Pet Thermometers Make a Leap Forward for Better Pet Health
The Leap Venture Studio is back with a fifth cohort of six innovative, early stage startups disrupting the pet care industry. In February 2022, six pet care startups joined the accelerator program for a 12-week immersive experience. Throughout the program, the founding teams worked in tandem with a curated team of strategists and designers from R/GA Ventures, and received mentorship from Mars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals on building impactful and scalable businesses. At the end of yet another successful program, we are excited to feature each of these amazing startups in a special blog series.
Mella (Chicago, IL): An ecosystem of connected wellness monitoring products for both veterinarians and parents.
Ben Seidman, Co-Founder:
What motivated you to build an impactful startup in the pet care space?
Ben: When I took my dog to the vet for the first time, it took about 10 minutes just to take his temperature. It was a painful experience for the vet, my dog, and me. In 2019, I went to Global Pet Expo with my Co-Founders Anya Babbitt and Yale Zhang. At the conference, we learned about some of the issues and opportunities in the industry and became really passionate about solving those. We started with the thermometer as the first product. We wanted to stop the use of rectal thermometry and offer a fear-free option to vets and pet parents. Very soon after, we figured out that a lot more needed to happen. So our company evolved into a pet health and wellness ecosystem. Making a difference in the lives of pets and extending longevity has been a motivation for what we do and the products that we build.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a startup founder and how have you overcome them?
Ben: There is a lot for us to learn; we need to walk before we run. To build products for pet parents and veterinarians, we had to really understand in depth how those markets operated. Not having a veterinarian or medical background was a challenge at first, but we were able to find veterinary advisors and we spent a lot of time in vet clinics to compensate for the lack of background. It was very important for us to have our products go into vet clinics and be veterinary-approved, before they went into homes. We put a lot of emphasis on that and built that into the DNA of the company. With our team, partner-networks, and customers, we were able to overcome these issues.
What is your biggest take away from the Leap Venture Studio?
Ben: The personalized approach that Leap takes for each company is incredible. There is a lot of expertise at R/GA Ventures, Mars Petcare, and Michelson Found Animals. The bespoke experience, great connections, and strong support bring out the best version of each company. The mentorship from the community of startups and alumni has also been truly tremendous. It helps us connect and access different networks at Mars Petcare, which otherwise would be very challenging to do.
How has your startup made a difference for pets?
Ben: For me, it is important to understand how my pet is feeling. With our thermometer, we can do so without having to go all the way to a vet to take the most basic vitals. Every pet parent should be able to monitor temperature in a fear-free way. The Biggie Scale allows me to engage with my own pet in a new and interactive way. This is liberating for me, and fun for both of us. For my family, it’s interesting to be aware of this data and act on it to modify his diet. Every time Biggie is acting a bit different (coughing, having diarrhea or exhibiting unusual symptoms), we use the Biggie scale. Just how we would use a thermometer on human kids to monitor them when they are not feeling well, the Biggie scale helps monitor the basic vitals for pets. It’s hard to find someone who is not excited about this. This helps us actually treat our pets as family.
What is the unique selling proposition (USP) of your company?
Ben: Our products let us monitor help on our own! All of our products are built for the vet and the home. These have been veterinary-approved. All of our products are really first to market and are built on novel technologies. There are no axillary thermometers or body fat analyzing scales available. What’s different about Mella is the ecosystem. Being able to combine data points for preventive illness and being able to share that in real time literally is about bringing the vet into the home.
What advice would you give to fellow pet care founders who are just starting their journey?
Ben: Do your homework. Be aware of who your customers are and listen to them. Get to your customers, whether they are in the vet clinics or homes. Those conversations and observations ultimately will inspire you to come up with solutions to their problems. The industry is ripe for innovation. I’m surprised there aren’t more people in it. There is a ton of opportunity for innovation, whether it’s on the side of nutrition or technology.
Tell us about your pet(s)!
Ben: At Mella, we name our products after our pets. My pet is an inspiration for the company. He is a three-year-old dog named Biggie. Our Biggie Scale is named after him. He is full of life, curious, and loving.
Check out Mella’s pitch at the Leap Venture Studio Cohort 5 Demo Day that was held on April 28, 2022. If you are interested in connecting with their team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.