MeetMe: A High School Side Project Turned a Million-Dollar Baby
Success doesn't come from what you do every now and then, but the things you do persistently.
For Catherine Cook, growing up with this idea led her to earn her very first million whilst still in her teenage days. Somewhat inspired by her own loneliness and having zero friends, Catherine ultimately created something that definitely got everyone's attention - friends and the lack thereof included.
Before success met Catherine, she first had to deal with the pressure of running her own website, and successfully so. Partially hiding her accomplishments in order not to make others feel bad about themselves, Catherine did her business in silence, solace, and soon, in majestic triumphs.
The fruit of her labor was MeetMe, a dating up that definitely knows what's up in the world of mingling.
How does a loner become the face of one of the ultimate socializing apps out there?
Born in the late 80s, Catherine Cook grew up in your everyday New Jersey family. Having two older brothers for siblings, Dave and Geoff, she ambitiously followed in their footsteps as they were setting the right example. Noticing Dave's growing interest in books, Catherine was encouraged to buy the first one at a very young age – and thus she laid the foundations of her future empire!
Spending most of her allowance on books ever since Catherine built a huge home-library at the age of ten. For her, this was a great way to earn some money, and she soon began renting books to her family members.
When she started going to high school, the young girl hadn't had many friends, but the bright crayon she was, Catherine prepared a strategy to get her classmates to like her. One day, whilst going through her high school yearbook, Catherine came to realize that the book lacked information on its students. After spotting a few more gaps and flaws with it, an idea was incepted in Catherine's mind, and she proposed to Dave that they make a change, which he was all for.
Joining forces, they decided to design a platform based on a typical yearbook's concept whilst allowing users to create their own profiles and share as much information on themselves as they pleased.
However, the siblings were not only rookies in entrepreneurship, but they also lacked funds to kickstart things.
As luck would have it, Geoff had already launched a company of his own, ResumeEdge, and it was in full bloom. Grasping this opportunity, Catherine and Dave reached out to him and convinced him to invest in their idea.
And things unraveled from there!
The It Girl
Trusting his guts that he was going to nail this, one way or another, Geoff invested a quarter of a million dollars in the project. Driven by the powerful idea, he sold his company and joined along to assist with technical development.
Immersed in the project, the trio began conceptualizing the idea, slowly but surely. Geoff worked tirelessly round the clock whilst Catherine and Dave were helping after their classes.
A few months later, in 2005, they launched 'myYearBook'.
During the first week of the launch, another dazzling idea birthed in Catherine's mind – to give her classmates t-shirts thus spreading the word on their upcoming platform. That very first week, and much to everyone's surprise, over four-hundred people joined.
Everything ran smoothly until, one day, they realized their site had crashed as it was overpowered with registrations. To solve this problem, the trio had to change the server, and to acquire the money for it, they sold a small piece of their business. Consequently, Catherine, Dave, and Geoff decided to merge their website with an ad-supported test site, Zendex.com, which allowed more users to connect to the platform.
By 2006, potential investors were looking into myYearBook, and they offered massive amounts of money to move their headquarters to NYC. However, the trio was fighting with all their might to stay put and refused all offers. A few months later, US Venture Partners and First Round Capital invested an incredible $41 million in myYearBook without forcing the trio's hand.
Two years later, myYearBook reached twelve million members, reaching over fifty thousand connections daily. Not bad for two teenagers and a Harvard student, wouldn't you say?
Yet, the trio could not foresee the further rise of what would soon metamorphose into a globally known phenomenon.
It Takes Rain for the Rainbow to Come Out
During the next few years, myYearBook was still growing, as were Catherine and Dave. In early 2011, Catherine graduated from Georgetown University in information management and marketing. Although the company numbered twenty million users by that time, the young lady felt as the company didn't suit her age, and she wanted a change.
Gathering her brothers to brainstorm a new concept, they all decided to make the platform more transparent – not only by helping high schoolers meet but other generations as well.
The same year, Quepasa, a Latino social networking site offered a ravishing hundred million to acquire part of the company, and the trio accepted the offer in order to achieve their greater goal.
Combining Quepasa and myYearBook metamorphosed into MeetMe in 2012. Dave and Catherine announced the change via a YouTube video, specifying that there weren't any changes except for the name.
Because the transformation happened during a time when mobile apps were rising, the trio decided to make a transition into mobiles – the right decision at the right time! But before it all turned out to be alright, another challenge imposed in front of the young entrepreneurs.
Everything that they had worked on so far had to be redesigned to fit the mobile app. Working up to the collar to make the changes promptly, the trio was missing a lot that the outside world had to offer.
However, this wasn't a time for them to abandon the project of their childhood – knowing that they would reap the benefits later. The moment the app was transformed, most of the MeetMe users were already on their phones, and they all switched nearly instantly.
A Rollercoaster of an Idea
The trio had to face the greatest challenge ever before reaping the fruits of their hardships. As their company targeted a wider public, their competition got bigger, too.
Unfortunately, the giant in social networking, Facebook, was attracting more and more users - daily - and they had to do something, or their company might collapse.
Yet again, the brain behind the company, Catherine, thought of an optimal solution – to focus on a single niche.
While Facebook focused on building relationships between current friends, MeetMe would aim at creating new ones. Nonetheless, this idea required the MeetMe team to come up with a way that protects its users. After all, meeting strangers had its own disadvantages.
As it turned out, Facebook was a great way for them to guarantee the safety of their users - users would just have to connect their MeetMe profile, an email address, or a Facebook account, once registered. This way, users could meet acquaintances, interact with friends, scroll through comments, and share personal information as per their liking.
Today, MeetMe has millions of mobile users every day. To meet users' needs, the company employs over a hundred workers.
With billions of page views per year, the site is much more than the trio had expected, and what the story of MeetMe and its founders tells us is that success comes unannounced, and oftentimes, what saves you a place at the top are the things you're willing to sacrifice in turn.