- HQ Trivia and Vine cofounder Colin Kroll was found dead on Sunday. He was aged just 34.
- He had a reputation as a talented but uncompromising boss, who had a history of clashes with staff.
- Complaints were reportedly made about his behaviour at HQ and Vine, and he also apologised this year for “poor management.”
- His own father, Alan Kroll, said he was a “tough boss” with a strong work ethic.
- Kroll achieved a rare thing though: He created a breakout hit – twice.
Colin Kroll’s death at the age of 34 was met with an outpouring of grief from staff at HQ Trivia. But it also provoked an honest assessment of his chequered management history – from his own father.
Recode has led reporting on some of the growing pains at HQ Trivia and Kroll’s record as a boss, both at HQ and Vine, the looping video app he also cofounded.
In December last year, Recode said some VC firms sat out of an HQ Trivia raise due to concerns about Kroll’s reputation for “exhibiting inappropriate behaviour toward women” while working at Vine.
Recode reported that Jeremy Liew, a board member at HQ’s publisher Intermedia Labs, investigated. “I found a good deal of negative sentiment about Colin and the Vine team and some discomfort with his behaviour, but I did not find evidence that warrants his removal from the company,” he concluded.
HQ Trivia closed the $US15 million raise in March, Axios reported, valuing the company at $US100 million.
And then this year, Kroll was again accused of inappropriate conduct – this time by an HQ staffer. Recode revealed that the employee filed a complaint with HR over his “aggressive management style.” The claim was again investigated and the company told Recode that it “yielded no concerns.”
But Kroll was upfront about his shortcomings. In a statement released to Axios following HQ’s $US15 million raise, he admitted that he was fired from Vine for “poor management.”
Kroll said: “It was a painful experience, but an eye-opening one that served as a catalyst for professional development and greater awareness in the office. I now realise that there are things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable. I apologise to those people.”
And on the day of his death, Kroll’s own father, Alan Kroll, said he could be a “tough boss.” Alan told The New York Times that his son was bruised by reporting about his management style, which could have stemmed from Colin’s strong work ethic.
“He had this hard Midwest drive about him,” said Alan, who raised his three sons in Detroit. “He couldn’t understand people that couldn’t keep up. I tried to explain to him that not everyone could do that.” Ultimately, Alan concluded: “He was a young guy working on really creative stuff.”
And Kroll was evidently popular with a number of HQ employees.
“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,”tweeted HQ Trivia quiz host Scott Rogowsky.
Kurt Wagner, the Recode reporter who detailed Kroll’s difficulties, tweeted that despite questions over his management style, he is likely to be remembered for a rare thing in the tech world: Creating a breakout hit – twice.
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