You've all heard the story of Warby Parker, yes? Well, in case you haven't, this guy Dave Gilboa was traveling in Thailand. He lost his $700 glasses. A poor (at the time) business school student at Wharton, he stumbled through the following semester practically blind. And then he got the idea for a startup.
The rest is basically history: Gilboa and his partner, Neil Blumenthal, have now joined the ranks of the tech unicorns, with Warby Parker, everybody's favorite affordable buy-a-pair-give-a-pair glasses purveyor, being valued at $1.2 billion. Just five years after Warby launched as an online seller, the brand has opened 20 brick-and mortar stores, including its most recent, last month, at Santana Row in San Jose.
We chatted with Gilboa about all things glasses and the Bay Area.
7x7: How many pairs of glasses do you own?
DG: I’ve lost track at this point, but probably a few dozen.
7x7: How many pair of glasses do you bring with you when you travel?
DG: I keep it simple when I travel and stick to two pairs: a light color or clear frame and a darker tortoise or black frame. (Plus sunglasses or our new clip-on.)
7x7: Do you match them to your outfits?
DG: Not with any degree of precision, but I try to make sure the general aesthetic is harmonious.
7x7: If you hadn’t founded Warby Parker, what woud you be doing?
DG: I likely would have founded a consumer healthcare company. I’m a closet science nerd (Gilboa was a bio-engineering major at Cal), and have always been fascinated by how technology can improve people’s health.
7x7: Why do you think Warby Parker glasses are so popular?
DG: We started with the idea that we wanted to sell beautiful, high-quality eyewear at an accessible price point. Most glasses in the U.S. cost several hundred dollars after being marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture. We realized that by creating a vertically integrated brand, we could offer classically crafted eyewear for less than $100, and our customers love that they can buy multiple pairs and style each they way they might with shoes, jewelry, or any other accessory. Through our Buy a Pair, Give A Pair program, we distribute a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold—so the experience is not only fun and easy, but it does good in the world, too.
7x7: Tell us about the new Santana Row store.
DG: We have custom artwork by artist and friend Jason Munn, and plenty of leather seating where customers can relax, page through a book, snap photos, and lounge between trying on frames. It's our fifth location in California, and we look forward to being close to where many of our generation’s most innovative and impactful companies call home.
7x7: What’s your favorite thing to eat in SF?
DG: Carne asada super burrito at La Taqueria
7x7: What’s your perfect night on the town?
DG: Good friends, good tacos, good beers, good stories, and lots of laughs
7x7: Best local day trip?
DG: Surfing in Bolinas, and hiking Mt Tam
Burrito or Burger: Burrito, obviously. As a California native, my citizenship would be revoked if I said burger.
Presidio or Golden Gate Park: Golden Gate, because the Academy has an albino alligator named Claude.
Bike or MUNI: Bike until I pass out from sheer exhaustion from attacking near-vertical hills, and then Muni.
Fort Mason or Dolores Park: Dolores Park on a sunny day is heaven.
The Independent or The Fillmore: Both
Baker Beach or Ocean Beach: Ocean Beach, better waves.