Catherine CookIn 2005, Catherine and Dave Cook were 15 and 16 respectively when they came up with the concept for myYearbook.  With a $250,000 investment from their older brother Geoff, they worked with overseas developers to launch myYearbook.com.  They went from being normal high school students, to staying up until 3 AM in the morning working on the site and showing up to their 7:30 homeroom classes late.

Catherine said, “We didn’t realize to ourselves how young we (were) and how unusual that was.” Despite their young age, determination showed people and investors that they were serious about their business.  At the age of 16, Catherine was meeting with investors to acquire seed capital for myYearbook.  “All of a sudden you are asking for millions of dollars and you can’t even drive, it just seems crazy.”

The group of family founders raised $4.1 million in their first round of funding and as Catherine explains in the interview, turned down additional funding that was offered to acquire additional equity in the startup.  In 2008, they raised an additional $13 million in a Series B round.  In 2011, myYearbook accepted a $100 million merger with Quepasa.  The business was then rebranded, and is now Meet Me.

MeetMe is a social network for meeting new people that you want to know, while Facebook is a place to connect with people you currently know.  Catherine compared it to an online or mobile version of a bar or coffeehouse.

Catherine is now 22 and the VP of Brand Strategy for MeetMe, which has 90 million users.  I interviewed Catherine a day before she would speak to the U.S. Senate about women in leadership around the world.  We spoke about the start of myYearbook, working with her brother co-founders, venture capital, and her advice for other current and aspiring young entrepreneurs.

Interview Highlights

– Catherine’s thoughts on starting a business with family members.

– How they worked with overseas developers on a limited budget to build the site.

– “Stick to your guns,” Catherine Cook on turning down additional funding that was offered by investors in an attempt to acquire more equity.

– Details on the $100million merger with Quepasa

– Favorite experiences as a young entrepreneur

– Why the company was rebranded from MyYearbook to MeetMe

– Advice for young entrepreneurs: “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

Listen to the full interview here:

[powerpress]

Michael Luchies is an entrepreneur and passionate supporter of everything entrepreneurship. Michael is Co-Founder of PitchJam and is National Growth and Programs Manager for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO).  He has been covering entrepreneurship over the past 5 years and has been published on Under30CEO, Yahoo!, Yahoo! News, ThinkEntrepreneurship, PitchingGreatness, and other sources. On Twitter @MichaelLuchies.