Episode 24: Steven Mornelli – Waggle

Steven Mornelli

Waggle is the only pet-dedicated crowdfunding platform that partners directly with leading veterinary providers, nonprofits, and pet guardians to reduce economic euthanasia in pets, thereby giving options to pet guardians and second chances to the pets they love.

 

Learn more about Waggle:

Visit their website at https://waggle.org/

 

Follow Waggle on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/waggleforpets/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/waggleforpets/


I’m Steve Mornelli and you’re with the Animal Innovations Show.

Narrator:

You’re tuned in to the Animal Innovations Show, where we feature people, products, services, and ideas that are helping animals and the people who care for them, live better lives.  If it’s innovative, and it helps animals, you can find it here first.  So, get ready, here comes this week’s newest innovation for animals.

 

awesome. Great introduction. So tell us who you are steve and how you’re innovating to help animals. Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. So waggle dot org is a non profit that we started about 2.5 years ago on the ceo and founder, we started waggle recognizing that there over a half a million pets lost every single year because people cannot afford veterinary care, sometimes as little as two or $300 that they can’t write a check for and they have to relinquish their pat or see the euthanized. It’s a horrible situation. That’s why we started waggle that our crowdfunding platform, wow. I didn’t realize it was that many people. I mean, that’s that’s a staggering number. And that is actually a very conservative number. Our partners at the insurance industry, true opinion and others that have really reliable research data suggests that number could actually be upwards of. That is a huge number of and this is just because people don’t have the financial means or whatever is going on. I mean, still in a pandemic or they face surgery or whatever it might be and when they can’t do that, they don’t, like you said, they don’t really have a choice. I think so many people find themselves pandemic or not in a situation they never planned for. I suspect a lot of your listeners would never anticipate they’d be in a situation where they couldn’t write a check for what, you know, sometimes a small amount of money. So that’s very large amount of money if they found themselves without insurance or other means, or family or support, or just overwhelmed with bill, especially during a pandemic. Of course it comes of life or death decision, literally, wow. And I know from doing a lot of the animal rescue work. I mean one of the things we’re talking about a shelter prevention, right, trying to keep the animals out of the system in the first place, and this seems like it would fit or dovetail nicely into that as well. That’s exactly right. We work with a lot of animal rescues and shelters and other types of animal welfare groups that we provide support to individuals in the general public. The idea is, how do we bring together the power of community, Right. How do we enable people to let their friends and their family and the local community media, everybody pitching in by just a little bit Make this huge impact. We’re all aware of large crowd funding platforms and many cases to $3 billion Hey, you know what? One other person was ripped off waggle, purpose built special built to solve this problem, but do so with transparency and trust, all of our donors know exactly where the money is going because we do something different. The money that we raise goes directly to the veterinary hospitals. No one’s doing this at scale of the Yeah, it’s going to say walk us through. Tell us a little bit about how it works. How is it different than you know, like you said that go fund me or the kick starters or cuddly eyes of the world. You know, this seems like a very different and more transparent approach. It is and it was actually based on a model in the in the human health care space called WAt si It was very innovative, highly innovative technology platform, crowdfunding platform. Again, dedicated to people in need of medical care that found themselves in difficult situations for us were purpose built. So unlike a lot of the big crowd, point crumbling platforms, the names that you mentioned, others, people recognize right off the wagon really came to prominence very quickly very soon because there was this transparency and trust knowing that everything we do is special purpose purpose built to solve this problem. That is economic euthanasia. It might be a term and a lot of your listeners are not aware of. I certainly wasn’t when I started waggle economic euthanasia rights a little may be hard to say right. People aren’t aware of it, but it really means that right. If people can’t afford the cost of a dog surgery and medical treatment, that might be emergent could be other types of care. We’re not trying to do everything for everybody, right? Were specifically built to solve help dogs and cats and soon other species. And again, because the money to go directly to the veterinary hospital, that’s the biggest differentiator. We also bring the story back to the individual donors. We let them know the difference that they have made with their contribution. We do this for every single case. That’s something that the big platforms just can’t do because they’re, well, they’re two days. Yeah. Is it marketed at me? The pet owner? Is it marketed at the vet hospitals? Like how are you guys getting the word out there and and maybe more specifically how does the process work? Yeah. So how we get the word out there. We started here in New England by reaching out to local emergency and veterinary referral hospitals. The special needs, Right? When an emergency situation comes about, we did that purposely because these are very large hospitals and we knew that they would have a geographic imprint. But what happened from there was really interesting all of the large hospitals that started to use our platform and see their clients and need to get funded. They in turn brought brought us to their clients which are the small mom and pop veterinary hospitals. It was sort of like a theater that went out from the large hospitals to the smaller mom and pops in the local communities that so many of us visit. And then interestingly enough from there started to spread to the rescues and shelters once they got wind that we could really do something and help them in a way that these other organizations could not do. We really started to grow organically and quickly. It became sort of word of mouth people in the veterinary industry knowing that we’re solving the problems that they see every single day rescue see every day. So many of these pets being put down the term waggle. Whether that word started to spread,

