Lithuanian startup ZENOO, running a personalized RAW food & wellness product service for pets' well-being, takes an ambitious step towards international expansion and growth. ZENOO attracts a 300,000 EUR investment and successfully closes a pre-seed round led by Toma Sabaliauskienė, the CMO at Nord Security, with the participation of Angels Band, LUMUS Investments, Wave Ventures, UAB Akseleratorius and individual angel investor - Dmitry Sumin.
A passionate female founder with a mission to conveniently ensure pets' well-being
ZENOO began with the personal experience of the company's CEO and Co-founder Agota Jakutyte, who saved the life of her 9-year old chihuahua Ellie who had heart failure and a small chance at survival. After doing her own research and reaching out to the world's top pet health field leaders, Agota discovered the RAW diet concept and started feeding Ellie with homemade RAW food. After 3.5 years, Ellie is still alive and healthy as ever before.
Agota wanted to help not only Ellie but bring a healthy diet and lifestyle to as many pets as possible. By choosing the entrepreneurial way, Agota decided to design a high-tech solution, providing all pet owners RAW food deliveries as well as sharing relevant tips to ensure pet wellness. Now, this solution is called ZENOO and has successfully raised funding to continue growing.
"Over the last few years, I have come to realize that the most essential thing is to be yourself and lead the team according to your core values, not be afraid to show your vulnerability, and bravely go into the business world. No need to think if you're a woman, not rude or always super-rational, you won't be able to lead a team as great as men do. Many women have an infinite number of other strong qualities such as empathy, respect, or caring, which are vital to working with a team," mentions Agota Jakutytė, the CEO and co-founder at ZENOO.
Knowing the existing gender gap in the startup ecosystem, Agota's story represents a positive example of strong leadership and strategic passion for developing a business. It's also an inspiration for other women in tech to believe in themselves and bring their entrepreneurial solutions to the startup ecosystem.
Successfully closed pre-seed round
ZENOO secured the pre-seed funding of 300,000 EUR from Toma Sabaliauskienė, the lead investor, who is the CMO at Nord Security and Year's CMO'21 [Lithuania], Cyril Golub, the lead of this syndicate, who is also the Founding Member of Lithuanian Business Angel Network [Lithuania] and the Member of the Board at Angels Band [Belarus], LUMUS Investments, Wave Ventures [Finland], Dmitry Sumin, the Business Angel [Estonia] and Darius Žakaitis, the Managing Director at UAB Akseleratorius [Lithuania].
When explaining the main reasons for choosing ZENOO, co-founder of LUMUS Investments, Lucia Cerchlan noted: "First and foremost, it was the strength of the team - the combination of the domain expertise (Agota as a nutritionist expert) and the entrepreneurial drive (Mindaugas). Secondly, it was the market opportunity - around a quarter of European households own a pet and people are becoming increasingly aware of the effect of food on their health. And last, but certainly not least, it was the product thinking of the Founders - we believe that B2C businesses that adopted a customer-centric mentality have the highest probability of success."
"As a founding member of LitBAN [Lithuania] and a board member at Angels Band [Belarus], I keep my investment focus on the Baltics as a promising venture region. That's why our angel's syndicate exceeded the initially agreed allocation and invited co-investors from Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, and the USA to join us," says Cyril Golub.
The investment will help to boost the company's expansion into international markets, marketing efforts and new customer acquisition processes. It will support the launch of new, already tested and developed products. The funding will also help to expand as well as significantly strengthen the marketing and growth team.
The unique team spirit behind ZENOO brand
Undoubtedly, one of the most significant of ZENOO's growth and success elements is a superior team. ZENOO team members share a wide range of entrepreneurial expertise and strategic vision to ensure the pets' wellness 360 degrees experience.
"ZENOO team impressed us with their deep knowledge of the field, the very competitive product, and excellent execution. After the first success on the domestic market, they are a step away from international expansion,” states Cyril Golub.
A team of seven includes the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Agota Jakutytė, who also takes the position of Head of Nutritionist at the company. One more Co-founder is Mindaugas Kriščiūnas, holding a business development officer's role to execute business strategy, financing and fundraising processes. Another ZENOO rockstar is Edvinas Mačiulaitis, the Chief Product Officer who combines his previous e-commerce, product and banking experience to develop dog wellness products and services. The team also includes four more members, covering nutrition, digital marketing and creative roles.
"The team behind ZENOO caught my attention because they are ambitious, energetic, and bold. They showed inspiring results and clearly stood out from other startups. I chose talent over product this time because products and services have a tendency to eventually change. They have to be flexible and adapt to emerging circumstances. No matter how great the initial product, prototype, or idea is, it will not survive the market without an incredible team behind it," says Toma Sabaliauskienė.
Ambitions to spread ZENOO’s mission worldwide
"ZENOO aims to cover a dog owner's entire user journey - from personalized dog food through automated recommendations about feeding, supplements, training, activity levels and related training and wellness data up to building a marketplace for certified vets, dog trainers and nutrition experts. It's challenging to successfully pull this off, but we believe ZENOO is the right team to do it. Even though the competition is tough, the market is still very fragmented and there is no dominant player or to-go recourse in Europe for all of these essential things dog owners seek. Therefore, the vision of the ZENOO team makes us excited and we're extremely happy to have an opportunity to support them on their mission," comments Lucia Cerchlan.
ZENOO has successfully implemented an innovative business model in Lithuania by developing a food subscription service from an online store, which barely existed in Lithuania during the pre-pandemic period.
When commenting on the most appealing part of supporting ZENOO's growth, Toma Sabaliauskienė mentions: "The role of an angel investor is, first and foremost, to be a mentor, not just an additional source of funding. Besides, it is always interesting to regularly field-test your know-how in global marketing, leadership, and teamwork. The ZENOO team is not afraid to experiment, react, adapt to circumstances, listen, and learn rapidly. All this makes me confident about our growth prospects."
Although ZENOO delivers digital and physical products to European countries, the company aims to speed up its international expansion even more widely into all of Europe, Canada and USA with its Freeze Dried food subscription service. ZENOO also continues creating various products and services that ensure mentally and physically healthy pets. ZENOO has already prepared a special product launch this summer. Stay tuned for the exciting news!