Welcome to Wear Wag Repeat Episode 32: Christie Horvath & Trina Pappadia of Wagmo are talking about their pet wellness business that is aiming to make your next vet visit more affordable. We cover a lot of topics from how I’ve had to manage Burt’s epilepsy drug costs to underground marketing strategies that work well for Wagmo. If you’re looking for a way to cut down on costs of your pet care, this is a must listen!
Christie Horvath is a dog-obsessed insurance nerd originally from Colorado. After working in finance for over 6 years in Manhattan, Christie and her dog, Denver, packed up their NYC apartment and moved to Cambridge MA to get an MBA from Harvard. She took all her classes on entrepreneurship, spent her summer researching the market and hanging out with dogs, and in October 2017 started working on Wagmo out of the Harvard innovation lab. Christie has a BA in Economics from Northwestern University, a masters from Harvard, and an 8-month-old puppy named Aspen.
(00:30) Introducing Christie Horvath and Trina Pappadia of Wagmo
(02:15) How Christie came up with the idea of Wagmo
(04:16) Christie shares a story about how pet insurance saved her thousands of dollars
(05:26) Tori opens up about how Burt (her new pup) has epilepsy
(08:40) What is the difference between Wagmo and pet insurance plans
(09:44) How is Wagmo making any money
(11:20) Where to find lower vaccine costs
(13:33) What the best part of starting your own business
(18:23) Christie talks all things hiring
(20:58) Christie shares more about her dog Aspen
(21:54) Trina shares about her pup Louis
(22:43) Christie + Trina shares an underground marketing technique
Tori: How did you come up with the idea for Wagmo?
Christie: Wagmo is a wellness plan for pet parents. What we’re ultimately trying to do is make it a little bit easier and affordable to be a responsible pet parent. It started with my dog Denver, who at seven started having seizures really bad. It turned out he had an inoperable brain tumor where our only choice was to do radiation. We did MRI’s, saw an oncologist, saw a neurologist, and ended up spending a ton of money to diagnose. He was my dog child and I had to put him down when I was in business school. It was terrible and traumatic for me. What I learned after that is how important routine care visits are.
Tori: Did you have any experience with having pet insurance before starting this business?
Christie: We did have pet insurance which is why I feel so strongly about the going in this direction. Actually, when I first got Denver, he ate an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies off the counter and was so sick. And of course I freaked out, calling the poison control hotline. They told me to take him to the ER which cost me $5,000! Emergency vets are like quadruple the price. They had to pump his stomach, spend the night, feed him charcoal – the whole workup. Thankfully, I had insurance and only ended up paying $500.
Tori: What does Wagmo cover?
Christie: We have three plans. The basic one is pretty much the stuff that you’re paying for anyways as a pet owner. That includes exam fees, vaccinations and routine blood work. These are things that traditional pet insurance today doesn’t cover, but we do.
Our legit plan is $30 a month and covers all the same stuff as the basic plan plus flea, tick and heartworm medication and grooming. It’s $330 a year for that plan and we cover the full $300 worth of flea, tick, and heartworm meds that most dogs need each year. We reimburse you for all of that. And then we have the Extra plan that covers even more groomin plus dental.
Tori: How do you plan to make Wagmo profitable?
Christie: The short answer is we’re not making money on these plans. We’ve raised some money to be able to support the discounts that we’re offering. But most startups will tell you that what’s important in the early days is getting traction. Our first priority is to get our name out there.
But the real underlying business model here is that we take the pricing data that we collect based on our user’s vet visits and use that to help make pricing more transparent. For example, if we’re getting bills for your dog and see that there’s a clinic down the street from you that’s offering the same services at a considerable discount, we could say, “Have you considered going down the street? This clinic’s much cheaper.” And at scale that data is quite valuable!
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