Cloudburst Blitz Challenge


Cloudburst Blitz Challenge

How might we empower individual pet owners to enhance their relationship with the pets they love by creating a new business that leverages existing and emerging technologies to unleash Purina’s unique nutrition, health, and wellness expertise?


On November 4–5, 2015, Purina leaders, mach49, and a select group of collaborators gathered at T. Rex in St. Louis, Missouri, for the Cloudburst Blitz. 

The Blitz was an intense and immersive effort to
co-create new business ideas that might deliver new kinds of value to customers and extend Purina’s reach into new markets. 


Our goal

Develop a portfolio of business ideas that have the potential to expand our reach beyond pet food and kitty litter to acquire new customers and grow new streams of revenue. 

Our objectives

  • Apply next-generation design thinking practices to a significant challenge and opportunity
  • Leverage the trends, technologies, and expertise that drive Silicon Valley
  • Generate killer use cases and potential beachhead customer segments
  • Prepare for incubation


Cloudburst Blitz Approach

Cloudburst Blitz Approach

Think Wrong

We used drills from across six Think Wrong Practices to generate a portfolio of small bets that address our challenge and realize our opportunity.



Dream about the difference we might be able to make.

Seek fresh inspiration for status quobusting ideas.

Imagine what’s possible beyond the biases and orthodoxies that hold us back.

Build to gain greater clarity about the potential of our emerging solutions.

Learn through doing and decrease innovation risk.

Share what we learn and the insights we gain to speed up our time to impact.



Deflection Point
Challenge Challenge
5 Whys


Trend Takeover
Outlaw Raid

The Big Yes!
In a Box
Pecha Canvas

Pecha Redux
Question Time


Matters Most
Asset Jam

New New
It’s About Me
Dog in a Hat


Cloudburst Blitz Outcomes

Cloudburst Blitz Outcomes

Transformative solutions, key insights, and new practices.

The Cloudburst Blitz produced valuable ideas and insights, and built our innovation muscles through the use of new Think Wrong Practices.


Five Big Ideas

Pet Wearbles

Big Idea No. 1:

The pet parent conundrum:

“Am I good pet owner?” 

“I’m uncertain on nutrition. I’m guilty about the amount of exercise they’re getting. I’m anxious about their health and well-being.”

“When I turn to the Internet I feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and confused. I just don’t know what to believe and what to do.”

There’s a need for a coach to help build pet owner expertise—an expert who brings 85 years of R&D, nutrition, exercise, and behavior knowledge. A coach who offers advice, based on facts and experience, to improve pet lives and pet/parent relationships. A coach how helps pet parents gain confidence, pride, and peace of mind.

Companion uses a combination of wearables to track the pet, big data analytics to aggregate the data from millions of pets, Purina’s knowledge and insights based on 85 years of science and research, and apps to help pet parents take action.

Big Idea No. 2:
Pet Knect

Using heart rate variability (HRV) as its foundation, Pet Knect proposes to deliver immediate and specific actionable information to pet parents via an app that connects—through Purina's network—to a biometric wearable on their pet. Knect is not just about collecting data and delivering statistics—it’s about helping pet parents take immediate action to improve the well-being of their pet—and themselves.

Veterinarians have said that if there was one biometric that you’d want to collect from a pet in real time it would be HRV.

By understanding variations and patterns in pet HRV—what they mean and what actions we might take—we might unearth health issues early, alter behavior for the better, and improve the bond between pets and parents.

Knect might be extensible to other bio-monitors and, ultimately, other markets such as babies—another nonverbal mammal living in our homes!

Pet Knect will leverage research and science at Purina as well as its brand, credibility, and existing customer base.

Big Idea No. 3:

There are more than 200 million connected fitness devices for humans and that number continues to grow—along with the number of apps that aggregate and use data. The thousands of developers who are becoming experts in these technologies will also continue to grow. But they don't know pets like Purina knows pets.

