Article written by Christopher Lam

Leveraging clever growth hacking tactics, Mad Paws, expanded across all Australian cities in its first 30 days, signing up tens of thousands of users per week on $0 marketing spend. This is the story of the first 8 months at Mad Paws, when it was just a team of 2 passionate people with little resources.

Today, 3 years later, Mad Paws is Australia’s #1 market place for pet services, quadrupling in size each year.

Mad Paws was able to grow really fast on an extremely low budget by tapping into the power of communities. 

Last Wednesday evening, Alexis Soulopolous returned to Fishburners to present growth hacks used in his startup, Mad Paws. Mad Paws is an online pet services marketplace which connects pet owners with more than 3,500 pet sitters across Australia. It raised $1.1 million in capital in VC funding in 2015.

Here are the highlights from that talk.

Friends and family that buy things from your website is not enough. Alexis had to tap into an existing user base which was narrow, local and where everyone was in the same place. He reached out to the President of the Vet society at USyd. He asked if any students wanted to earn some money sitting pets.

They responded in droves.

Finding the people who would use Mad Paws. On Gumtree, people looking for casual pet-sitting jobs and people who need pet sitters are all the same platform. Mad Paws siphoned existing traffic from Gumtree to their niche.

The Story of the Dog Lover Show

The Dog Lover Show is where all dog lovers go – which means potentially great marketing opportunities for startups. Mad Paws stood out from other stalls with a combination of tactics. They bought merchandise such as t-shirts with their branding (Trusted pet sitter + logo), dog posters and memes.

Find what users love

Their most ingenious growth hack: placing whiteboards within their stall. Dog lovers love posting pictures of their dogs and sharing/comparing dog names. 9/10 of people they asked wrote their dog’s name on the boards, followed by 9/10 agreeing to leave their emails behind for marketing purposes.

“Would you like to leave your email to see what is the common dog name?”

Create PR-Able Content

Mad Paws went full out. Dog-friendly easter egg parties; Sunrise did 6 slots on Mad Paws about it.

PR Content can go viral. The gameplan to create PR Content:

  1. Find something people love
  2. Call it the Biggest / the Best
  3. Use Media to actually make it the Biggest / the Best

Marketing team also started a contest to find ‘Australia’s Dog of the Year.’

Have the mindset to ask; “Would they put this *content* on TV?”

Using Power of Communities to Grow

Mad Paws leveraged the community to grow on a small budget using its own website and creation of marketing stunts:

Build the community; find what users love. Dog owners enjoy submitting photos of their dog. Mad Paws chooses a pet sitter of the month and generates publicity for them. Mad Paws invited everyone to ‘Aus biggest dog party’ and for new ideas, they invite the top customers and sitters for feedback.

Building a community creates network effects ie. where a greater number of users increases the value to each. One anecdote was a pet sitter proactively promoting her sitters’ page on the side of her vehicle; Mad Paws indirectly leverages the users of the service to further promote the service.

Content is King.

Dream big; then think backwards to make it work.