New York Police Department officers responded at 12:18 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, to a call by a woman concerned about Kroll’s well-being. The police found him unresponsive in his SoHo residence and EMS staff pronounced him dead at the scene. An NYPD rep said the department is awaiting results of the medical examiner’s report to determine cause of death but confirmed that drugs appeared to be involved. Police found Kroll’s body surrounded by drug paraphernalia, TMZ reported.
Kroll’s latest venture was HQ Trivia, where he served as CEO of the company he co-founded with Rus Yusupov. HQ Trivia became a viral hit after launching in the summer of 2017 as a live-streaming game show that doles out real cash to player — a format that’s been widely copied.
In a tweet Sunday, Yusupov wrote, “I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.”
So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and co-founder Colin Kroll. My thoughts & prayers go out to his loved ones. I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.
— Rus (@rus) December 16, 2018
HQ Trivia also posted a statement on Twitter about Kroll’s death, saying: “Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”
Scott Rogowsky, the regular host of HQ Trivia, said in a tweet that “Colin Kroll was a true visionary who changed the app game twice, and with HQ he changed my life. He poured his heart and soul into his work and was incredibly proud of what his team accomplished. I will forever be grateful for his friendship, his leadership, and his belief in me.”
Kroll and Yusupov also were two of the founders of six-second video app Vine, along with Dom Hofmann. Vine was acquired in October 2012, prior to its public launch, by Twitter — which then shut down Vine about four years later. In 2014, Vine was a recipient of Variety‘s Breakthrough in Technology Awards.
Kroll had been Vine’s general manager for a few months before he was fired by Twitter in 2014. In a statement earlier this year, Kroll acknowledged that “I was let go from Vine four years ago for poor management… I now realize that there are things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable. I apologize to those people. Today, I’m committed to building HQ Trivia into a culture-defining product and supporting the dedicated team that makes it all possible.”
When HQ Trivia was trying to raise funding more than a year ago, the company was turned down by some venture capitalists who were wary of Kroll’s “alleged bad behavior,” which included “’creepy’ behavior toward women that made them uncomfortable,” according to a Recode report that cited anonymous sources. This summer, Kroll replaced Yusupov as the company’s CEO — amid concerns over HQ Trivia’s waning popularity — while an employee filed an HR complaint against Kroll citing an “inappropriate and unprofessional” management style, per another anonymously sourced Recode report last month.
Before co-founding Vine, Kroll was CTO of Gilt Groupe’s Jetsetter travel site and mobile app where he also worked with Yusupov and Hofmann. Prior to that, Kroll was an engineering manager in Yahoo’s search and advertising technology group; he joined Yahoo with the company’s 2007 acquisition of Right Media, where he had been a software engineer.
Kroll studied computer science at Oakland University in southeastern Michigan, according to his profile on Crunchbase.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Colin Kroll was 35 at the time of his death. He was 34.