Interview with Founder, Pavel Gertsberg on pre-seed fundraising for Fluffy, Pet Care App
Welcome to another from our Founder Voices series. Fundraising can be a daunting task for any start-up, especially for those who are just starting. However, with the right strategy and approach, it is possible to secure the necessary funding to scale your business. In this blog, we feature the experience of Pavel Gertsberg, the founder of Fluffy, a start-up focused on making pet care more affordable and less stressful . Pavel shares his insights on how he navigated the fundraising process and what worked for him.

Fluffy App: Pre-Seed Fundraising Secured

For context, Fluffy, the innovative pet care app, announced the successful completion of its pre-seed funding round in February 2023, raising a total of $450k. The round was led by QVentures and Techstars, with participation from several other high-profile angel investors. The funds will be used to expand the team, particularly in product development, marketing, and customer service. 

Fluffy is dedicated to providing affordable and stress-free pet care to its members. Its services include dog training from world-renowned experts, 24/7 chats with veterinarians, and comprehensive insurance coverage for both routine and unexpected medical expenses. With a community of over 30,000 pet parents, Fluffy is growing 30% month-on-month. The company's CEO, Pavel Gertsberg, expressed his excitement in an article in startups magazine about the funding round, saying that it would help Fluffy of getting close to achieving its goal of providing accessible and comprehensive pet care while taking the financial burden off pet parents. Fluffy previously participated in Techstars London’s accelerator program, which provided mentorship from former startup founders, access to capital, and growth coaches to help the company scale.

Q: Let's start with a brief introduction, what's your start-up business, what are you building, what stage is it at now and what is your background?

A: Fluffy is on a mission to make pet care less stressful and more affordable. We’re building a well-being-first pet insurance that supports and rewards responsible pet parents. Our customers get access to all the essential pet care services and products with one simple membership fee. In 2022 we graduated from the Techstars accelerator and closed our pre-seed round. With over 30,000 customers and growing at 30% month-on-month, we have ambitious growth plans. Fluffy was founded by a team of pet lovers, vets, and insurance veterans who saw a need for better, fairer, and more affordable pet care options.

Q: How did you come up with the idea of Fluffy?

A: When I got my pup last year, I quickly got overwhelmed by the challenges that every first-time pet parent faces. I knew that having a pet should be an enjoyable and affordable experience, and that's how the company was born.

Q: How have you funded your business to date and what are your thoughts on bootstrapping versus getting funding?

A: We started by working part-time and investing some of our money into the business. Bootstrapping can be a great way for B2B start-ups because you can sign big contracts and pay the bills, but it is hard for B2C businesses. If you can bootstrap, go for it!

Q: How did you get onto the fundraising trail and learn about the process?

A: We first identified the top 100 founders in our industry and tried to network with them (cold email/LinkedIn). They were the best people to introduce us to investors. Then we identified the top 100 C-Level employees in large companies in our industry - they were the perfect angel investors. Finally, we reached out to the founders of companies where we previously worked - they were well-connected and some even angel invested.

Q: What's been your biggest fundraising challenge?

A: We started raising in the 2nd half of 2022, which was the worst time for fundraising, but with enough perseverance we managed to get it over the line.

Q: How did you tackle the pitch deck, how much time and resource did you dedicate to this and what version number do you think you're on now?

A: We mapped our story from the time we started to where we want to be in five years. We then explained the problem we are solving today and the problem we will be solving in the future. After speaking to a couple of investors, we knew the main questions and reservations they had, so we addressed them directly. For example, we knew that investors thought that our space is competitive, so we had a slide where we said "the market is very competitive, but here's how we plan to win it." Being upfront on these things can make a big difference. One piece of advice, don't ask multiple people for opinions on your pitch, pick one person who is successful in the industry and work with them. Otherwise, you get conflicting feedback from ten different people.

Q: Tell us how you tackled the financials? It's usually a tricky part to get right - did you seek any advice for this part?

A: I worked as a Head of Growth in several successful startups so had to do this every day. I always think that it is good to keep them simple: show your funnel, retention and expenses. 

Q: How important was it for you to find the right kind of investor?

A: I think finding the "right" investor in the challenging market is hard. Sometimes you need to make a leap of faith and go for it. Luckily, it worked well for us. 

Q: How did you find investors who would be suited to your type of business?

A: We spoke to many founders in our industry and asked for introductions, this was the most powerful way of getting on the first call. 

Q: What do you think swayed investors to invest in your business?

A: Many of them experienced the problem we were tackling and got excited about the opportunity.

Q: How do you find trying to talk the same language as investors or has this not been an issue?

A: If the investor is a good investor, they will speak like a founder. If you feel uncomfortable talking to an investor on your first call, most likely they are not the best fit.

Q: Have you made any mistakes in the fundraising process to date in retrospect? Or would you have done anything differently?

A: I think putting the deadlines for investors was very important. We initially let the funding process follow its natural course, but quickly realised that without strict deadlines the round might not close.

Q: Do you think a platform like FundingHero would be beneficial so founders know the reality & pitfalls of what's involved with the fundraising process?

A: Yes. Sometimes it feels like there is lots of material on fundraising, but very few articles are written by people who actually went through the process and are ready to share their strategies.

Q: Any exciting plans for the next 6-12 months you're looking forward to?

We're now working with one of the largest insurers in the world to launch a next-generation of pet insurance. So, if you have a pet, give me a shout!

Q: Finally, what's your top tip for fundraising? 

Monthly investor updates really work!

Learn more about Fluffy on their website:

You can connect with Pavel Gertsberg on LinkedIn here:

Got your own fundraising story you would like to share with us? Feel free to get in touch and let us know! We can set up an interview with you to give you a feature just like this one! 

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