The Pluto second quarter 2021 update

Hi there,

Welcome to another Pluto quarterly shareholder update. As always, this follows on from our Quarterly Board Meeting, which was held on the 9th June 2021.

And for the 296 new investors — from our Seedrs crowdfunding campaign — welcome!

If you only have a few minutes, you can read the exec summary below, otherwise, we hope you enjoy the full update. And keep an eye out for the occasional request for investor help.

All the best,

Alex and Harry


Exec summary and highlights

Important things that have happened in the last 3 months:

We became a certified B Corp — formalising our desire to use business as a force for good

The product's performance continues to improve

  • Week 1 retention has increased by 45% over the past 3 months
  • The proportion of users inviting others continues to grow and is the highest it's been at 20% of all users
  • 10,000 Pinboards have now been created on the app

We're seeing encouraging growth, despite the travel environment

  • We had a 123% increase in users from Apr to May, with 44% of them coming from the USA.
  • We continue to see 50% of our users coming from non-paid sources, showing strong organic growth from word of mouth and referrals.

Continued to refine the product and launch new features, including a map view, item labels and the ability to add to a Pinboard from other apps

We closed a £210,000 bridge investment round and public crowdfund on Seedrs, enabling us to continue improving the product and growing the business

So, what big things are planned for Pluto in the next 3 months?

  • Building and launching new discovery and inspiration focused features
  • Exploring monetisation options — like Pluto Premium, our monthly subscription
  • Exploring a new affiliate-focused partnership model — keep reading to see how you can help

Covid-19

The pandemic continues to severely impact the world and the travel industry. The UK government's green list remains short and travelling abroad is still much harder and more expensive than normal. So there is still some way to go before travel starts to full rebound.

Annual business objectives

As a reminder, these are a summary of our internal objectives that run until 30th November 2021.

1) Attain product-market fit

The main priority is driving up retention and engagement. Whilst we're also optimising to increase the product's in-built virality and working to increase the average revenue per user.

2) Grow quickly and efficiently

We want to continue achieving strong month on month user growth. Whilst also driving down acquisition costs through optimising existing channels and by launching new growth channels, like partnerships.

3) Progress towards becoming a socially responsible business

We want to continue building a business we're proud of. We'll be focused on becoming a B Corp and improving the diversity of our team and content. We'll also continue to support a number of charities.


Product

Continuing to work towards product-market fit has been the key focus for us in the product space. This has involved optimising the performance of the current product by monitoring usage, making improvements and running A/B tests. We've also continued to roll out frequently requested new features that we believe will further drive up our PMF metrics.

The rest of our time has been spent on "Explore 2.0" — the updated version of the Explore part of the app — where we'll be adding personalised recommendations and more inspirational content. Explore 2.0 will make the product more social and has the potential to really strengthen our proposition, provide differentiation and considerably improve product engagement and retention.

Performance and future roadmap

Product performance

  • 10,000 Pinboards have now been created in the app
  • Average number of items per Pinboard is up 27% to 4.6 over the last 3 months
  • The proportion of users inviting others continues to grow and is the highest it's been at 20% of all users
  • Week 1 retention is 45% higher than 3 months ago

Product milestones – key features we've released in the past 3 months:

Map view: a frequently requested feature, enabling users to view all items they have on their Pinboard, on a map.

Custom labels: these are a flexible tool that enables users to further organise their Pinboards. Lots of users ask for ways to create itineraries and mark places as visited — labels can be used for this and much more.

iOS share: this enables users to add a link to a Pinboard from any app or website, through the iOS share menu on their phone. We know that the most engaged users have more items on their Pinboards, and this feature provides another easy way to add items.

Making the app faster — important, but not as exciting — as the functionality expands, and we're seeing more and more people use the app, we made some essential improvements to keep the app nice and fast.

Roadmap – upcoming features over the next quarter:

  • Personalised recommendations of things to do — central to the enhancement of the 'Explore' part of the app, will be providing recommendations of things to do based on your interests and the trips you're planning. These recommendations will be driven by the items that fellow app users are adding to their Pinboards.
  • Smart search — when users search for a destination, they'll be served a feed of recommendations utilising the recommendation engine we mentioned above.
  • Create a profile — as we work to make the app more social and community-centric, the user profile will be a key part of this. Users can use their profile to tell other travellers about themselves, their travel preferences and display their own Pinboards.
  • Upload a document or photo to your Pinboard — a frequently requested feature that further delivers on our promise of providing a single home for all of your travel plans.
  • Add a checklist to your Pinboard — users were asking for this to help them keep track of things like what to pack, and what to prepare for a trip.

