Startups is a new column about new companies, big ideas and bold discoveries happening in the L.A. area.
Andrea Carrano was raised in Italy, which means he grew up with table-fed canines. That also was true of his brother-in-law, Ali Niroomand, who grew up in France.
"Very few people were buying store-bought dog food there," Carrano says. "My parents would give the dogs basically table scraps, chicken leftovers and brown rice."
Fast-forward a few decades, when, weary of industrial-size bags of puppy chow and lethargic pets, the Carrano and Niroomand families again began feeding their pups homemade food. They noticed a world of difference: Their pets' tails were waggier and their breath was almost pleasant (which, for a dog, is saying something).
The wheels were starting to turn when Carrano, who lives in L.A., saw the film Supersize Me and realized that a good 30-day doggie diet might be a neat idea. Carrano says the response to the samples of the fresh homemade mixtures he gave to friends and neighbors was overwhelming. "One of the older couples we delivered to hugged me," he says. "They said they even felt young again. I don't know if we'd have gotten that response if we did this for their kids."
And so DooD was born, a bicoastal company that will deliver freshly made, additive-free dog food right to your door in L.A. and Manhattan, and almost anywhere in the Lower 48 overnight. The nearly year-old startup employs a Cornell University veterinary consultant, as well as more than a dozen employees. Dogs get their choice of beef, turkey, chicken and lamb, all of them fortified with fresh veggies, rice, even flaxseed.
"We started getting deeper into research into the commercial pet industry in general, and we started seeing some really crazy things," Carrano says. (He insisted on going off the record for his descriptions of what actually goes into big-name pet products. Given what goes into the worst of human processed foods, you can safely assume they were not pretty descriptions.)
How did the startup dig up the cash to get to market? Kickstarter 1.0: Those same friends and family who tried their product in the first place. "Once they started telling other people what we found, it was a lot easier. Referral over referral. We raised more than $350,000 in two weeks," Carrano explains.
With a price point matching that of high-end, "natural," store-bought dog food, DooD food may be a bit expensive for your average dog owner. But considering the attention pet owners shower on their babies, perhaps not.
"Look, we're not saying, 'Buy our food or your dog is going to get sick.' We're saying, 'This is exactly what is in our food.' And I think that's what matters the most," Carrano says.