The future of veterinary care is connected and ‘kool’

By: Asad Butt | Partner of Leap Venture Studio

Innovation in veterinary care was on full display this year at VMX 2020, one of the largest gatherings of veterinary professionals in the world. Hundreds of companies showcased their latest offerings, including 26 startups showcasing inside VMX’s Startup Circle. Five of those startups vied for $15,000 in prize money in the third annual Leap Venture Academy’s Pet Project pitch competition to promote new commerce and showcase products and services in the veterinary industry, making a difference in the lives of pets.

Relief Rover took home the top prize for its platform connecting relief veterinarians to each other, jobs, resources, and service providers to help grow their businesses. Along with its win, Relief Rover was awarded a $10,000 prize.

The second place prize of $5,000 was awarded to KoolSkinz, which creates pet performance wear products. Its first product, a “kooling” vest is capable of keeping dogs cool for up to two hours in 90+ degree weather during active play.

Introduced at VMX 2018, the Leap Pet Project Pitch Competition is sponsored by the NAVC and Leap for the third consecutive year. This year, for the first time, the competition was held in the VMX Park Theater as part of the opening of the Expo Hall creating more exposure for the five competing startup companies among the 17,000 VMX attendees. Together, the NAVC, Leap and other previous sponsors have awarded nearly $100,000 to support and launch startup companies over the past three years at VMX.

Finalists have the opportunity to network with leaders in the pet care industry and receive mentorship and critical feedback to help accelerate their ideas into a thriving business. These high-impact innovations will help to improve veterinary care and enhance the lives of animals throughout the next decade.

Relief Rover and KoolSkinz competed against three other startups in the Pet Project pitch competition, including:

  • CRIJO: a cat enrichment product line for animal shelters; enters the veterinary market with products that will provide educational value and research opportunities for cats.

This year’s judges included Cindy Cole, Partner of Digitalis Ventures; Brett Yates, COO of Michelson Found Animals Foundations; Jeannine Taaffe, VP of Digital Health of Kinship, Angela Hughes, Global Science Advocacy and Veterinary Geneticist at Mars Petcare; Dan Valha, Sr. VP of Events and Exhibits of NAVC; and Gene O’Neill, Interim CEO of NAVC.

Leap has a strong history of investing in both winners and finalists through our Leap Venture Studio. We look forward to continued interaction between these startups and Leap, Kinship and our partners, as they all work to shape a better world for pets. If you are working on a startup idea, check out our events to help you get to the next level:



Kinship is a coalition of like-minded people passionate about creating the future of pet care.

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Kinship is a coalition of like-minded people passionate about creating the future of pet care.