Startup Culture: Q&A with Trupanion’s Darryl Rawlings


A recent Wall Street Journal blog post talked about the fight for talent at startups. The blogger, Neil Blumenthal (Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Warby Parker), said, “The first step toward finding the right people is to have a deep understanding of your company’s identity.” This couldn’t be more true.

Darryl Rawlings, CEO of Trupanion (a pet insurance company whose mission is to help pets receive the best veterinary care possible), believes this to be true as well. Continuing with our Q&A series with startup leaders, today I’m sharing Mr. Rawlings views on startup culture in his growing company and the role of Trupanion’s identity in hiring talent.

exaqueo: Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Darryl Rawlings, Trupanion (DR): Yes. They are: 1. We do what we say; 2. Simple is better (which is why we have one simple pet insurance plan); 3. Do not punish unlucky pets (meaning pet owners and their pets do not get punished with fees, restrictions, etc. for making claims. We want them to make claims! That’s what we’re here for!); 4. Do not be insurance-like. Be innovative and fair; 5. and We love our pets! And if you don’t, it was nice meeting you; however, you’re not a good fit for our company.

exaqueo: Can you describe your corporate culture in three words?

DR: Original, Fun, Passionate.

exaqueo: When you have made an effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

DR: I learned that the stronger the culture, the happier the team. And the happier the team, the happier they’ll make your clients.

exaqueo: What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients?

DR: In my business it’s extremely important for every team member from the bottom to the top to be passionate about pets. Their passion for pets makes them passionate for clients pets. When you care about your work like we do, you do better work.

exaqueo: How do you manage having the right talent to meet rapid growth?

DR: When you’re growing as rapidly as we are, you don’t just find good leaders; you find leaders who will strive to create other leaders. Team work is important too, we only hire team players. We’re constantly on the lookout and keeping our eyes peeled for good talent. We spread the word about our company and network our tails off. It’s paid off over the years as we’re getting more people excited about our company and wanting to work with us. It helps our recruiters with candidates knocking on our doors versus the other way around.

exaqueo: Why does talent + culture fit matter?

DR: For Trupanion, the talent absolutely has to fit our culture (pet-friendly culture) or they simply won’t be able to fully understand the value we are offering pet owners. You don’t get the same high quality work from workers who don’t fit well. Quality is low and that worker’s future opportunities in the company are low too because they simply don’t fit our values. When I was raising capital for Trupanion, I brought a variety of big hitters into a room together. I asked them all to raise their hand if they had a pet. For those without their hands raised, I asked them to leave, because unfortunately, they just won’t get what we do. And I made them leave. I require everyone who joins our Board of Directors to own a pet.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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