In this episode of Office Hours, Airvet founder and CEO Brandon Werber explains the importance of teamwork and the company’s move to B2B.
In 2018, Werber launched Airvet, a digital pet health company in Beverly Hills. Airvet works with employers and business partners to ensure pet parents have affordable and fast access to virtual veterinary care via video and chat.
“Our whole vision is to democratize pet care and then help the veterinary industry with the national shortage by creating better tools for vets,” Werber said.
Growing up as the son of a veterinarian, Werber knows the value of having access to a pet care expert on demand.
“It shouldn’t be a luxury to be able to take care of your pets,” he said. “Pets are part of the family just like children and shouldn’t be something that is reserved for high net worth people who are super connected. Every pet family should have access to the same level of care, the same frequency, and the best doctors at a price they can afford.”
But Werber’s first foray into entrepreneurship dates back to 2012, when he founded his first startup Lootsie, an advertising platform. But unfortunately, he didn’t have much luck getting it off the ground.
“We took the whole network and a lot of the investors that invested in that company, who were our first investors at Airvet that got it off the ground,” he said.
Although his first startup failed, Werber admitted that one of the biggest lessons he learned was the importance of having a good team.
“The team is everything,” Werber said. “Better than the product, better than the idea, better than the TAM or the market. Your team, and mostly your management team, will be – especially at an early stage – key to success.”
Because this aspect was crucial, Werber was sure he was choosing wisely.
“We actually went through a few iterations of our leadership team before we got to where it is today,” he said. “Which is like the perfect Apollo crew.”
Besides having the perfect team, Werber said another important takeaway from his first startup was knowing when to say no.
“As a first-time founder, there’s so much excitement, so much passion, and it’s driving everything,” Werber said. “You become almost blinded by just building pure passion and energy and you want to say yes to everything.”
But even so, second-time founder Werber is constantly learning new things about the business.
“The first thing when you go into the market is you want to sell to people who need your product, and that’s the most obvious way,” he said. “So who needs our product? Who is the end user? They are family pets.”
Werber said that’s how Airvet got its start — going the direct-to-consumer route.
“But there’s a big difference, especially in this market, between growth at all costs and building a business that has healthy margins, healthy unit economics and really taking a step back and looking at the fundamentals of the business,” he said. “Is it scalable? Will I be able to build a profitable business in the next few years with this growth path?”
While Airvet was experiencing tremendous growth, Werber saw rising customer acquisition costs and forced it to move toward an enterprise solution.
“We could do all the optimization possible,” he said. “But it ends up being an incredibly expensive game, you could say the current strategy hasn’t worked.”
Werber added: “We acquire them (customers) through business. So it’s known as B to B to C. So now what we’re doing is selling to businesses, mostly employers and their employee benefits teams within those large employers, to create a new category of benefits for pet family. For the end user to be the pet family, in this case the employee receives Airvet for free and is subsidized by the employer.”
Dr. LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.
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