Business School Alumna Reaps Success from myYearbook Startup
July 22, 2011 – A social networking idea that Catherine Cook (B’11) and her brother, David, thought up as teenagers and nurtured at Georgetown just sold for $100 million.
Quepasa, a Latino social networking site, recently merged with the Cooks’ myYearbook, the idea that has turned into one of the largest media properties in the United States.
Millions of Users
“Back in 2005, Dave and I were flipping through our high school yearbook in his room and decided that yearbooks were a terrible tool for meeting new people and we could make a better one ourselves by putting it online,” the Georgetown graduate explains.
The siblings launched their own site at their high school in Skillman, N.J., and 400 people signed up within a week. Now 32.7 million people go to myYearbook to make friends, play games and even contribute to causes.
“Charity has always been very important to us,” says Cook, who majored in operations and information management (OPIM) and marketing and minored in psychology.
In 2008, the site launched Causes, which has users donate to different charities with virtual currency. MyYearbook then donates money (about $500,000 to date) to charities based on members’ giving habits.
“I think I was definitely influenced by the Jesuit tradition,” she adds.
While some students were merely studying hard, the social networking site co-founder was studying hard and helping run what amounts to a major corporation. She now has more than 100 people on her team.
During her four years at Georgetown, she and her Yearbook team launched an iPhone application and acquired four applications on Android.
“Our site offers a lot of social games to break the ice between people, and we wanted to bring the same experience to mobile,” she says.
Cook says a number of professors at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business were “always very supportive of me and myYearbook,” including Betsy Page Sigman, Edward Soule, Ronald Goodstein and James P. Moore Jr.
“Catherine understood the importance of completing her degree as well as the value of the many learning experiences that happen outside of the classroom,” Sigman says. “Despite the many pressures that she continually dealt with in her position, she was a major contributor to all three classes I had the pleasure of having her in.”
Moore says he “knew that Catherine was unique” when she asked after her first class if she could postpone her midterm exam.
“Taken aback by a freshman making such a gutsy request so early on, I asked her why,” Moore recalls. “She … went on to explain that she had been invited to talk at a conference in South Korea in which other speakers included Colin Powell and Jeffrey Imelt, the CEO of General Electric.”
Moore told her they would figure something out.
Capable and Humble
“Setting aside her extraordinary achievement in the founding and growing myYearbook.com, Catherine is one of the most capable and humble students I have ever taught,” he says.
And she hasn’t lost her work ethic.
“Nothing really changes,” Cook said of the merger with Quepasa. “I'll be in the office every day working on a full pipeline of new features we have coming out.”