The Pluto final quarter 2020 update

Hello,

Welcome to another Pluto quarterly shareholder update. As always, this follows on from our Quarterly Board Meeting, which was held on the 15th December 2020.

If you only have a few minutes, you can read the exec summary below, otherwise, we hope you enjoy the full update. We'll be aligning our quarterly board meeting with our OKR periods, so the next full update will be in early December. We will continue to provide our monthly updates, so you won't miss a thing.

And if you want even more:


Exec summary and highlights

Important things that have happened in the last 3 months:

  • Launched our travel planning tool within our mobile app
  • Strong growth in the last quarter, 4x more users than the previous quarter
  • 15% of our users are sharing travel plans, collaborating with others and inviting new users
  • 35 inspirational destination guides published from our community and favourite brands
  • Won Best Travel Insurance Provider in the Insurance Choice Awards
  • Submitted our application to become a B Corp
  • Had 3 other startups sign up to our antiracism, diversity and inclusion pledge
  • Externally, the vaccine announcement and Airbnb IPO are certainly positive for the travel industry

So, what's happening for Pluto in the next 3 months?

  • Launch our Booking.com partnership, allowing users to easily access hotels from our app to then book on Booking.com afterwards
  • Launch our flight tracking tool, for users to add and keep an eye on their upcoming flights
  • Kick off our next investment round

Below we'll dive into all of these areas and more in detail. Enjoy!

Alex Rainey and Harry Williams

Pluto Co-founders


COVID-19 update

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's still quite distant. We've seen the industry start to recover - bookings for the major airlines surged after announcements about the vaccine; Airbnb announced their IPO; and many major travel providers' shares (Booking.com and Expedia) returned to their pre-pandemic levels.

Our point of view on COVID-19 and travel recovery

People: Recruiting/developing/retaining

You can always see our full team here.

Recruiting

We haven't made any hires this quarter and don't plan to for the next quarter either. We are continuing to make use of the furlough scheme to allow team members to work part-time where necessary whilst international travel recovers.

Developing and retaining

Even in these testing times the team remains happy, optimistic and motivated.

We haven't lost any of our team in the past quarter. And we continue to provide dedicated training time and budget to cover professional learning and education on antiracism, diversity and inclusion.

Office

We continue to work fully remotely and discuss the situation regularly with the full team. Productivity has remained the same since going fully virtual, with some parts of the business even operating more productively. We will continue to assess the future office situation in 2021.


Diversity and inclusion

We continue to track various D&I metrics within the business as well as following up on all the actions we outlined in our public pledge. A number of other travel startups have also signed up to this pledge.

Some of the key D&I metrics that we'll continue to publicly report on:

  • Team diversity. Due to no new hires, the team is still 100% male and 0% BAME. This is something we will address with any new hires and remains a high priority D&I action.
  • Diverse and inclusive content. Of our content contributors this month, 60% were female and 40% BAME. 20% of our actual content (e.g. imagery), includes people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Product: Quality, challenges, roadmap etc.

We're delighted to have launched our travel planning tool this quarter. The lockdown provided an opportunity to focus our attention on ensuring we were building a proposition that's differentiated and desirable for our audience. The suboptimal travel environment makes it difficult to draw any certain conclusions. But from conversations with customers, we're confident our proposition is being very well received in the market. We're learning about the areas of the product that need the most improvement, and we have a clear roadmap to continue strengthening the product.

If you haven't already, please do check out our new travel planner. Anyone, anywhere (with an iPhone) can use it for free. Just download it here.

All product development work relating to our insurance product, in our app and our website, is still paused. We will resume further improvements as the travel environment improves.

Product highlights

Launched the first version of our travel planning tool, the biggest addition to our product offering since we started Pluto.

  • We've got into a good rhythm of getting product feedback, testing improvements and launching new features to improve our offering. All driven by quantitative usage data and qualitative data through conversations with customers.
  • We've received great customer feedback about our travel planner and we're making good progress on key product-market fit metrics.

