INVESTMENTS THAT HELP PETS AND PEOPLE
Michelson Found Animals is a unique animal welfare nonprofit in that we actively invest in mission-aligned, for-profit pet care brands. We make these philanthropic investments because we believe progress in animal welfare can be driven by market innovations that update consumer behaviors, veterinary practices, and the pet retail landscapes. To create the greatest impact possible, we partnered with Kinship, a division of Mars Petcare, to launch Leap — the first startup-centric program built to springboard innovation in the growing pet ecosystem.
In exchange for equity positions in these for-profit startups, MFA only considers applicants with products and missions that align with our charitable purposes. We look for companies that make the industry better, have an innovative approach, and the potential to make the world a better place for animals.
Leap is also committed to fostering diversity in pet care and are proud that our founders are 60% diverse (female or person of color founded), which is 4x the broader venture market metrics.
PROGRAMMING FOR EVERY STAGE OF STARTUPS
Leap Venture Studio
Leap Venture Studio is the first pet care-specific startup accelerator. Companies accepted to the Leap Venture Studio receive investment from MFA and Kinship, and participate in a 12-week accelerator program. The Studio is also supported by R/GA Ventures, a world-class services platform that connects our startups with award-winning strategists, technologists, designers, and consultants. The program culminates in an online pitch event where Studio companies pitch to investors, industry leaders, and the startup community.
Leap Venture Academy
The Leap Venture Academy is a series of pre-accelerator, community-building activities for early-stage pet care startups and innovators. Academy programs are always offered at no cost, and connect entrepreneurs with resources to foster innovation and development in the rapidly growing pet care industry. Academy programming often responds to the most pressing topics elevated by our community, and allows for open discussion that generates real-world solutions. Academy activities include webinars and office hours, summits and bootcamps, and pitch competitions. Events are held year-round, in person, and online.
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Learn more about our Studio and Academy Programming, and upcoming events
Summit & Bootcamp
Summits and Bootcamps are crash courses on everything brands need to know for their pet care start-up. Summits are single day events while Bootcamps are multi-day. Both programs are a great networking opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to meet mentors, investors and other startup founders. We hold panels that cover important topics like brand development, hiring strategies, investment, etc.
Our pitch competitions bring the most promising pet care startups to the stage for live contests. These events are an opportunity for startups to receive equity-free grants and industry exposure all in one place. Academy pitch competitions are right for companies at any stage in their development from idea to repeating revenue. Watch the 2020 Pitch Competition where The Bark Shoppe took top prize for their quick pivot to mobile grooming during COVID.
A SPRINGBOARD FOR INNOVATION
Pioneering Vegan Pet Food
Wild Earth is a biotech startup developing clean and sustainable gourmet pet food from fungi. Their product and food technology has helped drive a new wave of vegan pet food that delivers high quality nutrition while eliminating impact to human life and helping shrink the pet food industry's massive carbon footprint.
Pioneering Gut Health in Pets
AnimalBiome is a female-founded, POC-led pet care start up that provides non-invasive diagnostics and at-home kits for microbiome restoration for healthier pets. They recently conducted research with Jiminy's (also a Leap Portfolio company) which found that cricket meal, a sustainable protein source, is prebiotic and supports a healthy gut microbiome in dogs.
Cleaning Oceans Worldwide
Project Blu is Welsh pet retail company on a mission to revolutionize the pet accessories market and become the global leader for sustainable pet products. Their line of premium dog beds were among the initial set of products available on Amazon Launchpad. They've also developed a new vegan leather option made from apple skins, releasing in 2021.
Making Cat Mainstream
Cat startups are traditionally underfunded in the pet food, retail and veterinary medicine space which leads to slower paced innovations and improvements in their care. Leap intentionally offers cat-specific programming through the Academy to spur innovation in the care options available for cats and the people who love them.
A PROGRAM WITH PROVEN SUCCESS
The 19 Leap Venture Studio Alumni have gone on to raise over
in follow-on investments, and continue to disrupt the pet care industry through innovation, social impact, and technology.
PetHospice is the first exit in our Leap Venture Studio portfolio. They were acquired by BluePearl Veterinary Partners to expand the scope of their veterinary services to make the end of life experience more comfortable and meaningful for pets and their people. Shea Cox, CEO, participated in our Leap Venture Academy Bootcamp for Female Founders in 2019 and went on to join our 3rd Leap Venture Studio cohort.
Dr. Shea Cox
Founder, Pet Hospice
"Without the support and steadfast advocacy of Leap, PetHospice would not be BluePearl Pet Hospice. The studio was instrumental in helping shape our vision and making crucial introductions. Leap - and more importantly, it’s people - has been hands-down the best part of my startup journey. I didn’t just make friends, I made family, and I’m forever grateful for this experience that led me to this life-changing opportunity."
BUILDING DIVERSITY IN PET CARE
ROI of Diversity Panel
Leap is deeply committed to offering thoughtful conversations, learning opportunities, and open knowledge sharing to progress diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the pet care industry. Starting in July 2020, Leap Venture Academy hosted a series of "Diversity in Pet Care Roundtables" with leaders in DEI, pet care, startup founding, and more.
$90k Awarded to 15 Diverse Startup Founders
Leap awarded a total of $90,000 to 15 startups funded by diverse founders at our Fall 2020 Leap Bootcamp program. Woof Together, a startup from Athens, Greece focused on creating pet standards in the hospitality industry, was awarded a peer-nominated $20k award for having the greatest potential impact on pet care.
Leap Hosts All-Female Founder Bootcamp
In Fall 2020, Leap hosted its first ever all-female bootcamp, offering education, mentorship and networking to 13 female funded pet care startups. The invite-only event included brands from a variety of market sectors such as pet food, technology, vet care, and more. Alya Michelson, MFA co-chair, also joined in support.
Dogly x Leap Advocates of Diversity Session
Dogly, a Leap portfolio company, launched an online community specifically for BIPOC- and women-led businesses in the pet care industry. From September 2020 - May 2021, they will bring this community together virtually for bi-monthly business workshops and brainstorm sessions led by successful BIPOC and women leaders.