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Mr. Wonderful’s Cat-Tastic Returns: A ‘Shark Tank’ Investment Triumph

Kevin O’Leary, fondly known as “Mr. Wonderful” on the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” is no stranger to making savvy investments. However, one venture stands out, proving that even the most unconventional business ideas can yield purr-fectly massive returns.

In 2019, Anna Skaya, the spirited founder of Basepaws, entered the shark-infested waters with a unique proposition: at-home genetic testing kits for our feline friends. She hoped to snag $250,000 in exchange for a 5% share of her company. The idea might have seemed a tad whisker-crazy, but O’Leary and fellow shark, Robert Herjavec, saw the potential. Both dived in, investing $125,000 each for a 5% stake, placing Basepaws’ valuation at a cool $2.5 million.

Fast forward, and this investment emerged as one of O’Leary’s proudest catches. Chatting on “The Daniel Mac Show,” he hinted at the sale of Basepaws at a price so eye-popping that details remained hush-hush due to a non-disclosure agreement. Though some speculated a $50 million acquisition cost, the number might have been much higher.

The buyer? None other than animal-health giant Zoetis, boasting an impressive $80 billion market cap. A little detective work shows that in the quarter Basepaws was purchased, Zoetis reported a $93 million expenditure on acquisitions. And guess what? Basepaws was their only disclosed takeover during that period.

Doing some simple math: if Zoetis did shell out $50 million for Basepaws, O’Leary’s initial investment would have ballooned to a staggering $2.4 million. That’s a jaw-dropping 20x return! And if the acquisition cost was indeed the full $93 million? Well, O’Leary’s payday could’ve been anywhere between $3.2 to $4.5 million. Either way, those are the kinds of numbers that would make any investor purr with delight.

But what made Basepaws so alluring to Zoetis? Rapid growth. From a modest $200,000 in sales at the time of Skaya’s pitch, Basepaws leaped to a whopping $3.5 million in test sales within the next year and a half. Not just confined to cats anymore, they expanded their services to our canine companions too.

Reflecting on this wild ride, O’Leary credited Skaya for Basepaws’ success: “I invested in Anna for Anna,” he mused, highlighting her prowess in product promotion and applauding the 10-fold growth post their “Shark Tank” episode.

While Basepaws gave O’Leary a reason to flaunt his investing acumen, it’s not his only shining moment from the show. Another feather in his cap was the meal-kit startup, Plated, acquired by Albertsons for a staggering $300 million in 2017.

Moral of the story? Sometimes, the most unexpected pitches can lead to the most lucrative investments. For entrepreneurs and investors alike, it’s a reminder that opportunity can lurk in the most unexpected places – or in this case, whiskers!