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Big Omaha – Neil Blumenthal: ‘Glasses are fun, but they are un-fun when they are $500’

Neil Blumenthal speaks at Big Omaha 2011. Photo by Malone & Company.

The past three months have been a whirlwind for Neil Blumenthal. On February 15, he and his co-founders launched Warby Parker with features in GQ and Vogue. Three weeks after launch, his designer frames and eyeglass company shattered their one year target sales goals, sold out of their top 15 styles, and had a waiting list of 20,000 customers.

The audience at Big Omaha was lucky to have Blumenthal come and talk about his company, and I believe we caught Neil at the very onset of the tremendous growth of Warby Parker.

Two Things to Think About

Blumenthal started his talk by asking the audience to think about two things:

  1. What do the products and clothing you buy say about you?
  2. How can for-profit companies be a catalyst for change?

The idea of Warby Parker came from a product that many of us wear on a daily basis. “Glasses are fun, but they are un-fun when they are $500,” Blumenthal said. It was this statement that made Blumenthal and his friends know they could change the eyewear industry.

Blumenthal’s Background

“In college I wanted to change the world. I was passionate about so many things. Passionate about clean water, passionate about education, but I settled on war and conflict,” Blumenthal said. “I figured if we settled this issue first. We could then solve all the other problems.”

After doing some non-profit work Blumenthal settled at the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania. There he would meet his eventual co-founders which first were just best friends. 

Warby Parker’s Intent

Most interesting to me, Blumenthal made it clear that every decision his team makes at Warby Parker is carefully thought out and very intentional. “It’s not enough just to say you’re doing good,” Blumenthal said. “We deliver our glasses in a thoughtful way. We don’t want to just plop down in some village in Africa, drop off thousands of glasses, and leave.”

Throughout the entire talk, Blumenthal was analytical and intentional, yet sincere and honest. He saved time for Q&A to answer questions about Warby Parker, and it is clear that this company is going to make true change in the world.

For more on Blumenthal’s talk, see Robert Murphy’s blog post: “Big Omaha 2011: Neil Blumenthal.”

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