Neil Blumenthal at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC

The Entrepreneurship Department and FITSA of FITnyc held a collaborative event on the 8th floor of building A at 6:30pm until 9:00pm. It was the first of a speaker series that would bring Entrepreneurs from all over New York City to speak to students on the values and techniques of modern entrepreneurs. Students flocked to this event. They were enthralled by Neil Blumenthal’s entrepreneurial journey and asked many questions at the end of the event. After Neil spoke, students had the opportunity to network with current Warby Parker staff, who were sitting in the audience.

The event began with an introduction about Neil Blumenthal from the CEO of Panjiva Josh Green, who admitted it was his first time meeting Neil. He explained how he was so impressed by Neil’s resume that he was looking forward to working together with Neil in the near future.

The chair of the Entrepreneurship program Henry Welt spoke in depth about how Neil would be the first of an extended speaker series on Silicon Alley’s modern startups.

Neil welcomed us and began his talk by asking who had heard of Warby Parker. He was impressed to see that most, if not everyone had heard of his brand of the 50 attendees. He then dived into his brand and explained how it came to be.

The problem he faced was that glasses were too damn expensive!

As he put it, there is no reason glasses should cost $300 

He broke his only pair of glasses one day (on a plane no less), and was not able to afford or buy a new pair immediately. He never felt so crippled in his life as he did at this moment. It inspired him to research how glasses were impacting the world as a whole.

“He has a background in political science and was very interested in public policy and nonprofits”

He joined Vision Spring, a non-profit that that works on selling inexpensive glasses to third world countries. He developed a concept at Vision Spring that was truly visionary. He would provide glasses at low cost to women in third world countries who would make businesses selling glasses. The women who sold glasses would in turn invest in their own children’s educations. The Vision Spring company data supported the notion that women provided more for the children than men did in third world countries like India.

After working for Vision Spring he set out with his friends from his Masters Program at Wharton Business School to create a company that would reshape the glasses industry.

His 3-person team would build a business that worked on developing 95-dollar price point glasses that were fashionable. The business needed to have the most modern and effective customer service program. They would create a business model that continued to empower third world women to sell glasses in a direct collaboration with Vision Spring via a cash donation.

Neil is solving a huge problem:

1 billion people today don’t have glasses. Can you imagine?

Luxottica was the only major competitor doing over 8 billion dollars in yearly revenue. They operate, nearly every luxury glasses brand including recently acquired Oakley and Sunglass Hut.

The question was: Would people buy glasses online?

After Warby Parker made the style page in GQ magazine the tabloids erupted. The glasses were featured next to major fashion labels, and it could be heard around the fashion world that the $95 glasses were a huge hit!

At the end of his company story, Neil Blumenthal gave the audience some unique facts about Warby Parker. Here are my favorite few:

– Warby Parker has virtual try on – software that recognizes fit of glasses to face
– 5 frames, 5 Days free – try five frames at home for five days with free shipping back and forth
– Sales increased highly between 2010 q4 and 2011 q1 from New York Times publicity
– The bird: Blue Foot Booby is Warby Parker’s company symbol
– Warby Parker was started with $120,000
– Warby Parker didi a holiday spectacle bazaar on Grand Street and West Broadway

  • “We built yurts, and sold axes and Christmas trees” The axes sold faster than the glasses.

The bottom line from Neil’s discussion:

” organize product and task management, resource mapping, bias toward action, and problem solving”.

The event was held on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012.

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