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Swiss Army knife of bags propels Canadian inventor from near-broke to millionaire

Lifepack creator Adrian Solgaard poses with his creation. (Lifepack)

Adrian Solgaard was sitting at a cafe near the Arco de Triunfo in Barcelona, Spain when his female companion’s backpack, which was sitting on the ground, was stolen.

“We were chatting … and somewhere (along the way) we got distracted by just staring deeply into each other’s eyes,” Solgaard told Yahoo Finance Canada on the phone from Denmark, recalling the incident from December 2015.

The theft left his “beautiful” companion, and now girlfriend, without her laptop, personal belongings and Bluetooth speakers, recently purchased for her by Solgaard.

It’s the type of scenario that could ruin any trip, but instead the 30-year-old Canadian used it as motivation to create an innovative product that he had been dreaming up since he was 18 years old, travelling across Europe and wishing there was a way to lock up his bag, rather than wrapping its straps around his leg to keep it safe from thieves.

“I was like, ‘Nope. Screw this. This has got to happen. I’ve been thinking about this for too long. I’ve got to make it happen now,” said Solgaard, who was born in Abbotsford, B.C.

So just days later, while in the process of leaving the bike lock company he had founded four years earlier and with just $600 to his name, Solgaard set about creating the Lifepack.

Solgaard was staying on a friend’s couch but managed to put together a crowdfunding campaign for this veritable Swiss Army Knife of backpacks, which would feature Bluetooth speakers, a solar charger, a battery pack and an array of other features.

(Lifepack)

The campaign launched on February 29 and reached its fundraising goal the same day. In total, the “briefcase for millennials” raised more than US$1.2 million on Kickstarter and Indiegogo combined.

Lifepack started shipping its 9,000 preordered backpacks to 81 different countries over the holidays.

Solgaard said there have been some “hiccups” as FedEx, DHL and GLS lost shipments, but 90 per cent of the products have been delivered, with the rest set to be completed in the next few weeks.

Lifepack is now also being sold through online retailers, such as Amazon, and it has sold an additional 3,000 units, including 500 that were purchased for the cast and crew of the TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”

Vanilla Ice has his very own Lifepack, Solgaard says proudly.

This success also means that the self-confident entrepreneur is no longer sleeping on his friend’s couch.

Solgaard said he had a goal of becoming a millionaire before the age of 30, which he accomplished with a month to spare before his birthday last October.

But Solgaard is also proud to have created a product that allows its users to “have everything with you and (be) ready for everything.”

In particular, he said its mix of technology and flexible features have made it highly appealing to millennials.

Lifepack’s lock, which is patent-pending, is anchored to the bag through an extendable cable, so it can be wrapped around objects and secured into place to prevent incidents like what Solgaard experienced in Barcelona. It also functions as a bottle opener.

Additionally, there are four hidden compartments to keep important objects such as smartphones, passports and money safe.

Its “world-class” solarbank has a USB charger, which carries enough juice to restore an iPhone 6 up to full power 12 times or to use the bag’s Bluetooth speakers for 96 hours.

The panel can generate enough power for one charge in four hours.

This package of practicality and fun lets users carry around everything they need for the workplace and for the party at the beach afterwards, according to Solgaard.

“You turn up: Hey. Look. You’ve got speakers, Oh. Your friend’s phone is dying — you can charge your buddy’s phone. And guess what? You’re the guy with the bottle opener — you win,” he said with a laugh.

It is also designed to keep those two parts of its users’ lives separate and organised.

Solgaard, who described himself as “severely ADHD,” said his desk at work is the “messiest,” therefore he tried to create a bag that would force him to be organised, so he doesn’t lose anything.

He recalled one incident when he pulled his laptop out of a bag at a meeting and a single sock flopped onto the boardroom table.

To help his customers avoid these types of embarrassing incidents, the Lifepack has a “Workzone” opening in the back, with dedicated pockets for business cards, loose papers, cables and a laptop. And in the front, there is a “Lifezone,” with areas for personal items such as clothes or toiletries. The Lifepack is also weather resistant.

Solgaard said he also has two other products slated for release later this year. He hopes to be at the forefront of the integration of solar technology and fashion.

While the Lifepack’s array of features may seem overwhelming, Solgaard said its biggest strength is, in fact, that it has the opposite effect on its users by easing some of the “decision fatigue” that they may face over the course of a day.

“We’re trying to make products that make people’s live simpler,” he said.

“Things are complicated enough.”