For many travelers, having high-quality luggage can make all the difference between a seamless flight experience and one filled with headaches.
Unfortunately, top-notch suitcases are often either too expensive or too difficult to find.
That's why two former Warby Parker execs — Jen Rubio, the company's former head of social media, and Steph Korey, former head of supply chain — teamed up to create Away, a travel brand aiming to create products that combine high-quality materials and innovative technology at an affordable price.
After launching its first piece of luggage — a carry-on bag priced at $225 — at the beginning of 2016, the startup is now announcing it has raised a $8.5 million Series A funding round led by Global Founders Capital. Forerunner Ventures, Accel Partners, Comcast Ventures, and Starwood Hotels founder Barry Sternlicht also participated in the round.
Away's earlier $2.5 million seed round included contributions from Andy Dunn of Bonobos, Brian Lee of The Honest Company, Jeff Kearl of Skulllcandy and Stance, and Jay Z.
Away says it is on track for $10 million in sales this year, or about 50,000 suitcases. The brand now has three different sizes of bags, each of which comes with a patent-pending compression system, removable laundry bag, and four 360-degree spinner wheels. The carry-on bag also has a battery and a USB port for charging.
"There's been strong excitement from customers around the world for thoughtfully designed, high-quality products to make travel more enjoyable, and this most recent round of funding will further accelerate our growth as a global travel brand, allowing us to expand our product assortment as well as our international presence — both in e-commerce and physical retail," Rubio said to Business Insider.
Away opened its first concept store in New York shortly after the product launch in January, and plans to open others in London, Los Angeles, and Berlin.
"We [had] three goals in mind: to bring our brand experience to life, to find out if our customers were interested in shopping for luggage in a retail environment, and to have the opportunity to interact with and learn from travelers every day in real life," Korey told Business Insider. "We were completely blown away by the response — the store was profitable from day one and became a true platform for partnerships and community."
Similar to the way Warby Parker has revolutionized the eyeglass industry, Away keeps its product prices low by eliminating the middleman and the mark-up that's common in high-quality luggage pieces.
"While working at Warby Parker and Casper, we saw those companies completely transform the previously poor consumer experiences and high prices for the eyewear and mattress industries," Korey and Rubio told Business Insider in November 2015." We decided the luggage industry needed similar improvements, and created Away to offer consumers the highest quality luggage for a fraction of the price."
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