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NBC to make TV show based on successful Nordic app

Plain Vanilla founder Þorsteinn Friðriksson refuse to leave Iceland.
  • Publisert 25.11.2015
  • Sist oppdatert 27.11.2015
In spite of their success, Plain Vanilla founder Þorsteinn Friðriksson refuse to leave the Nordics and Iceland.


When Icelandic mobile game developers Plain Vanilla launched their social quiz app QuizUp on App Store in November 2013 success was imminent. Only eight days went before the app had been downloaded a million times – a new record for any app, beating Draw Something’s previous record from 2012 with one day. QuizOn has now been downloaded more than 20 million times, and Plain Vanilla has made their mark among the world’s mobile game developers.


However, it does not end there. This October, Plain Vanilla made a deal with American broadcast giants NBC to make a TV show based on QuizUp. In two years, the startup has grown from 10 to 85 employees, and last year they were included in Fast Company’s list over the world’s ten most innovative companies and were voted startup of the year in the Nordic Startups Awards. 



Less competition for talent

With great success also followed a great pressure from investors on moving the company headquarters to San Francisco in order to be closer to partners and the tech scene. Founder Þorsteinn Friðriksson, however, refuses to move from Iceland.


– The first reason is talent. Even though there is a lot of good talent in San Francisco, we have great talents in the Nordics. And even though the talent pool is much smaller here, the competition is less fierce, explains Friðriksson.


He is more than happy to not have to compete with giants like Apple and Google for the best people when he is hiring, and feels all the competences he needs can be found in the Nordic countries.


His other reason is more of personal one. With both kids and memories on growing up on Iceland, he wants to say.


– And why shouldn’t I be able to be here in the new market where everything is digital and online, he asks rhetorically.


Even though Plain Vanilla has offices in New York and San Francisco, he promises that they never will move their headquarters off Iceland – even though that means he has to travel a lot between Reykjavik and San Francisco.


The value of failure

Plain Vanilla has not always been successful. Founded in 2010, they used a whole year on developing a learning app for kids called “The Moogies”. The app failed in spite of good reviews. However, Friðriksson did not let it bring him down and two years later he launched QuizUp to great success.


– What failure does is that it helps you learn. It helps you deal with difficult situations and that it what makes a good entrepreneur. So don’t be afraid to fail, encourages the successful entrepreneur. 



A #NordicMade startup success


Watch the full length interview with Þorsteinn Friðriksson here: