Sporcle isn’t just a website, or an app, or an entertaining evening in a bar at night. Sporcle is a company dedicated to trivia and the all important mentally stimulating diversion. Here is its story.
What is Sporcle?
In late 2006 and early 2007 after leaving a company he helped found, Matt Ramme was looking for something new. Ramme had an entrepreneurial spirit and was looking for a way to combine his love of sports with user-to-user interaction. He had an idea for a website that would allow users to prognosticate sporting events in a fantasy sports type of environment. He created a site that allowed anyone to be an oracle with a sporting chance and called the site Sporcle. Ramme asked a graphic designer friend create a logo for him that incorporated a fun-looking crystal ball to help round out the idea. He chose the color orange as the color scheme because it was associated with joy and represented enthusiasm, happiness, creativity, and determination.
With the help of his longtime friend and fellow entrepreneur Ali Aydar, Ramme launched Sporcle on January 30th, 2007. Users could create an account, join or create a group and predict what teams might win within the NFL, NHL, NBA, and other sporting leagues. The site got some traction and a couple hundred users created accounts. However, the problem was that Ramme was a one man show and updating results across various sports leagues week over week was a tedious process. For example, Ramme had to update Sporcle to reflect the NHL playoffs while on vacation in Europe during the spring of 2007. The other problem – he didn’t really like what he had created.
With Sporcle up and running Ramme was busy but still had time for side projects. Ramme and his wife were avid New York Times crossword lovers and regular Jeopardy watchers. He noticed that most of these puzzles, games, and trivia-related activities shared many common traits. It helped to know the US Presidents, state capitals, periodical table of elements, and other subjects one often learned in middle and high school.
Initially, Ramme made a series of flash cards to quiz himself, but soon took to the internet to see if there was a easier way to test himself on more topics. The problem was there weren’t many online sites in place that helped people (re)learn these topics. Frustrated with the poor options out there, Ramme created a basic page that quizzed him on the US Presidents. Sensing that others might share the same interest, he posted the quiz on Sporcle on July 2nd, 2007 and promptly went camping.
On the morning of July 4th, 2007, the US Presidents quiz made the front page of digg.com (which in 2007 was a pretty big deal). In one day that quiz garnered over 100,000 plays. Throughout the rest of 2007, Ramme continued to maintain the sports prediction aspect of Sporcle, but also regularly added more quizzes in history and geography. By the end of the year, Ramme was receiving daily requests for new quizzes on topics as diverse as the UK Prime Ministers to the movies of Tom Hanks. And so the seeds of a user-contributed quiz community was born.
Bringing in More Help
In early 2008, Ramme was having lunch with Derek Pharr, a friend and former colleague who was a project manager at Adobe Systems Inc. Pharr expressed interest in doing something new and mentioned that he was considering creating a site for teachers to use in their classrooms. Ramme and Pharr discussed Sporcle and the quizzes (by this time Ramme had abandoned the sports aspect of the site). Ramme asked Pharr if he’d be interested testing out some of the early tools he was building. With a brief tutorial Pharr was up and running and started creating quizzes.
With continued stewardship from Aydar, Ramme and Pharr built more and more content. By late 2008, it was clear that the demand for quiz creation was exceeding their ability to create content. The rudimentary tools were expanded and updated to allow a small group of beta users to create quizzes. This content was curated, updated, and edited by Ramme and Pharr and posted to the home page daily. The quiz creation tools were refined and expanded. On September 23rd, 2009 anyone could come to Sporcle to create an account of their own.
The result was immediate and overwhelming. Sporcle went from having a few quizzes created daily to hundreds. Basic search and navigation were put in place to aid users in discovering quizzes. Commenting and rating features were added to let users give feedback and interact with other users.
One key ingredient that was missing was a mobile app for Sporcle. Smart phones were quickly replacing standard cell phones and the demand for a mobile version of Sporcle was growing. Ramme had kept in touch with Bob Scheld, his first boss out of college who had hired him as an engineer to Adobe Systems Inc. Scheld was finishing up work at an online photo company and was interested in building an app. Scheld built the first version of the mobile app on his own time and it was released February of 2010. Scheld took on the role of head of engineering.
At this time, Aydar was serving as the Chief Operating Officer of imeem, a social media and music streaming web site. Imeem was acquired by MySpace and shortly thereafter Aydar left imeem to become CEO of Sporcle Inc.
Great Lakes Trivia Acquisition
For the next few years Sporcle continued to grow and expand. The Sporcle Android app was released as were other apps about popular quizzes. The site took shape with a constant stream of published quizzes and expanding roles for committed users. Sporcle introduced the notion of challenges and badges. And new quiz types were released to allow users to create even more content.
In the fall of 2012, Sporcle realized the need to expand its trivia reach out of the digital realm and into the physical world. Aydar and Ramme began negotiations with Mark Adams, the founder of a popular bar trivia company based in Michigan called Great Lakes Trivia. By the end of the year, Adams and his partners agreed to become part of the Sporcle family and with that Sporcle Live was born. In the course of the next year, the number of weekly shows for Sporcle Live bar trivia would more than double and Sporcle became one of the largest providers for bar trivia in the United States.
Today in Sporcle
In 2011, sporcle.com crossed half a billion game plays and then passed the one billion mark in 2013. On October 15th, 2016 the two billionth game play was hit. Also that year, Sporcle released its long awaited subscription service Sporcle Orange, Sporcle Live crossed 300 shows a week, and the 10 millionth badge was earned. Early in 2017, Sporcle became an Alexa top 1000 site in the US.
Sporcle quizzes get played over one million times a day. Sporcle has been praised by the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Jimmy Kimmel and dozens of other news agencies. Sporcle Live is played in 13 states around the country with thousands of members in the Pub Champions Trivia League. Sporcle quizzes are embedded on Mental Floss, ESPN, various SB Nation blogs and hundreds of sites around the internet. Sporcle employs over 200 people with offices in Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, California, and Southfield, Michigan.
With a decade under its belt, Sporcle is well-positioned to continue to be the biggest trivia company in the world for the next ten years and beyond.