Property startup The Plum Guide raises £14m, plans 100 new jobs
London-based luxury holiday property rental startup, The Plum Guide, has raised £14m from some of Europe’s leading early-stage investors to support its ambitious rollout to 12 new cities this year.
By the end of 2019 it expects to offer almost 12,000 verified homes in the most sought-after cities for holiday rentals, with 100 new hires also being made to support its growth ambitions.
The company, which said it is sometimes referred to as the “Michelin Guide for Homes”, differs from mass market booking platforms by selecting only the top one per cent of properties in any city to feature on its site.
Talis Capital led the latest funding round, with participation from Latitude and Hearst Ventures, as well as Octopus Ventures – which led the Series A funding round.
Hospitality experts vet properties
The Plum Guide uses hospitality industry experts to vet every property in person and applies a scientific Plum Guide test - which covers 150 points from proximity to cafes and transport, to speed of WiFi - when selecting which homes to feature.
Since launching in London in 2015, The Plum Guide has achieved year-on-year growth of three times revenues, for three years’ running.
In 2018, it added homes in five new cities to the platform and saw repeat bookings jump 27 per cent after it opened in Paris, its second location after London.
The key to its success, it said, has been customer referrals, which drive a quarter of all bookings.
“We are on a mission to build a marketplace of the world’s most beautiful holiday homes”, said Doron Meyassed, Founder and CEO of The Plum Guide. “This isn’t some vague qualitative ambition. We mean it. We are taking a systematic and obsessive approach to vetting every single home on the planet and accepting only the top 1 per cent”.
The Plum Guide was founded to solve the problem of inconsistent quality, encountered by anyone booking a vacation rental online. Most open marketplaces rely on peer-to-peer review systems to judge quality, but standards vary hugely in reality. The Plum Guide instead uses a rigorous testing approach that aims to guarantee consistent quality every time.
It uses a proprietary algorithm to find the highest rated and best located homes in a city. Expert hospitality critics from The Plum Guide then visit each home to interview the host and meticulously test the property. Ultimately, only one out of every 100 properties in each city is invited to join the collection.
The approach has resonated with a lucrative customer segment of mature affluent individuals, who make up the majority of Plum’s 1.3 million global user base. “Most rental platforms are trying to get as many people as possible to use their site”, said Meyassed. “We are clearly targeting a highly discerning group of affluent professionals that live in global megacities, love to travel and value great design, quality and locations.
“Previously they have stayed away from the open marketplace booking platforms, which they consider too risky compared with the reassurance that a hotel provides.”
The Plum Guide said it has innovated relentlessly on meeting the needs of this customer, through a unique mix of expert property curation, impartial and trustworthy vetting processes and outstanding customer service through its team of MatchMakers. It has achieved customer satisfaction scores that outperform industry peers in a sector notorious for over-promising but under-delivering.
"The consumer market has entered into an age of curation where data, ratings and reviews need to be carved into useful information to support buying decisions”, said Matus Maar, Managing Partner and Co Founder at Talis Capital.
“We see huge value in businesses and teams that create a competitive advantage by being strategically data driven. The Plum Guide has something very special and customers are already showing amazing loyalty for its hand-picked and meticulously-vetted holiday rentals.
“In Doron, we have also found a determined, highly ambitious and creative entrepreneur with a track record of building a successful business that competes at the very highest levels.”
Zihao Xu, Early Stage Investor at Octopus Ventures, commented: "The more cities The Plum Guide is in the better it will be for all its customers. We're excited to continue supporting Doron and the team in taking the company truly global, and building out their vision of what an iconic hospitality brand in the 21st century should be."