As a child growing up in a small town in Yugoslavia, Natalia Burina didn’t really understand what was going on, but she vividly remembers the sudden shift from normality to chaos.
“It just seemed like we went from having a fairly good life where we would drive to Croatia every summer, and we went from that to just like, oh, we have five suitcases of clothes and we don’t know anyone, we don’t speak English,” Burina told Business Insider.
Burina’s family had escaped the Yugoslav Wars in the early 90s and landed in the US, where they encountered an acute culture shock. Her family was fairly well-off in Yugoslavia — her dad was an anesthesiologist, her mother an engineering manager — but as a result of the war, they wound up cramming six family members in a two-bedroom apartment in a “not-so-nice part of town in Seattle.”
It took some time, but Burina slowly found herself growing more comfortable with the new language and the new life. She connected with one specific teacher, who was also a refugee, having survived the Holocaust, and this teacher really helped Burina assimilate into the US.
Burina eventually wound up at the University of Washington, studying applied maths with a computer science focus.
“With immigrant parents, you had to be either an engineer or a doctor,” Burina said.
At the beginning, Burina chose the traditional route to satisfy her parents. She worked at Microsoft, then eBay, and then Samsung. Now in Silicon Valley, Burina has found a path for herself that combines all of her passions.
“If [my parents] hadn’t steered me towards [engineering] I would have probably majored in languages, because I love languages, I love literature, but I feel like I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I can combine all these things I like in the company I’m building now.”
Along with a former classmate from the University of Washington, Burina created Parable early this summer. According to Burina, the app is meant to target “everyone who’s frustrated with all the crap posted on Facebook and the disgusting things on Secret.”
In essence, the app is like Secret but for more intelligent conversation. So users post meaningful quotes or sayings or life lessons.
Burina went into the project with some startup experience, having founded the location-based startup Flockish and later selling it to Stubhub, but for now she’s just seeing where things go.
“I love the tech space, and I always see myself in the tech space,” Burina said. “I never grew up thinking I would be an entrepreneur. It didn’t even occur to me that it would be a possibility, but coming to Silicon Valley I feel that you just can’t escape from it. It gives you so much more control over your work to do something where you define the product, you define the daily work, so it’s really fulfilling that way.
“Hopefully things work out for me with the startup but if not I will definitely be doing something with technology. It may take different flavours, so im interested in investing, different applications of technology to media and e-commerce. I’m not sure where I’ll go next, but I’ve learned not to plan too much ahead of time and to take advantage of the opportunities I have at my disposal now.”