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Why a Risk Analyst Quit His Job to Launch a Pet Insurance Startup

  • Pawlicy Advisor offers a marketplace for pet owners to buy and compare pet insurance options.
  • Cofounder Woody Mawhinney got the idea after experiencing how hard it was to compare insurances.
  • The company raised $12 million in Series B financing from StepStone, Defy Partners, Rho Ignition, Remarkable Ventures Fund, and Slow Ventures.

Like any new pet parent, Woody Mawhinney was already overwhelmed with training and caring for his Shar Pei that he had adopted.

But when his dog, Wrigley, started showing signs of a genetic disease, he took him to the veterinarian and was shocked by the thousands of dollars it cost to pay for Wrigley’s medication, vet visits and surgeries. Mawhinney’s vet recommended he get pet insurance, but said they weren’t aware of the best way to evaluate


pet insurance

options.

“The advice was to Google pet insurance, and when I did, I immediately felt overwhelmed, confused, and ended up choosing an insurance policy more or less on the fly,” Mawhinney told Insider.

That’s when the wheels started to turn for Mawhinney. As a risk analyst with ABS Consulting, a company that works with the Department of Homeland Security, assessing options is a part of his everyday life. After some research, Mawhinney realized there was n’t a resource to compare pet insurances, and his startup, Pawlicy Advisor, was born.

The startup now offers a marketplace where pet owners can browse and compare insurance providers. Pawlicy recently raised $12 million in Series B funding from investment firm StepStone with participation from previous investors Defy Partners, Slow Ventures, Rho Ignition, and ERA’s Remarkable Ventures Fund. The company has raised $20 million in total funding.

Pawlicy also acts like an insurance broker that works with providers to reach customers. It also carries most major insurance providers on its platform. The startup also teamed up with Synchrony Financial to provide users access to CareCredit, a co-branded credit card for pet care.

When Mawhinney was researching pet insurance options, he had trouble comparing what each provider would or would not cover for his dog’s host of medical procedures. That experience ultimately became the seed for Pawlicy. I have looked at travel websites such as Kayak and Priceline for inspiration.

In January 2018, I left his job and started a program at Columbia Business School. Mawhinney continued working on his startup idea while in school, and by the time he graduated, Pawlicy was up and running.

Mawhinney met his cofounder, Travis Bloom, in September 2018 after he read about Mawhinney’s idea in a post on CoFoundersLab after his own ordeal buying insurance. The two began talking about building the company, but it wasn’t until a nine-hour hike up a mountain in upstate New York that Bloom signed on to Pawlicy.

“I decided one of the best ways to get to know each other would be to travel, so I took Travis on the toughest local hike I could find,” Mawhinney said. “We spent nine hours talking and laughing, and we knew that not only did we have complementary skill sets and aligned visions, but we also meshed.”

Bloom – who has a pet cat named Ginny – became the company’s chief technology officer shortly thereafter.

Those early days were difficult, said Mawhinney, since they couldn’t get pet insurers to speak to them. It wasn’t until Mawhinney directly reached out to company CEOs that he managed to get them on board. Mawhinney said a large part of Pawlicy’s work is to help veterinarians walk patients through more transparent care costs for their pets.

“We want to educate consumers on how to afford their veterinarian’s treatment recommendations,” Mawhinney said. “With this funding, we can grow our small team to better support pet owners and veterinarians across the country.”

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