The average, lifetime cost that pet owners pay to get their dog groomed can top out at a whopping $14,400. Routine preventative and wellness care for dogs is expensive and Wagmo developed a new type of pet insurance that covers day-to-day essentials including grooming and dental work. Wagmo offers three tiers of annual membership plans that start at only $15 per month and all claims are processed within 24 hours.
AlleyWatch sat down with Wagmo CEO and Cofounder Christie Horvath to learn more about how her own personal experience managing vet bills for her rescue dog inspired the launch of Wagmo, the company’s unique value proposition for pet owners, and the company’s recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $3M in our recent Seed round, co-led by Harlem Capital and Vestigo Ventures, with participation from Female Founders Fund, Clocktower Technology Ventures, and The Fund. Several existing and angel investors, representing Flatiron Health, Clover Health and more, also participated in the round.
Wagmo helps pet parents get the best care for their dogs and cats by offering plans that cover the day-to-day essentials, including routine and preventative expenses such as annual exams, vaccines, and grooming. Wagmo currently offers three annual membership plans: Basic, Legit, and Extra, starting at $15/month, with no deductibles. Think of Wagmo as comprehensive care for your four- (or three-) legged friend.
What inspired the start of Wagmo?
Wagmo was inspired by my dog, Denver. Only a few years after I rescued Denver, he started having crazy, unexpected seizures, triggered by a brain tumor. It was my second year at Harvard Business School and, all of a sudden, I was hit with thousands of dollars in vet bills. We were constantly going to the vet, but at the end of the day, I noticed that the majority of my spending was on the routine wellness care Denver needed to simply stay healthy. It gave me a new and very sincere appreciation for how challenging – and all-consuming – pet parenting can be. Like many pet parents, I went into it expecting my preventative care to be covered by pet insurance but it turns out it generally isn’t!
I scoured the internet for an option that would cover the preventative costs that were adding up and when there was nothing on the market, that’s when I knew I needed to tackle wellness first.
How is Wagmo different?
We are a scrappy team of pet owners, and we know that preventative care is the key to making sure our pets live healthy and happy lives. Yet, the wellness category has long been overlooked by traditional pet insurance.
Traditional pet insurance wasn’t working for us, so we built something better to ensure the best care for our dogs and cats by offering plans that cover the essentials of pet parenting. Wagmo’s first-of-their-kind wellness plans cover the basics, like exam fees, vaccines, routine bloodwork, dental care, and even grooming.
Customers choose Wagmo for our unmatched, responsive and empathetic customer experience and our comprehensive pet coverage made simple and accessible. We process claims within 24 hours and once you sign up your furbaby for Wagmo, your coverage and benefits begin immediately.
Our goal is to make it easy to keep our pets healthy.
What’s your business model?
We currently offer three annual membership plans – Basic, Legit, and Extra – starting at $15/month. The plans reimburse customers for pet wellness essentials and are effectively priced utilizing the same techniques used by traditional insurance plans.
What market does Wagmo target and how big is it?
We’re targeting the pet industry and the 2/3 of households in the U.S. that have a pet. Pet parents spend over $72B per year to keep their pets healthy and happy.
Who do you consider to be your main competitors?
Some of the traditional pet insurance companies have wellness add-ons, but they require pet owners to be an insurance customer first. The real competitive force we’re up against is people’s tendency to “self-insure” for wellness care.
We hope to help pet parents understand that Wagmo is working with them to get the best quality care for their pets. We’re all better pet parents when we’re staying ahead of our pets’ health.
What was the funding process like?
Fundraising is a very humbling experience – it’s exhausting but fun. We really believe in Wagmo, so even though we encountered our fair share of rejection in the process, we still got out there every day and got to talk about our passion all day, every day. It may sound cheesy, but it was also a really cool way to memorialize Denver… after all, who wouldn’t love talking about their dogs all day?
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
There are quite a bit of “politics” and unwritten rules that go into raising a VC round. You have to be confident but not arrogant, have conviction but not be opposed to feedback, and there’s a whole list of things you should/should not say, and one misstep can really set you back. I had some incredible coaches and mentors that I would text constantly for advice, but a lot of things I sort of stumbled through blindly.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Building on the obvious tail-winds behind the pet industry, our investors recognized that Wagmo is addressing a true and growing pain point among pet parents. Above all, they recognized our team as uniquely passionate about solving this particular problem – my cofounder Ali and I are both pet parents and both of us come from the insurance world. Plus, it didn’t hurt that we had happy customers and revenue already on the books.
Above all, they recognized our team as uniquely passionate about solving this particular problem – my cofounder Ali and I are both pet parents and both of us come from the insurance world. Plus, it didn’t hurt that we had happy customers and revenue already on the books.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re hiring! Our big focus right now is to grow our team.
We will primarily use the funding from this round to further scale our operations, build out the team, and expand our partnership distribution model. And, of course, we’re working every day to make sure that our users are getting the level of service and value they expect.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Keep going and keep building your network of supporters. You’d be surprised how quickly a mentor, former teammate, or enthusiastic customer can lead to a potential investor.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Fancy restaurant (read: post-Series A): Blue Hill
Everyday restaurant: Olea in Fort Greene