There are lots of ways to deal with being the new kid in school, but most of them don’t eventually lead to you running a tech company that hit $44.8 million in revenue in 2014. But that’s what happened to Catherine Cook, who founded a social networking site in high school that would eventually become MeetMe, a mobile-friendly program designed to help users meet new people. Oh, and as for Facebook? Grownups are ruining it.
Where did the idea for MeetMe come from?
The whole idea for the company actually started as a way for my brother and I — we were both new in our high school — as a way to make new friends. We were a sophomore and junior in high school, so it was like one of those schools where everyone else seems to have been there maybe kindergarten, so it was hard breaking into the groups.
How long did it take for it to turn into an actual business?
We were kind of unlike other teens because we had watched out oldest brother, Jeff, start and grow a company while he was in college, so when we had this idea we were like, “Oh, we have to go for it.” When we launched in our high school, the way we got people to sign up was from wearing funny T-shirts to school every day that said something like, “Answering the questions that matter most: Who are your friends’ friends, and are they hot?” We got to 400 users in a couple of months, and then nine months after that we had our first million members. And now we have a million people logging in every day.
How important is it to keep the company so mobile-focused?
It is 80 percent of our traffic. We are completely mobile-first in how we think about what we’re doing with the company and everything. Being in that demo myself — I’m 25 — I get, like, panic attacks if I’m not near my phone. (laughs) It’s pathetic, but that’s the state of things. We know that our mobile users actually will log into our app more than 100 times a month. These are short bursts, generally — like when they’re in line at Starbucks or throughout the day. Mobile is just so much more engaging.
I don’t want to think about how much I’m on my phone.
I had one of those apps where it tells you, and I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to know.” (laughs) Like, “It confirms I do use my phone too much.” I’m not going to change that, so I basically deleted it because it was depressing me. I do try to not use it at the dinner table and things like that.
What about Facebook, the social networking juggernaut, and its future?
Well, I love Facebook. It’s where you go to connect with the people you know — friends and family. But at the same time, I think it’s very different from something like MeetMe, where the whole goal is to meet new people.
What about how younger users are approaching it?
It feels like they still sign up because they have to, but they’re not posting as much. It does make sense in the sense of as a teenager not wanting to be where all of your parents are, and so gravitating to things like Snapchat and Instagram makes sense because it’s a different type of thing.
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