The idea behind Trupanion started back when I was 14 and growing up in Vancouver, BC. At that time, we had a family dog named Mitzy and I found myself at a referral specialty hospital with my parents after Mitzy became sick. Unfortunately, my parents did not have the money to pay for the treatment. It was a horrible outcome for our family, and it was a horrible outcome for the veterinarian, who really just wanted to help Mitzy. Since that day, it’s been my mission to develop a way for pet owners to never to have to go through that same heartbreaking experience.
Finding my way
Fast forward 15 years. I had graduated from college and had made some money in different career paths, but I never felt content. After a big deal I was planning went bad, I was left with very little money, a ton of ideas, and no direction. So, I took off to Mexico and lived on the beach for three months.
After some soul-searching, it was evident the best path for me was entrepreneurship. And once I decided I was going to start my own company, I kept coming back to this idea of medical insurance for cats and dogs. But it wasn’t the right time. So I started a cigar business instead.
At that same time, however, I did something that would forever change my path: I adopted a dog named Monty. Monty became my constant companion who not only kept my selfishness in check (I couldn’t stay out all night or spontaneously jump on a plane with a dog at home waiting for me, now could I?), but also kept my heart in the right place as I continued building on the idea of pet medical insurance.
The origin of Trupanion
In 1999 I sold the cigar business and with the profits I started VetInsurance, the company that would later be branded as Trupanion. I like to say it was the day I switched from killing people for a living to saving pets for a living. It was a good day.
The first days of VetInsurance were spent on my boat, The Brisa, in Granville Island (Vancouver, BC). Monty and I would work for hours, then nap on the deck in the sunshine. It wasn’t a bad life, I must admit. My goal was to create a product that was valuable to veterinarians, pet owners, and pets. The current models were causing dissension between pet owners and veterinarians and were not, in the end, helping the pets they were created to help. If my parents would have had “pet insurance” for Mitzy when I was 14, it still woudn’t have helped, because they didn’t have the money to pay for the procedure up front. So, I worked with veterinarians from all over Canada to build a product that works for everyone. And our values and commitments have not changed since that very first day, when I made this video:
Eventually, I was able to move off the boat and into an office. I hired my first employee, Ms. Ronaye Verigin. Ronaye and I were the 24-hour call center for the first three years straight. We went from our first insured pet (Monty, of course), in 2000 to 100 pets in 2001 to 1,000 pets in 2002.
Today we have over 500 employees located all over the US and Canada, including Ronaye, who stayed with me through all the ups and downs. While we ended up moving headquarters to the US in 2008 in order to secure additional funding and launch this important industry to new heights, our Canadian roots will always be special to me.
Happy Canada 150th to all my fellow Canadians – both two-legged and four-legged. You’ve helped me follow and realize my own dream and I will be forever grateful.
About the Author: Darryl Rawlings is founder and CEO of Trupanion, a leader in medical insurance for cats and dogs.