Purina Pet Care Innovation Prize, ClueJay

Denver-based startup, ClueJay, earned the grand prize of 2021 Purina Pet Care Innovation Prize Program.

Five pet care startups from across the United States virtually pitched their businesses to pet industry influencers and investors in late March during Global Pet Expo Digital Access in a bid to win the 2021 Pet Care Innovation Prize, but it was ClueJay that came out on top. As the grand prize winner, ClueJay was awarded a cash prize of $10,000 and support from Nestlé Purina PetCare, which is based in St. Louis.

ClueJay is a Denver-based online diagnostic platform that allows pet owners to access lab tests on demand from home. Dog and cat owners collect and mail fecal samples for parasite screening without the “hassle and stress” of vet visits.

“Last year, we committed to making ClueJay competitive for this innovation prize,” said Dennis Chmiel, veterinarian and co-founder of ClueJay. “It’s a great feeling to be here today as a grand prize winner. The journey and support of Purina has made ClueJay so much stronger.”

ClueJay was selected by a panel of judges consisting of investors, industry professionals and the leaders from Purina’s 9 Square Ventures division. Earlier this year, five startups were selected from more than 100 companies from 43 cities globally to participate in the 2021 class for the Pet Care innovation Prize. Each winner received $10,000 cash and participated in a virtual bootcamp accelerator experience with business professionals, industry leaders, veterinarians and Purina executives to broaden their network, strengthen their business plan and access knowledge from across the pet care landscape.

“The 2021 class of Pet Care Innovation Prize winners represents what’s new and what’s next in the $104 billion pet care industry,” officials said, citing statistics from the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

The other prize winners were:

• Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Kitty Sift, which offers a convenient, healthy and sustainable alternative to the plastic litter box, according to officials. Made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled cardboard, Kitty Sift’s disposable sifting litter boxes and liners allow pet owners to ditch plastic alternatives for a more sanitary, eco-friendly solution that protects their kitty and the planet, officials said.

• Austin, Texas-based A Pup Above, which makes fresh dog food that’s cooked sous-vide, a cooking method that makes meat extra tender and moist while also preserving nutrients, according to officials. Made with 100 percent human-grade ingredients that are fully traceable back to the source, A Pup Above delivers on average 72 percent more protein than other leading gently cooked dog foods, officials said.

• Chicago-based Mella Pet Care, which builds accessible technology and diagnostic products for veterinarians and pet owners to better understand and track pet health to help their pets live longer, healthier lives, according to officials. Co-created with veterinarians, Mella Pet Care is launching the first smart axillary thermometer, which measures temperature under the foreleg rather than rectally, officials said.

• Florida-based VetGuardian, which is the only zero touch remote telemonitor for veterinarians, according to officials. The device continuously gathers a patient’s vitals like pulse, temperature and respiration rate from up to five feet away without the need for wires or physical contact—eliminating unnecessary stress to animals, officials said.

“We are really impressed by ClueJay and the entire 2021 class for what they are bringing to the industry,” said Bill Broun, co-lead of Purina’s 9 Square Ventures division and vice president of personalization and business development at Purina. “By offering programs like the Pet Care Innovation Prize, we can collaborate with these talented startups, support their growth and work together to shape the future of pet care.”

The Pet Care Innovation Prize was created to support and connect with early-stage pet care startups that are currently in market with an innovative business addressing pet and pet owner needs in the areas of pet health and wellness, services, technology, and food, treats or litter.

The Pet Care Innovation Prize is a collaborative effort of Purina’s 9 Square Ventures division and impact investors Active Capital. Previous Pet Care Innovation Prize winners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity and prizes from investors and accelerator programs across the United States, according to officials.

As Purina’s corporate venturing group, 9 Square Ventures has been focused on connecting with pet care startups since 2014. The team’s mission is to leverage Purina’s knowledge, experience and financial resources to help emerging pet care startups scale their businesses and make a positive impact on the lives of as many pets and their owners as possible, officials said.

For more of PPN's coverage on Purina, read: