92. Neil Blumenthal

Cofounder of Warby Parker, How To Sell An Old Product In A New Way

92. Neil Blumenthal

Warby Parker is a boutique online glasses shop that sells vintage-inspired specs for $95. In 2011, its second year, sales quintupled, and it has had to move offices four times to accommodate growth. Success came from not thinking, or acting, like a LensCrafters.


1. Curate your product

A typical optical shop carries up to 1,000 frames; Warby offers 50. That might exclude many customers’ tastes, but it builds trust with those who like what they see. “It’s easy to browse. It’s not overwhelming,” Neil Blumenthal says. “And it forces us to really hone our designs and produce only the ones that we’re most proud of.”

2. Encourage trial and error

Warby Parker will mail users up to five glasses at a time, to try on and return. (Shipping is free.) That isn’t just useful. The company finds that people try on glasses and then post the photos to Facebook, soliciting feedback. The average post receives five comments, thus spreading word about
the company.

3. Back off your branding

The company is always surveying customers and found that many feel like glasses with logos turn them into “walking billboards.” (A few said they’d even scratched the Prada logo off pairs.) So Warby puts no branding on its frames.


4. Seek outside influences

Every week ends with Inspiration Friday. “Our staff brings in articles, videos, images–anything that has sparked their creativity and innovation,” Blumenthal says. That’s led to everything from a creative annual report to an April Fools’ Day “Warby Barker” (glasses for dogs) site.


  • 2002

    Graduates from Tufts University (majors in International Relations and History; spends semesters in Argentina and Spain)

  • 2003

    Moves to El Salvador to join VisionSpring, an organization that helps low-income people by teaching them how to start their own businesses selling eyeglasses. (Eventually becomes VisionSpring’s director)

  • 2004

    Develops collection of eyewear for individuals living on less than $4 per day and travels to Asia to meet with factories

  • 2006

    Is named Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Wagner School of Public Service

  • 2008

    Marries jewelry designer Rachel Leigh

  • 2010

    Warby Parker hits first year sales target and sells out of top 15 styles; gets featured in GQ and Vogue; graduates frin The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (MBA)

  • 2011

    Warby Parker distributes 100,000th pair to someone in need through VisionSpring; first son Griffin is born

  • 2012

    Is named Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum; his son, Griffin, starts walking