Forbes EQ BrandVoice: Startups, Diversity And Big Dog Energy

By Ayanna Crawford for Wagmo, Inc.

Over the past few years, the tech start-up space has seen a huge uptick in DEI initiatives — with more diverse candidates being scouted, more women on executive teams, and a bigger emphasis on making the workplace a safe space. While this is undoubtedly a great place to start, we absolutely must give credence to the companies that made diversity their mission from the outset. Companies like Wagmo, a women-led start-up in the pet insuretech space.

As we recently honored Women’s History Month, I sat down with Wagmo’s founders, Christie Horvath and Ali Foxworth, to discuss their approach to inclusion and diversity and how female founders can get the support they need and undeniably deserve in the tech industry.

Wagmo’s founders Christie Horvath and Ali Foxworth

Minesh Bacrania (2021)

You both run a company that is made up of about 80% women, which is really refreshing to see in the startup space. Was this intentional?

Ali Foxworth: No, it wasn’t intentional at all. We were definitely focused on diversity and we wanted our team to reflect the world. Women just happened to be the more qualified candidates.

Christie Horvath: And I’m not complaining. A lot of times when women are just as good or better than their male counterparts, they tend to get overlooked.

What do your female candidates bring to the table that ultimately make them the best for their roles?

Ali: Their intelligence, their empathy for the customer, their bravado and exceptional wit.

Christie: Oooh.. bravado and exceptional wit, I like that! There’s just a fire in the belly that I feel makes you successful at Wagmo.

Do you think that comes from women having to prove ourselves just a bit more than men do?

Christie: For sure! Women and anyone who’s not a white tech bro have to work harder to get that much further in life. And that kind of ‘Big Dog Energy’. That’s what we look for.

Yes, the tech bro-ness of it all seems to heavily permeate the industry and with that comes a level of gatekeeping. It has been said that female founders have a harder time networking vertically. What do you think is the best way for female entrepreneurs to broaden their networks?

Christie: Well, what’s worked for us is being very explicit in asking for help from our investors and getting those intros. And I really hate to use this again, but having that ‘Big Dog Energy’ that conveys that you deserve a seat at that table and entrance into that room. I also think there’s something around generally approaching networking with an air of intellectual curiosity. If you’re just networking for the sake of networking, it can be really uncomfortable and awkward. But if you go into it with the angle of looking to learn from someone, it can help you get over that mental hurdle.

Ali: That’s a great answer.

Christie: I didn’t even make that up.

What are some companies that you think are leading the way in the future of female / BIPOC representation in tech?

Ali: There’s a really great company called Wagmo. They do a real fine job.

Christie: Yea, have you heard of them?

Ali: To be honest, it’s a pretty bleak landscape out there. Especially in Insuretech. As far as we’ve seen, it’s pretty homogenous. There’s a couple of companies that are starting to pay attention but we’re pushing a boulder uphill here.

Christie: But Policy Genius is doing a really good job. And outside of our industry, we really like Tushy and Canva.

Ali: Yeah we love Canva. It universally opened up the design platform to the world.

Oh wonderful! Any last thoughts to leave us with on women and diversity in the workplace?

Christie: I will shout it from the rooftops, diverse teams attract diverse teams! If you start early and make it a priority right out of the gate, then you won’t have a problem. It’s not a pipeline issue. It’s the fact that no one wants to be the first anything at a company. That’s something I feel very strongly about.

Ali: Something that’s true across the board, is that you need diversity of opinion. More diversity means more opportunities to have some crazy, fantastic idea that’s gonna blow your company up. If you are all thinking the exact same thing, then you’re limited.

This is a content marketing post from a Forbes EQ participant. Forbes brand contributors’ opinions are their own.

You both run a company that is made up of about 80% women, which is really refreshing to see in the startup space. Was this intentional?


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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