Meet the Meet Group

“I’m not here to make friends,” goes a modern cliche among the hypercompetitive. But when she cofounded her first company Catherine Cook Connolly really was there to make friends. She her brothers in starting a company called myYearbook back in 2005. Today called The Meet Group, it competes against the likes of Facebook and Instagram.

Connolly will speak at the Startup Grind meeting on Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. at Tigerlabs in Princeton. Tickets are $15, free for Tigerlabs members. For more information, visit www.startupgrind.com.

Connolly’s talk will focus on how she went from a cofounder of MeetMe to playing a role in the company once it was acquired and became a public company, changing its name to the Meet Group along the way. The Meet Group’s apps incorporate dating and live video streaming.

Connolly outlined her story in an e-mail Q&A with U.S. 1:

What was your background before the Meet Group? It was 2005, and I was a high school sophomore at Montgomery High School in Skillman. My brothers (Dave and Geoff) and I started the company — then called myYearbook — because Dave and I were new in our school and looking to make friends. Though we didn’t have any background in tech, we wanted to be entrepreneurs after watching Geoff start his first company while at Harvard.

Tell me about the early days of MeetMe, and how the company got started. What kind of jobs were you doing as co-founder? A lot of the initial work was creating hundreds of pages of specification sheets and pen-on-paper wireframes detailing everything the site would do. We would send those over to our developers in Mumbai, whom we found through eLance. Once we launched we collected feedback from our members and were able to iterate quickly to get new features and improvements up and running. We opened our first office in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in 2006 where our headquarters has been since.

How did your role change when the company went public? Through the merger with Quepasa (a publicly traded Latino social media company) in 2011 we became a public company (“College Kids Sell MyYearbook.com for $100M,” U.S. 1, July 27, 2011). My role has always been focused on marketing and working with the product team. That has stayed the same, but as the company has grown, we now have a fantastic team in New Hope, Philly, Germany, and San Francisco, which makes the pace and scale much greater, allowing us to see the impact of new feature launches on our over 4 million daily active users.

What was the transition like? Did you have to give up any control? If so, did this turn out to be a good or bad thing in the end? We have always been focused on the same goal, public or private, to be the best place to meet new people. Being public gave us more access to capital markets, which has fueled our growth and likely made the acquisitions we have been completing in the last few years much smoother.

Creating social connections seems to be something that a lot of companies are focused on. How have you managed to compete in a field that is not only crowded, but dominated by a few big companies? We’re used to competing with the 600-pound gorilla. We think companies like Facebook have a hard time expanding into meeting new people because their social graph is based on people you already know — your existing friends and family, Similarly, dating apps are focused on being a utility — finding a date for the next weekend — whereas our scope is broader. We are the mobile version of the coffee house. Our members are looking for entertainment, friendship, and love.

The Meet Group is online at www.themeetgroup.com.

Trenton Health Team Is Now a Regional Health Hub

Trenton Health Team, a community health collaborative, has been funded under a new program designed to improve services for Medicaid patients. The THT has been given the Regional Health Hub designation along with funding for expanding and enhancing healthcare.

“Regional partnerships are making a real difference in the lives of low-income residents and reducing healthcare fragmentation,” said THT Executive Director Gregory Paulson. “New Jersey is rapidly becoming a national model for how communities can come together to tackle our shared health challenges.”

Health hubs are community-based structures for convening stakeholders, enabling planning, and providing health interventions. Next year’s state budget funds THT at its current level and allows it to share healthcare data through a regional health information exchange to help providers meet patient needs.

These sophisticated data systems also help care providers address social determinants of health — causes of health problems that are not medical. Now doctors can make referrals directly to food pantries, legal services, faith communities, and other social services in hope of mitigating conditions contributing to health concerns.

Regional Health Hubs are replacing state Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations, which were intended to incentivize providers for achieving health outcomes rather than providing a high volume of services.

Trenton Health Team, 1 West State Street, Fourth Floor, Trenton. 609-256-4555. www.trentonhealthteam.org

Peter Westergaard

Deaths

Peter Westergaard, 88, on June 27. He was a composer, music theorist, and former professor of music at Princeton University. He wrote two operas, “Charivari” and “Alice in Wonderland,” as well as a string quartet and a number of vocal cantatas.

Floria V. Vanelli ‘Flo’ Brenna, 89, on July 14. She was co-founder, along with her late husband, Francis Brenna, of the Parkside Brenna-Cellini Funeral Home in Ewing, and co-founder, along with her late son, Leonard Brenna, of the Hamilton Brenna-Cellini Funeral Home in Hamilton, and owner of the Carousel Flower Shop in Ewing. Services will be held Saturday, July 20, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 137 West Upper Ferry Road, West Trenton.

Alexander Stepaniuk, 74, on July 8. He worked for McGraw Hill for 43 years and was the director of sales and marketing for Business Week magazine.

Pierre and Marietta Williams , 93 and 88, respectively, on June 27, 2019, and November 23, 2018. Pierre was an electronic technician at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where he worked on the modal “C” stellarator in controlled fusion of hydrogen. He also worked at RCA, John Roebling, and Cyanamid. Marietta was a member of the Toast Masters and chaired many flea markets. Services will be held Saturday, July 20, at 11 a.m. at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, 465 Paxson Avenue, Hamilton.

Dr. Virginia Brodkin Drobner, 82, on July 9. She was a trailblazer for women in medicine, having gone to medical school at a time when less than 6 percent of physicians were women. She was a psychiatrist for the state of New Jersey and maintained a private practice. She was also a consultant to the Association for the Advancement of the Mentally Handicapped in Princeton.

William H. Reuter, 94, on July 8. He was an engineer who early in his career was instrumental in designing a computer scoring system for Educational Testing Service and planning its Rosedale campus. Services will be held Saturday, August 3, at Saint James Church in Pennington.

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