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Deena Varshavskaya

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Deena Varshavskaya's Social Links

Profile

Founder and CEO of Wanelo (“wah-nee-lo,” from Want, Need, Love), a social platform used by millions of people to find and buy products they love.

Originally from Siberia, Deena started Wanelo with no funding or team after realizing how frustrated she was with the traditional mall experience. She wanted to know what stores and products her friends liked and decided to create a social platform dedicated to shopping.

Wanelo is mostly used by young girls and women — 90 percent of users are female, and 60 percent of them are 24 and under. Items that do well on the site: Things with sparkles, anything turquoise, and booty shorts. And Squishables, of course. Wanelo is an intermediary and doesn’t stock anything itself. Instead, it lists more than 12 million products from roughly 300,000 stores worldwide.

Prior to Wanelo, Deena ran a small design agency based in LA. She's also a college dropout, leaving Cornell only two classes short of graduating.


Companies and Investments

Wanelo (founder and CEO), Dynamik Interactive (founder and CEO), ReelACT.com (founder and CEO)

Lessons Learned

I grew up in Siberia, in the Far East, in one of the coldest places on earth that humans officially inhabit. It was a working-class town, and my dad's family was very intellectual — my dad was a political journalist — so I grew up in that context that I was always different. My dad did an amazing job teaching me to question everything around me. I never had specific rules or a curfew — everything was driven by discussion and negotiation. My mom was a really interesting influence as well, because she was a fearless woman. She didn't think much about what the people around her believed was a proper way to behave — if she wanted something, there was no stopping her.

My best advice is this: When something's not working and it's not making you happy, quit it really fast. I see a lot of people get stuck on positions that aren't working for them. It's important to value your own time. Value your curiosity too, even if you don't understand how that curiosity will pay off. There's the classic example of Steve Jobs taking classes on typefaces — there was no plan on how he was going to use that, but it became really smart for his design aesthetic. Sometimes we don't allow ourselves to be curious about things because we're too concerned about the practical considerations.

In hindsight, I would have left college earlier. I love education, but I think in my case, traditional education was not really successful for me. While it was all interesting and fascinating, I think it slowed me down. Had I left college earlier, I would have been able to start building something I was more interested in sooner. I am still building Wanelo and I'm really excited about it. I'm just hoping that this is the company I'm building for the next 30 years. The opportunity we're after is huge — we're building a single platform on your phone that brings together all of the world's shopping and personalizes it for you and makes it easy to buy.

here are two themes that motivate me: empowering people, including myself, my friends, the people I work with; and living creatively. That again comes through in how we build our internal office life — I wear really crazy things to the office. Getting dressed every day is a form of play, and I take my play pretty seriously. For example, I showed up in Seattle last week for a meeting dressed in all metallics. I didn't care what kind of business meeting it was. I just knew I didn't want to blend in because I only care to make sure I wear something that feels true to me. If you just look at my Wanelo, you'll see leggings are a big thing for me. One of my favorite leggings is a pair with Ryan Gosling's face all over. People stop me all the time because of how preposterous it is to have his face everywhere, but that's why I got them. They're really fun.


Inspiring Quotes

The difference between reality and imagination wasnt ever clear to me at all.

David Lynch

A startup is a series of black boxes: you simply have to open up each one and dive inside

Evan Baehr

Do what you love gets misinterpreted as Work should be easy! I think its more Find work you can enjoy even at its most difficult.

Gordon Luk

The question isnt whos going to let me. Its whos going to stop me.

Ayn Rand

We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth.

John W. Gardner

Deena Varshavskaya's Quotes

I personally have left several jobs prematurely, not only not knowing what I will do next, but also having no savings to see me through the period of not working.

Deena Varshavskaya

It’s important to follow your curiosity and uncover your less obvious interests.

Deena Varshavskaya

Every morning, I fantasize about loading my coffee maker the night before. One can dream.

Deena Varshavskaya

I had a really huge desire to see this happening. I had this belief that since I was failing it wasnt the end point. I just hadnt reached the solution yet.

Deena Varshavskaya

Basically, I’m a classic optimizer. Facebook is for friends. Twitter is for news. LinkedIn is for jobs. Instagram is for pictures. Wanelo is for shopping.

Deena Varshavskaya

Influential Books

John W. Gardner - Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society

Mentors

Jon Gilman, Katie Couric, Lori Fradkin, Kirsten Green, Sean Flannagan

References


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