By establishing the first registered distillery in the country, Jack Daniel built his success on two fundamental ingredients: identifying a need in the community and crafting a quality process to satisfy that need. Today, Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey honors the makers who follow this time-honored success model of finding the sweet spot of where demand and innovation intersect.


Prologue — Stranded So Far From Home

Perhaps it’s fitting that the idea for a breakthrough in mass transportation was born by a pair of friends who just needed a ride.


Polina Raygorodskaya and her friend Igor Bratnikov were both in their early 20s when they found themselves marooned in Virginia while attempting a cross-country trip, stranded by a rideshare that never arrived. Desperate to keep moving and already familiar with the vast network of regional buses that run up and down the East Coast, the friends tried to book a ticket out of town, but to no avail.


As they struggled to secure a spot on the next bus or a regional train that might save the trip, they quickly realized how difficult it was to navigate an antiquated network of transportation schedules with so many different companies operating independently and no streamlined place to start.


Behold the epiphany of Wanderu, now a multi-million dollar company founded by two friends with different backgrounds but the sense to get on board when the right idea comes along.


The Journey – A Vision Years in the Making

Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov never aspired to work in transportation— or even technology— before they began to lay the groundwork on the Wanderu platform.


The two met in school in Massachusetts when they were 12 years old, but they soon branched out to find individual success in the business world. Raygorodskaya was a public relations pro and former model and Bratnikov specialized in intellectual property law, but they always shared what Raygorodskaya calls a “common bond to solve problems.”


And the transportation industry proved to be a tougher problem than either expected. With no experience or connections in the business, the duo found that few bus companies wanted anything to do with a pair of “naïve” 24-year-olds fixated on changing the status quo.


It was only when they joined forces with former Greyhound CEO Craig Lentzsch that the wheels started moving. Lentzsch brought the experience and clout essential to navigating a complicated and political industry, and he vouched for the duo’s idea as one of Wanderu’s earliest advisors.


“He had this vision for a long time,” Bratnikov said. “He saw that we were trying to understand the industry and not just build a crazy thing when we didn’t know how. He knew the idea was what the industry needed.”


He was right, and right to bet on Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov. It took more than a year to build out the Wanderu platform before it was launched in the Northeast in August 2013, and they’ve since aligned with major providers such as Greyhound, Stagecoach and Amtrak, and expanded to more than 90 percent coverage of the U.S., with more than four million users.


The Challenge – Data and Delays

One of Wanderu’s biggest hurdles in the early days was consolidating and streamlining so much data from the country’s vast network of bus and passenger train companies. While the airline industry has been consolidated to just five major domestic carriers, the private bus industry still includes disparate, regional lines serving patrons across the country.


And, as Raygorodskaya points out to make her case for the sheer volume of data Wanderu is dealing with, New York City is home to two major airports, but roughly 20 different bus stations.


Equally as frustrating was the company’s early setbacks while trying to land the nation’s biggest providers: Greyhound and Amtrak. Final contracts with such major companies sometimes took six months longer to sign than Wanderu expected, and delays are often a deathblow for eager startups looking to transform an industry.


“There are always moments when you think it’s the end of the world,” Raygorodskaya says. “If you just hold on a bit longer and figure out a solution, you realize it can be a benefit when those negatives happen.”


The Road Ahead – No Limits on Expansion

The start of 2017 saw Wanderu officially expand into Europe, partnering with travel giants in Germany, France and the United Kingdom and servicing more than 8,000 cities across the continent.


Back at home, the company is still based in Boston and growing its infrastructure in the U.S. Along with buses and trains, the platform includes marine ferry schedules, and they’ve successfully added the ability to compare flights longer than five hours.


The idea is still as simple as when it was born years ago: No one should get left by the side of the road.


Visit The Pitch Distilled to learn how distilling your business model can lead to success and read more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.


This article was produced by WIRED Brand Lab in partnership with Gentleman Jack.