Success story: how Polina Raygorodskaya created a multimillion dollar business in the USA - ForumDaily
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Success story: how Polina Raygorodskaya created a multi-million dollar business in the USA

Photo: Facebook / Polina Raygorodskaya

If you think that trying yourself in three different fields before the age of 25 is impossible, then meet Polina Raigorodskaya. Polina was four years old when her family came to the United States as refugees from Russia.

“I felt like a stranger,” says Polina Raygorodskaya. Despite the fact that she is half Jewish and then barely spoke English, Polina began to sing in the Catholic church choir, trying to integrate into American society. Since then, Raygorodskaya has mastered the skill of adaptation - she worked in the fields of fashion, communications, and now she has come to transport technologies.

In 16 years, Polina, a lanky high school student, attracted the attention of a modeling agency and began to appear in advertisements and on the catwalks New York Fashion Week. A little bit later, at the age of 19, she was already studying business at Bebson College in Massachusetts. When young designers began to turn to her with requests to help with communication, she formed a PR firm.

And when she was already over 20, a new business idea came to her mind: Raigorodskaya decided that now was the time to make this unexpected career turn. Wanander - the name of the new company was supposed to be a new technological solution for a long-standing transportation problem.

Photo: Facebook / Polina Raygorodskaya

Raigorodskaya often traveled around the North-East by train and bus - she went to meetings with her clients, but on no website could she find the cheapest and most convenient option for traveling by different modes of transport and buy the appropriate tickets. Each carrier has its own ticket sales system, and a single aggregator website like Kayak on buses and trains - was not. “There is anything on the Internet, but it’s impossible to get from point A to point B by road,” says Raygorodskaya, which is now 31.

In the 2013 year, through the 2 year after the company was founded in Boston, it launched the platform itself: Wanander helps travelers find the best sequence of modes to a specific point using a combination of buses, trains and ferries. Further, the application provides information on transfers from one type of transport to another and the opportunity to buy tickets. Today, this startup, founded together with Igor Bratnikov, is also an immigrant, whom Raygorodskaya met at a Russian-language school in extracurricular mathematics classes, booked tickets worth more than $ 1 billion, and annually generates income of more than $ 100 million.

Photo: Facebook / Polina Raygorodskaya

“She took several long bus routes and created an idea and a team that solved a problem that I could not cope with,” says Craig Lentsch, the former CEO of the bus giant Greyhounds and investor Wanander.

Even at the beginning of the Raygorodskaya project, negotiations with shipping companies were very difficult - they did not take it seriously. For the project to work, it was necessary to negotiate with hundreds of transport companies, many of which did not want to be on the same platform with their competitors, especially those that no one had ever heard of. And then Raygorodskaya called Lantssu and asked for help. He agreed to advise her, but said that before he became an investor, she would have to prove that she could negotiate with the carriers.

Raygorodskaya began courting bus companies and railway passenger carriers, but “it was almost impossible to break through a bunch of layers of bureaucracy,” she says. Therefore, Polina resorted to the strategy that she chose during her career in the fashion world: stroking the ego. She asked the CEO of companies for an interview for her blog.

“As soon as you tell them that you want to interview them, they start talking,” she shares. These interviews led to agreements with several regional carriers. Lentsh joined the first investors of the Raygorodskaya company - among them was also the former head Orbitz Jeff Clarke - and the initial investment was $ 2,45 million. This helped to negotiate a few more dozens of national carriers, including Greyhounds.

However, the technical task was so complicated that at the end of 2014, Raygorodskaya started having problems with money. The initial investment went to the creation of its own database of bus and railway carriers Wanander - similar to the one that exists for air carriers. But the data on the buses is much more complicated. Planes fly from common airports using standard carrier codes, while buses stop at dozens of different places in each city, and the codes they use differ from one operator to another. Then in November 2014 of the year, after many months of trying to attract another $ 5,6 million of financing (and thinking about reducing wages), Raygorodskaya managed to get investment. This gave her time and a valuable lesson: profit should be prioritized.

Photo: Facebook / Polina Raygorodskaya

One August Monday of this year, Raygorodskaya gathers his staff from 28 people. Bratnikov opens champagne. Since the days of hard 2014, the platform Wanander expanded to the whole of North America and Europe. The system employs more than 300 bus, ferry and rail partners, including Amtrak. Over the past year, the company has approached the territory of services Expedia и Kayakand also signed a partnership agreement with Skyscanner for air travel and is working on booking hotels.

A few years ago Raygorodskaya was invited to the island of Necker to Richard Branson. The magnate even promised her to invest capital. But for today the most important news for her is that which she informs her employees, raising a glass of champagne: “Our company makes a profit”.

Photo: Facebook / Polina Raygorodskaya

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