If you’ve never played QuizUp, it works like this: Once you sign up with Facebook or make a new account, you select from a number of Jeopardy-like categories–everything from world news to 2000’s music to Pokémon. Then, you compete directly against either a random opponent or a friend, answering questions in rapid succession to score points.
In a way, QuizUp does for trivia what Draw Something did for Pictionary. And it is very good at connecting people with common interests, since you have the option to chat with an opponent after a match. In fact, Thor Fridriksson, CEO and founder of Plain Vanilla, the company behind QuizUp, says it’s actually a savvy place to score a date. “QuizUp is not really a normal game,” Fridriksson told Fast Company. “It’s kind of a hybrid between a game and a social network. It’s a place where people compete and connect. It breaks the ice.”
And it’s that social aspect that might keep its existing community of 10 million-plus users coming back for more. Instead of creating quirky trivia questions for something like Fifty Shades of Grey in-house, QuizUp fields and fact checks questions submitted by users–the people most passionate about the respective subject matter.
“We don’t make the questions ourselves,” says Fridriksson. “We reach out ourselves to fan communities, and have over 50,000 people contributing applications to the platform. We’re adding new questions every day.” Communities can spring up over the most random interests, too: “The Mean Girls topic got incredibly popular,” he added.
Porting QuizUp over to Android presents an enormous opportunity. But opening the floodgates to a smartphone platform that owns 70% of the market also presents numerous technical challenges for a small but growing team. “Android users have been quite vocal–we’ve gotten a lot of heat [for launching on iOS first],” says Fridriksson. “The dream scenario is we would have launched the Android version sooner.”
The next step will be making it possible to play against people inhabiting distant corners of the world. Right now, the trivia game is incredibly popular in English-speaking countries. But Fridriksson, who hails from Iceland, would like it to be possible for someone who only speaks Japanese to play someone who only speaks German for true cross-platform, cross-language pollination.
It’s worth mentioning that, just a little over 12 months ago, it was a much grimmer picture for Plain Vanilla. The company was knee-deep in bankruptcy paperwork, and Fridriksson was sending out resumes for a regular 9 to 5. Then, the company struck unlikely gold in the form of QuizUp.
“A year ago there were seven of us,” says Fridriksson. “Now there’s 45 of us. To be honest we never anticipated that QuizUp was going to be such a hit.”