Retail

Off the leash growth for pet business Mad Paws

SBS Small Business Secrets /

Three years ago, a university student with no business experience outside an internship at a bank, identified a gap in the multi-billion dollar pet market.

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.

This video and article were originally published by SBS Small Business Secrets.

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  • luxelover

    Err, DogVacay and Rover, US-based businesses (who recently merged), created this model several years ahead of these guys – and a whole bunch of local copy-cats (pun intended) jumped on the bandwagon a couple of years ago, including PetCloud and PawShake once DogVacay’s US success was already big news states-side. Some acknowledgement of where the idea came from would be appreciated. What will be interesting is to see whether any of them eventually become an acquisition target for the big US-based groups once they reach market saturation in their domestic market…

    • Arthur Graben

      Finally someone spoke out. Most of the Aussie tech startups are copy-cats of US ones specially in B2C market. And it’s nothing to be ashame of I guess. What’s became a cliche is local founders pretending that they came up with the idea themselves. Often when they are not even the first copy-cat in Aussie market. Many people in tech startup see through this but not so much general public so media journalists are happy to pump it up. I’m yet to see honest interview like “there were three well established companies in US and EU: x1, x2 and x3 that proved business model since 2009 and two in Australia since 2012 (y1 and y2) but me and my founder thought in 2014 that we can do it better and here we are”. I guess that would be inconsistent with lack of creativity and general dishonesty in business dealing (aka grotwh hacking) in the first place. Tech startup is a sad scene of ‘fake it till you make it’. They all dream to sell out to overseas champion and one of them may, the rest will eventually run out of investors money and sources of new funding and disappear into the sunset…

      • Andreas Dzumla

        That’s probably partly true, but it’s also so much easier to see and judge this in hindsight – very often it’s much more the case that you launch something here while the US equivalent is not nearly as big or visible as it is once your Aussie startup has finally reached some traction.

        So the big trend it looks like someone jumped on in 2012, just because it’s a massive wave now, back then might have been only a tiny ripple…