Old or Experienced? Maybe Both?December 10, 2019
I am old and grey, my back hurts on a regular basis and most would say I’m crotchety too. These are not, to say the least, the most positive things to have to admit about oneself. But along with all those years, the grey hair (mostly on my beard since there’s so little left on my head), and the aching back comes a lot of experience. I’ve been one of the owners of Pet Camp for 22 plus years. I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of dogs walk through our lobby, and had countless conversations with pet parents, veterinarians, and industry experts. In the course of these 22 years, I’ve watched the pet care industry change and we (both Pet Camp and other pet care providers) have learned an amazing amount about the needs of dogs and cats when it comes to pet care.
I tell you this only to contrast it with Garrett Smallwood, the new CEO of Wag! According to Linkedin, Garrett attended the University of Arizona from 2008-2010 and “left early to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.” It’s been a long time since I went to college, but three of my kids are college sophomores which is what I think two years of school would have made Mr. Smallwood. Assuming he was about the same age as my kids are as college sophomores, he would have been 19 or 20 when he left school and maybe 29 now.
Maybe it’s just being old and crotchety, but the idea of a 29-year-old running a business that got $300 million in funding from SoftBank strikes me as a bit odd. I would have thought SoftBank might have thought so too, but apparently the lessons of WeWork have not gotten to Wag! quite yet. Of course just after I drafted this blog came word that SoftBank may be selling its interest in Wag! back to Wag! – so maybe the WeWork lessons have gotten through? While if this story is true some of this blog is moot, please read on as a good portion of it remains relevant and timely.
But beyond the notion of a 29-year-old running the business, there is the notion that a 29-year-old should be in charge of making decisions that impact the health and safety of your pet. I understand that age alone should not be the decision maker when it comes to determining someone’s ability to make decisions about a pet’s health. There are bound to be 29-year olds who have grown up around lots of pets (I guess particularly dogs when it comes to Wag!) or went to veterinary school or maybe even worked for many years in the pet care industry acquiring practical hands on knowledge. None of this seems to apply to Mr. Smallwood who, after 2 years of college, seems to have only been involved in on-line financial service businesses.
I’m not writing this blog to put down Mr. Smallwood’s pet care experience because I suspect as the CEO of Wag! he’s not going to be doing any actual pet care. I’m not even writing this because I’m jealous of a 29-year-old with $300 million of someone else’s money with which to play. If anything, I’m writing this because I’m stunned that the presumably really smart people who have invested in Wag! think that pet parents will trust a bunch of “independent contractors” who work for a company led by someone with absolutely no educational or real world experience in the pet care industry to take care of their pet. That is certainly not the decision this pet parent would make. I’ll take age, experience and knowledge over youth and $300 million when it comes to the care of my pets.
Thanks for reading.