Meet the Whiz Kids: 10 Overachievers Under 21

Page 11 of 11

10. The Social Director

Catherine Cook, of
Catherine Cook, of

Catherine Cook, 18

Imagine a cross between MySpace and Facebook, only operated by the teenagers who dominate those sites. Now imagine that it's the fastest-growing social network on the planet. That's

Not bad for a couple of New Jersey high school students.

In 2005 Catherine Cook was a 15-year-old sophomore tired of her high school yearbook and unimpressed by its online equivalents. "Friendster was boring, MySpace was creepy, and Classmates was a rip-off," she wrote. At the time, Facebook was open only to college students. Why not create something she and her friends would actually use?

So she brought in her 16-year-old brother Dave and her 26-year-old brother Geoff, already a successful Web entrepreneur with a company called CyberEdit, Inc., and started With more than 5 million members, it's the world's seventh-largest social network and is growing at a rate of more than 400 percent per year, according to Hitwise.

"I grew up watching my oldest brother Geoff start and run his company, and I knew I didn't want to have a normal job like my parents--I wanted something cooler, more creative, and just more fun," says Cook. "I didn't necessarily see myself starting a social networking site, but I think I've always seen myself as an entrepreneur."

Unlike many of our other wonderkids, Cook says her age was an asset to her.

"When you're a teenager, it's virtually risk-free to start a business: You're still dependent on your parents, so really there are no major risks," says Cook. "Even if you fail, you'll still have a really really great college admissions essay, so just do it already."

Read the full interview

Contributing editor Dan Tynan hopes his kids read this story and take the hint.

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