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HomeBusinessDebit cards can help pet parents save big on veterinary care

Debit cards can help pet parents save big on veterinary care

Veterinary care is expensive, and like almost everything else these days, it’s not immune to inflation. The average cost of emergency pet care is between $800 and $1,500, yet 97% of pets in the U.S. are uninsured.

And, as a friend described it so succinctly to me recently, think of it this way: Pet insurance was the health insurance for the American people before the Affordable Care Act. Meaning, there is no pet insurance for pets with pre-existing conditions. Therefore, any treatment for pets with pre-existing conditions is at their own expense and expensive. Millennials are the largest group of pet owners who are willing to spend twice as much on pets as previous generations, but given these insurance rates, not enough pet owners are financially prepared for emergencies .

Catherine Dennig co-founded Fursure after facing exorbitant (and unaffordable) vet bills and the subsequent loss of her beloved cat. Since its 2020 launch, Fursure has signed up more than 60,000 pet parents in all 50 states, supporting more than 1,800 checking accounts with the new Fursure Card. Touted as the first rewards debit card made for pet parents, customers earn 5 points for every $1 spent on pets that can be redeemed for any veterinary bill, essentially serving as an emergency fund for pet-related emergencies . Customers can also get exclusive discounts from pet retailers like Bark Box, Chewy and The Farmer’s Dog. Dennig recently shared with Fortune more information about Fursure’s role and what it could mean for the future of our pets and pet insurance industry. The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. Can you share your professional background before launching Fursure? Prior to Fursure, I led the News Feed and Ads Product team at Facebook, where I helped build and launch Facebook Ad Credit for SMEs to experiment with advertising, which became Facebook’s possible Continue to grow leverage. I lead the News Feed Integrity Content Quality team, a large cross-functional product team responsible for building classifiers for problematic content (like clickbait, sensationalism, ad farms, etc.). In the 3.5 years I was there, I learned a lot, and I loved my wonderful colleagues, many of whom became my first Fursure investors, and always knew I wanted to re-invest for the next 10+ years. Building something I love so I leave to start Fursure. Before Facebook, I graduated from Princeton University in 2015, where I started my first company, Nofomo. I’ve learned a lot of hard-earned lessons about hiring teammates who truly fit the mission and always iterating on the product based on customer feedback, ultimately solving real problems for people. What inspired the launch of Fursure? It started with my cat Simba, which is my pride and joy. Because of him, I call my loved ones (parents, sisters and best friends) Simba, Imba and Imbi my pet names. I grew up with pets, but Simba was my first financially responsible person. I was devastated when he was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, which cost $12,000 to treat. I’m a college student and I have to decide whether to go into debt to save his life. He passed away a week later, and I took it with me when I finished college and started working at Facebook and living in the Bay Area. When I volunteered at the SFSPCA with my current co-founder Keji Xu, we heard pet owner after pet owner regretting the cost of veterinary care – one woman told us she was a pet owner for her dog ACL surgery cost $8,000. We’ve heard of families having to choose between saving their loved ones, providing them with the medical care they need, or falling into deep debt. It reminds me of my struggle with Simba. U.S. pet spending is already around $120 billion and will soon reach $275 billion by the end of the century. Pets used to be companions, but now we treat them as beginners. There are 185 million cats and dogs in the U.S., and while the U.S. pet insurance industry is already a $2.8 billion market, up more than 30% year over year, it has penetrated just over 3% of owners. Many pet owners still don’t know how expensive certain procedures can be, and traditional pet insurance companies don’t effectively communicate their value until it’s too late. We’ve had hundreds of conversations with pet parents, veterinarians, insurance companies, and shelters over several weeks; we’ve figured out pain points and built a ton of excitement for this loving part of many people’s lives contribute. We recognize that we have a tremendous opportunity to build a trusted company that helps pet parents care for their loved ones.

Since its launch in 2020, Fursure has attracted more than 60,000 pet parents across all 50 states, helping support more than 1,800 checking accounts with the new Fursure Card.
Provided by Fursure

