Not everyone will admit to it, but deep down we are all infatuated with pets and animals. This is clearly evident with the astonishing amount of traffic that animals videos receive; there is really no other alternative explanation. If you are someone who has come to terms with this then Waggle is for you. Incubated out of SNL Founder Lorne Michaels’ incubator, Broadway Video Ventures, Waggle is the startup that compiles the best animal footage on the web and gives you a great way to take a break whether at work or at home. You simply select an animal and stream footage of the furriest animals you can find.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and cofounder Matthew Cavnar about the startup and their most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Waggle was incubated in 2015 and early 2016 at Broadway Video Ventures, the investment vehicle and digital media arm of Broadway Video. Waggle’s $2.3 million seed round funding was led by Raise Ventures, and included participation from Lowercase Capital, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Broadway Video Ventures, United Talent Agency, Ore Ventures, Allen Debevoise, as well as other prominent angel investors.
Tell us about your product or service.
Waggle is a new pet and animal content distribution platform that fosters a community of pet and animal content creators across its rapidly growing Facebook page, website, popular email newsletter (The Wag), and iOS creator application.
Some people joke that half the internet is made up of cat videos. What’s clear is that animal content is among the most successful online today. But the community around this content has no true place to call home. Waggle is building a first class brand in pets and animals, fostering that community across mobile digital and video and offering every animal the chance to become a star in its ecosystem.
What inspired you to start the company?
I was terrified of dogs when I was child and actually had to undergo fear aversion therapy with two very docile and sleepy Labradors, who could not have frightened anything except a doughnut. Their owner, a woman in our neighborhood, put me through the process out of her belief that no one should be afraid of dogs. Ever since then I’ve been an animal lover and have always wanted to find a way to celebrate that bond between humans and their pets and other animals. Everyone knows their animal is special in some unique way and I wanted to build a platform to celebrate that feeling.
How is it different?
Waggle is a mobile, digital and video first company with an emphasis on community and the content our community – our Wagglers – produces. The modern content viewing audience is not only viewing animal content in new places but also looking to engage and participate in a more meaningful way. We believe Waggle is primed to provide that platform. We will have individual digital shows and focused platforms but that is only a part of the larger Waggle vision. Waggle is creating a digital community and platform rather than just content alone.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Waggle is building a network of pet and animal lovers to join its community. With a hyper targeted audience of animal appreciators, Waggle will represent a valuable audience to the $60 billion pets industry.
What’s your business model?
As a young startup, we are currently focused on building a home for pet and animal content creators and continuing to expand its rapidly growing audience rather than immediate monetization.
The company was incubated at Broadway Video Ventures. How was that experience?
Broadway Video Ventures is a group within Broadway Video run by entrepreneurs. They’ve incubated companies such as Above Average that have gone on to amazing success. They leverage unparalleled relationships at the intersection of tech, media, and entertainment.
They gave us the space to find our voice and the hands-on oversight and experience to help us maximize our success in digital media. We hope some of our love of media and humor is evident in the voice of our animal contributors – such as Professor Dog – who write so much of the content for our channels.
What was the funding process like?
We closed this round very quickly – in fact it only took two days. Lowercase’s Matt Mazzeo was a founding investor and recognized the opportunity early on with Broadway. With Matt onboard and deeply involved in development, we were in good hands. Once we went out for the seed, our early traction on our mobile app and the big vision was very appealing. In Gordon Rubenstein at Raine we found someone who understood our vision and had interesting ideas for how to expand on it. When we met in person we knew we had found the right lead investor and we opened up the round to additional investors after that.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge in financing was the unusual nature of the company. When you’re pitching with a straight face that your company is differentiated because it is secretly run by animals and produces original adorable animal content, it’s natural to be worried you’re coming off as a bit strange. But we stuck to our perspective and what makes us unique, despite a few raised eyebrows. In the end, we investors recognized that uniqueness as one of our strengths.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Investors are excited about vertically-focused digital content. We’ve been able to create an impressive digital library and a strong user base very quickly showing there is huge interest and opportunity in the pet and animal enthusiast space.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Beyond our web publishing, newsletter, social channels and creator application, we are developing original series for television and digital media, as well as integrating messaging commerce into the product suite. We’re also working on additional expansions across live events, talent coordination and audio media are also under development.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
As soon as your financing hits your bank account, it’s usually headed right back out the door if you’re building the team and moving fast. It can be nerve wracking no matter how well you think you’re doing. When you’re trying to get more capital or don’t have a lot of resources on hand, the best thing to do is focus on what you can execute, what’s at the heart of your company, that doesn’t require a large investment. If that part is working right, the money will come.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Waggle has some incredible partners already and that list is growing every day. We’re looking forward to integrating the incredible library of content from America’s Funniest Home Videos and welcoming a broader group of Wagglers to our community.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
My favorite fall destination in the city is Prospect Park – it’s full of potential Waggle superstars!