We believe that in using data and the right education on how to best care for pets from day one, we can double the lifespan of our furry family members. Fuzzy is a Telehealth platform that goes beyond putting a veterinary professional in front of a camera or a chat interface — we focus on a framework of i) engagement, ii) digital tools & tracking, iii) monitoring, and iv) ongoing follow-up care to be the definitive toolkit for the modern pet parent.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zubin Bhettay.
Zubin is co-founder and CEO at Fuzzy Pet Health. Prior to Fuzzy, Zubin held executive roles at DoubleDutch and Xerox. Zubin was part of the leadership development program at Xerox, as well as working on mPesa — the pioneering mobile payments solution by Vodafone, where he helped launch in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. Zubin played professional cricket in the past, and enjoys playing golf and long drives in his spare time.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
The idea for Fuzzy Pet Health started with a traumatic and expensive trip to the emergency vet clinic for my cocker spaniel, Mo. Several diagnostic tests and a 2,500 dollars out-of-pocket payment later, Mo thankfully left the clinic relatively unscathed. The entire debacle, however, left me wrestling with the user experience within veterinary care and the financial stressors brought on by pet insurance (or lack thereof). The more research we did (by this point my now co-founder was getting as excited about the opportunity as me), it became totally clear that there was a need for accessible world-class veterinary care for every pet parent, regardless of monetary constraints.
Simply put — pets bring us joy (this was one of the biggest drivers for us). Being sure that you’re properly caring for pets is filled with stress, uncertainty and misinformation. We realized that we could simplify the process through technology, allowing us to provide all pet parents with access to expert, professional care.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We believe that in using data and the right education on how to best care for pets from day one, we can double the lifespan of our furry family members. Fuzzy is a telehealth platform that goes beyond putting a veterinary professional in front of a camera or a chat interface — we focus on a framework of i) engagement, ii) digital tools & tracking, iii) monitoring, and iv) ongoing follow-up care to be the definitive toolkit for the modern pet parent.
We also believe that it should be easier for pet parents to get the information, tools, and products that they need to care for their pets — after all, they’re not pet care experts themselves. So Fuzzy is designed to put pet parenting on autopilot and remove the stress, uncertainty and worry.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’m lucky to have had a number of people that have given me time, energy and guidance along the way. Frankly, I’ve learned extensively from my colleagues and have taken every experience as an opportunity to learn. Life’s challenges are all lessons and I’ve learned that thinking through them and talking them through with others can give you a different perspective. I’ve made a ton of mistakes but have been able to reflect on these experiences and take some valuable lessons from them. I also have a practice where I meet with a group of close friends who connect as least once every quarter. We’ll share our “quarterly review” with each other — talking about life’s lessons, highlights, challenges, key decisions we’re mulling over, and so forth. It’s an amazing practice that gives you an objective view.
Eric di Benedetto was one of the first investors at my previous company, DoubleDutch, and the first investor at Fuzzy. There was one moment about a year into Fuzzy where the business was struggling and I had doubts about the business, our team, and myself as a CEO. Eric reinforced his belief in why he invested in us and what he had learned about me in our previous years working together. He reminded me to be ok in my faults and learn from them, but that resilience is key. “Don’t punk out, and don’t shy away from a challenge. Be authentic to who you are and have belief in your direction and decisions. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for the outcome.”
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I think generally “disruption” is a word thrown around a bit too easily. I believe that the most successful companies today have built on top of their predecessors, creating a “rising tides” moment where all ships are lifted. So what you’ll see is that the strongest incumbents or competitors will also lift their operating execution to be able to “catch up to” or compete with a trailblazing NewCo. If you think about e-commerce, Amazon has forced incumbents and other players to level up their game (think Walmart, Target, Best-Buy), leading to better offerings for all consumers. In addition, for many startups, chasing an “exit” is a key objective, and this usually involves being acquired by one of the incumbents or larger players. One thing we thought of very early on was that we wanted to be contributory to the profession and the veterinary ecosystem. We saw some challenges in the ecosystem that were having a detrimental effect on the industry at large (just search “veterinary suicide” and you’ll get a picture). You’ll find that the companies that are more attractive to work at are also more attractive to the socially conscious consumer and often have a mission tied to them. Therefore, I think innovation and new businesses are recognizing this trend and building this into their models.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“Two ears, One mouth — use them proportionally.” One of my first sales directors at Xerox mentioned this to me in the earliest days of my career. It was my round to get office lunch and I mistook his order of “anything but Coronation Chicken” with “I’ll have Coronation Chicken.” Anyway, he grimaced through eating this sandwich and I ended up owing him lunch a few times over.
You need a team. You’ve got to have people wanting to work with you to be able to build something big and meaningful. People should want to work with you, work alongside you, and work for the dream that you’re working towards. Sometimes that can be really challenging to find people with the same value system around work ethic, work output, desire to succeed, desire to work together, being apolitical etc. We made a mistake of equating “culture fit” with “being a nice person” early on. That didn’t really translate into people who were willing to do the work, get things done and a desire to build an impactful company.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We believe every pet parent should feel both supported and equipped in properly caring for their pet. We want Fuzzy to be the single go-to resource for every pet parent to ensure they can care for their pets in the best way. If we’re successful, we’ll see a growing population of pets that live longer and healthier — and give us humans more time to enjoy their lives.
From digital tools for health measurement and tracking, to basic Q&A, to expert advice, to personalized health products, to curation of the best service providers for your pet’s wellbeing. We want to build a community of pet lovers who want to increase the longevity of their furry companions.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
In 2016 my mother turned 70 and I planned on giving a speech at her birthday party. I spent a fair amount of time researching her background, history, path, and accomplishments and realized that there was so much untold about her story and the impact that she had in every part of her journey. From leaving a farming village where she grew up in South Africa to attending the University of Cape Town Medical School (graduating as the first female Anesthetist of color in the country), to fighting for the abolishment of Apartheid and land reparations, to being the glue that held a community together as the doctor. Then, at the age of 50, moving to the UK to further her career and life. My mother worked incredibly hard but was humble every step of the way and unwavering in her commitment to do what she felt was right — and fighting for it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be Candid, Be Authentic, Be Vulnerable.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Education. I grew up in apartheid South Africa and the impact of apartheid and racial injustice continues to have a huge impact on the disparity of wealth creation. Simply put, the gulf in quality of education offered to those that “have” (majority white population), and the “have-nots” (majority Black, Colored and Indian populations), perpetuate the wealth creation divide. We’re facing a challenge globally where that wealth disparity is going to lead to an even larger gap in education due to the impact of COVID. One dream I have is for universal access to high-quality education.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can visit www.home.yourfuzzy.com, download the Fuzzy Pet Health app, or follow @fuzzypethealth on Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!