while deplaning in chiang mai, thailand, in 2008, a young business student named david gilboa left his eyeglasses—a pair of $700 black titanium frames by prada—behind. upon realizing this, the vacationing Gilboa had two thoughts: he couldn’t believe he’d left his glasses on a plane, and he couldn’t believe he’d spent $700 on said glasses.
a few months later, back in the states, gilboa—now a student at wharton—got in line to buy an iphone, where, once again, he began thinking about that lost pair of Pradas.
“i couldn’t figure out why this technology that has been around for hundreds of years should cost more than this magical, $200 iphone,” he says. “so i started talking to some of my classmates about it.”
one of those classmates was neil blumenthal, who had spent the previous five years running visionspring, a global nonprofit that helps impoverished communities make and sell affordable eyeglasses. “close to a billion people don’t have access to eyeglasses,” he says. “it has a profound impact on their ability to learn and to work.”
along with two other classmates, blumenthal and gilboa began brainstorming over nightly drinks, electrified by the idea of upending the eyewear industry. once they learned that the entire network is a closed loop—that a handful of companies design, distribute, and sell; that the company that makes ray-bans also owns sunglass hut—they knew they’d found their opening.
the concept was simple and elegant: cut out the middlemen, offer classic, beautiful frames for just $95, keep overhead low by selling primarily online, and donate one pair for each purchased. gilboa and blumenthal were told it would never work.
we’d hear, ‘you know, if people could sell glasses online, someone would already be doing it,’ ” gilboa says. “but that just made us more excited.”
- vanity fair [emphasis mine]
a great example of believe in your vision [pun? perhaps]