Shalom Life | May 14, 2014

Startup Club: Warby Parker

Shalom Life learns about Warby Parker's business/charity model, and what it feels like to provide half a million people in underdeveloped countries with glasses

By: Daniel Koren

Published: August 7th, 2013 in Business » World

Over the past few decades, a growing number of small businesses involved in various industries have popped up around the world meeting the needs of an ever-growing, ever-changing market.

Jewish businessmen and innovators continue to excel throughout these industries, displaying their prowess as creative, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and tapping into continuously developing markets with 'startup' companies. In a bid to recognize these decorated entrepreneurs for their ongoing contributions and advancements to these fields, Shalom Life is pleased to announce its newest weekly feature: Startup Club.

Startup Club will highlight the best and the brightest of Jewish entrepreneurs who continue to provide our community with new, influential and innovative ideas that will forever change the way we interact with the world, and with one another.

Follow our lead and we’ll follow yours – send us tips or suggestions via email, comment below or tweet us @ShalomLife, in our mission to celebrate the most visionary of Jewish entrepreneurs.

Business: Warby Parker

Based Out Of: New York, New York

Entrepreneur(s): Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, Jeffrey Raider

Industry: Eyewear


In 2008, four Wharton classmates - Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, Jeffrey Raider - met and, over drinks at the Roosevelt Pub near campus, they found themselves discussing a mutual frustration.

Dave had just lost his eyeglasses and, in seeking out a new pair, had found himself appalled at the high retail cost of designer eyewear—approximately $400. Jeff shared his sentiments, adding that he had experienced the exact same feeling—in fact, despite a five-year outdated prescription, he couldn’t bring himself to purchase a new pair.

Before long, the four put their heads together and started wondering whether there was something they could do to disrupt the status quo.

There was.

A new concept in eyewear

Born from their unique, and respective personal traits - a penchant for outrageous outfits, an affinity for vintage collectibles and a strong desire to make the world a better place - Warby Parker, inspired by American novelist Jack Kerouac's earliest characters - Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper - has, in a mere three years, been able to help solve a major problem the world is facing, all while establishing itself as a serious competitor in the eyeframes industry.

Shalom Life had a chance to learn more about Warby Parker's success, and about their co-founder and CEO Neil Blumenthal.

For the four friends, the impetus for Warby Parker wasn’t to just sell online but to solve a problem they were facing. The problem, besides the ridiculously high prices eyeglasses were sold for, was the fact that it meant people in underdeveloped countries do not have access to glasses, or even their vision.

'Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses,' reads Warby Parker's official website. 'This means that 15% of the global population cannot effectively learn or work - a problem that Warby Parker is determined to address. We've partnered with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.'


(Dave Gilboa, Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt)

VisionSpring is a non-profit Blumenthal was involved in before grad school. From here he learned there was a big disconnection between what it costs to manufacture glasses and what they are actually sold for. When Andrew Hunt suggested selling the glasses online, developing relationships directly with the customers and bypassing the middleman, the four friends had successfully come up with a business model that is one part charity, one part business, and two parts fashion.

Buy a pair, give a pair

Warby Parker's approach to selling eyeframes, and helping others while doing it, is quite simple. For every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, a pair is distributed to someone in need with the help of their nonprofit partners.

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