Quick question

Maximo CavazzaniImage copyright

Some people say that Maximo Cavazzani is to blame for millions of hours of lost work and study time.

Others claim he is helping people around the world improve their general knowledge.

The 30-year-old is the man behind the hugely popular mobile phone and tablet quiz game Trivia Crack.

Users have to answer multiple choice questions in six categories – entertainment, art, sports, history, science and geography.

They can compete against friends who are also logged in, or against randomly selected opponents, with 20 seconds to answer each question.

While the “crack” part of the game’s name means “to solve”, some committed players joke that the game is as addictive as the namesake drug.

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The game has been a hit around the world

Since it was released in 2013, Trivia Crack has been downloaded more than 150 million times around the world. And for 66 consecutive days in late 2014 and early 2015 it was the most downloaded free app on Apple’s US app store.

With success like that you may imagine that Maximo and his company Etermax were firmly established in California’s Silicon Valley.

Instead they are based more than 6,000 miles away in his home town – the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

From a country certainly not renowned for its technology sector, Maximo and his 200 employees have created a multi-million dollar business that makes its money in three ways – advertising on the app, in-app purchases, and people paying for the ad-free version.

Now available in 15 languages, Maximo says the secret behind Trivia Crack’s success is that it is the users who submit most of the questions.

Content issue

Born into a middle-class family, Maximo was an amateur computer programmer as a teenager, before gaining a degree in software engineering from Buenos Aires Institute of Technology.

A serial entrepreneur, Etermax and Trivia Crack are not his first business ventures.

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TD Ameritrade

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Maximo’s first successful app was a share trading platform

Instead he developed another app product while still at university that made him a multi-millionaire.

A keen amateur share trader, in 2008 he created iStockManager, the first free app for buying and selling shares.

The app was such an immediate success that it was bought later that same year by US stock brokerage TD Ameritrade for an undisclosed amount believed to be in seven figures.

So by the age of 22, Maximo had made a fortune. But instead of taking a very early retirement and living the easy life, he decided to throw himself into launching Etermax.

The idea was to explore making a range of mobile phone apps, and soon the idea for Trivia Crack (known in Spanish as Preguntados) was born.

The app was first launched across Latin America in October 2013, but as Maximo eyed global domination, the big hurdle was the problem of coming up with millions of questions and answers in foreign languages.

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Etermax employs 200 people at its base in Argentina

For a company which then had only a handful of staff, the task was either impossible or unaffordable. For example, to come up with questions relevant and interesting for an American audience, it looked as if Etermax would have to hire hundreds of American researchers. And likewise for any other country it wished to enter.

Maximo says: “We saw that question and answer games worked all over the world, but they couldn’t become widespread. The big problem was content.”

The solution was to invite the game’s users to send in questions, which they continue to do at a rate of more than one million per day. And instead of Etermax having to hire thousands of staff to check the questions, they are self-policed by the users.

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The entrepreneur also advises the Buenos Aires government on business-friendly policies

Trivia Crack’s fans can tap to say if they found a question fun or boring, and more importantly – they can report any they think are incorrect, which Etermax’s software then monitors and updates on the system.

Maximo calls the system a “questions factory”.

He adds: “With the collaboration of players we are able to improve content all over the world.”

‘The jungle’

If Trivia Crack’s global expansion appears to have been relatively smooth sailing, where Etermax has faced problems is regarding the general difficulty of being a business in Argentina.

Maximo says that being an entrepreneur is “the most difficult job” in the country.

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Trivia Crack includes cartoon characters who guide users through the game

He adds: “In Argentina the rules of the game are always changing.

“You have got to think about your business, the exchange rate in dollars, the government and the unions. Once you overcome those difficulties you’re ready for anything.

“I always say that [expanding abroad is] like getting out of the jungle and arriving in an organised country, such as Finland. Everything’s easier.

“Living in Argentina is good preparation because we must overcome many difficulties.”

But instead of just complaining about the difficultly of doing business in Argentina, Maximo is doing his bit to try to improve matters.

When not working at Etermax, he has a consultancy position at the innovation department of Buenos Aires City Government.

He says: “My job is to provide know-how, and talk about our experience… the world is offering us [Argentine firms] many opportunities… we need to generate education, development and companies with resources to reinvest.”

‘Climbing Everest’

Back at Etermax a new version of Trivia Crack called Trivia Crack Kingdoms has now been released. This aims to be a more educational tool, with teachers able to easily create their own quizzes for their students.

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Santiago Ignacio Poli

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Maximo owns all of the business

Enrique Carrier, an Argentine new media and gaming analyst, says Trivia Crack has been so successful because of the user generated questions.

“It was a great decision to allow players to send in the questions because the content becomes more and more locally based,” he says.

“Mr Cavazzani managed to achieve an equilibrium – ascend to an international level with a well-made game, without losing the local flavour in each of the countries.”

As Maximo continues to guide Etermax he has no plans to sell his 100% stake.

“Being an entrepreneur is like climbing Everest,” he says. “Why would anyone want to do that? Because it is the highest mountain in the world.”

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