This week we had Jeff Raider come through for a Lunch n’ Learn. He talked about his days at Wharton, founding Warby Parker and the early years of hitting the pavement. Finally, he introduced us to his newest venture, Harry’s! There are a few highlights from his ride so far that I think are worth sharing.
First, Warby Parker began with a well-known startup story – bootstrapped from the dorm room. The idea came about when a friend was frustrated by the high cost of prescription glasses. There market was somewhat of an oligopoly, dominated by a few companies who got away with crazy markups. They found a spot to play and went against the big dogs. The four friends put their savings together and starting building the product. They sourced the first customer service rep from a classmate’s wife, who would answer calls while they were in class. Eventually, they were missing class and exams and working on the project full time.
Growth was organic – WP didn’t spend a dime on marketing for quite some time. Since Jeff was sponsored, he felt obliged and loyal to friends at his office to return and work for them. So two of the four left and now sit on the board while the other two still devote themseleves full-time to WP. Jeff, knew this wasn’t all and was waiting for another idea to catch his eye.
A friend called him one day after feeling ripped off from buying razors at a convenience store. They cost what, 0.40 to make? And he’d spent roughly $20 on all the supplies. He knew then there had to be a better way and the two began work on what now is Harry’s.
Jeff emphasized that Harry’s is a brand, not an ecommerce play. Ecommerce, he noted, is selling other people’s brands and products through your vehicle. Harry’s however, communicates a clear message to its consumers to resonate with them in a more personal manner. They sell directly and use a one-for-one model (or one-for-”value of one” model to give back to people and organizations that help people “look and feel great.”
I had a chance to meet with the Harry’s team in NYC a few weeks ago and they are doing great things! It will be really exciting to watch them over their first year.