It was one year ago this week that we reported the first hints of headwinds for pet insurer Trupanion. It was a seemingly innocuous story about the company’s attempt to improve its online engagement with a social media event that not only failed to improve Trupanion’s web conversion, which is, at this moment, seeing some of its worst numbers to date, we’re told, but also resulted in alienating Trupanion’s partners in the preservation breeder community.
Ironically, but in keeping with other senior officers who have departed the company over the past year, the person Trupanion pushed out following the disastrous social media event was not any individual on the executive team responsible for planning the event (such as Tom Vaughan, Margi Tooth, or Steve Weinrauch) but instead, Trupanion “OG” (as she was described to this reporter by another Trupanion employee) Chloe Gill. Specifically, Ms. Gill is the person who built Trupanion’s breeder program–and also the person who expressed the most pushback following the social media event.
As TCR reported, several breeders publicly denounced the event and said they were cutting ties with Trupanion, which wasn’t surprising given that Trupanion is supposed to be in the business of animal health and, instead, entered the business of internet misinformation about animal health when the company gave a soapbox to “We Rate Dogs” and the company’s own chief veterinary officer, Dr. Steve Weinrauch aka “Dr. Steve,” neither of whom have expertise in genetics; “Dr. Steve,” we’re told, has not practice veterinary medicine in several years.
Still, the two casually issued a series of tropes, which they characterized as “mythbusters,” comparing purebred dogs to shelter dogs, framing shelter dogs as the unsung, misunderstood underdogs, no pun intended. The statement that put breeders over the top was the assertion that mixed breeds are healthier than purebred dogs, which any owner of a purebred dog from a good breeder knows is bullshit, but most people generally believe to be true because breeders sadly get painted with one brush.
The preservation breeder community – the good breeders – are the same breeders who had built relationships with Ms. Gill and felt alienated by Trupanion’s messaging. As a punishment for criticizing the company’s decisions surrounding the event and being understandably frustrated because her constituents were angered, this resulted in Ms. Gill being pushed out by “Dr. Steve,” who felt undermined by Ms. Gill and wanted her gone. The senior team supported him.
“Dr. Steve” declined our requests to comment for this story, as did CEO and founder Darryl Rawlings.
The breeder program at Trupanion was one of the fastest growing teams in the company, so any other explanation for Ms. Gill being pushed out would be hard to come by. We would appreciate hearing about it if anyone knows of one.
Meantime, there is also big – and bad – news afoot at Trupanion today. The company announced bad news for yet another senior officer, Wei Li, a Chinese national, who visited family for the first time in years last spring after being separated because of covid, who was promoted to interim Chief Financial Officer in June following the removal of CFO Drew Wolff. Today’s announcement from Trupanion delivers Mr. Li’s status, however awkwardly:
Wei Li, who has acted as interim CFO since June, will remain with Trupanion in the capacity of SVP, Finance and Corporate Controller.
Ms. Tooth added, “I am immensely grateful to Wei for his partnership, service and leadership as interim CFO, and know he will continue to be an incredible asset to our company.”
Mr. Li will be replaced by newcomer Fawwad Qureshi as Chief Financial officer.
Trupanion has still not replaced company spokesman Michael Nank. He was part of the last round of layoffs and has not been heard from since.
If anyone knows of Mr. Nank’s whereabouts, please let us know.