Co-founder and CTO of Pawlicy Advisor
Travis Bloom is the co-founder and CTO of Pawlicy Advisor, a pet insurance marketplace focused on helping consumers find the right plan at the best possible price. The company, which was founded in 2018, has raised more than $7.5M of venture capital and helped millions of pet parents ensure their dogs and cats get the best care possible.
Travis started his career in General Electric’s IT Leadership program after graduating from UConn in 2013. He lives in midtown Manhattan with his wife Meghan (UConn ‘13) and cat Ginny.
Travis Bloom is doing things WerthWatching:
- Using data to make buying the best pet insurance easier
- Left a career at General Electric to join a small startup
- Pawlicy Advisor team grew from 3 to 10 full-time employees in just 5 months
What led you to entrepreneurship and the pet industry?
Since high school I’ve been obsessed with the idea that companies were leveraging the power of the internet to disrupt existing industries and create entirely new ones. I always knew I wanted to start my own business but wanted to make sure I had solid business and technical foundations before taking the leap.
My interest in pet insurance started in 2018 when my wife and I adopted our cat, Ginny. I bought insurance thinking it was the thing all responsible pet owners did. After diving into the industry more with my business partner Woody I realized that only 2% of pet owners in the US had insurance, that number was doubling every 3 years, and there were mature markets like the UK and Sweden that had 30-50% penetration. Once we realized our marketplace could be the catalyst to make pet insurance mainstream in the US, we were off to the races.
What type of impact is Pawlicy Advisor having, and where do you see yourself and the company in the next year?
Selling insurance might not sound like the sexiest startup idea, but once you learn more about the cost of animal care in the US the business impact really starts to hit home. Economic euthanasia, where pets are put down with treatable conditions because the costs are prohibitively expensive, is a massive problem. When we educate pet parents about their insurance options, we aren’t just financially protecting their wallet, we’re also potentially saving their pet’s life.
In addition to helping consumers navigate their insurance options, we’re also the trusted advisor for veterinarians who want to increase insurance adoption at their practice, but don’t want to recommend one specific brand. By trusting an unbiased, data-driven, 3rd party like Pawlicy Advisor, they have the peace of mind that their clients are getting personalized financial advice from licensed insurance agents.
We’re growing rapidly and don’t plan on slowing down! We were a team of 3 people on January 1, 2021, and by May we were 10 full-time employees with plans for additional expansion later this year. By the end of next year, we’re focused on partnering with the majority of the vets in the US.
How did UConn prepare you for your entrepreneurial path?
The amazing professors in the UConn Business School’s OPIM department helped me bootstrap my initial software development knowledge. Using that base of knowledge, I launched a course-ranking web app during my final year at UConn. When it came time to select classes, I had ⅓ of the student body using it to see what their classmates were saying about professors and different electives. Professor Shanker in particular was a great mentor: while every other student was focused on interviewing for traditional jobs, he was encouraging me to pursue entrepreneurship full-time.
What’s your favorite UConn memory?
I was an active member of Greek life at UConn (AEPi) and have a ton of great memories from homecoming and other brotherhood events. UConn Men's Basketball also won two national championships during my time at school. Despite all those amazing events, taking my now-wife out on our first date during spring of senior year is probably my favorite. 🙂
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration by learning about the problems other companies have solved and how they went about finding product-market fit. The first few years of a startup are the messiest, but also the most creative. There’s some amazing podcasts and books that dive deep into the early years at some of the world’s most successful brands. Hearing their struggles and eventual successes helps me key in to how I should be thinking about our own product strategy at Pawlicy Advisor.
Describe a time you took a risk. Did it pay off? If not, what lesson did you learn from it?
I started my career at General Electric in their IT Leadership Program, a 2-year rotation they use to groom future leaders of the business. I had an amazing experience during my time there and had multiple full-time offers rolling off the program but opted to leave to join a small 25-person startup in NYC.
The decision was not an easy one to make, but ultimately, I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t take the leap now and try early-stage startups, I might never have the courage. The fear of regret motivated me to take the leap. I used the same decision-making process when I was debating leaving my full-time job and forgoing a salary to start Pawlicy Advisor. Once I realized I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t try, the choice became obvious.
What advice do you have for today’s students or emerging entrepreneurs?
If you’re the kind of person who can take the leap to entrepreneurship right out of school, I have nothing but respect. If you think you’d benefit from a few years of professional career development before taking the plunge, that’s completely fine as well. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to starting a business and you should trust your gut rather than trying to emulate Mark Zuckerberg’s journey.
Also, buy pet insurance 🙂
Do you have a professional moment you are most proud of and why?
Closing our Series A round at the end of 2020 was incredibly gratifying, not just because it meant we could continue to scale and build a massive business, but also because of the impact COVID had on us in early 2020. We made a lot of bet-the-business product decisions in early/mid 2020 that paid off in the second half of the year.
Which business tool or resource do you recommend to others, and why?
I’m a big believer in data. As a founder, you need to have comprehensive user analytics to understand how people are using your product. There are a million solutions out there but I like Mixpanel.