founder

Pakt Founder Malcolm Fontier on the Future of Travel

Introduction

The last year has largely taken place at home for many people, but soon, people will be out and about in the world again. When that happens, they’ll need a way to carry their stuff ideally one that is attractive, functional, and helping rather than harming the environment. COVID-19 or not, luggage is a staple of consumers’ closets. The luggage market was valued at $28 billion in 2018 and is projected to almost double to almost $58 billion by 2026.

Pakt is a travel supplies company that’s focused on bringing sustainability to luggage. Its products are minimalist, functional, and environmentally-friendly. We reached out to founder Malcolm Fontier to learn how a Netflix documentary was the seed for Pakt’s creation.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Zee Zhong

Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?

Malcolm Fontier

We’re a product company, but we value experiences over products. So, Pakt creates exceptional travel gear that helps you get the most out of every journey. 

Keep travel simple. 

Zee Zhong

What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?

Malcolm Fontier

Honestly, it was more serendipity than inspiration.

I was laying the groundwork for a different venture when the documentary Minimalism was released on Netflix. The film featured a discontinued bag that my team and I had designed years before. Suddenly, thousands of requests to relaunch the bag started flowing in. In late 2017, we decided to relaunch the bag through a crowdfunding campaign. Those requests for a relaunch translated into a $2 million campaign and nearly 10,000 bags sold in the first year. Those customers were vocal with their support for the direction of our young brand, so we decided to run with it. We haven’t slowed down or looked back since!

Zee Zhong

What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?

Malcolm Fontier

I have a degree in industrial design and spent the first part of my career working as a product design consultant. In that time I helped design, produce, and bring to market all types of products from furniture to toys, sporting goods, electronics, and some bags too. I later spent a couple of years working on a tech startup. That was a great experience, but I realized that I was more at home in the physical product world than the digital one. At Pakt, we leverage those years of product development and sourcing experience but operate like a lean, agile tech startup. 

Zee Zhong

What is your vision for the future of the travel industry?

Malcolm Fontier

As COVID has shown us, how and where we travel may change, but people’s desire to travel isn’t going anywhere. One thing that is changing quickly is our awareness of the impact travel and all our actions have. Because of that, there’s a rapidly growing segment of the travel market that demands gear that is produced with the same high standards for minimizing impact that they apply to their own lives and travel. Operating that way has been Pakt’s MO since day one.

Zee Zhong

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Malcolm Fontier

We have a really fun team with great synergy. Team members actually refer to each other as the “Pakt Fam.” Because that culture fit is so important, team members have found their way to Pakt in different ways. About half joined through traditional job searches or networking efforts. The other half were more organic in that they started as a freelance contractor on a single project that led to a casual invite along the lines of, “You’re kicking ass and you’re fun to work with! Why don’t you join our team?”

Zee Zhong

Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?

Malcolm Fontier

The luggage and travel goods space actually has a lot of players, both legacy brands and newcomers. It’s a big and growing market though – the global luggage market alone is currently estimated to be worth $22.8 billion. The legacy brands can be described as slow moving dinosaurs, and the share claimed by newcomers is still hyper fragmented with few clear leaders. 

Our brand and product positioning occupy a unique space. The line between work and play continues to blur while travel is trending toward more active outdoor adventures. Our versatile line, with it’s stylish urban appeal and outdoor performance, is perfectly positioned to be a go-to brand for people’s modern mobile lifestyles. 

Zee Zhong

What does your business model look like?

Malcolm Fontier

Our refined and responsibly-sourced travel accessories are paired with a customer-centric, direct-to-consumer model. We aim for above-and-beyond with both our designs and our customer support. Selling directly to customers allows us to form those close customer relationships. We also do some collaborations with like-minded brands or retailers when it offers good exposure to new audiences.

Zee Zhong

What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Malcolm Fontier

As I mentioned before, our brand was launched through a product crowdfunding campaign, and we credit that campaign for the strong brand loyalty we enjoy. So, it felt totally natural to return to the crowd when we decided it was time to raise some growth capital.

Funds will be applied mainly to product development and marketing. We have some great new products in the works but launching them requires significant capital. With marketing, we’ve successfully piloted efforts with influencers, creative content partners, and peer brands that show a lot of promise, but the longer ROI timeline compared to things like ads requires some upfront investment.

Zee Zhong

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Malcolm Fontier

The transparency and VIP service that we treat all our customers with will be enjoyed by investors as well, but to an even higher level. We treat our team and our customers like family, so all investors will be joining that awesome community with some additional perks.

It’s time to expect more from the products and the companies you support. I’m confident Pakt will deliver and exceed those expectations!

Zee Zhong

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Malcolm Fontier

We see an opportunity to claim a good size chunk of the travel goods market with our unique offering, timely environmental and social practices, and strong brand. The deep-pocketed but slow to adapt legacy brands will continue to lose market share. Our goal is to build Pakt to a point where we can’t be ignored, and we become an appealing acquisition target. An acquisition like that would enable us to extend the reach of our brand — that is changing the way products are produced and business is done — to a mainstream audience.

We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Malcolm and his team take the company. Pakt is currently raising on Republic.

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