Friday Future Leaders: Catherine Cook.|
Catherine Cook has been referred to as “The Female Mark Zuckerberg.” As a 15 year old, actually.
It is a comparison that any individual in any space, regardless of sex, holds with some serious clout– as long as we’re making the reference with regard to Mark’s internet domination, and not the whole “zip-lining into a pool then betraying best friend” angle, which of course we all witnessed firsthand in the highly biographical The Social Network.
Cook received the appellation for a company she started before she could even drive. In 2005 at the young age of 15, Cook co-founded the over-night success myYearbook.com, which started as a school-focused social media website.
It all began because Cook and her brother, David, realized that they hated their yearbook pictures and decided traditional yearbooks just weren’t making the cut. They wanted a way to connect more authentically with classmates and focus on giving peers a solution to meeting other people.
Cook began burning the candle at both ends. She recalls staying up all night making spec sheets by hand and emailing them to developers in India until 4 a.m, getting only a few hours of sleep before heading to school. As the site grew to over a million users by launching to schools nationwide, Cook began to see the return on all those sleepless nights spent working on myYearbook. By the age of 16, Cook had a team of 12 developers while she was balancing high school, homework and a boyfriend. But her passion for developing a great product for other teens melted away the sacrifices.
It is a common thread that we’ve all seen at one point in our careers; we always find the time when we care enough about the cause. That spirit allows us to accomplish things that others would deem too stressful or tough. It is the same spirit that will lead to great accomplishment-not letting the excuses or lack of time hold you back.
Cook used that outlook to continue building myYearbook while she completed her undergraduate degree at Georgetown. While classmates were using their laptops to check Facebook during lectures, Cook says she was sourcing and leading the acquisition of four Android applications to help drive myYearbook’s mobile platform. She was so passionate about myYearbook that no amount of coursework or college commitments could hold her back.
Six years after founding myYearbook, Cook helped raise $17 million in financing, growing the site to 20 million users and generating 1.2 billion pageviews monthly. Quepasa, a publicly traded Latino network, then acquired myYearbook for $100 million, turning Cook and her brother into self-made millionaires. Quepasa and myYearbook platforms have merged and rebranded as MeetMe, an online social discovery site. Cook, now a Georgtown graduate, is committed to a future of successful innovative products
There isn’t a Levo Leaguer in the room who is a stranger to hard work like Cook’s. Nor do any of us underestimate the role passion plays in achieving unprecedented success. Examining the way Cook worked tirelessly on her path to the “Female Mark Zuckerberg” ranks shows that unyielding passion paves the way to finding the time and enjoying the journey, no matter the tradeoffs. Whether it is spending your weekend on a passion project, having an alarm that goes off before anyone in your building or a little extra pressure that most peers don’t have to deal with, creating something you believe in will always be worth the sacrifices. Like Cook, you can and will find time to lay the foundation for success and work towards accomplishing your dreams.