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Warby Parker built a 1,400-employee company by focusing on team culture (jilt.com)
167 points by pmp301 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments

I have so many problems with this article, and of course Warby Parker in general. First off, it seems they're going to commit the cardinal sin of every Silicon Valley company - completely ignoring anyone who isn't in the head office. Balloons on every desk - let's just ignore the vast majority of employees are sales staff who don't have desks.

The more major problem I have with WP is that their product is entirely generic and their entire business model is just to sell the same thing everyone else does but invest in a different style of woke signalling marketing. Which is exactly what this article is. The whole thing just reads as a "Isn't it great that we're in the growth phase so we can completely ignore our costs!". Tell me about when your sales dropped and you kept your staff motivated and happy - that's what I want to know. I don't want to know staff like free stuff - I already know that. It's kind of easy to keep retention rates high when all your staff are so knew that there's no legacy systems to deal with and they haven't been at your company long enough to grow out of their jobs.

This article brings literally nothing knew to the table. But to be fair, it's literally an article on an e-mail marketting website.

The product is generic, but the incumbent competition charged exorbitant price for glasses frames and offered poor customer service.

Charging more reasonable prices is of course very replicable, and the mail order model has been replicated by other companies.

The characterization of ignoring the sales staff is very at odds with my experience - the staff at their brick and mortar stores I've been to have been very helpful and capable.

I've purchased three pairs of Warby Parker glasses, and a lifetime of "incumbent" glasses before and after that.

All of WP's glasses I've owned were somewhere on the scale between "garbage" and "fine as a backup pair". Cheap plastic. Very poor fit. Lenses that easily scratched. Messed up prescription multiple times (thankfully their CS is pretty good).

I'm thankful that my insurance allows me to own a "real" pair of glasses, which would normally cost ~$400, from my optometrist. Because the ~year that I experimented with WP was without a doubt coupled with the worst glasses I've ever worn in my life, and I've been wearing glasses since the first grade. I'll only ever be returning to them maybe for prescription sunglasses, and even then my optometrist often runs bundles with glasses (on insurance) + sunglasses for 50% off sticker.

I respect that they're opening the market up for people who aren't lucky enough to be able to consistently afford better glasses. But I don't believe this is what we should want as a society; everyone should have access to great vision, and shouldn't have to resort to rebranded chineese knock-offs just to live their life to their best potential.

As long as we're in anecdote world, I'll offer that I've had nothing but positive experiences with Warby Parker. To take your examples:

1. "Cheap plastic". Is there expensive plastic, really? I've owned much more expensive (but still plastic-framed) glasses and have never noticed a difference in quality.

2. "Very poor fit". Fair enough, I will offer though that I had a fitting at one of their brick-and-mortar locations and the glasses I got fit very well.

3. "Lenses that easily scratched". The details on their lens offerings are here, https://www.warbyparker.com/lenses . Again, not a problem I have encountered.

I don't doubt that there are better glasses than Warby Parker, but I'd bet that they're as good as if not better than basically everything up to the 90ish percentile range.

I have been buying glasses from my optometrist for decades. A pair runs about $500, after insurance. Dropped by Warby Parker on a lark (they have a store a few miles away). The glass tech looked over my glasses and told me the optical center was wrong by a bit; OK for 99% of prescriptions but that error was significant due to my prescription. (my corrected vision is 20/50 in both eyes) Ordered 1 pair. Noticeably better eyesight. For about $200.

I’ll throw another anecdote on the pile that I really hoped WP would be great, but after multiple trips back to the store to get my glasses adjusted and even have new lenses put in, I won’t be going with them for my next pair. The cheap glasses from Zenni Optical I got years ago had better lenses with no problems, unlike Warby Parker.

It’s the biggest disappointment in buying glasses in my 18 years of wearing glasses.

Why would a quality pair of glasses have to cost $400? You can get a quality SLR camera for that, which would seem to have way more sophistication that a pair of glasses. What am I missing?

Insurance companies and Luxottica

Chances are that if you're buying glasses you're probably getting a brand that's directly owned by Luxottica (LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Apex by Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Eyemed vision care plan, Glasses.com, Ray-Ban, Persol, Oakley, etc). They also manufacture for an impressive string of luxury brands (Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, DKNY, and Tory Burch). [0]. It's an impressive roll-up of a number of retailers and brands by a not widely known Italian company.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxottica

Its a monopoly that abuses its power to extract money from hapless consumers, most of whom just want a pair of decent eyeglasses to function. I've made a conscious decision to avoid purchasing from them as much as I can, but do continue to buy from Ray-Ban. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDdq2rIqAlM

33% of the US market is a monopoly?