That’s where PetOS comes in. PetOS is a platform where third-party developers are able to build new products and services. PetOS also gives meaning to its users’ data through a pet analytics engine that provides insight, access to developer toolkits, and, for additional fees, access to richer services and data.

PetOS is the arbitrator and aggregator of data for pets from millions of devices—whether Purina makes them or not. With scale, PetOS becomes the platform where developers of pet products must be.

PetOS might be an entirely virtual platform with the ability to generate revenue and value from third-party products and development efforts.

Pet Services

Big Idea No. 4:
Snoopy’s List

Whom are you going to call?

When you come home late Friday night to find your cat has chewed up the plant your neighbor just gave you, do you go to bed or do you rush to the emergency vet?

Or when you are new in town, how do you find the best trainer, vet, pet sitter, or groomer?

Snoopy’s List is designed to deliver confidence and peace of mind. It answers your most pressing questions based on facts and science, and makes recommendations beyond the random anecdotal. 

Purina is uniquely qualified to provide this assistance. We know pets—and we can help 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our knowledge, expertise, and brand help pet parents overcome the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) of the Internet.

Snoopy’s List offers Purina multisided revenue: owner subscriptions, membership fees, revenue shares from referrals, and even potential advertising from adjacent businesses. Snoopy's List represents a high-margin business as demonstrated by Angie’s List in the human world.

Social Venture

Big Idea No. 5:
Air P’n’P

For every homeless person there are five homeless dogs. That’s wrong.

The orthodox view is that there are pet owners and nonpet owners. We know there is a third group—people who want to be pet owners but are either time poor or unsure about which pet is right for them.

Air P’n’P is all about fit—finding the right pet for the right person. By working with shelters, rescue groups, and owners who need a hand, Air P’n’P matches the needs of the pet with the needs of people trying to decide which pet is best for them—or who want to be able to enjoy the experience of pets but are not able to be full-time pet parents.

When Air P’n’P fills this need, we not only provide value to people and pets, but we also have the opportunity to turn those interactions into a gateway for other Purina products and services from a position of trust and respect.

Air P’n’P provides Purina with an opportunity to move quickly into new markets, learn, and adapt as needed.

Get Out(siders)

We sought fresh inspiration from the people and pets of St. Louis.

We invited outsiders to help us escape our own heuristic biases and inspire us with their knowledge, insights, and experiences.

The personal connection that came from getting out and having face-to-face conversations with people on the streets of St. Louis created emotional connections, understanding, and a focus on our challenge that data alone could never achieve.

Getting out helped us put real faces on the people who might matter most to our success. It helped us empathize with their needs and inspired our business ideas. We were surprised by how willing people were to share with us.

We invited outsiders into the Blitz. Some with parallels to our business. Others were more orthogonal. We curated industrial designers, academics, heart scientists, financial services experts, venture capitalists, defense industry entrepreneurs, product developers, and makers. Each brought enthusiasm, knowledge, experience—and an unclouded naiveté about the pet business—to help us conceive of businesses we would not have conceived of on our own.

Inviting outsiders into our process—especially one as important as inventing our future—was a bold step for us. We will continue to ask ourselves, “How might we bring outside perspectives into our efforts more often?”

Connect Connect Connect

A universal desire among pet parents to connect, communicate with, and better understand their pets emerged.

From bike cops to tattooed cat lovers to business owners—pet parents all expressed a strong desire to connect at a deeper level with their pets by understanding their needs, health, and feelings. And, through that connection and understanding, to improve their own health and well-being, as well as that of their pets.

The seven teams’ emerging business ventures quickly began to converge around this shared desire to physically, emotionally, and virtually connect with pets. Each team approached this idea from different angles—providing Purina with multiple ways to meet the connection need. 

Teach an Old Dog

We can run faster than the most nimble startup out there. 

We learned that when we take advantage of our combined wisdom and experience, let go of heuristics, and cut out needless debate, we can go from vague ideas to pitching potential businesses to our executives—in a day and a half!


