The tech whiz behind Vine and HQ Trivia made millions in his 20s — and died at 34

Colin Kroll, a college dropout turned startup millionaire, drifted through his company’s holiday party at Gran Morsi, a cozy Italian restaurant in downtown Manhattan. Dressed in a gray sweater and jeans, he chatted up employees and their plus ones.

When one of his engineers offered to get Mr. Kroll a drink, he flashed a big smile. “I’ve stopped drinking. I’m trying to be healthier.” He’d started running regularly, too.

“Look at you, being such a great CEO,” she said. Co-workers at the party chuckled to themselves about his earnestness as he circulated among the crowd asking, “Are you having a good time?”

Mr. Kroll had co-founded two highflying startups—Vine, the six-second video-sharing platform bought by Twitter Inc. TWTR, +0.87%  in 2012, and, most recently, Intermedia Labs, the company behind the popular game-show app HQ Trivia.

His performance at the HQ Trivia party was a foil for his often awkward personality. To friends, Mr. Kroll was a gentle, endearingly weird soul who identified with misfits and looked out for others. A Muslim classmate who was bullied in middle school remembers he was the only one who would hold her hand during games of Red Rover. Friends joked about how he bought Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in bulk, even after his success.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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