> The company says that the market is highly competitive, and their frames account for ~10% of sales worldwide and ~20% in the United States.[42][41] Euromonitor International estimates that Luxottica's market share is 14% worldwide, and the second-largest company in the industry, Essilor, has a 13% market share. The third-largest player is Johnson & Johnson, with a 3.9% market share. As of October 2018, Luxottica and Essilor have merged into a single company, EssilorLuxottica, representing almost a billion pairs of lenses and frames sold annually.

If you check price segments, the monopoly hypothesis gains support again. They own all the the higher end, including all the fashion / lifestyle brands.

By that logic Apple has a monopoly in smartphones.

Incorrect. Samsung etc. have phones that compete in the luxury smartphone segment with Apple. Luxottica has no such alternative (as of now, WP seems nice but it remains to be seen if they will focus on this market segment in the future).

There certainly are high-end, well-made, good-looking, and bloody expensive frames out there (i.e. everything WP isn't) that aren't from one of Luxottica's brands. Off-hand I could think of at least Gold & Wood, ic! berlin, and Mykita.

WP's story seems to be sprinkling some SV magic dust over decidedly pedestrian frames, not going after the high-end.

Are vision insurance benefits really widespread enough to make a big impact? I have what I believe to be one of the big ones through my employer and a small number of local places even took it.

I suspect it's much more about being a fashion business which it's hard to opt out of. Non-prescription sunglasses can also be very expensive at (I assume) eye-watering margins. (Owned in many cases by the same brand TBF.)

Honestly they should be sub $5 with Chinese manufacturing. And I'm not talking qty 100000 rather $5 at retail.

It's monopolies that force the price so high.

The price depends on your prescription. If your site is really poor, you may need high index lenses that are thinner. These lenses are about $35 more than the “free” lenses included in the starting $95-$125 price at Warby Parker. $300-400 is not out of the ordinary for those with poor vision, and that’s sometimes the price _with_ insurance.

I recently went into their Palo Alto store to check out their sunglasses. When I asked if they have anti-reflective coating, I was told that they were polarized, which is better. I pointed out that there is no tradeoff between anti-reflective coating (which is applied to the back of lenses) and polarization, and the salesperson parroted the same line without seeming to understand that she was missing the point. Anti-reflective coating is especially important for glasses shaped like theirs, which have minimal 'wrap' and therefore can reflect a lot of light from behind you directly into your eyes.

If someone is in the neighborhood you can do a good comparison between customer service, quality of glasses, and store vibe in a short amount of time. Go to WP store in Union square, make your way to Spectacles, then hit up Rims & Goggles on Sutter. It's a short walk to Oliver Peeps from Spectacles too. For kicks go into Sunglass hut.

WP is good for in a pinch but the quality of the glasses and treatment you get from your optometrist or a 'boutique' can make a huge difference for something you wear for work...everyday. It's akin to NPR's guilt trip during fundraising time. If you do the math it's a relatively low cost per wear. + it's something that can help you feel less strain at the end of the work day.

WP has good CS, but the quality of their offerings is lacking in my experience. The frames are nothing special, either in terms of design or construction. A lot of the frames are constructed from cheap plastic. And I don't think many WP frames offer features essential to durability like 5 barrel hinges instead of flimsy spring hinges.

I'd recommend Shuron over WP any day of the week. Made in the USA by a company that's been in business since 1865. Frames in acetate, and they offer real sizing to fit your head instead of a choice of "small" and "big" options. Barrel hinges, too:


Shuron has great customer service, but they sure could use some help with their site which seems to be stuck in a 1998 web design paradigm. Quality frames at a good price, though!

Where WP has innovated is in online sales of "good enough" glasses for young people, as a taste proxy, and in fluffy content marketing like this article. But you can break out of the Luxottica eyeglass cartel of high prices and low quality by avoiding WP completely and going to Shuron and getting yourself a pair of Ronsir, Freeway, or Sidewinder frames. You'll save money, too.

Hmm. I'm in the market for new glasses as I think my prescription has changed. I purchased my previous pair from WP and I found the experience to be quite nice. I was able to get on their site and sort/filter by men's/women's styles, color, shape, and size. I was able to easily select 5 that were the right shape for my face and the right size and then try them on at home and get the one I wanted.

Does Shuron offer that sort of experience? Looking at their site, I just see a list of glasses. I don't see a way to easily filter that down to ones that apply to me (narrow, rectangular). Part of the appeal of WP to me was the ease of getting something that I thought looked good and fit good at a reasonable price. Without some sort of way to search/curate, I don't think Shuron competes with that.

Of xourse, that's only the buying experience and doesn't pertain to the quality of the product and the customer service after buying.

> they offer real sizing to fit your head instead of a choice of "small" and "big" options

I'm confused by this. Is that not what something like WP[1] has (see the measurements details)?

