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Oct 31, 2019 4 min read

Pluto, the startup reinventing travel insurance

29-year-old Alex Rainey is the inspired co-Founder and CEO of Pluto, with a vision to turn travel insurance into a simple, no-brainer purchase, on your mobile phone. There’s a deep sense of empathy for travellers who get in trouble. He sees it as, ‘hassle-free travel insurance through your smartphone’, so his team have designed something remarkably different from the norm, to deliver real value to busy, sceptical millennials. 40-50% of millennials haven’t been buying travel insurance over the last few years… reflective of an increasingly distrustful and disengaged generation – now the largest consumer group. 

By the law of averages, bad things inevitably happen. Millions of young adults go out on adventurous trips, from scuba diving to backpacking around South East Asia, without cover. The insurance market is broken, so Alex’s team are determined to make it work again, by rethinking the experience from the ground up, by-and-for millennials. “There’s been a slow but enormous shift in customer’s expectations” explains Alex, “with insurance being firmly considered a grudge purchase.

“As Founders, we’re big on travel, and know what it’s like when things go wrong”, says Alex. Co-founder Harry Williams is a fellow travel junkie, responsible for Pluto’s product and design. “We started from ground zero”, notes Harry. Neither founder is from an insurance background, which they see as one of their strongest assets. Alex is ex-Accenture- building e-commerce platforms, B2C websites, and mobile apps, so has experience of digital transformation through one of the world’s biggest tech companies. And Harry has years of experience designing products and developing product strategies for large B2C brands, previously at Bow & Arrow and Fjord design agencies.

“Things go wrong on every trip, big and small, so it’s important to get cover that’s right for you. Insurance should be personal and simple. Picking a policy shouldn’t feel like walking through a minefield either, full of ‘gotcha’ clauses. And there’s always been friction for customers submitting claims. We’ve felt this ourselves, with problems from a broken foot, having to sleep on airport floors and having bags stolen or lost.” 

Pluto positions itself as a consumer challenger brand, re-imagining the product and the process from a customer’s point of view. Pluto’s primary mission is to “help people get the most out of their travels” as Alex puts it. Trust needs to be rebuilt. This starts with jargon-free policies, and transparent pricing. If something goes wrong, you can submit a claim through your phone in minutes, and get expert human help around the clock. Users can register their flights in seconds, and if it’s delayed, they automatically get free lounge access or an instant cash payout.

And, if you’re feeling unwell while travelling, you can now get a free UK doctor consultation on your smartphone too, powered by Babylon. The doctor can even issue you with a digital prescription in some countries. Innovations like this are helping Pluto to leapfrog insurance incumbents on technology, UX and product.

Pluto’s startup story includes the Founders quitting corporate jobs, to join a ‘regulatory sandbox’ with the FCA, which encourages new entrepreneurs to push the boundaries in insurance, testing out new ideas out in controlled conditions. As a newcomer, this helped them to secure a license to sell insurance, to partner up with their insurance partner, Zurich, and indeed to secure private investment.

The starting team first mapped out their own rights and responsibilities with a Founders Agreement on SeedLegals, within a day. Alex recalls how Pluto has since used IP agreements, advisor agreements, employment contracts, and share transfers on the platform too; “we’ve used almost everything in the SeedLegals toolbox”.

“One of the great things about SeedLegals is that it is designed to be appropriate for the round and the stage of the business. They keep it simple. It feels like they really understand that.” 

Their first round, last year, was a £130k pre-seed round with standard terms on the Shareholder Agreement. Follow on round in June, this year, raised £300k, and the investment terms were upgraded proportionately, to include more rights and responsibilities. The company has completed multiple rounds of investment, and is now closing a crowdfund campaign as the next step. All of this is done through SeedLegals. Term Sheets are created by the Founders on the platform, and sent out to subscribers to review. The steps are clear and predefined for all parties. Top up ‘Instant Investment’ can now be executed online too, for people who want to invest after a formal round has closed – this has also been an advantage for Pluto.

Personalised documents are shared seamlessly between all the stakeholders, a full suite of documents are available online for simple management, and the whole experience is jargon-free – with on-demand support if ever needed. “We’ve spoken with other lawyers, and went down the road with one lawyer, and they were brilliant, but comparing the work involved and the value, we went with SeedLegals again and again. The clarity was highly valued. You don’t get that with a typical lawyer.”

We knew we needed to do an option pool at some point, and this was so much easier to do on SeedLegals. The setup for a pool of 7.5% EMI was dead easy. I did it on a call in 20 minutes for £1,500 fixed fee. You can even model the impact of dilution, using the digital cap table.

Every founder I meet, I’m introducing to SeedLegals, because of the quality of the product. We’re aiming for the same quality of product with Pluto – we want customers recommending it to their friends. We want to help people have a safe adventure with Pluto, giving them peace of mind and confidence when they go away.”

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