November 8, 2017

Five pet-focused startups have each won $10,000 and are competing to win the 2017-2018 Pet Care Innovation Prize grand prize. The finalists include a pet life management app, a microbiome-based pet health diagnostics and supplement company, a pet food company harnessing an invasive fish species as a primary protein source, a dog walking app delivering highly personalized pet care and a vendor-friendly customizable subscription box for dogs, each getting valuable business support and vying for a free booth and support to exhibit at Global Pet Expo, the world’s largest pet industry trade show.

Now in its second year, the Pet Care Innovation Prize is a partnership between Purina, a global leader in pet care, and investment firms Active Capital and Cultivation Capital. The American Pet Products Association also will offer valuable support, providing a booth and marketing assistance to help the Grand Prize Winner make the most of attending Global Pet Expo in March 2018. The PCIP is a competition that aims to support and connect innovative, early stage companies selling pet-related products and services with pet industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors. The program was born when a group of venture capitalists and innovators, from Purina and based in St. Louis, realized the valuable resource they represented for pet companies first entering the industry. With the company’s support, the PCIP was created.

Hoping to capture attention in a growing global pet care market with more than $60 billion in sales annual in the U.S. alone is difficult, but the Pet Care Innovation Prize aims to help through its mission to support and connect innovative early stage companies with pet-related products and/or services for sale. The competition is open to companies that focus on key areas of dog and cat needs, care and ownership including pet food, nutrition, care, play and technology. More than 85 companies from nine countries applied for the 2017-2018 Pet Care Innovation Prize. According to Dan Reus of Active Capital, who manages the PCIP, the criteria used for choosing the finalists include whether or not the industry (and society) could benefit from the innovation presented, what kind of traction the young company already has, how much Purina and PCIP would be able to help the company, and examining the strength of the team behind the product or service.

Past Pet Care Innovation Prize finalists and winners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity and prizes from investors and accelerator programs across the US.

“We were thrilled to help launch the Pet Care Innovation Prize last year,” said Cultivation Capital Managing Partner Brian Matthews. “Our focus is investing in companies whose ideas have the potential to transform the way we live and work. Our team sees lots of exciting potential from the pet care startups that come through the Pet Care Innovation Prize.”

This year’s five finalists will each receive a $10,000 prize, plus a trip to St. Louis, where Purina’s global headquarters is located, for a Pet Care Business Boot Camp, a multi-day accelerator program to get advice, mentorship and access to business partners. Attendees will meet with their fellow finalists, workshop their pitches and have the opportunity to attend several educational seminars on making the most of the PCIP, developing pet-centric products and services, and more. Further, all of the finalists will then present their businesses to an audience of industry influencers early next year at a Purina Better With Pets event in New York.

“Young companies are nimble and aren’t encumbered by ‘how we’ve always done it.’ They need feedback, support from customers and retailers, partners to work with, and investors in order to find their place in the industry and add new value,” Reus said. “The [Better With Pets] audience helps them with all of those things, either directly or indirectly as they get in front of people that will give them validation, push back when the startup has incorrect information, and help them build confidence while they build their networks.”

The Grand Prize Winner will be announced in March 2018, and all five finalists will attend Global Pet Expo, the world’s largest pet industry trade show, courtesy of the Pet Care Innovation Prize team and the American Pet Products Association, the producer of the show. Additionally, the Grand Prize winning startup will receive a free booth at Global Pet Expo and up to an additional $10,000 in marketing support.

“The ongoing pursuit of innovation is a key to success in every consumer-focused industry, but the unique ability to change and enrich the lives of pets and people sets the pet care category apart,” said Blair Morgan, Co-Lead of Purina’s 9 Square Ventures Division and Vice President of Innovation at Purina. “The Pet Care Innovation Prize is Purina’s way of working with other pet lovers to reward ideas that will raise the bar in making the lives of pets and the people who love them better.”

The five 2017-2018 Pet Care Innovation Prize finalists are:

AnimalBiome from Berkeley, California

AnimalBiome is helping the millions of dogs and cats in the U.S. living with chronic digestive disorders by offering microbiome-based supplements and non-invasive diagnostics. Holly Ganz and Kari Goodman are the founders of AnimalBiome.


BareItAll Petfoods from Chicago, Illinois

BareItAll makes healthy, environmentally friendly pet food for dogs and cats utilizing the invasive Asian Carp as the main protein source, creating a commercial market to help reduce the populations and prevent them from entering the Great Lakes. Michael Cody and Logan Honeycutt are the founders of BareItAll Petfoods.


Barkly Pets from Washington, D.C.

Barkly is the highest rated, most reliable dog walking app to simplify every day and essential pet care needs, available to users 365 days a year in 60 minutes notice or less. Christopher Gonzalez, Dave Comiskey and Jim Camut are the founders of Barkly Pets.


Fetch Labs, Inc. from San Jose, California and New York City, New York

Fetch Labs, Inc. is making pet life management simple for pet parents with the Fetch My Pet app. Greg Tariff, Adam Jackowitz and Steve Malko are the founders of Fetch Labs.


PupJoy from Chicago, Illinois

PupJoy provides the industry’s most customizable and vendor-friendly subscription box for dogs and their parents as well as an online store for product replenishment and larger ticket items. Dustin McAdams and Bill Wilkins are the founders of PupJoy.


“This year’s Pet Care Innovation Prize finalists each have the potential to influence the industry in very different ways,” Morgan said. “From addressing areas of pet health and nutrition to easing some of the challenges of modern pet ownership, there is a diversity of ideas that is exciting to see.”

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