The first thing to know is that I’m wearing a pair of Warby Parker glasses as I write this. My bias is as plain as the frames on my face. I like the company I’m writing about.
I like that Warby Parker’s glasses have a distinctive style—a little bit mid-century, a little bit nerdy. I like how the four-year-old startup ships five pairs of glasses at a time for free to try on at home. I like how the glasses mostly cost less than $100. And I like how their customer service seems to be conducted by real people, not robots or, even worse, people trained to act like robots. Through a combination of good product design, a deep commitment to user experience, and supply-chain smarts, Warby Parker has managed in four years to build a company that in my experience as a customer is doing just about everything right. Which is why I worry that it can’t last. After all, if not sucking was a sure way to build a sustainable business, why don’t more try it?
Case in point: On Wednesday, Warby Parker announced a milestone involving another good thing it does. For every pair of glasses sold, the company donates another pair to VisionSpring, a charity that trains people in low-income communities around the world to conduct eye exams and set up businesses selling glasses for a few bucks a piece. Warby says that, as of now, it has donated one million pairs of glasses. “When we launched Warby Parker, we thought we were going to have to beg our parents to go online and buy one or two pairs a day to keep us in business,” co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal told WIRED. “So this wildly exceeds our expectations.”