The big Rogowsky

After a monster first half of 2018, HQ Trivia is struggling to find the right answer to keep its audience around. The Hustle Sponsored by HQ Trivia is on the brink of losing at its own game as its audience continues to shrink Back in March, many speculated that HQ Trivia (both the game and […]


November 6, 2018

After a monster first half of 2018, HQ Trivia is struggling to find the right answer to keep its audience around.

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HQ Trivia is on the brink of losing at its own game as its audience continues to shrink

Back in March, many speculated that HQ Trivia (both the game and brand) was here to stay. Some believed it had all the makings of a new media empire.

Cut to a mere 7 months later: HQ’s audience is disappearing in droves — and it’s gonna take more than a Scott Rogowsky cameo in Fresh Off The Boat to bring it back.

The viral wave has passed

The once-viral app where users can answer trivia questions in exchange for cash took off late last year, gained over 1m participants by January, and made the Top 10 list of most-downloaded free iPhone games by February.

Now, Recode reports that weekday show attendance has dropped as low as 200k players and the app now sits in the 250-500 range on the most-downloaded list.

Meanwhile, the company’s founders are dealing with personal issues that many investors have long feared would rear their heads.

A power struggle at the top

According to Recode, the company recently ousted CEO Rus Yusupov and replaced him with co-founder Colin Kroll following a “contentious boardroom battle” between the two.

But Kroll is no white knight: In August, an HQ employee filed a formal complaint with HR against the new CEO for his “aggressive management style.”

According to sources, the alleged behavior was not sexual, which is worth noting because Kroll earned a reputation of exhibiting inappropriate behavior toward women before he was fired at Twitter for being a “bad manager.”

Now, it’s sink or swim

HQ expects to do more than $10m in revenue this year, which is no small feat — but unfortunately for the startup, it’s still a far cry from the return venture funds are expecting.

HQ recently announced a new “Wheel of Fortune”-style game for smartphones called “Words,” and many people close to the company feel the new game’s success is the difference between living and dying for the Trivia app.

We’ve had our fun, back to Jeopardy!

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Berkshire Hathaway buys back its own shares for the first time since 2012

Berkshire Hathaway investors cooed yesterday after Warren Buffett’s investment arm disclosed that its net income for Q3 more than quadrupled from last year to a whopping $18.54B.

As if that wasn’t enough, the investment firm also announced it repurchased about $928m of its own shares during the quarter — something it hasn’t done in 6 years.

BH’s shares have soared 143% since the last buyback, so if 2012 signifies what is to come, well then, that’s just Buffett being Buffett, babayy.

QUIET… the oracle sees…

A stock buyback is when a company repurchases shares of its own stock to help preserve its stock price, boosting financial ratios by decreasing a company’s overall share count.

Back in July, BH changed its buyback policy to give Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger more wiggle room — now, they’re putting it to good use.

The year of the buyback

This could mean that Buffett sees some hot investment options on the horizon and is freeing up cash to pounce on them when prices are low.

And, other companies are taking a page out of the oracle’s book: Spotify announced plans to buy back up to $1B worth of its stock to boost its falling stock price, while CEOs from IBM and GE both bought back around $3m each from their respective companies.

» The man is a folk hero of our times

Applebooze had its best quarter in 14 years thanks to ‘Dollaritas’ and drunk food

Despite pressure from competing food options, Applebee’s is still eatin’ good in the neighborhood. The chain posted a same-store sales increase of 7.7% this past quarter — and it’s all thanks to its dollar drink specials.

Applebee’s said it best: “more like Applebeers.”

Come for the Dollarita, stay for the Quesadilla Burger

Convenient food delivery from Uber Eats and fast-casual dining at chains like Chipotle have eaten away at business for sit-down restaurants: Industrywide, restaurant traffic fell 1.2% last quarter.

So, Applebee’s rolled out deals that customers couldn’t refuse, AKA, the dangerously delicious Dollarita, a $1 booze-bomb.

Applebee’s President John Cywinski says that, “Because [customers] are getting a great value on the beverage side, they tend to be ordering desserts and appetizers.”

(Let’s be honest, those Cheesecake Dessert Shooters just taste better after 3 or 7 Dollaritas.)

Drunk decisions are good for business

Applebee’s same-store sales increased 7.7% last quarter (compared to the 1.2% industry average), its 4th consecutive quarter of growth.

With stock in parent company Dine Brands up a tasty 70% on the year, Applebee’s is going to great lengths to continue winning the business of margarita-crazed millennials — including “fusion” creations (like its Grilled Chicken Wonton Tacos) designed to cater to evolving food preferences.

» General Tso’s Chicken Salad, please

Aaptiv launches its (English) audio exercise classes in 20 countries, hoping they work out

Aaptiv, the growing audio-based fitness app, went live in 20 countries yesterday, 5 months after scoring a $22m funding round from several high-profile backers including Amazon and Disney.

Aaptiv’s global expansion shows that the company will stay true to its audio roots as it attempts to capitalize on the expanding “connected fitness” market.

Cardio by audio

The digital fitness industry is on a roll: SoulCycle started out as a boutique workout class before spinning off into apparel and digital fitness, while Peloton started with high-end fitness equipment before expanding into apparel and live digital classes.

But, while competitors are trying to offer multiple formats and products, Aaptiv only makes pre-recorded audio classes.

The company is banking on convenience: Unlike high-end competitors, classes don’t require a $1,995 piece of hardware, and unlike video workouts, Aaptiv classes are accessible at home, in the gym, or outside.

Higher (margins), faster (growth), más fuerte (translation required)

Users have taken more than 18m Aaptiv classes to date (up from 14m 5 months ago), and with just 5 full-time and a handful of part-time trainers, the company now has well over 200k users paying $14.99 monthly or $99 annually.

But so far, Aaptiv’s expansion is limited by language (it only offers English classes). The company’s challenge now will be to scale its model and develop more “localized” content.

» Not sure what she said, but I’m PUMPED

BREAKING: Amazon to split HQ2 between New York and Virginia

Guess all that wining and dining paid off. The New York Times reports that after a year of bids from 50+ cities for the location of its new headquarters, Amazon announced that it will split the campus into 2, 25k-employee locations: one in Queens, NY, and another in Arlington, VA.

Amazon has yet to comment on the decision, but we’ll let the rent in Queens do the talking.

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