Cloudburst Blitz Key Outputs

Cloudburst Blitz Key Outputs

Every Output Is an Input

Each Think Wrong drill produces useful output, which becomes input for subsequent drills. Documentation of our drills provides us with a rich collection of ideas and insights to mine. 



Matters Most

We discovered who matters most to our success. Then we took to the streets of St. Louis—and phone calls to vets in California—to meet them, discover their needs states, and allow them to inspire us to imagine businesses that might surprise and delight them.


Team 1: Media

Team 2: Family

Team 3: Big Data

Team 4: Pet Owners

Team 5: Retailers

Team 6: Veterinarians

Team 7: Pet

We identified who matters most to Cloudburst so that we could keep these archetypes in mind as we got out.  



Escape the Status Quo

We recognized the enemy—the path of “business as usual”—and committed to escape its gravitational force by taking a “bold path” to our stated moonshots and reframed challenges.  


Team 1:

Moonshot: Translate pets’ thoughts and feelings so that their pet parents can understand them.

Challenge Challenge: How will Purina’s unique expertise improve pet owners’ ability to experience and share the world with their pets?

Team 2:

Moonshot: Create two-way communication between pets and pet parents.

Moonshot: Give pets the ability to autonomously control aspects of their lives.

Challenge Challenge: How might we revolutionize the personal pet/owner relationship to fully realize our pet care promise?

Team 3:

Moonshot: Dogs become a proxy for human family health.

Moonshot: Stop pet behavioral issues.  

Challenge Challenge: Purina will leverage its pet-centric expertise to empower pets to reveal insights/truths about themselves, allowing humans to deepen the bonds with their pets.



Team 4:

Moonshot: Prevent premature deaths in pets caused by preventable diseases.

Moonshot: Enable pet/human telepathy 

Challenge Challenge: How might we game change pet/owner relationships via new-to-the- world technology and understanding?

Challenge Challenge: How might we empower pet owners to transform relationships with pets by unleashing Purina’s brand and expertise combined with technology?

Challenge Challenge: How might we provide tailored and personalized pet nutrition, health, and wellness to transform the pet/owner relationship using existing and emerging technology?

Challenge Challenge: How might Purina use its unique expertise to transform the lives of pets and the people who love them?

Challenge Challenge: How might we reinvent the pet/owner journey?

Challenge Challenge: How might we personalize and amplify the relationship between pets and owners?

Challenge Challenge: How might we game change and personalize pet owners’ relationship with their pet?

Team 5:

Moonshot: Enable pets and people to have two-way communication. 

Moonshot: Help pets and people make each other healthier. 

Moonshot: Extend the life of all pets beyond their orthodox life expectancy. 

Challenge Challenge: How might we create the largest real-life, cross-breed, cross-brand, cross-environment data set—allowing Purina to produce the most advanced products and experiences on the market, enhance the relationship between pets and people, and increase pet and family health as well as brand loyalty?


Team 6:

Moonshot: Realize true pet/owner communication. 

Challenge Challenge: How might we increase pet owners’ understanding of their pets, so we can eliminate suffering in silence and improve the joy of the human/pet connection?

Team 7:

Moonshot: Create the database of pet biological behavior.

Moonshot: Gut health monitor for pets.

Moonshot: Make actual pets irrelevant.

Challenge Challenge: How might we empower all pet parents to deepen the bond with their pets, creating new delightful experiences by leveraging science, technology, and Purina’s expertise to make Purina synonymous with pet/owner happiness?




We Got It

Purina is asset rich—possessing resources a startup could only dream of having. We took an inventory of existing resources that might be used to accomplish our moonshots and build businesses to meet our reframed challenges.



Open the Aperture

We let go of our orthodoxies. We were inspired by trends, outlaws, and our existing assets. We generated hundreds of ideas for new ventures—fast. Then we used the collective wisdom of our teams to choose the most compelling businesses—without letting debate, posturing, or politics slow us down.


We randomly selected three resources from our “Asset Jam” posters, then imagined challenge-meeting businesses we might build from them.



