Christie Horvath

Founder of Wagmo

Christie is a dog-obsessed insurance nerd hailing from Colorado. She started her career on the insurance team at BlackRock and after 6 years of working with insurance companies, went to Harvard Business School to get her MBA. Inspired by her own experience as a pet parent, Christie founded Wagmo during her second year of business school with the mission of making it easier and more affordable to be a great pet parent. Christie has a BA in Economics from Northwestern University, an MBA from Harvard, and lives in Brooklyn with her sassy rescue pup named Aspen.

Where did the idea for Wagmo come from?

Wagmo was inspired by my dog, Denver. I rescued him when he was about 2 years old, and only a couple years later in the middle of business school he started having crazy seizures, triggered by a brain tumor. Needless to say, we were constantly going to the vet and I quickly realized just how expensive and challenging pet parenting really is. Like many pet parents, I went into pet parenting expecting my preventative care to be covered by pet insurance, but turns out it generally isn’t! I started looking for a solution that fit my needs, but when I couldn’t find it I decided to build it myself.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My days start early – usually around 6am, and I spend the first couple of hours jamming through the particularly brain-intensive tasks like forecasting, policy documents, or working through some obscure bug that’s popped up out of nowhere. To keep us focused, every morning we do a stand up with the full team where each of us shares the top priority for that day. However, despite starting off organized and productive, my days generally devolve into some combination of putting out fires and scrambling to get things done.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We do a lot of testing and iterating on our ideas – everything from minor tweaks to UI to complete product overhauls. Generally, someone will have an idea, we’ll mock it up and generate a hypothesis based on some initial data. Then we’ll build it (usually in a fairly scrappy way), test it, and see if it works. If it works, we build it better. If it doesn’t, we take our learnings and move on to the next idea!

What’s one trend that excites you?

People treating their pets like kids. Each pet comes with its own personality, quirks, and needs, and I’m psyched to see that people are tuning into that more and more. We see it manifesting itself as people start to focus more on training, nutrition and exercise, and making sure their pets get the appropriate wellness care.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Refusal to take anything too seriously. Sure, I’m serious about my business and my team, but I also run a business that deals with dogs’ anal glands, so you I have to have a sense of humor about it. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, no doubt, but if you consciously decide to take everything in stride, things start to move a lot more smoothly.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Always ask for a discount. Everything is negotiable, and when you’re playing with other people’s money, you have to be shameless in asking for discounts.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Strawberries are an overrated fruit.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Communicate! I make sure my team, investors, and stakeholders know every piece of good news or bad news that comes our way. I brought these people around me for their help, and they can only help if they have full information.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Listening to the customers, but confirming with data. For example, customers told us time and time again they wanted the choice to mix and match their coverage options on our wellness plan, so we built it! However, it did not do well because people were now faced with too many choices. So we took that data, figured out what the majority of our customers were choosing, and re-modeled our plans off of that. Sure, some folks were bummed to lose the flexibility, but the majority of users were better off, as were our conversions.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Listening to bad advice because I assumed someone knew better. Basically, I fell prey to that whole imposter syndrome thing. You think ‘surely this person knows what they’re talking about because x,y,z, and I’m just a 20-something first time founder.’ But no, they were wrong, I was right. I have since realized and fully embraced that this is my company and nobody knows it better than I do. That’s a mistake I (hopefully) will only make once.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Can someone please build a beautiful, tech-forward, d2c SMS/video based televet platform?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A white noise machine. I live in NYC…

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We’re huge fans of Trello at Wagmo, as it keeps the entire team on track for our weekly milestones and how they relate to our overarching business goals. I also love being able to move items to “completed”; it’s so satisfying!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo. Two reasons: 1 – it’s not a boring management book – it has meaningful, tactical advice, and it delivers it efficiently – not woven throughout blocks of useless prose. And 2 – it’s written by a woman! I’m so sick of people recommending business books written by white men. Being a leader looks VERY different for a woman, so finally having that perspective is very refreshing.

What is your favorite quote?

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – RBG

Key Learnings:

  • Trust yourself – you know what’s best for your business.
  • Most ideas that you test will fail, and that’s ok!
  • Always ask for a discount.