Like a lot of entrepreneurial endeavors, theirs was a case of “We need this right now – why doesn’t it exist?” The idea for Wanderu arose when Polina Raygorodskaya and Igor Bratnikov were stranded in Virginia by a canceled rideshare. Desperate for a ride, the concept was born, described on its website as “the simplest way for you to find and book inner-city buses and trains between any two points”. Indeed, visitors to the Wanderu site are told they’re “Free to Wanderu around the country.”
Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov, would later assume the company’s roles of CEO and COO, respectively. On the Aug. 10 episode of NBC Bay Area’s Press:Here, Scott McGrew referred to the online travel booking service as “Expedia for the Greyhound set.” Indeed, the iconic Greyhound bus has gone through a complete renovation in conjunction with its 100th anniversary this year. More than 90 percent of its coaches are brand-new or refurbished with leather seats, power outlets and the now-mandatory Wi-Fi.
With its emphasis on curbside bus stops, modernized double-decker buses and on-board Wi-Fi, Wanderu is geared toward travel for the “next generation.” Discussing the generational gap of what’s valued, Raygorodskaya said, “For the millennial demographic, it’s the coolest new electronics that you have…the reason why Lyft and Uber are so successful is because people don’t want to drive—they want to be driven around.”
Since its inception in 2011, the Boston-based company has expanded from primarily Midwest travel to all over North America, with routes from DC to New York, Orlando to Miami, Seattle to Vancouver, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and San Francisco to LA.
The constant need for instant access to information, especially among the younger generation that’s accustomed to it, was a primary incentive for Raygorodskaya to develop this meta-search site. She told McGrew, “As a millennial…I want to be able to book a trip at the click of a button. I don’t want to have to go to 10 different websites to see what time the bus is leaving.” Also, she noted, “We’re (millennials) less likely to own cars.”
Still, the ability to quickly, easily, and cheaply plan your trip – no matter how complex – is priceless (one of Wanderu’s many partner companies, Megabus, has fares starting at just $1), especially when other plans fall through, such as was the case with Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov. “There are hundreds of bus companies in the U.S. We do routing…we’re able to reach destinations that you can’t reach with just one company,” she added.
Buses are not the only mode of transportation with which Wanderu connects its users. “We integrate transit to get you to and from the station, and we also route providers together in case you need to take more than on bus or train.”
A recent expansion announced in June that Wanderu partnered with busing company Turimex Internacional, which serves the Southwest and Mexico. An app is also currently in production, and the growing demand is evident that it can’t come soon enough. As Raygorodskaya notes, “I just got an email; someone needed help because they’re trying to find a bus to get to their wedding tomorrow.”
Press:Here is a weekly roundtable featuring top technology reporters interviewing Silicon Valley CEOs and entrepreneurs. It is hosted by Scott McGrew.