Written by Andrew Seale

As any traveller knows, freedom is by no means absolute when you’re dragging luggage behind you. Irina Zusman, who co-founded BagsAway alongside Eugene Veedeen, knows it all too well, having been tethered to her bags during a recent trip to Italy with a friend.

“(We’re in this) beautiful city and I'm literally shackled to it… there's nothing I could do (besides) sit and have lunch,” laments the co-founder of the on-demand luggage storage network. That’s the traveller’s woe BagsAway hopes to eliminate.

“We all carry our things around with us and cherish them but we also want to break away from them,” says Zusman. And that’s what BagsAway is offering, a break from your luggage, bags and whatever else you carry.

The Toronto startup fills the gap left by a post-hotel travel economy where a lean towards home-sharing means some of the amenities one might expect from a hotel (like, for instance, a dedicated concierge with luggage storage) no longer exist.

Travellers (or anyone for that matter with excess baggage) book storage online through the platform, choosing a location close to their destination. The confirmation email serves as a two-way receipt. When they arrive, bags are tagged, sealed, and protected by insurance. It’s pre-paid, and cash-free. Plus the user can cancel the reservation at any time before dropping their luggage off. Local stores, on the other hand, get the opportunity to turn unused space into revenue.

The whole process is aimed at saving the traveller time.

“When you're travelling you're building this trip and time is really your biggest currency,” says Zusman.

Veedeen, a software engineer, got the idea while working on a self-serve bag drop project at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

The startup launched in 2017, initially as a pick-up and delivery service, before realizing travellers often weren’t connected when they first arrived and didn’t want to spend the time organizing the pick-up.

Since then, BagsAway has added partners in major cities including Vancouver, Montreal, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco – everything from convenience stores and spas to co-working spaces and tattoo parlours.

“It’s so varied,” says Zusman. “It's quite unique how open-minded certain businesses can be.”

They’ve also benefitted from a partnership with PenguinPickUp, the nationwide network of online deliveries pick-up points. “They're optimized already to receive items,” she says. “This partnership also gives us an advantage for growth and quick expansion across Canada.”

As a part of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone incubator, BagsAway has entrenched itself in the Toronto startup ecosystem. They’ve also leveraged the TravelTechTO community.

“Toronto is known right now as quite the tech hotspot and I think it's definitely been evolving the past few years for us as we've been making connections,” she says. “It's a really great time to be a startup in Toronto.”

Photo Credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)