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

What our community are saying

We're always asking for feedback from our customers to help improve our product. One of the questions we ask is "What is the main benefit of Pluto for you?" — see below a few of the responses from the past 3 months.


Growth & marketing

The last 3 months have shown the impact of the shifting travel environment. At the start of the quarter with travel still illegal in the UK, we invested less time and money in growth and therefore new user acquisition was slower.

Since then, as travel has opened up, growth has picked up — we've seen a 123% increase in new users from April to May — and we've begun expanding softly into the USA where travel restrictions are much lower and domestic travel is a much bigger market. We're now seeing 44% of our monthly new users coming from the USA.

Over the last 3 month we welcomed 2,660 new members to the Pluto Community of 10,000 users. We averaged 21% monthly growth for new users over this same period.

And in May, we passed an incredible milestone, with over 10,000 Pinboards created to date. With 25% of those Pinboards created in the last 2 months alone!

Content & brand updates

We're continuing to use our Instagram page to engage existing and new members of our audience, communicating our brand's offering and values, along with providing practical advice and inspiration. Here are a few of our best performing posts from the last 3 months:

We continue to be cautious with paid marketing given the current travel environment. We'll continue to monitor our acquisition costs carefully as travel re-bounds. And when the time is right, we will start to increase our budgets and spend caps.

Affiliate Pinboard partnerships

This is an area we'll be exploring more over the next 3 months as a potential new growth channel. Partners can sign up to monetise their existing travel content or booking journeys. For example:

  • An influencer or brand can create a Pinboard for a destination, promote it and be paid for each new Pluto user they bring in
  • A travel booking site can suggest to their users to manage their trip in the Pluto app after booking an activity, accommodation or flight and be paid for each new Pluto user they bring in

📢   Reader request: If you are or know of any influencers or businesses (restaurants, cafes, hotels and experiences are ideal) that would be interested in this, please let us know: [email protected]


Finances

Investment

We're really happy to announce the closing of our recent fundraising round of £210,000. This investment round was intended to be a bridge round to enable us to continue improving the product and growing the business. And at the same time, build the business to be ready for venture capital investment within the next 6 months.

We welcomed 296 new investors to our community of now over 1,000 investors. We're humbled by the continued support in these difficult times and by the sheer number of investors that are now part of Pluto's journey.


People & culture

We're a B Corp

Pluto is now a Certified B Corporation. For us as founders, this symbolises and formalises our commitment to building a company that has a positive impact on the world. A company that considers all of our stakeholders — from customers to suppliers to shareholders — and balances people and the planet alongside profit. We want to have a positive impact on the world that we're in.

You can read our full B Corp announcement and the PhocusWire article that followed.

Donations

Up until now, we've been donating 10% of our profits to the Travel Foundation. We absolutely love the work they do. However as the climate crisis continues to evolve and we work towards promoting diversity and inclusion in the travel industry, we were ready to support a new charitable cause. We'll soon be announcing a change to our chosen charity and the way that we donate though.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

We continue to track various DEI metrics within the business as well as following up on all the actions we outlined in our public pledge.

Some of the key DEI metrics that we'll continue to publicly report on:

  • Team diversity — With no new hires, the team is still 100% male and 0% from an ethnic minority background. This is something we will address with any new hires and remains an extremely high priority action.
  • Diverse and inclusive content and product development — Our content contributors are 52% female and 18% from an ethnic minority background. In the last 3 months, our user research participants were 68% female and 25% from an ethnic minority background.
  • Diversity in event panels/discussions — We didn't participate in any events over the last 3 months and didn't turn any down either.

Recruiting & retaining

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.

We also haven't lost any of our team in the past quarter, therefore our attrition rate for the last 12 months is still 0%. Compared to an industry average of 25% for high growth startups.

We continue to provide dedicated training time and budget to cover professional learning and education on antiracism, diversity and inclusion.

You can always see our full team here.

Pay transparency

As a B Corp, we're pushing ourselves to be even more transparent with how we run the business. So we'll now be reporting on the ratio of our highest paid worked to our lowest paid worker. For context, B Corp pushes companies to achieve between 1x to 5x for this ratio.

Pluto's low to high pay ratio = 1.3 (May, 2021)

Although we're a small business, we're really happy with where this ratio sits right now. The challenge will be keeping it low as the company scales and hires more.


That's everything — thanks for reading this far! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with Alex or Harry.

And if you want even more:

Alex and Harry

Pluto co-founders


Founders

Founders

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