Colin Kroll fit a very stereotypical millennial with the Silicon Valley mindset: self-taught coder and college dropout who made millions in 20s. Kroll grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and his intellect was shown at a young age. He began teaching himself to code in multiple languages and even had a business of bootlegging Japanese anime. He eventually dropped out of his local community college, and also was struggling with a drug addition from a young age.
He had been previously behind two very popular apps: Vine, a popular six-second video platform that was bought by Twitter, and HQ Trivia, a live mobile gameshow where users can win real money. HQ Trivia was once valued at 100 million dollars and Vine was sold to Twitter for around 30 million dollars.
As described in the article, “Silicon Valley has changed the traditional path of business success. Instead of toiling up the corporate ladder, young coding whizzes can take a fast track to wealth and fame.” Kroll was able to quickly gain success, due to the speed of popularity of the apps he helped create. These apps were both viral sensations, gaining millions of users in a matter of months.
One of the hidden problems with all this Silicon Valley success is the addiction that sometime manifests. With all of this quick success comes with a need to maintain, leading to a huge amount of stress placed on the founders such as Kroll. His early drug addition only continued to grow worse with the impeding stress from trying to raise more money for his apps and keep users from migrating to his competition such as Facebook and Snapchat. His family also struggled with addition, leading to him trying to get his act together by enrolling at Oakland University and starting to go to AA meetings.
After his first app, Vine, was sold to Twitter he was offered a job at Twitter that was promised over a million dollars in bonuses and this led to a spiral. He began to treat his success by parting frequently and using drugs that he tried to stop taking years before. He was trying to again fit into the stereotypical mold of a successful tech millennial, making millions and partying to show off a “unstoppable” and idyllic lifestyle.
His engagement fell apart and he began buying luxury items: cars, apartments, clothing. He began hanging out with internet celebrities, may of whom got their fame from Vine. He started using drugs much more frequently, as to compensate from the long work hours and the increased pressure from investors.
Kroll also got into trouble with trying to raise money for his company as potential investors uncovered his Twitter history, along with the #MeToo movement make them “wary of any hint of hint of misconduct.” Twitter held an internal investigation that he had not sexually harassed anyone but did make a hostile work environment for may of the employees.
As Vine became obsolete and HQ Trivia was the new hot app on the market, he had a falling out with his partner Mr. Yusupov who apparently talked badly about his reputation behind his back and tried to get him out of the company.
Unfortunately, Kroll’s story ends after a holiday party on December 14th 2018 where he accidentally overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in his NYC apartment.
Kroll’s story tells a tale of many of the pressures that result from someone so young becoming successful in a very short amount of time. An important quote from the New York Post article states, “There’s so much pressure on [start-up] founders because they need to deliver to investors,” said the company insider. “There’s a disproportionately younger set of founders in this space … They are brilliant and creative and innovative, but they are also young and inexperienced and naïve. All of a sudden, you’re going from a fun, creative time of building something into pressure from the investor side.” My personal opinion is that he became successful too fast and he was not ready to go to the side of trying to please investors when he was mainly in the construction of the app side rather than a more manager role.
This story also brings up many of the mental health concerns with this “Silicon Valley lifestyle” with depression and suicide becoming rampant among many of these young entrepreneurs as they are working extremely long hours and are under immense pressure to succeed. There needs to be more resources to help these entrepreneurs because many of them feel overwhelmed by the pressure and the fear of failing. Colin Kroll’s story is a cautionary tale to young entrepreneurs to not get in over their heads and to ask for help when they need it.