Trupanion launches lower-cost, “Furkin awesome” Furkin [“fur-child”]

This story has been updated.

Trupanion, Inc., the Seattle-based pet insurer, is expected to launch millennial-friendly Furkin (literal translation: “fur child”) in Canada in the next 48 hours. Update: Furkin’s website quietly went live over the weekend and we expect to hear from Randy Valpy, who is overseeing the company’s Canadian insurance products, including a planned wholly-owned underwriter, sometime this morning.

The newest addition to Trupanion, Inc.’s growing collection of startups, the press release announcing Furkin went out at 9 a.m. EDT today.

Valpy’s immediately preceding position was at LifeLearn Animal Health, where he served as president and CEO. However, the more intriguing part of his biography is what he was doing before LifeLearn — which was leading Canadian pet insurance brands that competed directly with Trupanion (first Petsecure, then Pets Plus Us).  In addition to Valpy’s responsibility for overseeing Furkin and PHI Direct (the latter launched in July and is a lower cost Trupanion startup product), Valpy is also overseeing Trupanion’s plans to move its Canadian policies to an underwriter they own, the virtue of which is more autonomy over how the policies are written and structured. Trupanion’s underwriter in Canada is not a wholly-owned subsidiary whereas, in the United States, Trupanion-owned American Pet Insurance Company “is the only national Property and Casualty Insurance Company solely focused on marketing and underwriting pet health insurance,” APIC’s website says.

Valpy will also be overseeing the U.S. launches of both PHI and Furkin.

“It’s Furkin’ awesome” is not a “formal tagline, per se,” explained Jill Medeiros, who is heading digital community engagement for PHI Direct and Furkin. In pet insurance industry speak, “PHI” is an acronym for “pet health insurance” or “pet health insurer.”

Later, Medeiros clarified that the insurance brand’s “formal tagline” is “healthy coverage fur your family.”

Medeiros, like many working on Trupanion’s various spinoffs, is based in Seattle and was poached from, where else, Trupanion. “It’s Furkin awesome” is “a phrase,” she continued, “that will be used in general marketing pieces- website, social, etc., again, leaning on that ‘play’ aspect of the Furkin brand and a play on words.” Still, Trupanion folks are keen to emphasize that they are not, repeat, not working on the other insurance brands, citing their boss’s rule about “swimming in separate lanes,” which we’ll get to.

We asked Medeiros for examples of more “fur” puns. Here’s what she wrote back:

  • healthy coverage fur your family (our formal tagline)
  • get some Furkin pet insurance/it’s time for some Furkin pet insurance
  • it’s Furkin awesome 
  • healthy fur them, healthy fur you

Trupanion, Inc. reported its second-quarter earnings last Thursday amid a flurry of other activity, including an ambitious 60-month plan unveiled at the end of April during the same week of the first-quarter earnings report. Furkin and PHI Direct, together, comprise one of the six major pieces in that 60-month plan, several of which are already in motion.

In an interview last month, Trupanion, Inc. CEO and founder Darryl Rawlings told TCR he was certain about his intent to keep his name and Trupanion’s out of all marketing for the other two brands and to keep each brand “swimming in separate lanes.” At a shareholder event in May, Rawlings told investors that he did not want consumers searching for “cheap pet insurance” and finding Trupanion in the results.

As we pointed out in our story about PHI, one challenge for Trupanion, Inc. is going to be how the company navigates its increasingly consequential regulatory affairs, especially given that Trupanion, Inc.’s trade group, NAPHIA, announced that it would oppose the just-completed pet insurance model law that requires all kinds of disclosures and protections for consumers that would seem to be in keeping with Trupanion’s values. The question becomes whether the company’s increasingly diverse business interests, including the two lower-cost pet insurance brands with 60-day waiting periods that exceed the 30-day limit in the model, will ultimately overrun Trupanion’s values.

Correction 8/11/2021: This story has been corrected to reflect that Randy Valpy was with Petsecure (which was Petplan when he joined in 2001) first, not Pets Plus Us. Valpy says that after joining Petplan in 2001, he then relinquished the license to the “Petplan” name and changed the brand to Petsecure. After Petsecure, Valpy went to RSA where he helped to launch Pets Plus Us before finally joining LifeLearn.