Victoria has been an entrepreneur since her early twenties and has developed three companies. As founder and CEO of Wildfire (www.wildfireapp.com), Victoria led the company to profitability in just one year and has built the company to tens of thousands of customers, over 250 employees, and eight offices worldwide. Clients include major brands and agencies such as Facebook, Pepsi, Unilever, Sony, AT&T, Ogilvy, Publicis, and Digitas. Wildfire is a two-time winner of the fbFund; investors include Summit, Facebook, Accel Partners, and the Founder’s Fund. Victoria has been featured in several publications including The New York Times, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal. She was named one of the ’25 Women to Watch in Tech’ for 2011 and 2010 and was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for New Zealand. Victoria has spoken at numerous events, including Le Web, SXSW, OMMA, AlwaysOn, Ad:tech, and Web 2.0.
Sramana: Victoria, let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where do you come from?
Victoria Ransom: I grew up on a farm in New Zealand in the middle of nowhere. There were 25 students in my primary school. It was a wonderful upbringing, and it was very beautiful. It was a very supportive environment and a small environment. I felt I could do anything. Neither of my parents went to college, but they instilled in me a ‘reach for the stars’ attitude. When I was in high school I learned about a scholarship to study at a network of colleges called the United World College.
The first college was set up in the 1960s during the Cold War. The founder believed that if you brought young teenagers together at an impressionable age, and if they did community service, intensive outdoor activities, and academic studies together, that you could create a new generation of international understanding. It is a phase between high school and college, kind of like junior college. I ended up getting a scholarship to attend the one in New Mexico which is in Las Vegas, New Mexico. There were 200 students from 90 different countries. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. As a result I ended up staying in the U.S. and went to Macalester College. They also had a huge focus on internationalism and a diverse international student body.
I studied psychology and graduated in the summer of 1999. I wanted to help people, and that seemed like a direct way to do so. At the end of my college years, I realized that if I had a job in psychology it would not have stimulated me. I would have needed to get a PhD, and I was not sure that I loved it enough for that. At that point I had half a year left. I decided to get some business experience and I got an internship with a consulting firm. After college I went to London with that consulting firm. I spent six months with them and then I applied to investment banks. I did not know what to do, but I wanted to make sure that whatever was on my resume would prove to be a good stepping stone.
I got on at Morgan Stanley in their media group and I caught four months of the dot-com good days. I saw a lot of entrepreneurs coming in and pitching to Morgan Stanley. That was eye opening for me. I had never considered being an entrepreneur. I was not one of these kids who knew from day one that it was my career path. I realized that they did not have anything that I did not have. I worked at Morgan Stanley for two years and knew that it was not a lifetime career for me. My boyfriend at the time, who later became my co-founder at multiple companies, including Wildfire, was at a different investment bank. We decided to leave it during the heart of the recession to start an adventure travel company. We did that on September 1, 2001, which proved to be a very interesting time to start a travel company.