Narrator:

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So how does it work? So do I come out there? And do I create a fundraiser for my animal when I’ve got this situation? Right. My dog needs surgery, I can’t afford it. Am I creating my own fundraiser or somebody else doing it for me? Well, for the most part you are doing it. But what’s really interesting here, people will find out about why they want a variety of ways. It may have been from that, from the emergency hospital and they have been from the local veterinary hospital rescues and so forth. We do a lot of marketing, we do a lot of conversations like this with other great order Organisations that help um you know, like you’re about as in a lot of ways, but it’s really as simple to going to waggle.org and creating account, the entire process can take as little as 10 minutes. That’s what’s so interesting about it, right? Because, you know, again, we’re not we’re not human health care space. We’re not trying to raise money to start your business. We’re not trying to put an addition on your house. We’re trying to save your dog and that, right? So the questions that we ask, the the pictures that we have you upload, it’s a very quick process because we know what works. We do it time and time again. Um You know what, what helps people really hit their goals and be successful. So because of all that, because that’s all that we do, the process can take just minutes. And so you’re right, you as let’s take you an example is the pet owner and find out about waggle. You come to waggle dot org. Uh in the short time you create an account and register, you have to tell us your story, right? Because it really starts at the grassroot level. The highest probability of reaching your goal, By the way, even if you don’t hit the $2000 go, maybe it’s two or $300 that you raise. That goes a long way. Uh, in many of these cases to solve so many of these problems. Um, so in the short period of time, you up, you tell us about your story, you upload a few pictures of your dog or your cat that comes to our team. We look it over, we do a check and balance to make sure everything looks great. We publish it to our website. Then we have a lot of tools that are purpose built directly in the campaign that shows up at our website that allow you to bring it to your social media facebook instagram to email your friends. And it’s that power of the words, spoken word, the written word in this case, that really make all the difference. And then like you said, is now people come out and they are donating to my campaign. But the money is not coming to me, right? The money’s going directly to the veterinary hospital. That’s that’s taking care of the animals. Yeah, that’s exactly right. We find that there’s a higher propensity for donors to become activated to open their wallet and give a little bit more knowing that they have this assurance, right? You know, we see a lot of bad actors out there, right? They even try to come onto our platform were really good about vetting them. We get the invoices from the hospital. We know everybody, you know, that’s the other part. We know who these people are, where we know where the money is going. So the donors have in their mind, they save themselves. You know, maybe we can give a little bit extra. Maybe we can tell our friends and family to help participate on this, uh, you know, tug of the heart case that might be in front of them. And that’s only part of the equation, right? So if those donors that are known by the pet owner, but we did something else that I think is actually really exciting. And if I can talk about our influencers and our partners that are really the oil of the machinery that’s making this grow so quickly, try explain a little bit about that, please. So, you know, when we started to add more hospitals and more foundations, even entities like Maddie’s Fund and greater good charities, These are well established, very large organizations that looked at us and said, my God, you know, we can help support this organization. We love what they’re doing. They’re helping so many of these nonprofits across the U. S. They became engaged and they supported us financially and otherwise. Um, but then it also started to get really kind