MITX - Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange


June, 2012

Niraj Shah of Wayfair Chats with's Shawn Harris

Shawn Harris and Niraj Shah are serial entrepreneurs who have been building businesses in the region for more than a decade. Harris, 36, is the founder of, a Boston website that allows shoppers to name their price to buy products from brick and mortar retailers. Shah, 38, is cofounder of Wayfair LLC, which was founded as CSN Stores in 2002 and now is one of the Internet's biggest sellers of home goods.

Harris: You’re a consumer Internet site. Boston’s big on technology behind the technology. Was there anything ever inside you guys that said, should we stay in Boston, or should we move elsewhere?

Shah: Boston’s got an incredible amount of talent, it’s got a lot of consumer-oriented brand talent, it’s got a lot of traditional retail talent, a lot of technology talent. So it’s got a lot of not just technology skills, but a lot of other skills that are highly relevant when you think of consumer Internet.

What we found was that to some degree it’s almost a better place [for hiring] because you talk to companies that you’d think would have a very easy time recruiting in [Silicon] Valley, and they’ll share with you stories where they can’t get engineers because basically Facebook and Google are in a bidding war against each other, and everyone else is just collateral damage.

Harris: When you look at the Kevin Systroms of the world with Instagram, what does it take to get a local guy like that to consider hanging around, building a business like he built here?

Shah: There’s no question that the Silicon Valley area is a great place to build a business. I think Boston’s also a great place.

The biggest thing Boston should do is do a better job promoting itself and its successes. Most people don’t think about in Boston, there’s Wayfair, there’s Rue La La, there’s Shoebuy, TripAdvisor, Kayak.

Harris: The tech industry right now is getting a lot of attention because of Instagram and the Facebook IPO. But some people are saying there’s another bubble. I look at it and go, “is there a bubble, or is it the case that the opportunities are so much clearer now that this is where the world is going?’’ Before there was a ton of speculation.

Shah: This time these companies have revenues, and by and large they have profits. The first time around you had companies that were being measured on visitors and views, but there were not revenues, and there definitely were not profits. On the consumer Internet side, we’re really in the early innings. What’s hard to guess is - who all the winners and losers will be.Continued...

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