Leap Venture Studio Mentors, Funds Pet Care Startups

Leap Venture Studios will work closely with 12 startup companies focused on pet care and related technology.
Amanda Carrozza
Published: March 20, 2018
Leap Venture StudioMars Petcare — the country’s top-producing pet food company — has launched Leap Venture Studio in concert with Michelson Found Animals Foundation, a non-profit focused on pet adoptions and owner education, and R/GA Ventures, a creative design company. The platform is being called the first accelerator program focused on the future of pet care.

“Our lives are enriched by pets, and we use technology and science to obtain real, sustainable results that better the lives of pets and their people,” said Gary Michelson, MD, founder of Michelson Found Animals Foundation. “We’re excited about this opportunity to partner with other industry leaders to identify and foster meaningful innovations and support the growing community of startups developing smart solutions for pets.”
Applications for the upcoming, year-long program are being accepted now; the application deadline is May 23, 2018. The Leap Venture Studio program is open to companies at a variety of stages, from pre-seed to seed to Series A, and both B2B and B2C business models. Qualified candidates must have a “minimum viable product.” Areas of interest and sample technologies include:
  • pet nutrition and fitness
  • pet health and medical
  • pet diagnostics
  • solutions/platforms/services for pet owners/vets
  • AI and machine learning
  • advanced analytics
  • connected products and spaces
  • genetics

Accepted candidates will be split into two programs of six companies each, and startups will work primarily with a team of R/GA strategists, technologists, designers and consultants to prepare for fundraising, pitching and business development. The startups will also collaborate with mentors from the Mars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals teams and their extended networks. The program will take place primarily at the R/GA office in Portland, Oregon. While companies are not required to remain in Portland for the duration, they are expected to spend key weeks of the program there.

Leap Venture Studio has said it will invest up to $200,000 in each participating startup. In addition, each company will have the opportunity to pitch to investors upon completion of the program.

“Together with Michelson Found Animals and R/GA we’re taking the lead on creating the future of pet care by supporting the startup community,” said Leonid Sudakov, president of Connected Solutions at Mars Petcare. “Mars Petcare has one purpose: ‘Make a Better World for Pets.’ And we will do that by becoming the partner of choice for founders seeking to turn their visions for the future of pet care into reality.”

Companion Fund
Mars Petcare also announced the launch of Companion Fund, a $100 million venture capital fund in partnership with Digitalis Ventures. Companion Fund will provide startup capital and support to entrepreneurs addressing the needs of pets, pet owners and veterinarians. The company is currently focused on supporting investment opportunities in digital health, diagnostics, nutrition and services. 

Companion Fund is being led by Ben Jacobs, who is the Head of Ventures for Mars Petcare and founder of Whistle, a GPS-enabled pet tracker. Jacobs sold Whistle to Mars in 2016.

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