A fifteen year old faced the daunting task of making new friends at her school, as they had just moved to New Jersey. Catherine Cook spent the night pouring over the recent yearbook edition to no avail. Despite this, the teen sought a way to make it easier to meet teens in situations like hers. That night, myYearbook was born. This ingenious creation digitized yearbooks and is one of the 25 most-trafficked websites in the U.S. Six years later, myYearbook was sold to QuePasa for over $10 million.
This success did not come without struggles. There was a fifteen year old with a brilliant idea. However, she had a lot to compete with. Her older brother Geoff Cook was eleven years older and had already created his own successful startup. Catherine used this tool to her advantage and bounced the idea of digitizing yearbooks off her brother. Meanwhile Geoff was at his second year at Harvard, editing and writing resumes. He was responsible for EssayEdge.com and ResumeEdge.com, which after finding an investor, he sold sites to the Thomson Corporation in 2002. After his sister’s proposal, Geoff left and invested $25,000, and became the CEO of myYearbook.
In an interview Catherine stated, “We wore T-shirts with sayings like, "Are you the prettiest girl in high school? How about the dumbest? Find out.'' In one week, 400 people signed up. I knew we were going to be successful when a friend told me it was one of the greatest procrastination tools ever built.” By mid 2006, they had one million users.
Despite these successes, Catherine faced some difficulties in school. An A student, Catherine’s grades had been suffering due to the demands of myYearbook. And at this point, they were still not making any money. As a fallback, Catherine attended Georgetown university. Even then she suffered. Catherine crammed her classes into two days, telecommunicated the other three days before going home every two weeks. As a result, her social life was sorely lacking.
It wasn’t until 2010 the siblings saw a profit, and it was a whopping $23 million. Still unsatisfied with the user demographics, they approached QuePasa to expand the user distribution. After some negotiations and renaming to MeetMe, myYearbook was sold for $100 million, with Catherine as the Vice President of Brand Strategy, another attempt to globalize the site.
What can we learn from these two? Despite numerous setbacks and difficulties, they still made their dreams come true. They preserved beyond their situations and made millions off an idea a fifteen year old had. They proved networking and connections can really make a difference early in the business startup.
If they can do it, so can you.