DrawQuest Shuts Down After Failing to Monetize

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DrawQuest, an app centered around daily drawing challenges, announced it was shutting down this week. On its official blog, the DrawQuest team announced the app would see no further active development. However, there will be an effort to keep it live for a few more months for the benefit of the user community.

In the tech media, some expressed surprise at the decision to pull the plug. The app has 1.4 million downloads, 550,000 registered users, 400,000 monthly users and 25,000 daily users.

Meanwhile, Founder and CEO, Chris Poole, posted a fairly transparent postmortem on his personal blog, spelling out some of the team’s missteps.

First, the company switched products too late in the game with too little money left to develop a new idea. Poole explains:

“Building any business is hard, but building a business with a single app offering and half of your runway is especially hard (we created DrawQuest after the failure of our first product, Canvas).”

Poole had raised about $625,000 in seed funding from investors Ron Conway, Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, Kenneth Lerer and Joshua Schachter in 2010, TechCrunch reports.

After that came another $3 million in 2011 from Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Founder Collective, and Joshua Schachter.

The original funding was to develop Canvas, a forum for sharing and discussing online graphic and art images. But then Poole’s team switched to DrawQuest instead about a year ago.

Poole said the team had simply failed to make the business side of the equation work:

“I’ve come away with new found respect for those companies who excel at monetizing mobile applications. As we approached the end of our runway, it became clear to us that DrawQuest didn’t represent a venture-backed opportunity, and even with more time that was unlikely to change.”

DrawQuest had hoped to monetize by selling drawing pencils for its app the way other games sell extra lives, but found it difficult to do.

Finally, Poole had hoped to find an acquisition opportunity for the company but to no avail. He told TechCrunch he believed part of DrawQuest’s problem was its inability to crack what he said was the “all important” million monthly users.

Digital properties are often courted for their rapid growth even if they haven’t found a business model, so this may have been the problem with finding another company interested in acquisition.

In his post, Poole said he hoped his transparency would help other startups.

“One thing I’ll be doing more of is writing about my experience. Partially because it’s therapeutic, but also because if there’s a silver lining in all of this (and there is), it’s that I can help educate others about a path fraught with hardship, but rewarding nonetheless.”

Image: DrawQuest

7 Comments ▼

Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

7 Reactions

  1. With companies being acquired left, right and center, it’s a shame the same didn’t happen with DrawQuest. Perhaps they would have been approached if there wasn’t so much money invested in it or if they had monetised earlier. I’m wondering if they really have explored all avenues though to keep it afloat.

  2. Shawn,

    That’s a pity. DrawQuest is really cool and it has every characteristic of a quality, viral app.

    The shut down serves as yet another example of how successful startups can fail because they don’t fulfill the reason why a business is called, well, a business: To make profit so that investors can get some return on their investments (yeah – I’m kinda old school… for me a business not making money is not a cool business.)

    And yes, generating interest is one thing, and generating profits is another thing.

    • Yes I agree. But I guess it cannot be helped if they cannot monetize it. As it grows, it needs more money in order to maintain it. Maybe they are better off just asking for donations. With good marketing, I definitely agree that this website may just make it big.

      • Aira, I was thinking that too, but didn’t include it in my comment! Ask those who use DrawQuest, those who enjoy it to make a donation to try and keep it afloat. I’m also thinking perhaps they should have taken the donation route in the first place or used a pay-what-you-can model.

  3. I’ve used this app before and it was a good app. Too bad they had to shut it down. Maybe their marketing strategy is just not right or fit for their needs.

    • It would be interesting to learn how they actually did try to market the app. Will have a read of the CEO’s post and see if there’s any mention of it there.

      I also can’t help thinking that perhaps they threw in the towel a bit too soon.

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