When his income dried up overnight, he launched a Zoom trivia business from scratch. Now, this former restaurant sales director is making more than ever and has diehard fans from Alaska to Nepal.

A Thursday night Walsh Trivia session. Walsh Trivia
  • Stephen Walsh was working in events in the Baltimore restaurant and bar scene when the coronavirus outbreak hit the US.
  • When Walsh realised his entire income was going to dry up overnight, he scrambled to launch a virtual trivia night, first over Facebook Live and now over Zoom.
  • Walsh has now hosted over 40 straight days of trivia and is drawing hundreds of players per session. He typically hosts three sessions per night.
  • Walsh charges $US3 to register a team and $US2 per player after that. He told Business Insider that he’s making more money now than he ever has before.
  • “In my dream world, I will not go back to doing any other job,” Walsh said. “I would love to do this because it doesn’t feel like work.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Stephen Walsh had been working in Baltimore bar and restaurant industry when the coronavirus outbreak reached the US. Businesses began closing down, and soon the state of Maryland soon issued a stay-at-home order. Overnight, Walsh’s income completely dried up.

Walsh had been hosting trivia nights on and off for about 10 years. Originally from Cork, Ireland, but a resident of Baltimore since college, Walsh quickly realised virtual trivia nights could become a new source of income and scrambled to get virtual sessions set up fast, before other hosts had the idea.

When he hosted his first Walsh Trivia session on March 17, he never expected it to take off.

For the last 40 straight days, Walsh has been hosting virtual trivia sessions every day, sometimes for as many as 300 participants at once. He has enough diehard fans in Juneau, Alaska that he’s added an extra session for their time zone. After one participant told their friend about the games – who happened to work for the American embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan – Walsh now has teams playing in embassies around the world. The embassy in Nepal even has two teams: Kathmandu and KathmanTwo.

Every day, Walsh comes up with a brand-new set of questions, then hosts three separate evening sessions to capture as many time zones as possible. Once the embassies got on board, he started getting up at 7 a.m. each Saturday to host an 8 a.m. trivia game for those in Asian countries, then signs back on around 1 p.m. so players in Europe, Africa, South America, and North America can play.

Walsh Trivia
Walsh’s son, Jamie. Walsh Trivia

Walsh, who is married to a schoolteacher and has a 1-year-old son, said it’s been a challenge to balance his home life and his packed schedule. He wanted to host kids and family games but didn’t have enough time in the day, so he started training his sister in North Carolina as a host as well.

“It’s definitely tiring,” Walsh told Business Insider. “I need to put out a new game every day and I can’t just take simple questions from anywhere, so that’s probably the most mentally draining part.”

“The hosting, I really enjoy. I love engaging people and I can see them on camera and I can see when I make them laugh or I make them high five or I make them put their head in their hands. That energizes me,” Walsh said.

He said he’s able to track returning players and found that 83% of people who have played have gone on to sign up for two more games.

“If you like trivia, you should like my trivia, because it’s written by someone who loves it,” Walsh said.

Walsh Trivia
Walsh Trivia winners. Walsh Trivia

‘In my dream world, I will not go back to doing any other job’

Walsh uses a combination of Zoom and Google Forms to host the sessions, and he charges $US3 for a “captain” to form a team, and $US2 for every additional team member. The number of teams is capped at 40, and Walsh recommends no more than 10 players per team. Players pay him either by PayPal or Venmo.

The technical aspect of virtual trivia has presented challenges. Early on, Walsh tried a combination of Facebook Live for video and Survey Monkey for submitting answers, which he described as “a mess.” Zoom has proven to work better.

After getting feedback from some of the players, Walsh is also trying to figure out the best way to display a scoreboard, but that’s been a challenge, too.

“There’s still room for improvement on the technology side,” said Walsh.

Walsh said he typically hosts at least two games per night that are open to the public, and then some private games for companies or organisations he charges a flat rate. Early in March, one company locked in a recurring happy hour for its team every Friday until May.

And while he has bought a few Facebook ads and promotes the trivia on his social media accounts, he said the best marketing has been word-of-mouth – people join a trivia night, enjoy it, and tell their friends about it.

However the word is spreading, it’s working: Walsh said over the past few weeks, he’s made more money than he ever has before.

“I know that this is short-term, but it’s been an incredible opportunity for me,” Walsh told Business Insider. “I’ve never earned what I’m earning now doing any other job. In my dream world, I will not go back to doing any other job. I would love to do this because it doesn’t feel like work.”