LOS ANGELES — Leap Venture Academy awarded Woof Together, the selected winner of its 2020 Bootcamp, $20,000 in seed funding after it was selected as the most representative of Leap Venture Studio’s overall mission.

This year’s Bootcamp was focused on supporting pet industry startups led by female and BIPOC founders. All participating startups, not including Woof Together, received $5,000 in funding each, totaling $90,000 in overall funding from Leap Venture Academy between the 15 participating companies.

"Women are not raising the same amount of money as men,” commented Melissa Mitchner, chief executive officer of The Bark Shoppe, a New York-based pet care product and service provider. “Black women are not raising as much money as their peers. I may not have the financial capital but I have the human capital. As a CEO, I am supercharged to open the door for the next generation of people of color within the pet care industry.”

Leap Venture Academy’s 2020 Bootcamp invited 15 early-stage pet startups for a week-long seminar, focusing on branding and messaging, business growth, fundraising, leadership, and wrapping up with discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion. The Bootcamp included lectures, workshops and “fireside chats” with established pet industry professionals.

Founders from the following pet industry startups participated in Leap Venture Academy’s 2020 Bootcamp:

  • 5 Element Pet Food Therapy (Oakland, Calif.)
  • Adoptimize (Los Angeles)
  • Doggo Health (Toronto, Canada)
  • Dog Park Production (New York)
  • Likarda (Kansas City, Mo.)
  • MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat (New Orleans, La.)
  • Mella (Chicago)
  • Milo (Ontario, Canada)
  • petNmind Naturals (Coconut Creek, Fla.)
  • Petventive Care (Boston, Mass.)
  • Relief Rover (Bradenton, Fla.)
  • The Bark Shoppe (New York)
  • VetCase (Montevideo, Uruguay)
  • Wildcat (San Francisco)
  • Woof Together (Athens, Greece)

Woof Together is a pet travel startup aiming to make the hospitality industry more dog friendly. Elena Dede, chief executive officer and co-founder, said her company will use this new funding "to create unique, engaging, meaningful content both for pet-friendly hoteliers and travelers with dogs. We will also invest part of the grant to expand our sales internship program and grow as a business.”

"This amazing community of inspiring founders, that I had the honor to meet through the Leap Bootcamp, deserved to be rewarded for their talent, commitment, and progress,” Dede said. “Being part of the Leap community was the greatest award after all." 

Bootcamp speakers and mentors included graduates from Leap Venture’s previous cohorts, other Leap partners, and Leap portfolio companies such as AnimalBiome, Bark Buildings, Dogdrop, Native Pet and Pet Plate.

"The connections with the participating founders are equally valuable as the mentors and sessions,” said Cindy Trice, DVM, chief executive officer and founder of Relief Rover, a professional development platform for veterinarians and nurses. "I can't say I walked away with complete clarity and assurances that my business will succeed, but I now have an amazing network of mentors and fellow founders to draw upon as I continue to build a business and execute on my mission to help veterinarians stay engaged and satisfied with clinical practice."

Adrian Archie, founder of petNmind Naturals, a holistic pet supply store in Florida, shared his key takeaways from the Bootcamp.

"Prior to the bootcamp, partnerships were not even on my radar, but now I see them as integral to getting my franchise business model off the ground,” he said. "Knowledge that it would have taken years to gain on my own, I got in one week interacting in my Leap cohort. I do not know of another venue where I could meet such a diverse and successful group of leaders in the pet industry. I do not have the deep list of contacts as a minority owner so meeting one or two influential people would exceed expectations. Yet with Leap I had to make sure I organized all of the contacts I gained so that I do not forget."

Dede added, "The most important lesson from the workshop is that a startup's superpower lies with building networks and communities. As Founders we start a business to change the world. Leap Bootcamp made us revisit our business model, unlock our potential and focus on setting priorities in order to become a benchmark in pet-friendly hospitality, generating value both for the hospitality industry and millions of pet parents worldwide."

Leap Venture Studio is now accepting applications for its 2021 program. The deadline to apply is Oct. 15, 2020, and the program will commence February 2021.

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