23-year-old Belgian university student Alexis Soulopoulos founded Mad Paws, as a way to connect pet lovers with animals for home stays, walks or visits to the vet.
For Mad Paws, launching was more important than a polished product.
“We rushed together a website and, from day one, immediately sought customer feedback,” says Soulopoulos.
“We immediately started improving. Now three years later, we have a [platform] that really caters to the needs of our customers – the pet sitters.”
That innovation extends to a new headquarters in a tech sharing hub in Sydney, as well as a new mobile app.
However, the importance of real-world engagement is a top priority.
“The moment we started picking up the phone and getting close to our customers, was the moment our growth curve went from flat to straight up. The key is listening to our customers,” Soulopoulos says.
An enduring obstacle has been assuring pet owners their animals are in safe hands.
A strict vetting process and daily photo updates from minders helps to reassure paying customers.
“You are not going to leave your fur baby with anyone unless you 100 per cent trust that this is the best solution, and that your pet is going to be happy and well looked after,” says Soulopoulos.
Dog sitter Fiona Wilkie is one of 8000 Mad Paws hosts supplementing their income with a regular animal billet.
She says, “it is just an absolute blessing having these critters in my life. The bonus is I get paid to do what I love so it is a perfect win-win.”
Fiona aims for one dog stay a week at her park-side home and is happy to surrender twenty per cent of her booking fee to Mad Paws, knowing she gains comprehensive pet liability insurance.
“I know the dog is protected, the owner is protected and I am protected. If they can find such a great working model, I think they have done a great job.”
Mad Paws’ 20-person team is hoping the latest funding round will help bolster their profile.
“We are doing really well. [We’re] tripling in growth each year, but I wouldn’t say we are a household name yet. One of the goals the increased funds will help us become a brand – a household name,” says Soulopoulos.