Elevator Pitch: Mad Paws

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Alexis Soulopoulos, CEO of Mad Paws.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea

Mad Paws is Australia’s largest go-to pet sitting community in Australia, where pet owners can find trusted pet sitters near their homes. With more than 6,000 trusted sitters, you can book in any pet-related services such as pet sitting, dog walking, daycare or house visiting. Whether you are gone for a few hours or for an extended holiday, Mad Paws makes sure you can enjoy your holiday with peace of mind, knowing that your pet is not only safe, but also having fun!

Pet sitters charge their own prices and set their own availability. Mad Paws provides free insurance, customer support and helps pet sitters market their pet sitting business in exchange for 15% of the pet sitter’s fee.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea

We started building a minimum viable product and from there continuously improved it based on customer feedback. After having proved that the model was working, we raised $1.1M from Macdoch Ventures and angel investors in September 2015.

The business is growing strongly, about 25% monthly, because of our strong focus on the customer. The largest team in our company is the customer success team and it’s their mission to make sure each customer and their pooch is getting the service level they are looking for and more. This strategy drives word of mouth and repeat bookings, making up the majority of our revenue. In addition, we spend smart on digital marketing, market through 120+ stores of our pet supplies partner PETstock and invest in our brand.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

“How do we scale this puppy to become massive and do it fast?” It’s our goal to be the first solution that comes to mind for each and every Australian pet owner when they think of pet services. Going mass market is challenging, in particular for market place businesses such as Mad Paws because we need to grow both our pet owner base as well as our pet sitter base at the same rate. Maintaining this balance between demand and supply is crucial. If in a given area there are more pet owners looking for pet sitters than there are available pet sitters, we will have disappointed customers. In case it’s the other way around, pet sitters won’t get many booking requests and will lose their interest.

How do you differentiate your business from competitors?

We know that pet owners treat their pets like their kids and so we know we can’t comprise even a little bit on the quality of our service offering. As such, we have a solid vetting process in place; only 25% of pet sitter applicants make it onto the website. This vetting process includes a training course and test to make sure our pet sitters are equipped with useful knowledge the provide your pet with the best staycation.

We have a strong focus on customer support, the largest team in our organization. This allows us to really amaze customers with experiences they will tell their friends about.

From a marketing point of view we are proud to have a partnership in place with PETstock, one of Australia’s largest pet supplies retailers. This partnership drives a lot of traffic to our website and is great for getting our brand out there.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

I love Mixpanel, analytics software to keep track of all metrics of our business. It’s great to analyze user behavior, find out who your most profitable customers segments are and how often they use your service. I use it every day, and will even admit; I am addicted to it. They cleverly included a functionality that benchamarks daily data to the same data of the previous week by the hour. As a kid I used to love trying to beat my own top score on a game called Snake on my parents’ Nokia 3210. I am now experiencing a similar joy in constantly trying to beat our number of daily bookings.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Focus. There always seems so much to do in a startup, yet resources are scarce. Therefore, it is super important to be laser focused. Define one metric that you will maximise and then do whatever it takes to grow that metric 5%-7% per week. For Mad Paws, this is the number of weekly bookings.

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