From Siberia to CEO: Wanelo Founder on Success and Shopping

Katie Couric
·Global Anchor
Katie Couric headshot for home page - FP
Katie Couric headshot for home page - FP

By Katie Couric

From a glance at her shoe collection and the rest of her closet, you probably wouldn't guess the stylish founder and CEO of the social shopping site Wanelo grew up in the middle of Siberia.

Deena Varshavskaya immigrated to the United States when she was 16 and ultimately went to Cornell, only to drop out a few credits shy of graduating.

"I found that the college environment was just a little too theoretical for my taste," she told me during my visit to the company's colorful headquarters in San Francisco.

The lack of a diploma has hardly slowed down Varshavskaya, who has raised nearly $15 million in funding for Wanelo, which stands for "Want, Need, Love."

"It wasn't about preparation. It was about jumping in and making mistakes and learning," she says.

Customers on the Wanelo site have access to about 300,000 stores with the click of a button. By contrast, a shopper visiting a traditional mall will be able to visit only about 150. By following other shoppers online, people can learn about products they may not otherwise have thought about.

Wanelo grew out of Varshavskaya's desire to open what she calls the "black box," the unknown area of life that requires exploration and making mistakes.

"Perfection is terrible," she warns, and is "an enemy of moving forward and learning."

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