Imagine if a certain type of medication you needed wasn’t available in your country and was expensive to ship or acquire. Many people rely on friends or relatives traveling to these countries to bring back items that cannot be purchased in their country, whether it’s jamon or an iPhone. Backpack connects users with travelers who can bring desired products back at discounted prices.
Backpack, a Y Combinator-backed startup, is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects shoppers and travelers to empower consumers to buy overseas products at a discount. Shoppers get access to foreign products by paying travelers coming to their country a fee to purchase and deliver the items.
Backpack aggregates items that you can search on the website through Amazon and Ebay, or you can manually enter a link of any product you need with the price. Travelers earn money based on the product’s size and dimensions and Fahim Aziz, co-founder and CEO, says on average per trip, travelers make up to $250, but by delivering multiple items.
On the site, there is a Travel option and a Shop option. The Shop option lets you find your product and request a “Backpack.” Shoppers can add item remarks and indicate the country from which they want the product. Once your request goes in, a traveler has to review and confirm the request, and the shopper pays a product cost and traveler’s fee, kept in escrow by Backpack.
Backpack allows shoppers to pay through Paypal, check, wire transfer and localized mobile payment methods.
The Travel option lets travelers share flight date and location. When a shopper’s request matches with the traveler’s location, the traveler gets a notification about the product. The traveler has six hours to accept or reject the request. So far, Aziz says more that two thirds of requests are fulfilled, and more requests will be fulfilled as more travelers sign up.
Backpack has been live since February, but a large part of its customer base is from Bangladesh, but it’s slowly seeping into China. Within the first week of going live, the website received 70,000 hits from 86 countries, and has a 15 percent growth per week.
The company, which is getting advice from ex-Googler Nash Islam, has made certain deals available to other countries when travelers do travel to the shopper’s country, but they soon hope to expand to China, South America and Europe.
If something happens to the host, Aziz says Backpack will take care of them, but the company hasn’t implemented an insurance policy yet and are looking at options.
“Some people might take it as a delivery service, but I see it as a lot more than that,” Aziz said. “I think that it’s incredibly powerful.”
Once Backpack opens in more markets and has a large traveler following, the service seems to be a simple and incredibly useful tool for those unable to buy items in their own country.