Tell us about yourself:

I’m a San Francisco-based world traveler and product creator, originally from Russia. After graduating with an International Business degree from Bryant University in Rhode Island, I moved to Silicon Valley to build my first startup, myWebRoom. As a company, we raised 4.5M in funding, grew the team to 20+ members and acquired more than 2.3 million users. More recently, my wife, Daria Rebenok, and I launched Grabr, a peer-to-peer marketplace for shoppers and travelers. What started as a craving for gazpacho soup from Spain turned into a global community of tastemakers. My passion for travel has taken me to 65 countries, four of which I’ve called home and I’ve learned three languages along the way. I always say, “if there’s something you don’t know, go figure it out.” This attitude has helped me understand how startups really work and how to best approach challenges that come our way. 

What is your innovation/idea?

Grabr: Think of it as an Airbnb for shoppers and travelers. Our peer-to-peer community connects shoppers seeking unique, one-of-a-kind goods with travelers heading their way. So, whether craving fresh macarons from Paris, handmade leather sandals from Mykonos or even essential medicines from Moscow, Grabr makes it happen. Much of the time, it’s “common” items that are requested most, but not always. From Limited edition Yeezy Boots and Cuban cigars to a small jar of sand from Bora Bora where the couple had honeymooned ten years prior, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. Grabr caters to just about everyone. Many users are expats seeking the comforts of home while others are everyday shoppers hoping to save money on shipping or simply gain access to items that aren’t available in their country. It’s a win-win all around. Shoppers get their hands on otherwise unavailable items and travelers get to see the world AND get paid.  

Why are you participating in this competition?

Cancer is something that we all face, whether it’s a close family member or a stranger on the street. My father died from Leukemia when I was young, so finding a cure has always been a priority of mine. We both have friends and acquaintances who are suffering from cancer, so we see firsthand how it affects both the patient and his or her family. It’s really important to us that we support everyone battling this disease, however big or small the contribution. Every little bit counts and we want to do our part.