Polina Raygorodskaya and her childhood friend, Igor Bratnikov, came about the idea for their startup, Wanderu, the hard way.
A few years ago, while on a cross-country trip to raise awareness for national parks, they found themselves stuck in a small town in Virginia. They couldn’t find a bus or train to take them to the next place. Why wasn’t there some convenient website like a Kayak.com that aggregated ground travel options?
Fast-forward to 2014. Raygorodskaya, who studied entrepreneurship at Babson College, is now managing strategies and day-to-day operations at Boston-based Wanderu, which has raised $2.5 million from angel investors and travel-industry veterans (including Orbitz chairman Jeff Clarke and former Greyhound CEO Craig Lentzsch). The site provides consumers an easy way to buy tickets for ground transport on both coasts, and next month will roll out services to the rest of the country, according to Raygorodskaya, who serves as Wanderu’s CEO.
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The travel company has already won a number of accolades, including the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Accelerator Award.
The startup world isn’t new to Raygorodskaya, 27, a former model who started a public relations firm called Polina Fashion while still at Babson. “Running a startup — there are many challenges along the way,” she says. “Figuring out how to work around those challenges and keep pushing through is what differentiates success from failure.”
Raygorodskaya, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and came to the U.S. in 1990 at age four, says she draws inspiration from her parents. “A lot of my drive and motivation came from my parents, because both of them had to start from scratch — we came here without any money,” she says in this video for Babson. “I think my parents are the embodiments of the American dream. That’s really motivational for a child, coming from literally nothing.”
Why do you deserve to be on our Young Women to Watch list?
“I deserve to be on the list because I started my first company when I was a sophomore at Babson and have been continuing to build companies ever since. Now on my third, Wanderu.com, a company that simplifies bus and train travel, I want to use what I’ve learned in the process to inspire other women and young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams. I dedicate a significant amount of time speaking at universities all over the world to help inspire other entrepreneurs at a young age to start a company.”