is a simple trivia game, but it’s not just another blatant reboot of Trivial Pursuit. The iPhone app pits users against one other in rounds of real-time trivia. Its secret sauce is that its inherently social: The QuizUp community has generated more than 100,000 questions in hundreds of increasingly niche categories, part of the reason for the service’s success. Fridriksson says his team decided to eschew mainstream, “broad categories” of questions in favor of specific areas of trivia, which users are more passionate about, such as trivia on Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. Fridriksson calls it a “gamified Wikipedia.”
A slew of competing trivia services clutter Apple's app store, such as Sporcle or Trivial Pursuit’s own app, built by Electronic Arts. But QuizUp’s smart design helps set it apart--it’s far cleaner, more intuitive and playful than many of its rival apps.
For his part, Fridriksson doesn’t mind being compared to other trivia apps. It’s an age-old passion he feels he’s tapping into, updated for the age of the iPhone. He compares its social core to how families love watching shows like Jeopardy together.
“When a question appears on the screen that someone knows the answer to, what always happens is that you shout it out at the TV,” Fridriksson says. “You’re doing it because we all have this very primal feeling inside to let other people know that we know something.”