York firm SpeedQuizzing pulled together an entirely new product, which would usually take 6-12 months, in just a fortnight

Under normal circumstances, York-based SpeedQuizzing’s software is used by pubs, bars and professional quiz hosts across the UK and US.

An average week sees 15,000 quizzes held via its software and accompanying database of 10,000 quiz questions.

While the product is digital, the 14-strong team has previously avoided running their quiz software over the internet, opting instead to allow players to connect via a pub’s local network. As well as keeping things simple, the choice also helps to avoid cheating.

Last year the firm, founded by brothers including the drummer of Shed Seven (pictured), annouced record growth. Just weeks ago the company were executing expansion plans, including translation of its trivia database into new languages.

But then rumours of a coronavirus lockdown began to circulate.

“Our initial thought was that if the pubs shut, we’re screwed,” said SpeedQuizzing’s Operations Manager, Phil Qua.

The company went into emergency planning mode around a week before the lockdown actually came into effect.

Qua said its primary concern was professional quiz hosts who would also be without their usual business. The company wanted to take their existing software online to help keep them in touch with their regulars.

The firm, which has been operating for 10 years, was on a tight deadline to get an online version of their product, called SpeedQuizzing Live, out to its users.

“We pulled it together in about a fortnight. It’s something that we would normally spent 6-12 months on,” said Qua.

The new product, for quizzes with up to 40 teams, remains free as we enter May. Qua said the company is not interested in “cashing in” on the new demand, and usually makes its money from licenses of the software.

“The main thing was that it worked, even if it wasn’t as slick as our main product,” he said.

For all the quick planning and action the firm had taken, no one could have predicted lockdown’s biggest online trend – virtual pub quizzes.

As the world looked to reconnect with friends, homemade virtual pub quizzes have become a de facto excuse to virtually get together.

Despite pubs being closed, Google searches for ‘pub quiz’ are at a five-year high this month.

And some of the people running their own quiz on Zoom or Google Hangouts are not content with pen and paper. It’s a spike in interest SpeedQuzzing can attest to.

“It has taken on a life of its own. Visits to our website over the last few weeks are up 500%,” said Qua.

Interest was so high that the firm temporarily had to stop taking on new customers, focusing instead on its existing client base.

“We had to pull the plug on it for a week or two until things had settled down,” he said.

The firm says it still envisages its existing SpeedQuizzing app as its flagship product, but its team will come back to the office with not one product, but two.

“This has opened up the consumer end of the market which we haven’t really tapped into,” said Qua.

Asked if the trend for remote quizzes could continue at the same pace after lockdown is over, Qua said there was potential for a rise in both remote and traditional pub quizzes.

“I’m pretty sure all our existing customers are dying to get back into the pub so I’ve got no qualms about them. But there are people that were maybe put off from going to a real pub quiz who might be more open to going now,” he said, pointing to SpeedQuizzing’s map which shows where the nearest quiz supported by its tech is taking place.

“I think there’s a whole raft of new people who might start checking them out, so we might get an influx of people into the pubs as well, with a bit of luck. It could be good all round!”