of fun and interesting because we caught the attention of social influencers. These are names A lot of people may or may not know. Amazing, amazing people like lil bub who has millions of followers right for for his cat that came to a claim. But then we even grew larger still with celebrities like Miranda Lambert and others. There’s a large list Tricia Helfer, Mayan Bialik from the Big Bang Theory. And what they do for us chris is they will take one or two of the pets that appeal to them. They’ll bring them out to their networks and share what we’re doing in such a different way. And this is where it gets really exciting, so many people that know them, they trust them. They see what we’re doing. They come and they, they participate and then guess what? Not only does that one path get funded typically, but if there’s any excess money, right, we’re very transparent about this. It allows us to create a fund either in the under the wagon foundation or under the name of each of these influencers That we can have a multiplying effect we call sort of, uh, philanthropic venture capitalists, right? That $1 turns into two. So you’ll see at our site all these amazing successories and a lot of them have matching donations from these amazing supporters of ours and then it amplifies from there and it just keeps growing. It’s extraordinary. Yeah, That’s a really cool idea that, like you said, it’s almost like the excess right once they’ve funded over and above. It’s not like you’re refining it back to the donors, you’re paying it forward and you’re having that cumulative effect. Your expression is spot on. Can I write that down? Because I’m going to take that with you 100% of your marketing guy, your marketing. But it’s that it’s that the amplification. And so we now do that for foundation celebrities, influencers, even corporate are getting involved. And that’s where I think we’re going to get to the point where we can put a real dent in this 500,000 pets, right? So let’s get to the point where we’re saving 50,000 dogs and cats and soon horses and rabbits a year. That is going to be an extraordinary milestone. Yeah. So take us back. You said it was 2.5 years ago that you started this, So take us back three years ago. Like, I mean, what was going on that spawned this idea? It’s a really great idea. Well, thank you and I wish the concept, we’re all mine. As I mentioned, it was again at wat si that gave me the idea to apply it to this vertical. Um, but you know, I suspect maybe you maybe the listener here to your show, maybe they found themselves in a certain situation, a certain point in time in life by way of background. I came from a much different space. I was trained as an engineer and I worked on everything from submarines to satellites. And uh after I did my M. B. A. I was working in new york um in the field of Economic Research, Equity Research and Equities and I did that in new york and London and to be framed when the markets kind of went south. Um those, those jobs were eviscerated and to be frank, I just wasn’t happy right. And I started working for a large consulting company in the data science space. And uh, you know, one day I said, I was nearing 50. So you know, what am I gonna do? Am I going to do this for the next 25 years and look back and say I didn’t help anymore. I didn’t make a difference in the world. And uh, you have to either either have to double down or you have to pull the plug and say, you know what, I’m gonna do, something different. And that’s, that was the point I got to. Um, so I was, I was very receptive to doing my own thing. And the article came out around that sort of first philanthropic seed investment in Watson. And I said it was like, it was like a bolt of lightning if, if what I want you and your listeners that I think it’s for a moment, if you take that beloved cat or dog that you’ve had for 10 years and bill faces you $500 right? You got to take that pet, hand them across the table, Right? Picture that came across the table. I can’t, I can’t afford this $500. That’s the moment I said, you know, if we bring everybody together in a certain way with transparency and trust and everybody chips in a little bit, um, that’s step one, right? We can really make a difference in,

Narrator:

