Catherine and David Cook were having trouble meeting people when they switched high schools. After flipping through a school yearbook, they thought they’d never be able to meet people that way — until they had the idea to use it as a template for a social networking tool online.
They co-founded myYearbook.com in 2005 with sibling and current CEO Geoff Cook, and the site has since grown to more than 33 million members. The website incorporates a variety of methods for users to interact including text and video chat, games and quizzes.
“If you think about Facebook as where you go to connect with people you know, myYearbook is where you go to connect with people you want to know,” says Catherine Cook.
The trio has generated increasing momentum by incorporating mobile platforms. Forty-seven percent of the company’s daily users now access the website from a mobile device, which is up from 2 percent when they launched the initiative in 2010.
Smart Business sat down with Geoff and Catherine Cook at the at the 2011 Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum to discuss how going mobile has impacted their New Hope, Penn.-based business.
Q: How did you make the move to mobile platforms?
Geoff Cook: We decided which platforms to pursue based on where we could drive new users and where we thought we could drive activity from existing users — those are basically the two criteria. Further down the list was modernization, but those first two criteria were important.
You have to develop pretty much everything you build for multiple platforms: iPhone, Android, iPad. So you build everything five or six times.
Basically, build an API layer. So once you’ve built the core APIs, the other things are just interface creation. So Android is a different interface with all the same functions. The database is the same, so you can do cross platform. It’s still not as easy as built-at-once, but it’s not nearly as bad as putting the same amount of effort in five times.
Q: What profit opportunities do you see in mobile?
Geoff: We look at mobile ads as being important, but young and maturing. It’s going to take some time. So we look at other ways of making money on mobile. What’s interesting on mobile is to have frictionless payments. So (on) an iPhone, everyone is two taps away from paying you. If you have an iPhone in your pocket and you’ve ever downloaded even a free app, you have to have a billing profile. And as a result, iPhone is a great payment platform.
We’re trying to drive virtual currency sales and trying to drive a good product using the currency on mobile, because we think it’s obviously where we’re going.
Q: How do you come up with new ideas to expand the user experience?
Catherine Cook: We pay a lot of attention to what our members are saying, and we also try to think about the current trends in social media and what we could do to make things fun. And every feature we come up with is all about making meeting new people fun. So for instance, one of our features that launched in the beginning of the year called Live is a gaming platform that connects video chat with casual gaming so you can see who you play — it makes who you play as important as what you’re playing.
Q: What do you see as the future of your company?
Geoff: A few years from now, what’s this market going to look like and who’s going to win it? We thought the winner is going to win it on a global basis.
Most Internet brands of note have won it on a global basis — it’s hard to be a regional player. We are a regional player. Right now we’re essentially U.S. only — a good region but still regional. So we were looking at various opportunities.
The guys at Quepasa were looking similarly. They were very big in Latin America; they do social discovery and meeting new people there. We do it in North America. And so it was kind of a natural fit. … We thought the vision could be realized together, basically building this global platform for meeting people and social discovery.
(We plan on) taking our mobile applications, repurposing them and localizing them for a Latin audience, and then expanding beyond that. When we look at our market, we’ve got about 33 million people signed up on the site. Our core demographic is ages 13 to 24 — there are a billion people like that in the world.
How to reach: myYearbook, www.myyearbook.com