Leap Venture Studio (Leap) announced the launch of Leap Venture Academy, a program that will foster the growth of early stage pet care startups. The program is an extension of a successful collaboration between Kinship, a division of Mars Petcare; Michelson Found Animals Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to keeping pets safe at home with the pet parents who love them; and R/GA Ventures, the investment arm of the global agency R/GA.

"We were thrilled at the demand for Leap Venture Studio from pet care startups, and learned that we needed to create more outlets for development and growth," says Ben Jacobs, Head of Ventures and Partnerships at Kinship. "Leap Venture Academy will help the earlier stage developing startups get the resources and support they need to prepare them for the future."

Leap Venture Academy events, which will be held throughout the year, beginning next month, will be conducted both in-person and online. Activities will include pitch competitions, bootcamps, classes, webinars, meetups and hackathons. Additionally, Leap Venture Studio announced that applications open in the fall for the third cohort of startups for the accelerator program running February through May 2020 in Los Angeles.

"With the introduction of the Leap Venture Academy plus the third Leap Venture Studio cohort, we are excited to continue and expand our support for the growing community of innovators in our industry with a range of resources for companies at all stages of development," says Aimee Gilbreath, Executive Director, Michelson Found Animals. "And we're also pleased to continue to host the third Leap program here in Los Angeles, our home market and the source of a wealth of innovation."

Demo day saw six startups taking part in the second cohort of the Leap Venture Studio: the first startup program designed to foster innovation in the fast-growing pet industry. The demo day was held at UCLA's Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center.

"All the startups impressed us with their applications but to see these companies with their ability to quickly leverage the program opportunities and achieve sustainable traction toward targeted market opportunities, business plans and solutions come to fruition in this way has blown us away," exclaimed Jonathan Bradley, VP, Partner at R/GA Ventures. "There is so much promise in this cohort and we are excited to see where they go from here."

For the past twelve weeks, the six startups sought solutions to their business challenges, as they received access to a wide range of business networks, industry knowledge and creative capital. At demo day, the companies, whose focus ranged from AI, to sustainability, to food, were given the opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors and potential industry partners. The event also included a panel session on the future of pet care that featured industry leaders including Aimee Gilbreath (Executive Director, Michelson Found Animals Foundation), Brett Podolsky (Co-founder, Farmer's Dog), Jenna White (Senior Director, Rover.com), and Rena Crumplen (Global VP of Research and Development, Mars Petcare) .

The six graduates of this year's demo day include:

  • Barkibu (Cambre, Spain), helps pet parents understand their pet's health and navigate them to the appropriate care through an AI-powered pet health platform.
  • Jiminy's (Berkeley, CA) replaces animal protein with cricket protein, creating a line of sustainable pet food.
  • PetReleaf (Littleton, CO) is redefining what healthy means for pets through the power of hemp.
  • Shameless Pets (Chicago, IL) works to reduce the environmental impact of pet food through their nutritional, upcycled treats.
  • Smalls (New York, NY) makes human grade food for cats that leaves the fillers and mystery ingredients behind.
  • Sniffspot (Seattle, WA) is a marketplace platform that connects owners to different outdoor locations, unlocking new spaces for pets.

For more information, please visit: www.leapventurestudio.com.