Mad Paws unleashed on the ASX

Mad Paws unleashed on the ASX

Mad Paws brings some furry friends to its ASX debut. L-R: chair Jan Pacas, co-CEO Justus Hammer, co-CEO Alexis Soulopoulos. (Photo by David Simmons).

Pet services business Mad Paws (ASX: MPA) debuted on the ASX this morning following a ceremony attended by plenty of furry friends - a first for the exchange.

Founded by co-CEOs Justus Hammer and Alexis Soulopoulos alongside chair Jan Pacas in 2014, Mad Paws hopes to tap into the ASX's capital market for growth and cement itself as the dominant pet services marketplace in Australia via its listing.

The Sydney-based company's debut follows an IPO that bagged Mad Paws $12 million - capital that will go towards expanding the group's tech-focussed online marketplace for services like pet sitting and dog walking, as well as its pet foods business and pet insurance arm.

MPA rang the bell at 11.00am today with the help of staff members' dogs. Following that, shares in the company rose by 40 per cent to hit a high of $0.31 per share.

At the time of writing, shares in MPA are steady at $0.26 - still well above the IPO price of $0.20 per share.

Speaking to Business News Australia, chair Pacas said he hoped the company's listing would cement Mad Paws as the leader in pet services.

"We see today as the beginning of the next phase," Pacas said.

"If you think of what Carsales is in the car space and what Domain is in the real estate space, we want to be that company in the pet space."

The company's listing follows a pandemic-induced boom of pet ownership in Australia, giving Mad Paws a much larger market to address.

Though no Australian data about the pet buying boom is available, co-CEO Hammer points to data from the US which demonstrates a 30 per cent increase in pet ownership during the pandemic-hit year of 2020.

"Mad Paws has performed above expectations coming out of COVID, with the tailwinds of new pet ownership being reflected in strong growth numbers for our customers and bookings," says Hammer.

"With the IPO finalised we look forward to focusing on building new products and services for our pet owners and improving the experience for pet parents and their pets."

Mad Paws is the second founder-led business to land on the ASX this week, following the gangbuster debut of odd jobs platform Airtasker (ASX: ART).

Since ART listed, shares in the company exploded to a high of $1.74 on Wednesday 24 March, and have since settled at around $1.46 - still well above the company's IPO price of $0.65 per share.

According to Hammer, this influx of founder-led technology businesses like Mad Paws and Airtasker is a good sign, not only for the ASX, but for Australia's tech scene in general.

"I think we've got to find the right balance between the right companies," Hammer tells Business News Australia.

"We're not a company that started a year ago, we've got a pretty solid business and solid growth, and I think that is great to see on the ASX.

"I think there should be more technology companies on the ASX. It's time to do a better job of getting more tech companies here in Australia, and I think [listing] really helps."

For a fast-growth, agile and founder-led company like Mad Paws, listing on the ASX is just one of many options available to raise capital. But Hammer says COVID-19 tailwinds and new growth opportunities means now is the best time to go public.

"We were at that point as a company where we needed to step it up," says Hammer.

"We had a lot of tailwinds from COVID, with COVID puppies coming through, and I think this presents a huge opportunity for us.

"And I think we're quite a consumer driven company, so I think that's going to help us as well with the trust that people have in the company."

In addition, Hammer hopes to embrace the inherent transparency that comes with going public.

"I don't mind a bit of more pressure on us, and actually performing well," says the co-founder.

"Some people look at that negatively, but it's also a positive you've got a bit of pressure to actually perform and find the right balance between the short term and long term.

"Obviously, you get access to capital, so if we want to go quicker at a certain time it's a bit easier to do it than in the private market."

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