All About Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah

Learn about how Niraj Shah got his start and created his company, Wayfair

Wayfair, the e-commerce home goods website, has quickly become the largest online retailer for home furnishings in the U.S. The company offers more than 18 million products and generated $14.1 billion in net revenue in 2020. 

Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah, who started the business in 2002, has made it onto the Forbes 400 List, which highlights the richest Americans in the country. To make the list, an entrepreneur needs a minimum net worth of $2.1 billion along with a $100 million increase from the previous list’s requirements.

Shah is one of four Boston-based billionaires to make the list. Shah has also made the Billionaires 2019 List, Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40, and won the Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

How did Shah rise to such acclaim? Read on to find out about his career path, his company's success, and where he is today.

Younger Years

Shah’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, and he was raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. His family shaped his views on entrepreneurship from a young age. As a child, his business ventures included lawn-mowing and paper delivery.

He met his future Wayfair co-founder, Steve Conine, while the pair were still in high school. They attended a program for high school students at Cornell University, which led both cofounders to pursue their degrees there. 

Shah and Conine lived in the same dorm their freshman year, both studying engineering. In their final semester of school, they enrolled in an entrepreneurism class, the only one that Cornell University offered at the time. They had to make a business plan for the course, which inspired them to start their first company. 

The duo began several e-commerce ventures before Wayfair’s success story. Their first company was a website designing service called Spinners, which was sold to iXL in 1998. Though online shopping hadn’t quite taken off yet, Shah knew the Internet was the future of retail.

Prior to founding Wayfair, Shah served as the founder of Simplify Mobile, an enterprise software company sold in 2001. He also served as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Greylock Partners, COO and as a member of the board of iXL.

Building Wayfair

Wayfair began in 2002, in the spare bedroom of Steve Conine’s house. Originally known as CSN Stores, the pair bought the domain name “”, which sold only entertainment furniture. By December 2002, the company made $250,000 in sales.

They started to buy up other niche domain names, including,, and This eventually morphed into the operation of 250 websites. The duo sensed that e-commerce was going to hit it big soon. 

In 2011, they made the decision to turn their business into a branded retailer, consolidating the domains into, a home improvement retailer with nearly 4,000 employees globally. 

The company is based in Boston, Massachusetts. Shah told that Boston is an incredibly good market because of its universities and diversity of industries, including healthcare, academia, and retail. 2,000 Wayfair employees work out of the Boston headquarters, located at 4 Copley Place. 

Today, Niraj Shah is the CEO, co-founder, and co-chairman of Wayfair. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children. He and his wife, Jill, founded the Shah Family Foundation, which supports local education and healthcare programs in Boston. One of the foundation’s focuses has been providing students with healthy school lunches.

Shah has a lot of other ties to Boston, and Massachusetts at large. He serves on the board of Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, along with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. For 2 years, he even served as the director for Boston's Federal Reserve Bank.

In 2018, he and his wife were inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce hosts the event that celebrates local businesses that are improving their community. 

Shah is also one of the billionaires who donated a substantial amount to President Biden’s campaign: $400,000. As of March 3rd, 2021, Shah's net worth is $3.9 billion.

Conspiracy Theory: Child Sex Trafficking

Wayfair made headlines in summer of 2020 after a Reddit conspiracy theory went viral. The post alleged that high-priced furniture items on Wayfair’s online retailer marketplace were the proof of a child sex trafficking operation. 

Social media users claimed that, due to high prices and items labeled with women’s names, Wayfair was selling people in cabinets. Some of these “female names” matched the names of reportedly missing persons. 

Reuters, an international news organization, published a fact check showing the claims are untrue. According to a spokesperson for Wayfair, the company uses an algorithm to name its products. It is also common for home furnishings retailers to name their products with human names. 

The spokesperson also clarified the reason behind the products’ high pricing: the products were industrial grade cabinets. Wayfair temporarily removed them from the site to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately showcased the product, therefore explaining the high price point.

Social media posts circulated during and after this incident that Niraj Shah resigned as CEO. Reuters also published a fact check showing that was completely false, reiterating that the original conspiracy theory had been debunked. 

Success Throughout the Pandemic

Once upon a time, people questioned whether or not home furnishings would have a place in e-commerce. Wayfair proved that the business model could succeed, and this past year’s pandemic proved just how necessary it would be. 

Diginomica noted that at the start of March 2020, Wayfair’s revenue growth was at about 20% year-on-year. By the end of March, that figure more than doubled. In a business update, Shah made a point that Wayfair was uniquely suited to serve customers during the pandemic.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are open to doing their shopping online, even for home improvement items and products. It’s now standard practice to utilize e-commerce to avoid shopping in-person, which is great news for Wayfair and companies like it. 

Wayfair transitioned to working from home last year, though the fulfilment, logistics, and transportation facilities remained fully operational with safeguard in place. Wayfair also implemented no-contact delivery, with no signatures required to take receipt of goods. The company has continued to run smoothly, while maintaining health and safety measures, throughout 2020 and 2021. 

Wayfair’s success dates back to well before the pandemic, however. Shah pointed out to Diginomica that in 2014, the year the firm went public, their direct retail sales were $1.1 billion. As of 2020, they were $14 billion - massive growth in only six years.

The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide tax, legal, or investment advice and should not be construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation of any security by Candor, its employees and affiliates, or any third-party. Any expressions of opinion or assumptions are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change without notice. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results and the opinions presented herein should not be viewed as an indicator of future performance. Investing in securities involves risk. Loss of principal is possible.

Third-party data has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Candor does not receive compensation to promote or discuss any particular Company; however, Candor, its employees and affiliates, and/or its clients may hold positions in securities of the Companies discussed.