Technology

Can pet-tech startups help make pet ownership less costly?

The recent economic slowdown has impacted everyday Americans in different ways. 

One sub-group, pet owners, have their wallets squeezed so tight that some are facing the difficult decision of choosing between feeding their pets and feeding their human family members. 

In a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, 50% of pet owners surveyed reported actively taking steps to reduce pet-care costs in the past year, with over 25% skipping or delaying a vet visit or routine medication in order to save money. 

Inflation, like in many consumer goods sectors, has impacted the pet sector. 

As of January, pet food inflation hit 15.1% year over year, compared to the overall United States consumer price index (CPI) which reached 6.4% in January. Pet supplies too were impacted to a lesser degree by inflation, starting 2023 at 7.2% in January, down from 7.7% in December of 2022. 

There are, however, signs that pet goods prices could stabilize soon. For example, the cost for pet food companies to produce their products began to fall, which could signal a break for pet owners’ pocket books shortly down the road. 

And despite the recent economic challenges, pet ownership is up, driven mostly by COVID-19 era lockdowns when more young people adopted pets for company. In 2020, pet product sales grew faster than the rate of the U.S. economy as a whole. 

Because the love and ability to care for our pets should never be impeded during tough economic times, Leap Venture Studio, a pet care startup accelerator, says it dedicates itself to investing in companies that work toward more sustainable solutions that also make pet parenthood more accessible.  

Pet-tech aims to make pet ownership more sustainable

Leap Venture Studio began in 2018 as a partnership between Michelson Found Animals and Mars Petcare, one of the world’s leading petcare companies, to springboard innovation in the pet industry.

The accelerator program offers pet tech and pet care startups USD $200,000 in initial funding as well as access to resources, mentors, networking opportunities and brand and marketing services specific to their needs. 

Given Mars Petcare’s deep industry links, the program also provides startup founders with access to a network of industry experts, investors and petcare corporations including Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals and R/GA Ventures. The aim is to help startups reach their goals more efficiently by providing a robust network of support. 

Leap Venture Studios on Tuesday announced its seventh cohort of seed-stage pet care startups that will be participating in their 12-week accelerator program between March and June 2023. 

The cohort will culminate with a Demo Day on June 8  in Nashville, Tennessee.  

“This year’s cohort is a great mix of industry segments. We have companies working on scaling diagnostics and at-home pet health care, nutrition brands putting the planet and women founded businesses at the forefront of their business model, and a D2C platform bringing solutions to pet parents in Costa Rica,” said Rachel Sheppard, Director of Ventures at Mars Petcare and co-lead of Leap Venture Studio. 

The startups selected for the seventh Leap Venture Studio cohort include: 

  1. Bundle x Joy: A startup on a mission to deliver premium nutrition, curated product bundles, and endless joy to every dog person. The female-founded company is purpose driven, giving 3% back to fund women in entrepreneurship and their  local communities, according to their website.
  2. Blue Pet Co: A company making  a range of clean, marine-powered dog supplements, enriched with seaweed extracts designed to meet a dog’s specific health needs, naturally and sustainably. Based in Ireland, the company works with a collective of seaweed harvesters to procure their ingredients. 
  3. Dr. Cuddles: A veterinarian-founded pet care company looking to revolutionize the industry by making “vet sense common sense” – empowering pet owners to better care for their pets through trusted education and innovative products. Dr. Cuddles aims to reduce the amount of visits to pet emergency rooms for treatable illnesses that pet owners, with a little more education and support, could handle themselves at home.  
  4. MI:RNA: A veterinary diagnostic testing company using cutting edge science and artificial intelligence to diagnose disease in the early stages to help vets care for our pets. Founder and CEO Eve Hanks is a veterinary surgeon on a mission to help speed up early detection of disease amongst our furry friends.
  5. Oncotect: A biotech startup committed to pioneering early screening of cancer risks in dogs using their urine. The company aims to replace expensive and invasive detection methods such as blood samples, biopsies, ultrasounds, CTs and MRIs with quick, inexpensive urine sampling. 
  6. Tobipets.com: A one-stop-shop that connects pet brands, services, and vets with pet parents. The Costa Rican startup is full-scale marketplace for everything pet related, helping to service what the US Department of Agriculture has called a “booming” Costa Rican petcare market. 

For those interested in learning more about these startups, the Demo Day on June 8 will be broadcast live on YouTube.

The startups selected for the seventh Leap Venture Studio cohort include: 

Since its inception, the Leap Venture Studio accelerator program has helped over 40 companies go on to raise USD $170 million in follow-on capital, with USD $100 million coming in 2021 alone, and has helped lead two companies to successful exits.

Whether creating a marketplace to help find better prices for pet care products in Costa Rica, or using innovative bio testing technology to decrease the cost and increase the efficiency of cancer screening in pets, the startups selected for the seventh cohort of Leap Venture Studio hope to make pet ownership more affordable, as well as rewarding. 

Disclaimer: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.

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