Anna Skaya, Founder and CEO of Basepaws, pioneered cat DNA kits for the home to provide cats … [+]
Courtesy of Basepaws
All animal lovers have one thing in common: They want the best for their four-legged friend. In March, the American Pet Products Association announced that the industry had reached over $ 100 billion in annual sales, the highest level in the history of the industry. 34 billion was spent on animal care and product sales, an increase of 7.2%. According to Spots, 67% of American households have a pet, with 53% owning dogs and only 35% having cats. As more households have dogs, there are more products on the market for testing a dog’s DNA than cat DNA kits. On Chewy’s website alone, it’s a 10 to 3 ratio. However, as technology advances and interest increases, companies like Basepaws are making DNA kits more accessible and accurate for cats.
Anna Skaya, CEO and Founder of Basepaws, is a pioneer in cat genetics, helping cat lovers better groom their pets by providing reports on breed, DNA, and dental health. With an ever growing genome database, she and her team have a mission to improve the lives of cats around the world by genetically understanding what makes each cat unique.
In terms of the number of dog and cat genomes sequenced, the goals and research funding available for the two areas look completely different. For example, the 99 Lives project sequenced roughly 200 domestic cat genomes compared to the Dog10K project, which aims to sequence the genomes of 10,000 dogs and wild canids and all known dog breeds. In Basepaws, it corrects this imbalance between the two fields. It is building the world’s largest cat genomics database, currently containing tens of thousands of cat genomes that have been sequenced at either great or shallow depths.
“The idea of genetics really appealed to me,” said Skaya. “It was based on a need I had from my own cat, an interest that I found absolutely fascinating. … I had a chance meeting with the CEO of 23andMe. She had just invested in a company similar to Basepaws, but for dogs. Her passion was consumer genomics for humans and animals. And their passion rubbed off. I saw her talking to our group and it just clicked. I had a cat. I was really excited about the idea of doing something in science. I’m not a scientist and I had to find a co-founder. I heard her say someone should do this for cats and call it 23andMeow. We all laughed. I went home that evening and bought the url. That was the beginning.”
Skaya’s startup career began at Bazaarvoice. She started at the bottom and worked her way up. Eventually, the tour gave her the opportunity to develop Bazaarvoice UK
Anna Skaya, Founder and CEO of Basepaws, speaks at Pet Tech Los Angeles.
Courtesy of Basepaws
When she was presenting at her last conference on behalf of Bazaarvoice, an investor approached her and asked if she would be interested in a position on a team of four to further develop the idea of City Deal. She put her master on hold and within a week she met the others on the team. Within 18 months, Groupon started the process of acquiring the company. She then became CEO of Russia Groupon.
“I got there at twenty-seven,” explains Skaya. “There was a team of 200 and the mandate was to get to 600 by the end of the year. We were in the middle of the year. I’m the CEO and I totally freaked out. I’m moving from running part of City Deal in the UK to running all of it in Russia. … My experience with this company really hardened me. I got there and many tall stocky men raised their eyebrows. I had a lot to prove. I got out when the company went public. “
Skaya then founded two other companies, VisualDNA and breakupbuddy. “My claim to fame is that I can sell things online,” she smiles. “I can get people to look at ads. … When I finished with breakupbuddy, I finished with commercials. I was fed up with chasing you around the internet selling you things. You could say I had a little identity crisis, whether it was all worth it or not. I wanted to do something useful. “
She was inducted into Singularity University in Silicon Valley, now the Singularity Group. At the time, the program was supported by Google and was based at NASA’s research facility in Mountain View. It focused on the challenges and opportunities that exponential technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, and genetic sequencing present. She expanded during the year-long program
With no income, Skaya raised $ 300,000 in pre-seed funding. She’s been on Shark Tank and even dealt with investors who told her they didn’t want to invest because they were dog people. She and her team are now close to completing a Series A round in the coming months.
Anna Skaya, Founder of Basepaws CEO, Damian Kao and Anya Kuzmenko at CES.
Courtesy of Basepaws
“Had this been a dog company, all dog, I think it would have been a lot easier,” she comments. “Investors, who in my opinion would have been absolutely perfect for us, didn’t identify with the problem we wanted to solve. I remember a very famous investor flew him and half of his team to Los Angeles to meet us. Perfect fit on all levels. Everything was great. The important thing was that he wasn’t a cat person. … I have it in writing: ‘I’m not a cat person.’ ”
In the further conversion and expansion of Basepaws, Skaya will focus on the following key steps:
- Adviser on board. They will help you break new ground.
- Do it. If you think about a situation for too long, you will never start.
- Ask yourself if you will regret not doing something. If the answer is yes, then face your fear and give it a try.
Skaya concludes, “Helping others and seeing them grow is such a great feeling.”