A Q&A with the Wanderable co-founders Marcela Miyazawa and Jenny Chen on how they went from college roommates to entrepreneurs, and why they are changing the gift giving industry.
How did you meet?
Jenny: I met Marcela on my first day at Stanford—she was my freshman year roommate. I was unpacking my stuff when she came tumbling in through the door. She’s just as bubbly and energetic today as she was that day 11 years ago.
Marcela: When we were first assigned as roommates we weren’t sure why, because we didn’t have any of the similarities that they mention when pairing people up—we had completely opposite sleep schedules and tastes in music. Yet throughout our years at school we became really close. Computer Science wasn’t something that existed in Chile when I was growing up, so it was only after seeing Jenny’s excitement about it that I finally enrolled in a class. I ended up loving that feeling of possibility, of being able to build anything I could think of by simply knowing how to code.
How did the idea for Wanderable come together?
Jenny: After graduating, I went off to work as a software engineer at Amazon in Seattle and Marcela worked as a product manager for Microsoft in the Bay Area, but we kept in touch and went on trips together to Portland, the San Juan Islands and Alaska. About two years ago, as we were talking, we decided that it would be a pretty awesome adventure to start a company together.
Marcela: We didn’t initially start with the idea of a honeymoon registry, but after the experience I had at my own wedding, we decided to build one because we saw a need for it.
What is your vision behind Wanderable?
Marcela: As we learned more about wedding registries, we realized that something key was missing. You’re inviting close family and friends to celebrate with you, but the current gifting process feels impersonal. I’ve noticed if I put off purchasing a gift for too long I am suddenly stuck buying something innocuous like a pillow or an expensive bowl with no meaning behind it. However, with the opportunity I’d be excited to purchase china that reminded someone of family dinners, or something that enabled someone to have an experience they wanted. We wanted to bring back the “why” into gifting, where both the giver and the receiver are sharing the possibility of new memories and not just another physical item on a list.
Jenny: When you ask someone what is truly important to them, they talk about their family and friends. And when you give your friends and family gifts, you want to give them something meaningful that they’ll appreciate and remember. Technology has evolved to the point where it’s simple to share our lives and experiences with our loved ones. Wanderable makes gifts meaningful again by transforming them to be about experiences and the memories that they provide.
Marcela: We want to make the online gifting process feel like it is part of the real, elaborate, emotional events that weddings are. That’s why we’re building out features like the ability to send physical thank-you postcards from your iPhone, and allowing a guest to buy a handmade paper box to put a note with the experience they are gifting in it. We want gifting to not feel like a chore, but something you want to do because it’s exciting to provide new experiences to your family and friends—the kind of experiences they’ll think fondly of for years to come.
Marcela: I’d be hard pressed to choose only one, but I really liked the optimism of Bhutan and their cultural values, such as the importance of measuring Gross National Happiness. I also happened to go at a really interesting time politically, because they were transitioning peacefully from a monarchy to a democracy.
Favorite trip memory:
Jenny: Getting caught in a rainstorm while we were exploring a riverbed in Alaska. It was miserable, cold and wet on the way back up to the visitor’s center, but being able to dry yourself off afterwards and then eat something warm makes you feel so happy!