The Pluto third quarter 2021 public 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 17th September 2021.

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

All the best,

Alex and Harry


Exec summary and highlights

Things worth shouting about from the last 3 months

The product's performance continues to improve

  • Month on month retention is 13% higher than the last quarter, now at 43%
  • 30-day engagement is 29% better than the last quarter, currently at 5.3 sessions/month
  • User activation rate has increased by 33% compared with the last quarter, now at 36%
  • 15,000 Pinboards have now been created on the app with almost 100,000 items added to them

We're still driving encouraging growth, despite the pandemic

  • We welcomed 4,500 new users this quarter — 50% more than the last quarter — bringing us to just over 14,000 users
  • We're still seeing 50% of our users coming from non-paid sources, showing strong organic growth from word of mouth and referrals.

We've continued to refine the product and launch new features. Including uploading documents and photos, adding checklist items and lots of smaller refinements and performance improvements.

We began to explore ways to monetise our user base, including a premium subscription — Pluto Pro. Our research demonstrated a strong appetite for the proposition, and evidence that it will be worth pursuing once we have achieved product-market fit with our existing product.

Finally, we've committed to Net Zero by 2030. And to launching features within our product that will help our users travel more sustainably.

Big things planned for the next 3 months

  • Launch the most significant changes to the product we've ever made, enabling personalised recommendations and intelligent search powered by our community of 15,000+ travellers. The foundations for this have been developed over the last few months
  • Continue doubling down on improving product retention and engagement above all else

Covid-19 over the last 3 months has continued to impact the world and the travel industry. The UK government's green list has grown but travelling abroad is still harder and more expensive than normal. We're continuing to mitigate the effects of this by investing in growth outside the UK and building a product that works as work for international travel as it does for domestic travel. The recent announcements are hopeful for a quicker bounce back.


Annual business objectives

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

1) Progress towards 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 exploring ways to monetise our users.

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

Over the past quarter, we've seen strong growth in our core product metrics, with many of our product-market fit KPIs at an all-time high. These improvements come as a result of the improving travel environment and the refinements we've made to the product.

More encouragingly, we'll be launching some of the biggest improvements to the product — since we launched it — over the coming months, so we expect continued improvements in the product's performance. These features are centred around helping travellers get easier access to quality, relevant travel recommendations.

Over the past quarter, we've also been exploring a premium subscription product — Pluto PRO — which would provide exclusive product features for a monthly or annual fee. Our research demonstrated a strong appetite for the proposition, and evidence that it will be worth pursuing once we have achieved product-market fit with our existing product.

Performance and future roadmap

Product performance

  • Month on month retention continues to improve, 13% higher than the last quarter, now at 43%
  • 30-day engagement is at an all-time high, 29% better than the last quarter, currently at 5.3 average sessions per month
  • Our user activation rate has increased by 33% compared with the last quarter, now at 36% — this is from continuous funnel optimisations and onboarding improvements
  • 15,000 Pinboards have now been created in the app — 50% increase from last quarter
  • Almost 100,000 items have been added to date which means there are over 2,000,000 data points

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

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.

Last but not least; Performance improvements — the less glamorous, but equally important, updates to keep the app fast and reliable as our user base grows.

Roadmap – upcoming big features over the next 6 months:

  • Personalised recommendations of things to do — central to the enhancement of the 'Explore' part of the app, we 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.
  • Day planner — easily create an itinerary for a trip within the app, to help you plan the time you have away in more detail.
  • Add a flight to your Pinboard — travellers can easily add flight info to their Pinboards and get real-time information about flight details and delays.

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 continually talking to members of our community to learn about how they're using the app, what they like, and what needs to be improved. Here are a couple of quotes from happy travellers over the past month.

"In the very short time that I've used the app, I've fallen in love with it." — Research participant
"It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about an app - there is not much around that feels so fresh and groundbreaking - you guys have taken a lot of existing functionality and put it together in a way that just works really well." — Research participant

Growth & marketing

The last 3 months haven't shown a significant change in the travel environment. However, things are getting better as each month passes. With that in mind, we're continuing to invest time and money cautiously in growth until things fully open up. Airlines and travel companies remain bullish towards travel for later this year and for 2022.

Over the last 3 months, we welcomed over 4,500 new users, 50% more than the previous quarter. With over half of these users joining organically. We're also still seeing around 50% of our new users coming from the USA. At the end of August we had just over 14,000 users in total.

Our average cost per user — blended and paid — continues to fall with campaign optimisations. But the majority of our team's energy and focus remains on product improvements.

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.


Finances

Investment

With our previous bridge investment round (£210k) fully completed, we've shifted our attention back towards building and improving the product.

Looking forward, we're planning to raise our Seed round in Q1 2022. We'll start to share investor materials and have discussions with new investors towards the end of the year ahead of this.

Runway & revenue

We remain focused on keeping the business lean and our costs low as the pandemic continues. With our recent fundraise though, Pluto remains in good financial health. Our runway remains until June 2022.

With our travel insurance offering now fully paused we're no longer generating any revenue. We are beginning to explore and test other ways to monetise our users. But monetisation won't fully start until 2022. This is so the business and the team can fully focus on building the best possible product — and achieve stronger product-market fit.


People & culture

New charity partner — TreeSisters

One of the main reasons we started Pluto was to eliminate the bad bits about travelling.

Some of the bad bits that our product is designed to eliminate include removing the hassle from planning a trip, finding the best things to do, and stuff going wrong whilst you're away.

But there's a big bad bit about travelling which our product doesn't mitigate directly (yet) — the negative environmental impacts of travelling. That's why from June, we've started supporting the UK-based charity, TreeSisters, by planting a minimum of 200 trees per month to help remove carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere.

TreeSisters are aiming to rapidly accelerate tropical reforestation, working closely with local communities, whilst providing leadership opportunities to women.

You can read more about this announcement.

Sustainable travel

As the climate crisis worsens, and as a B Corp — a business committed to benefitting the planet, in addition to supporting society and making money — we are formalising our efforts to reduce the impact our business has on the planet, along with promoting more sustainable travel choices.

Our objective is to help reduce the planet's carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2030 (this is a cross-industry initiative driven by the B Corp Climate Collective – find out more here). There are two parts to this. Firstly, we will make the necessary business and operational changes to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 (if not before). And secondly, we will evolve our core product offering to promote, simplify and incentivise more sustainable travel choices.

Over the coming months, we'll be making this commitment publicly, and going forward, we will be reporting on our progress in this space within these quarterly reports.

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% are from an ethnic minority background. This is something we'll address as the company scales and hires new team members.
  • Diverse and inclusive content and product development — Our content contributors are 54% female and 18% from an ethnic minority background. In the last 3 months, our user research participants were 40% female and 40% from an ethnic minority background.
  • Participant diversity in event panels — We didn't participate in any large panel events over the last 3 months and didn't turn any down either.

Recruiting & retaining [No change]

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 [No change]

As a B Corp, we'll continue to report on the ratio of our highest-paid worker to our lowest-paid worker. The best B Corp companies achieve between 1x to 5x for this ratio.

Pluto's low to high pay ratio = 1.3xAugust 2021

Although we're a small business, we're really happy with where this ratio is 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.