Human health insurance is hard to figure out, but pet insurance is a whole different animal (pardon the pun), not to mention given the constraints that exist Say how hard it is to compare plans between different providers. What is the biggest pain point of pet insurance at present, and how is Fursure better than the insurance currently on the market? The whole process of finding the right pet insurance policy sucks. First, people don’t know what pet insurance covers, and it doesn’t work like human health insurance, so it’s doubly confusing. As you said, no policy will cover pre-existing conditions, and on top of that, most insurance companies do not cover routine health expenses, so preventive care (which accounts for the bulk of your annual veterinary care expenses) is the same as Accidents and illnesses are separate and generally excluded unless added or purchased separately. Second, people don’t know who the players in the pet insurance market are. They’ll Google and see names like Trupanion, Pets Best, Figo, etc., but don’t know who to trust to keep their loved ones healthy. In the end, people end up just wanting to know what’s best for them and their particular pet, there’s a lot of noise in the market. Our national pet insurance marketplace solves these problems by making pet insurance approachable, with a modern buying process, giving pet parents time, money and the confidence to protect their entire family. With Fursure, there are no hidden charges or surprises when you work with one of our pet insurance experts. We’re an unbiased and free-to-use resource that makes the process as seamless as possible. We start by explaining in plain language what is covered, what is not covered, what the various terms mean, how providers compare and what factors are important when buying a plan. We then provide you with personalized advice and guidance on the best policy for you and your situation. We make sure you know from the start how much you’ll pay your provider for your coverage, help you get your policy, and provide an end-to-end solution for policy management and renewal. Responsible pet owners do a lot for their cats and dogs, and we are all used to getting basic checkups and vaccinations for food, treats, toys, grooming, and routine trips to the veterinarian Enhancer’s budget. However, pet insurance is probably the one cost that most pet owners ignore but should consider the most. How does Fursure get these pet owners to buy pet insurance? We believe the most important things that deter pet parents from choosing pet insurance are transparency, trust and education. Purchasing pet insurance shouldn’t be expensive, confusing or time-consuming, we strive to make it a quick and easy process while also explaining the importance of pet insurance. Pet accident and sickness insurance is almost like auto or home insurance…you hope you never need it, but if you must use it, you will appreciate it. Too many pet parents have to choose between emptying their bank accounts or saying goodbye to their beloved pets. Having pet insurance means you can confidently know you’ll never have to make that harrowing choice. On the other hand, a health plan is more similar to health insurance, and you will feel a greater impact on the daily value. Wellness plans cover those costs you’d typically see on healthy pets, such as vaccines, heartworm prevention, spay/neuter, and even teeth cleaning. Almost all insurance policies don’t cover these costs, so it’s a best practice to bundle these two services together so you can fully protect your pet and yourself. Our Fursure Card is an alternative for those without a health plan, as the points you earn can be used for all veterinary care, so you can offset those costs in a smart and simple way. Not every pet parent needs pet insurance; considering the restrictions on pre-existing conditions, for pets with many existing conditions, it may not make sense to buy an expensive plan that doesn’t cover everything one might want to cover . The same goes for older pets and pet parents who can pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket and can afford self-insurance. But for many people, they can use pet insurance or a savings account, or both, to protect against unexpected large bills in a lifetime and give you peace of mind. More and more pet parents have insurance on their inventory when they first get a pet from a shelter or breeder.

Fursure cardholders receive exclusive discounts on pet branded products such as Bark Box, Chewy, The Farmer’s Dog and more.
Provided by Fursure

How is the company funded? Is it self-funding or are you contacting investors? What is the financing process like? When we conducted research and interviewed hundreds of pet parents, veterinarians, insurance companies, and shelters, we launched the company to understand the biggest pain points. We raised a friend and family round as pre-seed in March 2020, which just happened to be the start of the pandemic, with shelter-in-place lockdown restrictions in the Bay Area, investors running around trying to help their portfolio companies, many of them Income figures plummeted. In hindsight, it was the worst time to raise money for an early-stage company in years, but I’m grateful for Fursure’s first check, and those who believed in me worked with me at Facebook, or saw me from childhood. We raised an oversubscribed seed round in April 2021 after we built a customer base that loved us and had strong early traction. Since then, we have launched the first-of-its-kind rewards debit card, offering great value points for pet spending, with broad appeal and expanding our reach to pet parents; proposed by existing and new investors Investing in the seed plus round, we are now closing. The market is crazy, so raising capital is not easy, but it’s amazing how the process helped us find extraordinary investors who believed in us and the problems we were solving. Looking to the next five years, how do you want Future to grow? What kind of services do you want to add in the future? We plan to continue to iterate on our foundation as the first financial well-being platform for pet parents. We’ve been talking to our customers, so I know we’ll continue to build the best solutions for the pain points they face. We did this with the Future Card, and after countless conversations, we’ve learned that pet parents want to be rewarded for their pet spending, and provide an easy solution for a rainy day fund. Our market is just the tip of the iceberg where pet parents around the world need to feel confident and empowered with their pet finances, so we plan to build solutions for this pain point and innovate on their behalf.

This is part of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about what they learn immediately after their first year of business to the main lesson.



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