Name: Polina Raygorodskaya
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Industry: Travel, Hospitality & Events
Reason for starting? I started Wanderu because I felt passionate about solving a problem that a lot of travelers, myself included, were facing at the time: There was no efficient way to find, compare and book all available bus and train travel options between any two cities. That is why I set out to create a platform that helps people find the travel option that best fits their budget and schedule, and also inspires them to visit destinations that they may not have considered before.
I’ve always felt passionate about travel. Before I started Wanderu, I worked as a fashion model, and one of the aspects of modeling that really appealed to me was the opportunity to visit new places. I also had my own fashion and lifestyle PR firm that was based in New York City, but I would use every opportunity to travel to a different country or explore a part of the U.S. that I had never seen before. It was through my passion for travel that I personally experienced the need for a service like Wanderu that puts all available bus and train travel options for a certain route in one place. I would spend hours on each company’s website manually comparing trips to find the one that best fit my schedule. It was such an inefficient use of my time that made me realize that things needed to change. I saw a gap in the ground travel industry and figured I couldn’t have been the only one affected by it. Six years later, Wanderu has become the leading bus and train travel search tool in North America and Europe.
How do you define success? I started Wanderu with the desire to help people find the best available deals on bus and train travel. That’s why every time a customer reaches out to us to tell us that we helped them save money or made it possible for them to visit their loved ones, that’s a sign of success to me.
When I entered the ground travel industry, I didn’t do it with the sole purpose of making money. In fact, while we were building the company, I lived entirely off of my savings. I did it because I was passionate about solving a problem that a lot of travelers were facing. I felt it was unfair that only the airline industry offered travelers the benefit of seeing and comparing all available trips in one convenient place. There were so many people traveling by bus that didn’t have the opportunity to easily find the best deals, and they needed that option the most. I made it my purpose to create a platform that helps people find the best available deals and also inspires them to go out and explore. We don’t only help people find the best bus and train travel deals between two points. We allow them to enter their location and budget and discover all the places they can visit. That way, people can see that they can travel for as little as $1 and still have a great experience.
Biggest success: It’s really hard to pick one event and claim it’s my biggest success, but, if I had to choose, I would say the day we launched the Wanderu website to the public is one of my all-time favorite moments. Seeing something that you spent 2 years developing come to life and people actually using it to book their travels is something that I will remember forever. Since it was launched in August 2013, Wanderu has gone on to become the largest bus and train travel search platform in North America and Europe and the only platform that features both bus and train options. Wanderu has grown from a small beta search for the Northeast region of the U.S. into a platform that offers travel options to 3,200+ destinations in 20+ countries. To date, we have served over 40 million travelers throughout North America and Europe.
As a result of starting, developing and running Wanderu, I have received a number of accolades, including the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs Award by the Builders & Innovators Summit, and I’ve been featured on various esteemed lists, including Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Fortune’s 40 Under 40 Women to Watch, Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30, and Entrepreneur Magazine’s 25 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Under 40. At the end of 2016, Inc. Magazine named Wanderu one of the top 15 companies of 2016.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? The ground travel field is notorious for being a male-dominated playground, so at first I certainly felt a bit intimidated. However, I did not let that divert me from my goal. At the end of the day, people in business are valued based on their skills and ability to get the job done effectively and efficiently. It is the work that you put out that matters, so I overcame the initial challenge by demonstrating that I am perfectly capable of building and running a successful business. As long as you are bold, determined, hard-working and willing to learn on an ongoing basis, then there’s no reason not to thrive in this field.
Who is your most important role model? The most important role models in my life have been my parents. They came to the United States back in the day with two little kids and nothing to their name. However, with a lot of hard work and perseverance, they built successful careers and provided a wonderful life for their children. They have always served as my inspiration because of their ability to make the best out of any situation and rise to the occasion whenever they need to.
Edited by The Story Exchange