Each team was assigned a trend from the Blitz Inspiration File, then asked to generate challenge-meeting business ventures through the lens of that trend.

Trend Takeover

Each team was assigned an outlaw who had taken over the Cloudburst Initiative. The teams were then asked to imagine the businesses those outlaws might conceive of to meet their reframed challenge. Halfway through the Outlaw Raid, each team was joined by a second outlaw—Donald Trump—and asked what their two outlaws might dream up together.

Outlaw Raid

Teams were asked to sort their business venture ideas into four categories and evaluate their potential to expand Purina’s reach and grow revenue:

New Customer / New Offer
New Customer / Existing Offer
Existing Customer / New Offer
Existing Customer / Existing Offer


New New

Make It Big

We held back on our impulse to get to a single answer and shunned the Devil’s Advocate. Instead, we accepted every offer and built on our teammates’ ideas to make them even bigger. 


The Big Yes

Each team selected the three business venture ideas that had the greatest potential to create new value for pets, their parents, and Purina—and that we were most passionate about. We then used “The Big Yes” to elaborate on those ideasmaking them more vivid, more tangible, and more fantastic.


Make It Real

We brought our emerging business venture ideas to life, transforming them from words on Post-its to business ventures we could picture and share with others.


Wellness made easy.

Air P’n’P
Connecting pets and people.

Snoopy’s List
Personalized to your pet’s unique needs.


Do more with Doolittle.

Pet Knect
Enabling stronger connections.

Enabling the smartest products for pets.


Capturing the sensory superpowers of pets.

The Box of Love
The truth is in here.

Baby Knect
Enabling stronger connections.


Pet Concierge
Trusted information from expert advisors.

Pets on Demand
Short-term pet ownership.

Talk to the animals.


Pet Connect
Connecting pets and the people who love them.

Ear Boy
You can hear me now.

Connect to a community.


Share It

Inspired by each other’s new ventures, we merged and remixed teams for our nascent businesses—building pitch decks in less than an hour.


The next level of loving your pet.

Pet Knect
Enabling deeper bonds.

Snoopy’s List
Anytime. On Call. At Home. Answer Engine.


Enabling the smartest products for pets.

Air P’n’P
Connecting pets and people.

Talk to the animals.


Ear Boy
You can hear me now.


Dogs in Hats

We see a lot of dogs at Purina, but we’d still pay close attention to a dog wearing a hat. We wrapped up the Cloudburst Blitz by sharing the stickiest moments, themes, and ideas that had emerged. 


“Hey, check out that dog in a hat.” 

People love to talk about their pets. 

There’s no better way to engage than a spontaneous conversation.

We can be more than just food.

The power of word of mouth.

The desire to communicate with our pets, even if we don’t like them.

The child/pet connection: Drawing inspiration from how we communicate with newborns.

Influence from the adoption space: “Car Facts” for dogs and cats.

From bald spots to tattoos: Extreme pet owner commitments and relationships.

Yes& Have Fun

We know that play results in more creativity and greater innovation. We worked hard. And laughed hard. We took our challenge seriously—but not ourselves.


To counter status dynamics and get into a playful mood, we took photos of ourselves in our best World Wrestling Federation poses. Then we paired our photos (and pictures of our pets) with personal and pet confessions (written with our nondominant hands—or paws—to preserve anonymity).



Before we moved into the Make Stuff Practice, we reminded ourselves of how it feels to have a new idea killed by a “Yes, but...” and experienced the positive impact of “Yes, and...”



Cloudburst Blitz Blitzers

Cloudburst Blitz Blitzers

Outlaws and Think Wrong Leaders


We rode beyond the limits of convention—overcoming biology (how our brains work) and culture (how organizations and institutions behave)—to create a portfolio of market-expanding, revenue-growing business ventures for Purina.

Click on any image to view our Think Wrong Gang.


Gang members not pictured

Adam Pollard

Bill Broun

Blair Morgan

Joe Ferraro

John True
Cultivation Capital

Kurt Venator

Mark Brodeur

Olivia Combest