Q&A: These Local Startup Founders Want You to Never Pack a Suitcase Again
Their new company, Fllyte, promises to disrupt the travel industry by shipping essentials and rental clothes to travelers’ hotels, eliminating the need for luggage.
Like all good Philadelphia stories, this one started with an Eagles game.
In October, both Ali Moghadam, co-founder and president of the Philly-based travel startup Fllyte, and Mike Formento, Fllyte cofounder and vice president, decided to take their significant others to London for an Eagles game.
“The night before, we’re texting each other about how we had barely packed anything yet and how much of a pain it was,” Formento told Philly Mag.
“We finally get there and realize that we forgot some things. We didn’t plan for the London weather as we should have, you can say,” he said laughing. He added: “We decided there’s got to be something we can do about it.”
Fllyte, their travel startup, promises to end these kinds of luggage woes entirely. The goal is to “eliminate the need for anyone to ever have to pack,” Moghadem said. When going on vacation, you should be able to wake up, roll out of bed and have all the products you need for vacation waiting for you at your destination hotel, the startup believes.
Currently, the company can send a package of toiletries to your hotel in advance of your arrival, eschewing the need to measure ounces of hair gel according to TSA standards. No need to schlep the baby’s stroller either. Fllyte’s Little Ones line of kids’ products added stroller rentals, delivered and collected from the hotel without hassle.
The ultimate goal is to rent travelers everything from clothing to toys, all available to pick up from their hotel’s front desk. And of course, this comes at a price. The essential pack of toiletries retails for $24.99, and one stroller rents for $15 a day.
Formento and Moghadam’s newest venture comes after a long history of projects together. Moghadam is a serial entrepreneur with an MBA from St. Joseph’s University and Formento has a background in sales. I asked the co-founders about their plans for Fllyte’s growth amid a competitive travel industry. Here what they said:
Why would anyone pay $24.99 for a bag of travel-sized toothpaste and razors when they can go shopping upon landing and still avoid toting luggage? Is it just the convenience?
Formento: That’s part of it. If you look at a hotel, they may be charging for products that may not be as good as what the travel is used to.
Moghadam: A lot of people don’t want to spend the time going shopping when they get to their destination. The amount of time they’re spending at their destination is limited. Anything they can do to maximize their time there, they’re willing to do it. And you don’t have to worry about whether something will fit or whether the product will be allowed on the plane. We’re going to have [the items] packed for you at your destination.
Air travel is changing. We profiled this company offering cheap flights, and many airlines, like Spirit, are lowering costs. How did this impact your decision to launch Fllyte?
Moghadam: That’s one of our main targets, the people who want low-cost travel. When they fly with Spirit, they get low-cost tickets, but then Spirit ends up getting them with the baggage fees that they pay. We could eliminate the need for people to have to pack a bag. People can travel much cheaper than they could have before because they don’t incur those fees.
The airlines may be on board with this. The fewer bags that are packed, the lighter the planes are. From a cost perspective, the planes are operating more efficiently. We think everyone’s going to be on board with less packing.
You market this to high-end corporate sponsors and as a one-off consumer product. Do you envision Fllyte succeeding as a luxury service or an economical replacement to baggage?
Formento: It’s a product that can be both economical and luxurious. For example, on our essential packs, we’re going to be offering upgraded packages for people that are extra specific about what kind of products they use. But we feel that the basic packages we have now can work for most people.
You’re not the only people in the luggage-free market. What makes Fllyte different?
Moghadam: There are some competitors out there right now who will ship your own clothes to your destination. We don’t want to go down that route. We want to give people an opportunity to try out new clothes, work with different companies. Theoretically, that could lead to future sales for those companies down the line.
Formento: The important part is they would be waiting for customers when they check into the hotel.
Moghadam: Some other people sell travel essential packs online. Our value added is that we will deliver those packs to where you are staying. You won’t have to worry about packing those items, thinking about what to pack or getting them through TSA.
What are some other ideas in the works for Fllyte?
Moghadam: Creating a smart app.
Formento: The general idea would be to use a user profile you create to offer suggestions to make it easier when packing.
Moghadam: We want to work with universities to create a program where students get experience working with our [company]. We are looking to hire full-time employees later in the year.