Catherine Cook, 19 / MyYearbook.com
Often great ideas come from analysis and introspection. For siblings Catherine and David Cook, it was the result of a snarky comment. “My brother David and I were flipping through our high-school yearbook during my freshman year,” Catherine recalls. “We were looking for a girl in his class-I think he liked her-and he was trying to show me who she was. Once we finally got to the picture he was like, â€˜She looks nothing like that.’”
The problem, they realized, was that the yearbook photo was a year old. Cook says it sparked the conclusion: “Yearbooks suck.” The Cooks figured they could make a better yearbook online, one that allowed people to choose and update their own pictures. They got $250,000 from their older brother, Geoff, who had started and sold the web sites EssayEdge and ResumeEdge when he was a student at Harvard.
In less than two months, they finished myYearbook (outsourcing the programming), and launched it in April 2005. By the fall, it was bringing in some 3,000 new members a day. Today, it has more than 9.8 million unique visitors a month from students all around the world, according to comScore.
MyYearbook had more than $10 million in sales last year, according to Cook and First Round Capital, an early investor in myYearbook. Besides advertising revenue, the site has built interest around its “lunch money” program. Users pay $10 to get $1 million in myYearbook money to buy virtual gifts for friends or finance assorted acts of do-goodery, such as sending books to Africa, saving the rainforest or buying carbon offsets. Says First Round Capital partner Chris Fralic: “There are a number of sites that have gotten to their size, but not many that have been able to build a business around it like they have.”