The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Christie Horvath of Wagmo
Christie Horvath is the co-founder and CEO of Wagmo, a tech-first company that provides pet wellness, employee benefits, and pet insurance plans for cats and dogs.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. The Fund is a founder collective and early stage firm, by founders for founders.
Americans LOVE their pets, with more than 60% of households having at least one pet at home. Pet parenting is expensive and almost half have gone into debt for their furry family members. Wagmo is a pet wellness company that provides individual pet insurance plans as well as employee benefits so pets get the care they need whether it be grooming, maintenance, injury, or cancer treatments. Wagmo alleviates the financial stress of those routine and emergency care services. Co-founders Christie Horvath, CEO, and Ali Foxworth, COO, are self-proclaimed “insurance nerds who are obsessed with their dogs.” They worked together on the insurance team at BlackRock and bonded over their shared love of rescue dogs. They would send each other links of puppies and that was the foundation of their friendship that led to a business partnership.
Christie is from Colorado and grew up with cats and dogs. When she was accepted into Harvard Business School, she brought her dog Denver with her, who was young and healthy. One night, out of the blue, he had a seizure and Christie spent 1000s of dollars to find out that he had an inoperable brain tumor. That experience exposed her to the trauma and intensity of being a pet parent and luckily she had pet insurance, but decided she wanted to provide innovation into the stagnated pet insurance industry.
The name Wagmo was inspired by a sign that said, “Wag more, bark less.” Wagmo - we can all benefit from that advice, humans and pets alike!
What’s Wagmo’s North Star?
We help people access high-quality care for their pets. We remove the financial burden and financial friction of keeping pets alive and well. When I took my dog Denver to the vet hospital they wouldn’t take him back to give him the medicine he needed until I paid a deposit and put my credit card down. The last thing you want to be worried about at that moment is “Can I actually afford this?”
What makes Wagmo a “must-have” vs a “nice-to-have”?
I think it all comes down to the way that people think about and treat their pets, which for many people, pets are like their children. This is not a discretionary spend. When your children are sick, you take care of them, and you'll do anything for them. When your pet is sick, it’s the same thing and the same amount of importance and priority is being applied to preventative care and wellness care, which is really our bread and butter.
How does Wagmo inspire “customer love”?
Customers have an incredible moment of joy when after filing a wellness claim, whammo, they get their reimbursement back within hours via Venmo or PayPal. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as we have a remarkable customer support and customer experience team working hard behind the scenes. They are all pet parents and many are vet techs or ex-vet techs, so their hearts are really in it. Their passion and compassion really comes through and they connect emotionally to the claims, which goes a long way.
What’s in the works at Wagmo?
We're really focused on our employer benefit program. We have a really cool, super unique, employer pet wellness program that we've built in the last year and a half with massive success to date, and I think we've got a lot of growth still to come. This is going to be a big year for us, so that's definitely our focus.
Any favorite startup focused book or podcast?
I try not to read startup books because they stress me out. One podcast I’m obsessed with right now is called “You’re Wrong About” with Sarah Marshall. She basically unpacks popular historical events, news, and concepts and the misperceptions that often take place. It’s fascinating with great storytelling. I like that it’s intellectual, but very accessible and fun to listen to.
What’s something interesting about you that people may not know?
I’m very allergic to dogs - they give me hives and make my asthma worse. I take a lot of Zyrtec, which helps and makes it livable. But I would rather be itchy and wheezy than without a dog in my life, which just goes to show how much I love dogs!
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