Nice Graduation Present for Catherine Cook from Myyearbook.com
While Mark Zuckerberg was creating Facebook in his dorm at Harvard, Catherine Cook and her brother Dave had just moved to a new high school in Pennsylvania and were having trouble making friends. They realized that they needed a fun way to meet new people. Two months later, they launched myyearbook.com. Catherine was 15, her brother was 16. This was only six years ago, but believe it or not, it was before Facebook was in high schools. According to Catherine, “We didn’t even hear about Facebook until we started researching what was out there.”
Within a week after they put up the website, 400 people had signed up. They realized they were onto something.
Their older brother Geoff was already a successful entrepreneur. He had started a business while he was a sophomore in college and sold it successfully. Now in his 20’s, he decided to invest in his younger siblings and help them grow the business.
Geoff became the COO, but Catherine and David stayed directly involved, juggling school and the business. They were working with developers in Mumbai India. Catherine remembers, “With the time change, we would have to be up at 3 or 4 am, emailing with our developers trying to get everything up and running and then have to be in school for 7:30am home room”
In the first year, they opened an office in New Hope PA and hired 16 people. By the end of the first year, they had 1 million members. Today, they have over 100 people working for them and over 30 million members.
She and her brothers are considered some of the top young entrepreneurs in the country which is a big accomplishment, but even more unusual for a young woman to be such a success in the male-dominated world of tech start-ups.
Peter Thiel has been out there encouraging young entrepreneurs to drop out of college and just work on their start-ups. He started a fellowship called the Thiel Fellowship http://www.thielfellowship.org/ where he is giving $100,000 to young entrepreneurs to leave school for two years.
But for Catherine, that was not an option. As she told me, “It was a hard decision to go to college. We had raised our first money. But we had zero revenue. Going to college seemed like a good idea when you are not making any money.”
She kept working on myyearbook.com all through college—juggling and multi-tasking. “My senior year of college when everyone else was looking for jobs, I sourced and led an acquisition of a company.”
It seems that all the hard work has been worth it. 2011 was a big year for Catherine. She graduated in May from Georgetown University and in November, they sold the business to a social networking company called Que Pasa for $100 million!
Despite the competition from Facebook and other social networking sites, business is growing. Catherine says: “Facebook has exploded over the last few years. Facebook is where you go to connect with friends you know. My Yearbook is all about meeting new people.”
They’ve also capitalized on the growing popularity of new technology including mobile apps. They just launched an iPad app and mobile is now more than 50% of their business.
With money in the bank and a new college degree, what’s next for Catherine?
“I was hoping at some point to go on vacation with my brothers to Italy, but it’s hard to find time to take a vacation.” She says, “I love working with my family. I’m going to keep working on this. I love what I’m doing here”