[1]: https://www.warbyparker.com/eyeglasses/men/oliver-lbf/whiske...

Yeah, I'm only talking about the quality of the frames. WP has a pretty slick buying experience, I'll give them that. Shuron needs to get with 21st century UX. But...their frames are objectively higher quality than WP.

That slick buying experience is pretty helpful.

After years of paying $200+ for glasses, I decided to go with WP. It was a little nerve wracking- but having the home try on (and the option of a store try on) helped.

Sure, maybe the glasses aren't as nice as the ones I had. But they are $100 cheaper. And that's a decent chuck of change.

Ah yeah. That makes sense. I primarily wear contacts, so I haven't really had a problem with durability. The buying experience and cost were more important to me.

> Cheap plastic.

Interesting. On the WP website it says they use acetate from Italy which is usually differentiated from "plastic" in eyewear categories. Expensive plastic if you will.


I am suddenly so glad to live in China. I can get three pairs of glasses for ¥600, thin, polarised, with anti-scratch coating and my friend whose vision is bad enough that he’s probably legally blind without glasses can do the same. At those kind of prices I’m not surprised people bring sunglasses home as gifts.

China removes the fantasy layering of technology of the west, and bares it for what it is. Cheap plastics.

It always amazes me to see tech in scale sold for a fraction of what I thought was possible.

Spending an afternoon in Huaqiangbei is something any geek should do once in their life.

Thank God someone else feels this way. I heard so much hype about WP, and their prices were so cheap. I bought two pairs of glasses from them. I wanted to love their product.

But their glasses are terrible, for all the reasons you mentioned, plus many others.

I switched back to extortionately priced designer frames/lenses the minute I could. I'll never consider another pair of glasses from WP. Absolute garbage.

Wasn't Zenni Optical years ahead of Warby Parker in the reasonably priced mail-order prescription eyewear game?

In my experience, Zenni doesn't have as consistent an aesthetic across their product. Warby Parker is about paying for a "taste" proxy, rather than giving you a wide selection (much like Apple).

Not to mention Warby Parker glasses are 2-14x more expensive than Zenni.

Which pays for a lot of marketing. That's not insignificant.

Zenni is pretty amazing but seemingly not well known. Many of my friends with kids buy many cheaper frames from them (kids tend to accidentally destroy glasses it seems)

Zenni never could manufacture accurate lenses for me. They are have a horribl trapezoid effect.

I wish everyone could visit a store like Jins in Japan and experience the near-perfect end state in the retail eyeglass race. Lots of choices. Amazing service. On-site eye exam. Low prices ($50-100 per pair). Lots of locations. Most importantly, always a pleasant place to visit. I get two or three new pair every time I’m in Japan.

I know there’s a Jins in SF (never been) but the Japanese retail experience never seems to translate well to the US.

Couldn't agree more. I used to buy all my glasses in Japan or Korea - the market there is mature and competitive. Over $100 would be considered "luxury".

These days I go to Owndays, which has successfully expanded out from Japan - I usually go in Singapore. Most of their shops have common lenses in stock so they can make up the finished pair for you in under 30 minutes. Cost is SGD130-ish for 1 pair or under $200 for two. Quality is fine; if anything better than the expensive pairs I used to buy in Australia.

I also can't understand how western markets persist in this profoundly distorted and uncompetitive state. Possibly consumer expectation? Even in this thread there's people claiming "cheap" glasses are worse, their expensive $500+ versions are better somehow. In my experience this is not the case at all and they are in most respects identical. Even if that were not the case, I would rather have numerous pairs of cheapish glasses than one super-expensive "perfect" pair - glasses are fragile and easily breakable by their very nature and until I'm a multi-millionaire I'll choose the RAIG[1] strategy every time.

[1] Redundant Array of Inexpensive Glasses

Given prices for decent frames in America, I can almost justify a trip to Tokyo just to stock up on new glasses.

The US optical market seems bizarrely uncompetitive. Here in the UK, you can buy good quality prescription glasses online or in-store for less than $60. You can get a serviceable pair for as little as $25. Warby Parker's pricing simply wouldn't make an impact over here.



There used to be a popular video going around about how one company owns 80% of the market, but that number is somewhat inflated.


I've gotten prescription pairs for $12 before in the US. See other online services listed here such as Zenni Optical. Warby Parker is one of the most expensive among the non-traditional glasses producers.

I mean are they more reasonably priced? A quick comparison against similar Ray Ban glasses in my market (Canada) shows the Ray Bans are the better deal by $5.



Am I missing something? It’s a $75 difference from what I’m seeing.

