Under New Owners, Petco’s Digital Strategy Emerges in Petnet Deal

Petco, the privately held pet supplies company based in San Diego, said today it led a $10 million Series A financing in Los Angeles-based Petnet, a three-year-old startup developing technology-enabled pet feeders and pet food delivery service.

The new funding will enable Petnet to expand its product line and sales and marketing capabilities. An existing investor, Los Angeles-based Aspiration Growth, joined in the round, along with unnamed investors.

The deal also reflects Petco’s expanding interests in technology following the company’s $4.6-billion acquisition (disclosed last November) by the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Petco also operates an administrative support center for finance, human resources, and other corporate functions in San Antonio, TX.

As part of today’s announcement, Petnet said its mobile-app enabled SmartBowl (priced at $49) is available online as of this week at Petco.com and at select Petco stores nationwide. The “SmartFeeder” ($149) is available at Amazon, BestBuy, Target, and Petco. In the statement, Petnet co-founder and CEO Carlos Herrera said, “We are pleased to partner with Petco to leverage their know-how and existing infrastructure to reach more pet owners across the U.S.”

The free Petnet mobile app enables pet owners to manage SmartFeeder feeding times, portion sizes, and food supply from their smartphone. The SmartBowl, introduced in January, helps pet owners measure food portions, and provides feeding guidance based on information that owners submit about their pets’ age, weight, activity level, and breed.

Petnet raised $4 million last October from Aspiration Growth, Black River Ventures, iRobot, and the Amazon Alexa Fund. Petnet said at the time that the funding was intended to expand its digital supply chain and bring its SmartBowl technology to market.

Including the latest round, Petnet has raised a total of $21.5 million and now has about 30 employees, according to a spokeswoman for the company. Petnet’s products are manufactured in China. The startup does its R&D and design in Los Angeles.

Petco has intensified its focus on its own digital retail strategy. In March, the multi-billion dollar chain named retail veteran Jodi Watson to head Petco Direct, where she has taken over omni-channel responsibility for the company’s e-commerce businesses, including the websites petco.com, unleashedbypetco.com, drsfostersmith.com, and liveaquaria.com.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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