When it comes to homes and workspaces, Shanna Tellerman believes that marrying form with function can lead to serenity and innovation. That conviction, along with tens of millions of people moving each year, has helped the Carnegie Mellon University alumna to secure $11 million in funding for her latest business venture.
Modsy, which was unveiled last fall, is a home design application that lets users create 3-D models of their rooms, and furnish and decorate them with home goods from more than 100 online retailers. Instead of lugging home fabric samples or an armchair that does not quite fit, you can go online and see your newly outfitted space, even down to the lampshades.
Tellerman got the idea when she was decorating her home in San Francisco.
“Our space affects our mood, our feelings, our success,” she said.
Modsy offers clients several packages from basic room design to personal consultations with the Modsy style team.
Tellerman learned about 3-D design at CMU, which she chose because of the school’s strengths in math, science and the visual arts. While working toward her 2003 bachelor’s degree from the School of Art, she enrolled in the late Professor Randy Pausch’s “Building Virtual Worlds” class. The class had a profound impact, inspiring her to continue her studies at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center.
“Shanna showed her entrepreneurial spirit while a student at the ETC, and spun a company out of her graduate project work. Since then, she has grown as a talented leader who fosters innovative ideas and companies,” said Drew Davidson, director of the ETC. “She keeps in touch and is always willing to help current students figure out how to take their ideas and make them happen.”
While at the ETC — she earned her master’s degree in 2005 — Tellerman created a student project that she turned into a startup. Wild Pockets was a game-design platform that enabled developers to create 3-D games and media for web browsers.
Wild Pockets brought Tellerman much success. She won BusinessWeek’s Best Young Entrepreneur Award and in 2010 Wild Pockets was acquired by Autodesk, a software development firm for 3-D design, engineering and entertainment.
In addition to the ETC, Tellerman cites support from the Idea Foundry, a startup accelerator in Pittsburgh, for jumpstarting her career.
“Shanna has the ability to engage individuals and rally them behind her purpose,” said Idea Foundry CEO Michael Matesic.
After three years with Autodesk, she became a partner in Google Ventures, which provides funding to technology companies.
“I had the amazing opportunity to meet with people who are chasing their dreams and changing the world on a daily basis,” she said.
In 2014, she was named one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Women of Influence.
Tellerman is a member of the advisory board of CMU’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a hub for the university’s entrepreneurship activities, supporting and bringing together students, faculty, researchers, alumni and local entrepreneurs.
“We are very fortunate to have Shanna on our team,” said David Mawhinney, executive director of the center. “She has always been willing to give back. She recently hosted current Swartz Fellows, Innovation Scholars and other CMU students at Modsy’s San Francisco offices. It was transformational for our students to hear about her entrepreneurial journey and be inspired to do it themselves.”
Tellerman has started an endowed scholarship in her family’s name to support undergraduate entrepreneurs at CMU.
“Carnegie Mellon enabled me to pursue a career I never would have imagined,” she said, “which is why I want to give others that same opportunity.”
Photo: (L-R) Before and after using Modsy's 3D visualization; photo inset: Shanna Tellerman