It’s working with Michelson Found Animals Foundation and R/GA Ventures.

A new accelerator program being launched by Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals Foundation and R/GA Ventures will support startup companies in the pet industry.

It's called the Leap Venture Studio, and it's targeting early-stage startups. The program offers access to strategic, financial and creative resources to accelerate product development, develop industry partnerships and refine business plans, according to a press release. Startups in the program will work closely with mentors from R/GA, Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals and their extended networks. At the end of the program, they will have the opportunity to pitch to investors and industry leaders.

“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, the global ventures, genetics, data and analytics division 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.”

Leap comes at a time when the pet industry is positioned to experience significant growth and innovation, driven by millennial pet ownership. The trend is bringing "an increase in demand for modern and smart solutions to help them take better care of their pets," according to the release.

“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 Dr. Gary Michelson, 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.”

The 2018 Leap Venture Studio areas of interest and technology include:

● Pet nutrition and wellness
● Pet health and medical
● Pet diagnostics
● Solutions/platforms/services for pet owners/vets
● AI and machine learning
● Advanced analytics
● Connected products and spaces
● Genetics

Participating startups will be split into two cohorts of six companies each. A customized team of R/GA’s strategists, technologists, designers and consultants will collaborate with the startups to help execute their business plans and prepare them for future milestones, including fundraising, pitching and business development. The program will conclude with the opportunity to secure funding from investors within Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals and the broader venture capital community.

“R/GA is excited to collaborate with leaders like Mars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals to launch one of the first-ever pet-centric Venture Studios, leveraging our creative capital and network to create value for the participating companies,” said Stephen Plumlee, global chief operating officer of R/GA and managing partner of R/GA Ventures. 

Leap will take place in Portland, OR.

Applications opened on March 7, and admissions will roll throughout the year. The first program module will begin at the end of July with a demo day scheduled for the fall.

Qualified candidates must have developed a "minimum viable product." Leap is open to companies at a variety of stages, from pre-seed to seed to Series A, and business models including B2B and B2C.

For more information about Leap or to submit an application, visit: www.leapventurestudio.com and follow #leapvs on Twitter.