Today, Mars Petcare, the leading company in pet health and nutrition; 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, announce the companies that will participate in the second cohort of the Leap Venture Studio (Leap): the first and only startup program designed to foster innovation in the fast-growing pet industry.

While the startup community is responding to owners demanding more for their pets, there are few platforms that offer access to both the category and business expertise necessary to scale a company in this space. As seen by the success of the first program, Mars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals together with R/GA Ventures are uniquely positioned to impact early and growth-stage companies, by granting them access to their wide-range business networks, industry knowledge, and creative capital. This distinct set of partners are grounded by a common goal: help founders build sustainable businesses by generating solutions for pets and their owners.

For the second Leap cohort, companies went through an extensive vetting process, where the partners explored opportunities in a variety of growing categories in petcare including insurance, travel, and pet-savings –amongst others– before ultimately arriving at their final cohort. The six companies selected represent a diverse mix of entrepreneurs looking to revolutionize products and services ranging from sustainable nutrition to predictive algorithms in pet-health.

The following are the companies participating in this cohort:

  1. Barkibu (Cambre, Spain)works to prevent pet illnesses at-home and predict consumer behavior in retail through their robust AI platform.
  2. Jiminy’s (Berkeley, CA) replaces animal protein with cricket protein, creating a line of sustainable pet food alternatives.
  3. PetReleaf (Littleton, CO) is redefining what healthy means for pets through the power of hemp.
  4. Shameless Pets (Chicago, IL) works to reduce the environmental impact of pet food through their nutritional, upcycled treats.
  5. Smalls (New York, NY) makes human grade food for cats that leaves the fillers and mystery ingredients behind.
  6. SniffSpot (Seattle, WA) is a marketplace platform that connects owners to different outdoor locations, unlocking new spaces for pets.

In line with the first iteration of Leap, companies in the second program will work with a curated team of R/GA strategists, technologists, designers, and consultants. Startups receive additional mentorships from executives at Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals, and their extended networks of expert advisors.

These collaborations intend to help companies enhance their business plans, prepare for fundraising milestones, and establish minimum viable brands.

The Leap program will be hosted at the R/GA office in Los Angeles, CA, a city well known for being at the forefront of pet friendly policies. The program will conclude in May with a demo event at which each startup will present to industry leaders, partners, investors, and customers from the technology and innovation community. If you are interested in attending the demo event, please email us at for more information.

For more information about Leap and the portfolio companies, or to submit an application, please visit: and follow #leapvs on Twitter.

Mars Petcare
Mars Petcare is a diverse and growing business with 75,000 Associates across 50+ countries dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. With 75 years of experience, our portfolio of almost 50 brands serves the health and nutrition needs of the world’s pets – including brands PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN®, NUTRO™, GREENIES™, SHEBA®, CESAR®, IAMS™ and EUKANUBA™ as well as The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition which has advanced research in the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Mars Petcare is also a leading veterinary health provider through a network of over 2,000 pet hospitals including BANFIELD™, BLUEPEARL™, PET PARTNERS™, VCA™ and Linnaeus. We’re also active in innovation and technology for pets, with WISDOM PANEL™ genetic health screening and DNA testing for dogs, the WHISTLE™ GPS dog tracker, and LEAP VENTURE STUDIO accelerator and COMPANION FUND™ programs that drive innovation and disruption in the pet care industry.

Michelson Found Animals Foundation 
Michelson Found Animals Foundation is a leading animal welfare non-profit organization committed to ending pet homelessness. With a mission of Saving Pets, Enriching Lives, Found Animals operates a range of innovative programs that improve the lives of pets and their people, including the first free, national microchip registry, solutions-based programs addressing pet adoption, low-cost spay neuter services and grants for research into non-surgical spay and neuter methods. Generously funded by Dr. Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson, Found Animals has helped more than 5 million pets since it was founded in 2005.

About R/GA Ventures
R/GA Ventures helps industry leaders embrace disruption, connecting them with emerging startups, technologies and consumer behaviors to drive their businesses forward. Since 2013, R/GA Ventures has run 15 programs to date and has a portfolio of more than 90 companies across a variety of verticals. R/GA Ventures and R/GA are part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing services organizations. Learn more at and by following @rgaventures.

Read the full press release here.