Embark Veterinary, a producer of DNA testing kits for dogs, now carries a value of $700 million. This new valuation comes following a $75 million Series B financing round at the end of July. Embark’s goal is to prolong the lifespan of dogs. It also wants to help them lead healthier lives by detecting genetic issues early on.
Led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, it was the biggest Series B round for a pet startup to date. Other investors that joined the $75 million Series B round included SV Angel, Slow Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Freestyle Capital, and Third Kind Venture Capital.
Embark Founded in 2015
Embark was founded by Ryan Boyko in 2015 with help from his brother Adam Boyko. An avid dog lover, Ryan Boyko wanted to bring accessible health testing for dogs to scale. The startup was founded in Austin, Texas and is now headquartered in Boston. Matt Salzberg is the founder and former CEO of the meal delivery service Blue Apron. He was a fellow co-founder of the company.
In conceptualizing the idea behind Embark’s DNA test kits, Boyko describes parts of his thought process. “I began to think about health problems, and honestly, dogs are a better system for using genetics to better their health than humans. You can breed them, so genetics has as much power to cause health problems as it can improve quality and life.”
Humans Led the Way
The concept of at-home genetic testing kits has already taken off with humans. AncestryDNA and 23andMe are among the biggest players in the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market. 23andMe reported revenues of $59 million for the first quarter of 2021. It also said it has a customer database of approximately 11.6 million genotyped customers. AncestryDNA claims to have a DNA database of more than 18 million customers.
Anne Wojcicki, CEO and Co-Founder of 23andMe, stated, “we believe that genetic information is the future of personalized medicine.” Indeed, the company has already attempted to expand that personalization beyond just humans. 23andMe recently launched a wellness report on cat and dog allergies.
Embark a Leader in Dog DNA Testing Kits
Notwithstanding this, Embark Veterinary is recognized as one of the leading companies in the market for dog DNA testing kits. Other competitors include Wisdom Health, OptiGen, Paw Print Genetics, and DNA My Dog. While some of these products are slightly more budget-friendly, Embark has gained recognition from many sources as one of the best canine genetic testing kits on the market.
Dog DNA test kits are just expensive or even more expensive than human DNA test kits. Embark’s dog DNA test kits are $199. The product, known as the “Embark Breed + Health Kit”, only requires a simple cheek swab in order to unveil background about the dog’s breed, ancestry, and health. Embark is able to test for over 350 breeds and 200 genetic health risks.
As an example, a common genetic test is HUU, or Hyperuricosuria. Hyperuricosuria causes the excessive excretion of uric acid in the urine, which can result in kidney stones forming in the bladder or kidneys. By detecting a genetic predisposition for this condition early on, a dog’s diet can be modified to reduce the likelihood of the dog developing Hyperuricosuria.
Research Partner with Vet Schools
Embark is an official research partner with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, known for being the best veterinary program in the United States. Both Ryan Boyko and Adam Boyko have scientific research backgrounds themselves. In collaboration with Cornell, they hope to reduce preventable diseases in dogs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, dog ownership spiked as Americans sought canine companions. It is estimated that over 12 million U.S. households got a new pet during the pandemic, a large percentage of which were dogs. In 2020, spending on pets reached $100 billion in the United States.
Venture capital interest in pet industry investments has grown in tandem with the rise in pet ownership. Since 2017, venture capitalists and other startup investors have poured over $2 billion into pet-focused startups. These pet-focused startups are frequently looking to bring better healthcare delivery, more affordable care options, and technological advancements to the pet market.
Extensive Growth Potential
Lydia Jett, a partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, sees the extensive growth potential of Embark. “This company is a driver of change to happen. We are the largest consumer investor in the world, and Embark is very much aligned with what we are seeing across our portfolio that consumers are revisiting priorities and choices. That is a major trend, but still early in the cycle of personalization for their pets,” she stated.
Embark grew 235% between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, sales increased fivefold over the past two years. The canine genetics company has come a long way since its $10 million Series A round in 2019. Boyko and team hope to use the recently raised funds to expand its genetic database and hire more than 100 new employees between 2021 and 2022.