Meet Rachel Sheppard, Director of Ventures at Mars Petcare

Leap Venture Studio is the world’s first pet care startup accelerator. On September 19, we announced our latest cohort of seven European startups that will participate in our 12-week program from September 26 until Demo Day on December 15. The hybrid program will take place online, as well as in-person in London.

Throughout the accelerator, our LVS team will support these companies to create a custom pathway to achieve their milestones with the help of award-winning strategists, technologists, designers, and consultants. All founders receive the local equivalent of $200K USD, custom mentorship, and support in preparing for future fundraising.

The program consolidates with a Demo Day, where founders pitch their companies to top investors from our partnership.


How did LVS come about?

The Leap Venture Studio program is a partnership between Mars Petcare (the largest pet care organization in the world), leading animal welfare organization Michelson Found Animals, and world-class services platform R/GA Ventures. It is the world’s first accelerator focused exclusively on investing in early-stage and seed-stage pet care companies to improve the quality of life for both pets and their owners.

Founded by Stephen Plumlee, Winson Wong, and Aimee Gilbreath in 2018, the accelerator program has seen 33 companies go on to raise US$170 million in follow-on capital and two exits.


How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?

Our program is more accessible now than when it started. Like many organizations, we adapted to the virtual-only world during the pandemic, and now we’ve adapted a more hybrid model, which has opened us up to working with more companies around the world.

People don’t have to fly to a specific location for 12 weeks to participate in the accelerator. We’ve also taken a more regional approach, as seen in the recent announcement of our European cohort. Lastly, we’ve evolved with the industry. Our original cohorts tended to be more nutritionally focused, whereas now we’re seeing more of a focus on services and the veterinary world.

What can we hope to see from LVS in the future?

There are a lot of exciting things in our future! Firstly, we will continue focusing on DEI and working with founders who share our vision of making pet care inclusive and accessible for all pet parents. You can also expect to see a focus on certain categories in the future like cat health, senior pets, and veterinary solutions.

Finally, we hope to be able to scale and bring more – more cohorts, more specified programs, and more support to our growing industry.