No License Needed for Venture Capital: Interview with MeetMe Co-Founder Catherine Cook : Under30CEO No License Needed for Venture Capital: Interview with MeetMe Co-Founder Catherine Cook : Under30CEO
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No License Needed for Venture Capital: Interview with MeetMe Co-Founder Catherine Cook

| July 3, 2013 | 6 Comments

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:

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.

About the Author: Michael Luchies

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 websites and publications. On Twitter @MichaelLuchies.

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Category: Entrepreneur Interviews, Entrepreneurship

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Mike– great writeup here. I had the pleasure to sit next to Catherine on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. She is incredibly humble, and an all around nice person. It sounds like interviewing her was a blast. I also really appreciate that she didn’t do this from Silicon Valley, but from somewhere in Pennsylvania and Quepasa is a Florida based bi-lingual social network. Good stuff.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Wow – didn’t realize that she founded MeetMe. It’s a really great app, just started using it myself. Great podcast, Michael.

  • cesar romero

    This is good stuff and truly inspiring!!! Although is not recommended to work until 3:00a.m. and then start your day at 7:00a.m., I think it is necessary in the early stages of startup as it teaches you that without hard work, you won’t get your idea off the ground. Great Stuff!!!

  • Michael Luchies

    THANKS! She was great. Extremely humble and down to earth. I really appreciated her straightforward answers and advice to other treps. Having to turn down extra funding isn’t something you hear a lot about, great advice.

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  • Michael Jones

    “bilingual” brings up the issue of the language barrier, and the plight of ESL students.

    The best way for someone to learn a given target language is to learn Esperanto first.

    To read up on this concept, google for “springboard to languages”.

    In addition to the inherent advantage of learning Esperanto first, there is also the prospect of actively using it as a “shoehorn” into the target language. This would be possible if “shoehorn” materials exist for the target language. Such
    “shoehorn” materials would be materials in Esperanto about the target
    language. For Mercan English, I have started a “shoehorn” dictionary.
    The idea is that you look up a Mercan English word in it, and the definition is
    given in Esperanto – the actual definition, not merely a translation into Esperanto.
    (In other words, it would be a “monolingual” dictionary.) I have only
    created a stub, and mostly use links to definitions in Mercan English in
    certain online dictionaries (Merriam-Webster, and Wiktionary, mostly). In a
    handful of cases, I have supplied definitions in Esperanto, and in any case
    often comment, in Esperanto, on entries in the dictionary, and provide many
    links, both internal and external, as well as a subject index (thereby making
    it a “deep” dictionary). As the project progresses, the links to
    other dictionaries will be replaced by native definitions in Esperanto (thereby
    making it a “universal” dictionary), but even in this present format
    the dictionary makes a handy one?stop?shopping experience, so to speak, for
    someone wanting to explore the Mercan language. Also, the portion of the
    dictionary consisting of my contribution is in the public domain. To find the
    dictionary, google for “Deep Dictionary of Mercan English”.