- The co-founder of Vine and current CEO of HQ Trivia went off at a Daily Beast reporter during a phone call for writing an unauthorized profile about the app's game show host, Scott Rogowsky.
- HQ Trivia is a hot startup that offers a live trivia game show, where players compete for real money.
- The CEO, Rus Yusupov, threatened to fire Rogowsky if the Daily Beast ran its profile, which revealed that Rogowsky's favorite salad chain is Sweetgreen.
- The story ran and included details of Yusupov's reaction. The CEO ultimately apologized on Twitter.
The CEO of the mega-popular app HQ Trivia learned a lesson about public relations — and Sweetgreen salads — on Tuesday after going off on a Daily Beast reporter during a phone call.
Rus Yusupov, cofounder of HQ Trivia and the now defunct video streaming app Vine, recently threatened to fire his star employee and game show host, Scott Rogowsky, if the Daily Beast ran a lighthearted profile it had written about Rogowsky.
The full Daily Beast story is worth a read, but in short, Yusupov was upset that the Daily Beast reporter, Taylor Lorenz, interviewed the HQ Trivia host without his permission.
The CEO was particularly upset that Rogowsky said on the record that he was able to go outside and "order his favorite salad from Sweetgreen" without people noticing him.
The Daily Beast reported that Yusupov shouted at Lorenz on the phone, saying, "He cannot say that! We do not have a brand deal with Sweetgreen! Under no circumstances can he say that."
In the wake of the odd phone call, Lorenz decided to change the focus of her story from Rogowsky's cult following to Yusupov's threat to fire the game show host if the profile was published.
So what happened to cause such a reaction? The heart of the issue appears to be Yusupov's fundamental misunderstanding about how journalism works, and what reporters are and aren't authorized to do when reporting on a subject.
"If you reached out to an Apple engineer and they gave you information about the new iPhone, would you run it? No, because you'd have to go through proper press channels," Yusupov is reported as having said in the phone call with Lorenz. The Apple example doesn't make much sense, of course, as details about the latest iPhone routinely leak out ahead of the device's unveiling, with many publications including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg citing sources within Apple in their reporting.
Journalists also routinely go around corporate communication channels and report on unauthorized information. Business Insider, for example, did not request permission from HQ Trivia or The Daily Beast before writing this story. (We did, however reach out for comment. Neither company immediately responded to request for comment.)
At the end of the day, the Daily Beast got an even more exciting story about HQ Trivia than anticipated, and Yusupov got a crash course in how to handle being on the receiving end of unflattering press.
In the wake of the Daily Beast story going live, Yusupov put out a call on Twitter for "a good PR agent" and ended the day by apologizing to Lorenz through a picture of him and Rogowsky eating together at Sweetgreen.
"Q: Who's a cliche, stressed out startup founder? A: me," Yusupov tweeted at Lorenz. "Sorry for being a jerk. Lunch some time?"
(Disclosure: Lorenz has previously worked for Business Insider.)