You can always view our public roadmap here. This is where the public can view what we have planned, vote on their favourite features and suggest new ones.

Customer satisfaction, complaints and regulatory considerations

We've been blown away with the customer reviews we've been receiving across Trustpilot, App Store reviews and social media. So here are a few of our favourites from the year.


Sales and growth: traction, marketing, revenue, etc.

Compared with the Summer, the last quarter has shown extremely strong growth. This is all driven from the release of our travel planning tool within our mobile app. Below you can see the impact on user growth since the launch in September. Insurance customers on the other hand are still growing slowly.

Pluto customer and user growth. Excl. Apr - Jul due to COVID.
Pluto customer and user MoM growth. Excl. Apr - Jul due to COVID.

Direct to consumer marketing

We've started to spend on performance marketing again after a long break over the summer. This spend is now concentrated on travel planning and driving app downloads. Our spend is focused on the Facebook/Instagram ad platform as this continues to be the most cost-effective paid channel. We have experimented with other channels (Twitter, Apple Search Ads and Snapchat) over the past few months, but these haven't been as efficient as Facebook/Instagram.

Around half of our new users are coming from paid sources. And over the last few months we've been able to reduce our CPA (for activated users) by 35%. These are still early days for paid acquisition for app downloads and travel planning users. Even so, we're seeing some healthy acquisition costs and consistent month on month improvements.


Finances: Cash flow, runway, investment, etc.

Pluto remains in a good financial position and able to continue weathering these uncertain times. Our monthly expenditure remains significantly lower than earlier in the year and we will retain this level of spend until things start to return to normal. We will continue to make use of government support schemes and loans where appropriate.

Most excitingly though, we're planning on fundraising in early 2021. Since we last raised we've achieved a lot despite the pandemic and the changes made to our product are already allowing us to grow faster and more efficiently than we were able to previously.


Brand - managing and building our profile and reputation

Brand positioning

As we accelerated our existing strategy to maintain and strengthen our market position during the coronavirus pandemic, we simplified our brand positioning to support this.

This involved moving away from separate propositions for 'Pinboard - travel planning' and 'Cover - travel insurance'. And unifying our offering into a single brand proposition of providing a 'home for all of your travel plans'. Albeit a subtle change, it simplifies our brand messaging, streamlines our acquisition journey, and enables us to target a broader audience beyond just the UK.

Despite this change in positioning, our mission of helping people make the most of their travels hasn't changed. Nor has our strategy of achieving this by providing a single place for travel lovers to discover, organise and protect their trips.

Content

Our content strategy continues to be primarily focused on providing useful travel tips and practical inspiration via our Instagram channel. The release of our travel planner – along with our curated Pinboards for different destinations – has opened up a new stream of content that's been very well received amongst our audience. We've ensured that our content strategy is still relevant and useful given the changing travel habits in light of coronavirus. Therefore we've been promoting domestic travel with a particular focus on rural getaways. See a snippet below or check out our Instagram page for more.

Campaigns

Over the past few months, we spent some time reflecting on our hopes for the future of travel. Lots of our team have been practising mindfulness for a while and we figured there are some principles from the discipline that could help us enhance our travel experiences in the future. So we came up with 7 principles of mindful travel, each brought to life with a custom illustration, which you'll find here.

We'll be promoting these principles across our communications channels over the next couple of months. And we'll continue to think about how we can help our audience travel more mindfully.

Press

We haven't been actively looking for new opportunities, however we've had a couple of good press mentions:

  • Our new travel planner was featured on Sheerluxe, a lifestyle and travel publication.
  • We won "Best Travel Insurance Provider" for 2020 in the Insurance Choice Awards.

Thanks for reading if you got this far. If you ever have any questions, please just let me (Alex) know.

Alex and Harry


Founders

Founders

The two co-founders of Pluto, Alex & Harry.