The Plum Guide raises $18.5M to expand its ‘vacation homes for the elite’ service

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Fancy knowing how “the other half” lives? Well, part of it is down to tools that have been built specifically for them. Michelin Guide will tell you about the best restaurants on the planet. Similarly, the The Plum Guide bills itself as the “Michelin Guide for Homes” as it picks from more than 25 different sites the world’s best vacation rentals, holiday homes, short-term lets and Airbnbs, then puts them into one site. It does this using a combination of data and human curation.

It has now raised £14 million ($18.5 million) from some of Europe’s leading early-stage investors to support its rollout to 12 new cities this year.

The Plum Guide differs from mass-market booking platforms by selecting only the top 1 percent of properties in any city to feature on its site. By the end of 2019, that will mean almost 12,000 verified homes in the most sought-after cities for holiday rentals.

The latest funding round is led by Talis Capital, with participation from Latitude and Hearst Ventures, as well as Octopus Ventures — which led the Series A funding round.

It needs all this money because as well as using a data approach, it also sends actual human beings to vet every property in person and apply a “scientific Plum Guide test,” which covers 150 points, from proximity to cafes and transport, to speed of Wi-Fi.

Since launching in London in 2015, the company claims to have achieved year-on-year growth of three times revenues, for three years running, adding homes in five new cities to the platform and seeing repeat bookings jump 27 percent after it opened in Paris, its second location after London. It says customer referrals drive a quarter of all bookings.

In a statement, Doron Meyassed, founder and CEO, said: “We are on a mission to build a marketplace of the world’s most beautiful holiday homes. 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%.”

“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,” says Meyassed. “Previously they have stayed away from the open marketplace booking platforms, which they consider too risky compared with the reassurance that a hotel provides.”

In other words, the startup is eating away at the luxury hotel market.

Matus Maar, managing partner and co-founder at Talis Capital, said: “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. We see huge value in businesses and teams that create a competitive advantage by being strategically data driven.”

George Henry, partner at LocalGlobe, commented: “Travel and accommodation continues to be a fast-growing market but the supply has become incredibly fragmented, especially in the p2p market. As consumer travel has always suffered from a very low NPS, we believe that a differentiated brand offering a more hands-on service powered by expert curation and data is going to continue to deliver a very unique experience.”

The Plum Guide is in direct competition with the big home-booking platforms (Airbnb, Booking.com, Home Away etc.), but claims it competes by using its algorithm to build a database of all the homes available in the city, then systematically putting it through five rounds of filtration to come up with the top homes. It also competes by “matchmaking” people with the best homes.



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