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How I Founded a Successful Pet Insurance Company

Alexandre Douzet is founder and current CEO of Pumpkin Pet Care, a pet insurance company specifically for cats and dogs. Their pet insurance company helps empower families to give their pets the type of insurance that provides package with extensive accident & illness coverage.

They also worked with vets to create a preventive care pack that helps cover crucial annual wellness exams, vaccines & screening tests, so Pumpkin-insured pet families can prioritize the care their pets need for everyday health & wellness as well as for unexpected accidents & illnesses.

Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual moment to start Pumpkin Pet Care?

The idea for Pumpkin Pet Insurance came from an old business venture when I was CEO at Ollie, a human-grade pet food company that focused on high-quality nutrition diets for cats and dogs.

Pumpkin Pet Box

That business introduced me to the world of animal healthcare, which is a category that I quickly realized was severely underserved. For example, only 2% of pets have health insurance- and as an animal lover and proud dog dad, I kept thinking that we can do better. Identifying a hole in the market got me excited, but once I did more research, I had a hard time finding a unique selling proposition that would be different from other pet insurance companies. That’s when a personal connection introduced me to Zoetis, the world’s largest animal pharmaceutical company. I’m an entrepreneur who has successfully scaled companies in the past, so once I met some of Zoetis’ executives it was clear that the relationship was a good match and that’s how Pumpkin Pet Insurance came to be.

What regulatory approvals did you have to go through?

In starting Pumpkin, we had to go through all the standard regulatory approvals that other insurance companies go through as it’s a highly regulated industry. This is where finding the right business partners to bring your idea to life really rings true. I do not have an insurance background, so we leveraged one of Zoetis’ partners to help us identify and select an underwriter to bring our product to market and develop a beta product to test.

Who is your target demographic?

In the world of insurance, there are multiple personas. One persona is someone always aiming to pay the lowest price per month regardless of what’s included. Another persona is a bit more affluent and less price driven and that’s the audience we’re primarily focused on because our goal is to give animals the best possible coverage and treatments that are available.

Pumpkin Pet Personas

Our target audience is quite broad with ages ranging from 21-65. We do best with female millennial pet parents located on the coasts and in urban areas. We are US only.

What is the funniest/most strange customer request you’ve had?

One surprising thing we’ve learned on our journey is that in some cases marketing directly to the consumer isn’t always the most effective. We have found having an endorsement from our customers’ personal vet is incredibly effective, so as we move forward, we are also focusing on establishing relationships with vets to let them know what we offer as well.

Did you run any companies prior?

Prior to Pumpkin, I was co-founder and CEO of Ollie, which I grew from $0 to $40M in ARR with $45M in capital; and I also co-founded which I grew from $0 to $85M with $20M in capital. I never necessarily set out to be an entrepreneur, but in each instance, I had an idea that I knew was a great product market fit and I had a high degree of confidence that I could execute well on.

What motivated you to start your own business?

My first entrepreneurial venture was, which is a career and job search site. I started Ladders fresh out of business school and turned down a job at Google (pre-IPO Google, mind you) in order to focus on it. Prior to business school, I was working for a company called Hot Jobs which was acquired by Yahoo so I had some experience in the industry and knew this was something I could do.

Pumpkin Pet Package

It was a huge risk though, as I had just been married and was in the process of starting a family. In fact, I remember very vividly that I had gotten the news of closing a round of funding the morning my kids were born (I had twins). But again, I really followed my instinct that I had a good product- and also, I was more excited about starting Ladders than I was about going to work at Google.

What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?

All my friends told me I should start another company after Ladders and my response was always “no way”. It was so much work and my end goal was just to join another great company and maybe help entrepreneurs on the side. But then came Ollie.

Pumpkin Pet Founder

The idea for Ollie came from my own dog when she was having bad health issues and I began working with my vet to get a diet plan together. With a new diet plan, my dog’s health greatly improved and again, I realized I could build a great product and take it straight to the consumer. So I turned down offers from both Uber and Casper to focus on Ollie.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

I love to solve problems and believe that identifying the problem well is half the solution- so I think that passion has certainly driven me to be successful.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

In terms of advice for entrepreneurs just starting out, I recommend partnering with someone who has experience. The average age of people launching start-ups are in their 20s and they’re having to learn everything at once. The number one struggle is there’s only so much you can know, so hire someone that brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to help you. If you can’t hire one, at the very least get a mentor. At Pumpkin, we are very fortunate because we didn’t have that learning curve- so we were able to come up with a playbook and execute on it very quickly.

How do you protect yourself from competition? Do you have any trademarks/IP/patents?

We do have trademarks for Pumpkin and for every brand that I’ve created. However, IP or patents aren’t a great way to defend what you’ve done. People will always find a way to legally copy you. The best defense is offense, which means constantly innovating. If you set the pace at such a high level, your competitors won’t be able to keep up.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?

If I have the GSuite, Slack and my AirPod Pros I’m good to go. Particularly, Slack has really transformed the way we work. I never realized businesses could be so successful working fully remote until this year.

What are your favourite books and podcasts?

I read a lot so I have many book recommendations, but there’s one I recommend especially if you’re a CEO called “Death By Meetings”. As a CEO, you spend your life in meetings and it’s important to learn how to make meetings as exciting and as successful as possible. I also recently read Culture Shock by Joanna Massey which talks about the five layer culture of the workforce from Boomers through Gen Z and that has been very enlightening.

What are the next products you’re working on? Are there any releases you can tell us about?

Currently I’m very excited about where we’re heading with Pumpkin and without saying too much, we’re going to take it from insurance to providing the best

possible healthcare for pets which means thinking about pet wellness as a whole, as well as preventative measures.

Where do you see the company in 5 years? Would you ever sell?

We want to move the industry far beyond the 2% of pets that are insured today. In terms of next steps for myself: this is company #3 for me and there’s still a lot of work ahead! I have a hard time seeing beyond ten years but I know I won’t be retiring, so time will tell.

Company Name: Pumpkin Pet Care
Founders: Alexandre Douzet



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