technology/22bits-glasses/22bits-glasses-blog480.jpg" alt="" width="480" height="261" />Noel Camardo
Warby Parker has surprised skeptics by building a business that sells stylish prescription eyeglasses online.
Now it has raised $12 million in venture capital, bringing its total to $13.5 million, to help it expand and manage the demand for the glasses. The money came from Tiger Global, the Menlo Talent Fund and existing investors including Lerer Ventures, Thrive Capital and First Round Capital.
The start-up, which is based in New York and opened last year, technology/17glasses.html">taps into two trends in e-commerce. It eliminates the middleman in order to sell glasses for $95, much less than the typical retail price of several hundred dollars, and offers attentive customer service. Anyone can return glasses at no charge, for instance.
But it has faced brutal inventory problems. The glasses sold out early on, and loaner pairs — glasses without prescription lenses that the company will send free to customers who want to try them on — are often back-ordered.
Warby Parker will use the new capital in part to manage those issues, said Neil Blumenthal, a co-founder. The start-up has been working with a professor and intern from Stanford on an inventory model and is hiring supply-chain experts, he said.
“There continues to be a failure of imagination on how quickly this brand can grow,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Now we take our projections and double them and order based on that.”
The company also offers glasses to try on in stores it has partnered with in various cities, and will expand that program as part of its new marketing efforts. During Fashion Week, for instance, 30 Warby Parker models wearing the glasses filed quietly into the New York Public Library and sat at tables. At once, they held up blue books with the name of the type of glasses they were wearing as fashion editors watched.
And Warby Parker will soon introduce prescription sunglasses for $150.