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NFL Referee’s Pet Project of Rescuing Animals Turns into the Global For-Good Startup Company; CUDDLY, Reveals John Hussey

kokou adzo



John Hussey Cuddly

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?

John Hussey: Thank you for asking. Fortunately, my wife, our dog Benji, and I are all doing well. My son James, a US Naval Officer just returned from a cord setting 206 straight day deployment without touching land. Emily, my daughter, works with us as part of our CUDDLY family. She recently graduated from Auburn University. I am so proud that we can work together in building this company and helping our sheltering partners.

Tell us about you, your career, how you joined CUDDLY

John Hussey: For the past two decades, I’ve enjoyed an exciting career as a National Football League referee. I called penalties, calculated down and distance numbers, and officially controlled a game played by some of the fastest, athletic, and most physically intimidating men on the planet. I recently served as the Alternate Referee in this year’s 2020 Super Bowl LIV in Miami.  Yet, I have always been a serial entrepreneur, having founded three companies since leaving college at 21 years old. CUDDLY was presented to me as an angel investment to build a website to promote pet adoption, along with adding a crowdfunding function to the platform.

JH NFL Referee

Having invested personal money, plus raising friends and family round, required me to step in and run the business when my co-founder had to depart the company for personal reasons. I had no idea that my investment would turn into an unexpected, yet extremely rewarding

How is CUDDLY innovating?

John Hussey: As a mission-driven company, CUDDLY is an innovative platform built specifically for non-profit animal welfare organizations. We provide them with a suite of fundraising tools so they can raise the necessary funds and products to support the animals in their care.

As a double impact bottom-line business, we are helping our sheltering partners improve their fundraising efforts through community, innovation, and technology. We recently completed  a $4M Series A round that will accelerate the growth of CUDDLY’s platform and allows us to increase marketing spend to fuel the growth of new donor acquisitions, while continuing to improve the overall product experience.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

John Hussey: We have been busier than ever since the pandemic hit earlier this year. While the global pandemic has hampered fundraising efforts for many non-profit organizations, we have been well positioned to step up and assist our nearly 2,200 sheltering partners by providing virtual fundraising tools.

Our company has experienced a 350% growth YoY since June 2019. And it feels like we are just getting started.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

John Hussey: For me,the biggest concern was everyone working remotely and what impact this would have on our business. As we have seen with so many industries, a lot of companies went to the distributed work model and are performing exceptionally well. I like the fact that I get to see people and miss the small things that come from being in an office together. The best lesson I learned, though, is that if you trust your team and give them the tools they need to succeed, they will perform.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and CUDDLY in the future?

John Hussey: My faith is important to me. I find peace in knowing that I am not in charge of the universe, although I forget that from time to time.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

John Hussey: We are an an interesting mix of various industries that contribute to the effectiveness of our platform. Our sheltering partners can do so many things on CUDDLY
to support their fundraising needs like email, social media sharing, build product wishlists and raise monetary donations to pay costly medical bills.

As I stated earlier, I feel like we are just getting started here at CUDDLY.

Your final thoughts

John Hussey: Since launching CUDDLY in 2014, we spent several years ideating and creating the right model to support our sheltering partners. We even danced around while building a consumer-facing “baby or wedding” registry for millennial pet owners. I have come to realize what a big distraction that was to build our core business.

Now that we have product-market fit trust within the sheltering community, and over 300,000 donors supporting our partners, we are just getting started in building this great company. CUDDLY is poised to do amazing things to support our partners and the animals in their

Your website?

Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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