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So that’s step one. Right? So you’ve come so far in just a short time in 2.5 years. I mean where is your vision? Where where is this going to go? Well, the vision is to bring sort of a consortium, if we can bring in more of the pet industry, the large players, whether they’re veterinary hospitals or pharmaceutical companies to get them involved, they know what we’re doing, that they can help support us and bring this back because ultimately they’re supporting the professionals that they care about most and that’s important concept, right? If we keep this everything within the veterinary industry and the professionals, this entire ecosystem, we’ve talked about veterinary hospitals and rescues and shelters in the general public. But now let’s fold in more foundations. Let’s fold in different sub industries within the profession. Then we talk about retailers. I think if you think about the difference, we can put, You know, $100 million dollars to play right to bring this back and save these pets, would an extraordinary thing that we could do, and they’re supporting everyone that they care about most. That’s the part that appeals to me most. Yeah, it’s really cool. Like you said, when you start thinking about this, this scalability of and what you’ve done is figured out that secret sauce is to how to scale this because you know, doing it on a small scale is great and it’s helpful. But you guys were doing it and I’m guessing thousands and thousands of transactions now. Yeah, we are and we’re literally getting in front of tens of millions of people. And but you know, the exciting concept here, uh, we also offer, which was from a sustainability perspective, are forever fun. And it’s interesting because a lot of people will come and say, you know, in surprising number, we, We love what you do, I can’t pick one dog or cat. So we launched the forever fun and that allows us to in our team to pick a number of pets every month, support them, support, it, supports our mission. And we’ve just seen this huge influx of people that are saying, you know what, even if I sign up for $10 a month, right? We can help so many pets. And in fact, you know, the the other part of the answer there, chris is, um, phase two and three is how do we let more people know to advise them to get when they get that puppy this, it’s inevitable that there’s going to be a time in that, in that dog cats life where there’s going to be funds needed plan for a rainy day fund, right? It’s the same. It’s the same concept, right? If you can’t for a, uh, pet insurance, we hope they do, right. But somehow you have to have some sort of fun. So you don’t find yourself in this position, we would like to put ourselves out of business. Ultimately. No, it’s always a good goal, right to be able to do that and with so many pets and pet parents and need, I’m I’m sure it’s gonna be a while to get there, but it’s definitely a good goal that, you know, I’ve said the same thing about Joubert right? Like I’ll gladly shut it down when every animal that needs safe and reliable transport has it, right? And we don’t have to we don’t have to be here anymore. But right now that’s not the case. Well, that’s why I think our missions are so well aligned. I really do. Yeah, me too. So, I mean, this is really cool and I’m excited to talk to you and obviously you and I are looking at opportunities that we can try and do things together. Is there anything else you wanted to mention tonight before wrap things up? Well, so, you know, if your listeners there, you know, take a look at waggle dot org either from a donor perspective, if you if you care to join our forever fun or find one pet that appeals to you. If you’re somebody in need, my goodness, you know, come to us for help, join us. And if you’re someplace in between if you’re a rescue or a shelter or just somebody that loves what we’re doing, spread the word, right? Because we, what we try to stay away from is having to buy advertising. I don’t need facebook from what I understand, doesn’t need more money. Um, right. I don’t know if Zuckerberg is hurting for cash flow, but we’re a non profit, right? So if we’re doing things right, we can do this by word of mouth. That means people are coming to us because they love what we do. And that means, you know, your listeners and hopefully will help us spread the word. Yeah, Well, I I think it’s really cool. I’m really glad that, you know, you got out of your engineering day job, right, and got into this and I’m really excited to see where this is going to go. So of course we know people can go out to waggle dot org and they can create a fundraiser. They can contribute or even just learn more about what you guys are doing because I think it’s really, it’s really something special. Thank you so much chris you have a great ending to our shell. You said it better than I could. All right, well, hey, it was great having you on and we’re going to just remind our listeners and viewers before we wrap up that if you’ve got an idea for somebody I should talk to and innovative product, a service or even just an idea that hasn’t been implemented yet, just go to innovations that show and let us know and we’ll have him on the show with me. So thank you again steve. It was great to have you on. Thank you very much appreciated.

Narrator:

Thanks for joining us for the Animal Innovations Show! If you want to volunteer to help animals, check out www.doobert.com, where you can join tens of thousands of Dooberteers supporting rescues and shelters around the world to help animals. And, if you know of something or someone innovative that’s helping animals, let us know by going to www.innovations.show.

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