Competes for Pet Prize

In the last six weeks, two Internet-based distributors of pet goods and services have combined to raise $116 million in venture funding from investors that include Inc., PETCO Animal Supplies Inc. and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

In an effort to succeed in the increasingly crowded market, is building a community site for pet owners, rather than an e-commerce pet superstore, said Chief Executive Niloo Howe.

Zone Ventures, the Southern California affiliate of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, led’s first institutional round of venture financing. The Series A round also attracted investments from Wasatch Venture Fund, another Draper Fisher affiliate, and Avalon Investments. The company would not disclose further details of the financing round.

As part of the deal, Zone Ventures Partner Frank Creer has joined the company’s board of directors, which also includes former executives from c2c Media and Fox Broadcasting Co., which formerly operated as an online pet encyclopedia, plans to re-launch its Web site August 16. Proceeds from the investment will support the re-launch, increase staff to 50 from 10 employees by year-end, and build sales and marketing operations.

“I view it as an advantage to be an Internet company that is nimble, flexible and unconstrained by all the problems associated with traditional retailers,” Howe said. “We don’t need to spend multi-million dollars to get listed on America Online and Yahoo!”

Howe said will differ from the larger sites by offering only high-end pet products that are not sold in grocery stores. She added that the Web site will also provide a wider resource for users, and focus on a variety of pets beyond cats and dogs.

The company will likely raise an additional private round and recruit additional strategic investors sometime in the next three months.