What began as a gimmick to promote his real estate business has turned into one of the area’s largest bar trivia providers.
Now, District Trivia founder and Potomac native Nick Groves is on the verge of a unique advertising partnership with Comcast SportsNet Washington that he hopes will put his Bethesda-based trivia company on top of a surprisingly competitive local industry.
The idea is to help Washington area bars advertise to the coveted 25-34 year-old audience that watches Capitals games, Wizards games and other sports programming on the Bethesda-based sports channel. Comcast will begin advertising District Trivia’s two season-ending tournaments (one in summer and one in winter) and up the prize money to $5000 and free beer for a year.
The partnership will also allow bars that use District Trivia for their trivia nights online and digital advertising that’s typically too expensive.
“It’s a level of exposure for the bars, that up until this point has been essentially out of reach,” Groves said. “It’s really getting all the bars that get in on this package in the game. We think it’s really good for the bars.”
It’s also really good for Groves’ company, which he started almost by accident three years ago.
The Churchill High School grad left his position at a general contracting company (despite a promotion) because he didn’t feel he had enough engineering experience to avoid “dropping a house on somebody.”
He got a real estate license and decided to incorporate his love for trivia (he first played at Ri Ra Irish Pub and regularly played at Union Jack’s) into a sales pitch.
He started his own trivia game at The Barking Dog on Elm Street to get his name out.
“I wanted to get in front of that 25-34 year-old affluent Bethesda crowd that would be looking for their first houses and entertain them and then when they were looking for an agent, I’d let them know I was an agent and they’d come call me,” Groves said.
Within three months, Grove said the games grew to 90 participants a week. Tommy Joe’s owner Alan Pohoryles took notice, asked Groves to do a game at his bar and Groves quickly wrote up a contract in the fall of 2010. Soon after that, Groves was hosting trivia four nights a week in four of Bethesda’s most well-known bars: The Barking Dog, Caddies on Cordell, Rock Bottom and Tommy Joe’s.
“They started paying me for it,” Groves said. “I started saying to myself, forget real estate.”
District Trivia now does trivia in 22 Washington bars with up to 18 hosts who work two hours a week for $50 and all the food and drink they can consume while reading questions and adding up point totals.
About two years ago, Groves hired host Jared Stern to work full-time for the company, which now hosts a gameshow night and for a little bit tried producing comedy shows.
They host an hour-long podcast every Monday with two other employees during which they talk about whatever topics are of interest to a group of trivia-loving guys, topics that sometimes make it into the trivia games. Thousands of people listen, more than play in their actual games.
And they’re fiercely proud of their product, 10-question rounds that go from easy questions to difficult ones assigned point values and from all types of categories. Groves said about one out of every 10 people who apply to host get the job. They’re vetted to see who will be entertaining and friendly while still being able to keep the game organized and moving.
They want contestants talking to and being friendly with the hosts.
“It’s like the Cheers of trivia,” Stern said.
The Comcast SportsNet deal, which Groves will announce more about in the fall, is the move he thinks can make the company the go-to trivia host in Washington. He made no bones about the rivalry that has developed between his company and Trivia Kings, the other major locally-owned trivia provider that does a weekly Bethesda game at Union Jack’s and has 28 bars in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
There are a number of other national trivia providers that do games in the area.
“We will offer the package to every bar in the city that has trivia,” Groves said.
“We’ve built this business extremely methodically, extremely slowly,” he said. “This is a really big step. We really think we are the best.”