If you were pitching to Sir Richard Branson, eat crepes, and coddling lemurs in the Caribbean, you would think you were in a dream. Well, this reality for Wanderu founder, Polina Raygorodskaya. Wanderu is a travel startup. Polina became one of three of the finalists for the Extreme Tech Challenge, the first of its kind. This contest, which ended in February, includes fledgling entrepreneurs. MaiTai Global’s chief operating officer, Sabine Schindlbauer stated that for entrepreneurs, this is The Voice or American Idol.
Although it was not televised, there was a total of 2,000 applicants that dwindled over several months. MaiTai Global’s co-founder and venture capitalist, Bill Tai stated that he was searching for an opportunity to help a company with market fit, raise its visibility so that they can greatly scale. Tai’s focus was to gather judges that were able help the entrepreneurs.
Since 2009, emerging technology has become one of Branson’s major investments, which includes early investments in Square, BitPay, and Twitter. Raygorodskaya desired to pitch to Branson. Wanderu is her startup company, which is based in Boston. The company allows consumers to book bus and train traveling within the U.S and Canada.
A simple search on Wanderu aggregates hundreds of schedules and routes from operators like Amtrak, Greyhound and Bolt Bus. “It is a huge opportunity to have someone so knowledgeable in the space hear the story and give me feedback,” she said. “Richard Branson is the king of transportation. He understands the industry inside and out.”
The night before pitching, Raygorodskaya and the two other finalists were invited to a private dinner at Branson’s home. “He spent a lot of time listening, taking notes and really getting to know the people behind the idea,” she said. “He was super excited about Wanderu and that we are bringing many first-time riders to the space.”