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How Zola became world’s fastest growing start-up


The idea of creating Zola came in 2013 in her living room. Shan-Lyn Ma’s built her start-up into the fastest growing wedding registry, with a valuation of more than $220 million and over 500,000 users in the US. Shan proved to be a founder, adept at both selling big ideas to investors and managing low operating costs during rapid growth. She mentioned this to her friend and former colleague Nobu Nakaguchi, who she worked alongside for years at Gilt Group.

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The origin of Shan-Lyn Ma’s ‘Zola’

In 2023 she was working in a company, yet all she could think is to start something of her own. In that year most of her friends were getting married and she was all confused about the gifts. She mentioned this to her friend and former colleague Nobu Nakaguchi, who’s had worked alongside for years at Gilt Group. She realised that wedding registry was not only a big problem but also a big business

Her struggle as a founder and how he fought through

It was difficult to manage every department; they hired Zola’s President, Rachel Jarrett, who had an incredible e-commerce background.

What is one quality you look for in team members?

“I always look for a growth mindset from any team member at Zola. Any time that we hire someone, we, of course, look for top talent, but we also value people who are humble and realise that they and others can always grow to be stronger. To encourage and support a growth mindset we try to practice real-time feedback and look both internally and externally for ways we can be always improving”.

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“I’m sure every person on my team will tell you that the most common phrase that comes out of my mouth is, “How can we make this bigger?” If someone tells me something can’t be done — I remind them that there’s always a solution. There’s always a way. Ideas can always be more impactful than your initial thought”.

Her favourite personal tool for work

“Nothing will replace a pen and notebook. I take them with me to every meeting and am always jotting notes, reminders, and ideas down that I can tackle later”.

“I recently started using this tool called Noken to help plan an upcoming trip to Iceland. The app makes it really easy to plan an entirely personalized travel itinerary, all in the one place, without the headaches normally associated with extensive travel research, booking across multiple sites”.

Her inspiration

“When I was a growing up in Australia, I was in awe of everything happening with the internet in America. I dreamt of going to Silicon Valley and working alongside the likes of Jerry Yang, whose story struck a chord with me because he was an immigrant who worked incredibly hard for his own success. I still really look up to him and hope one day my ideas will have  as big an impact as was his.”

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