Founder Stories: Wanelo’s Deena Varshavskaya On The Evolution Of Being A CEO

Everyone knows starting a company and building it up into something is very hard. For Deena Varshavskaya, CEO of Wanelo (“wa-ne-lo” for want, need, love), the path is slightly more difficult being a solo and nontechnical founder building a company that has, to date, raised a decent chunk of financing from some of the Valley’s most savvy investors and grown into one of the highest-traffic sites on the web today.

In this discussion, Varshavskaya and discuss a range of topics related to founding a company and growing into the CEO role. Now with 28 colleagues at Wanelo, Varshavskaya describes how the social shopping platform has evolved from an idea to a company. Specifically, we talk about how she spent a year trying to find a cofounder but ultimately didn’t find the right person or fit, how she came to the Valley without much of a network, how she stumbled upon finding an excellent VP of Product with the right experience, how to hire technical colleagues, and how the company structure has evolved now that the team is bigger for one person to manage.

My favorite part of the discussion is toward the end, when Varshavskaya explains her secret about how she was able to build up a network of investors and advisors despite not knowing many people in the Bay Area. She said something that’s been stuck in my brain, to paraphrase — that if one is truly authentic about their passions and what they’re pursuing, the right people will emerge to help because they will resonate with the message. Having been fortunate to grow up in the Bay Area and work here, I think she’s right, and I hope it stays this way moving forward.

Editor’s Note: Michael Abbott is a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, previously Twitter’s VP of Engineering, and a founder himself. Mike also writes a blog called uncapitalized. You can follow him on Twitter @mabb0tt.