Chicago Pet Care Startups and the PCIP: Data, Marketing, Distribution, and Motivation

On August 15, 2018, Chicago pet startups gathered with the Pet Care Innovation Prize team to share and learn about succeeding in the $70B pet care industry. Sustainable pet nutrition, an exciting pop-up beach destination for pets, pet tech for the home, a dating service for pet parents, tech for improving pet adoptions, and an innovative solution for pets with orthopedic injuries were all featured.

The second in a three city series, the event featured 6 startups and a panel discussion with industry experts. While the previous event in New York had a lot of discussion on fundraising and legal issues for pet care startups (amongst other topics), the discussion in Chicago covered data, marketing, the growth of services vs. products in the pet industry, an entrepreneur’s attitude, and distribution channels.

If you missed the session, you can see all the startups and panelists in a recording of the event here.

Startups selected by the PCIP in Chicago included Brilliant Pad, Cast 21, Dig – The Dog Person’s Dating App, Mutt Jackson, PetGotchaDay and Shameless Pets, showing the depth and breadth of startups in the $70B pet care industry coming from the Chicago area. They got a lot from the event, too, including an opportunity to share their story and needs, quality conversations with peers, and one on one time with the expert panelists. As Leigh Isaacson, founder of Dig – The Dog Person’s Dating App said:

“We are a quickly scaling player in the pet technology space, so it was great to meet industry leaders from Purina who could validate the importance of unique intelligent information and pet data. We got some great feedback from previous Pet Care Innovation Prize winners on how to best leverage partnerships and collaborate in the pet world, and we were blown away by the creativity and dedication of the other featured pet care startups.”

More than just data was discussed, according to James Bello, founder of Shameless Pets:

“We had amazing conversations ranging from product to packaging to distribution which will help set us up for a successful national launch. We were inspired by the panel members’ words of wisdom and specifically appreciated feedback coming directly from the Purina team as we look to make an impact within the pet industry.”

Paul Fehrenbacher of Chief Mutt Jackson agreed that interacting with both peers and expert panelists made a difference, especially in helping his company scale quickly:

“It’s a rare opportunity in the pet care sector to interact with other promising pet care startups while also obtaining the advice of the industry thought leaders who served as panelists.  Without hesitation, I can say that the connections that we made at the Chicago event better position Mutt Jackson to meet our ambitious growth objectives.”

Finally, an understanding of how to explore the pet space for startups not currently in the space was another benefit, as Ashley S. Moy of Cast21 observed:

“Cast21 is just starting to explore other markets, and the PCIP event in Chicago was a great way for us to learn about trends in the pet market and speak with many industry experts.”

Experts in the industry helped bring valuable insights about the industry to the startups in a panel discussion. Panelists included:

  • Courtney Harold – Head of Sales and Marketing at the World Pet Association
  • David Levy – serial pet care entrepreneur (Pet Product Innovations LLC and Zeus & Company) and investor
  • Dustin McAdams – founder of PupJoy and 2018 Pet Care Innovation Prize Winner
  • Jamie Migdal – founder of FetchFind and 2017 Pet Care Innovation Prize Winner
  • David Narkiewicz – Vice President Legal at Purina/9 Square Ventures
  • Shawn Riegsecker – Chairman and CEO of Centro
  • Dan Reus – Pet Care Innovation Prize (moderator)

There’s a lot of energy and innovation and support in the Chicago pet care industry – thanks to all the participants!

The Pet Care Innovation Prize produces these events to help pet care entrepreneurs find the information and industry support they need to succeed. The PCIP will be doing the last of these in person events in San Francisco on August 29th. If you’d like to attend either in person or via livestream and learn more about succeeding as a pet care entrepreneur, register here.

If you have an innovative pet care startup, consider applying for the Pet Care Innovation Prize today!