Geoff Cook is the Co-founder & CEO of MeetMe and The Meet Group (NASDAQ: MEET), a social dating and live streaming company with a $400+ million market cap; Geoff has spent $200 million in the last 3 years buying 4 companies, including most recently, Growlr, a dating app for gay bears. Geoff is also the CEO of myYearbook–a social network to meet new people.
Geoff Cook helped raise $20 million and grew myYearbook to profitability with 100+ employees and $30+ million in revenue. Geoff started his first companies EssayEdge and ResumeEdge from a Harvard dorm and sold them to The Thomson Corporation for millions of dollars at age 24. He sold his second company for $100 million. He also runs the leading podcast player, Podcoin, and can drive thousands of listening hours and hundreds of subscribers to podcasts on which he appears.
Geoff is a husband and father in addition to an entrepreneur. He started his entrepreneurial life in school because he didn’t want to get a job making only a few dollars an hour. Before then he didn’t really have any ideas about being an entrepreneur.
Geoff realized that if he wanted to really make some money, selling your time wasn’t going to cut it because it has a linear relationship. You need to create something that isn’t tied directly to your time. He thought that instead of working a regular job, he could create something and potential make nothing, but also potentially make way more money, and at the very least have some fun.
Geoff’s first venture was an attempt to just solve a problem, in his case essay and resume editing. He built a website from scratch and slowly grew his business from $10k a year in his first year in college to over $300k a year by the time he graduated. His second business was the social network myYearbook, within 9 months he had acquired over a million users to the site by leveraging existing platforms like Myspace.
In the early days of his first business, Geoff’s education did actually help him figure out what to charge and better tailor the experience to certain people. But it’s hard to draw a straight line from his education to everything that has happened since.
Geoff runs a public company called the Meet Group which has a heavy focus on live streaming video. The cost to execute live streaming lead to them start acquiring other apps so they could leverage the infrastructure they already had.
In the early days of Myspace and Facebook, creating a viral campaign that acquired email addresses was much easier and very powerful. Today you need to either buy it or build it, in the case of building it you need novelty in order for it to grow. Instead of relying on a lucky strike of a marketing campaign, another strategy to grow is to just buy companies that have already acquired the audience you want to reach.
Regular media like photos are very flat, where live video is much more interesting and interactive. The interaction is key and in the next few years, the quality and quantity of live streams available are only going to go up. Live streams are becoming part of many more traditional broadcasts as well.
Live streaming video is lean in media, it’s very interactive and keeps your attention. Audio is the opposite, most people consume audio media while they are doing other things, it’s more passive. Podcoin was born out of the idea of “what if we paid people to listen to podcasts?” It allows the listener to share in the rewards of the organization that they are directly generating.
The hardest problem is not monetizing a large audience, it’s acquiring them in the first place. By varying the amount of reward, Podcoin can incentivize the listener to discover and consume podcasts that they wouldn’t otherwise have discovered. It’s a way for podcasters to grow their audience.
If you have a sense of what media monetizes at, as long as you stay within certain bounds, you can figure out how to turn an audience into an asset for your business.
To create something worthwhile, it takes a lot of commitment and single-mindedness. A talent that is important to have to get something off the ground is the ability to wear a lot of different hats. Geoff’s successful businesses weren’t the first ideas he had, he had to iterate and pivot when he saw the right opportunity.
Feedback is crucial if you’re not sweating the metrics you’re not going to know what you should be working on at any given time. Patience and data gathering is very important for anything that you build.
The trick is one success helps the next effort be successful as well. You have to get to know the art of the pivot, you have to be able to learn things from your previous failures that you can apply to your next attempt and be willing to change directions. The idea that works out may bear no resemblance to the idea you started out with.
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