Warby Parker, co-founded by Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andy Hunt and Jeff Raider, disrupted the American eyewear industry. In 2002, Neil Blumenthal had recently graduated from college and was interning at the International Crisis Group. Though engaged by policy work, the experience left him interested in investigating more direct ways to effect change. A family friend introduced him to Jordan Kassalow, an optometrist and the founder of the Global Health Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. A year prior, Jordan had co-founded what would become VisionSpring, a social enterprise devoted to the charitable distribution of high-end reading glasses. Neil and Jordan met at Jordan’s practice on the Upper East Side and started talking. The simple intervention left a strong impression on Jordan, who became driven to address the need for readily available eyewear in underserved communities across the globe. He began developing VisionSpring while working at a foreign policy think tank, and it was this story that he shared with Neil.
After five years at VisionSpring, Neil went on to pursue an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, but his nonprofit work wasn’t forgotten. When the idea for Warby Parker was hatched, Neil brought Jordan in as an early advisor, and VisionSpring as a partner. Warby Parker launched nearly four years ago with the goal of selling stylish, high-quality, affordable eyewear—and, for every pair purchased, distributing a pair to someone in need. By circumventing traditional channels and selling glasses directly through their website, Warby Parker was able to offer designer eyewear at a fraction of the going price. In spring of 2013, the company celebrated a milestone of 500,000 pairs of glasses distributed. They also expanded their retail vision to include brick-and-mortar stores.
Twitter – @neilblumenthal