The Warby Parker ones are 145 in the US, 220 in Canada (you can click for canada prices bottom left)

Ah sorry. Wasn’t considering the exchange rate. Thought that was a CA priced warby.

WP is not cheap. Costco is cheap.

For the pair that I bought, they were around the same price, but WP had frames that I actually liked.

Honest non snarky question, why does it take 1,400 employees to sell mail order glasses, which are essentially a quasi-commodity product? What are all those employees doing? And since TFA says that balloons are put on the new hire's desk it implies these are all desk jobs, implying they probably outsource their manufacturing to factories in China.

I ask because I worked at a company that sold machinery at scale (which is much more complicated than glasses, which don't require novel engineering). We did all our physical manufacturing in-house, we had a manufacturing floor on the other side of the wall from the cubicles. We had somewhere between 250-275 employees to run the entire shop, that's manufacturing, engineering, software (embedded and application), marketing, IT, sales, logistics... Not sure if we outsourced our cleaning crew or not.

I wouldn't expect a mail order glasses company to have more than 500 employees.

Without knowing the details of what your example did: You probably didn't have 75+ retail locations, didn't need to do the kind of marketing effort a quick-growing consumer/fashion brand requires, might have needed less customer support (due to having fewer, larger customers, unless you did very custom things), had less logistics overhead than a company that ships frames to people to try on and return. They also do parts of the production chain in-house.

I didn't realize they had retail locations, the employee count makes much more sense when you're running retail locations. I thought they were just a mail order company.

I think what really threw me off was "welcome balloons on desks" which heavily implies (at least to me) all of employees have desk jobs.

I went to a retail Warby Parker for the first time a few weeks ago and was a little surprised that it was basically just a showroom. If you actually purchased prescription glasses, which I imagine is an overwhelming majority of their sales, you would get the glasses in the mail just as if you ordered online or through the app. The only real benefit to the retail store is to try on more than the max of 5 glasses that you are allowed in a single home trial order. It makes me wonder whether those physical stores are actually a smart investment for the company.

Isn't this basically the same as many/most glasses shops, at least the ones that are in independent eye doctor offices? Every time I've gotten glasses I've always just tried on the frames, gotten my pupillary distance measured, and then they put in the order. A week or so later they'd call me to tell me my glasses are in and I'd go pick them up. I guess it was always implied they come from a factory somewhere.

Lately I've just been ordering the frames online and I'd bring them the frames and they'd measure my pupillary distance, and put the order in.

It depends on who you feel they are competing with. The traditional independent optometrist office glasses stores normally function the same way. Yet I don't see those as the true competitor since those get you into the door with the doctor's appointment (and also don't necessarily have to support themselves purely through sales). I think Warby Parker is more competing with the mass market mall glasses stores like Lenscrafters or Pearle Vision which do everything in house and can turn around a pair of prescription lenses in an hour or so.

Weird thing is, I've bought glasses at Lenscrafters before, and I've had the same experience as the independent eye doctor, they took the order and it took around a week to fill. I do have a strong prescription with astigmatism, so maybe that's the reason? I do recall hearing about "glasses in an hour" on commercials but I've never been offered the "hour" version. Maybe they can only make some of the most common prescriptions in an hour?

The in store labs can only make prescriptions within certain parameters. Anything outside those has to be sent out.

Thats what I figured, that thwy can only make a few of the most common prescriptions in an hour.

It would appear as though they are, at least according to this article from 2015. One would imagine they wouldn't continue expanding once the $/sqft leveled off:

"$3,785 in sales per square foot, a figure that would put Warby Parker behind only Apple in terms of retail efficiency. Though those numbers have dipped somewhat as Warby Parker has grown, the company is still averaging about $3,000 per square foot of retail space, a figure that’s in the same breath as Tiffany’s estimated $3,043."


Those numbers say nothing about the interaction between retail and online sales. There is no question the Warby Parker retail stores cannibalize the online sales. The only reason I went to the store was because it was quicker than a home try on. The brand is what attracted me as a potential customer and not the store itself. It is a mistake to only credit the store with the potential sale.

True, but that is how you report in-store sales, and the exact same dynamic applies to Apple sales.

In terms of "There is no question the Warby Parker retail stores cannibalize the online sales", I wouldn't call in "cannibalization", I'd call it (excuse the business buzzword) synergy. I did the exact same thing, but both parts of the experience enhanced each other for me. That is, I liked being able to browse and search online, and then get a real feel and fitting in-store. I'm sure they expanded into brick-and-mortar retail because they know a large number of folks aren't going to want to go through the mail-order-try-on-five-pairs thing.

The stores act as advertisements, and as a medium to convey their ethos and culture. I personally have been using Warby Parker glasses for the last 3 years, and always go to the store that is around 10 miles away. The in-store experience is very nice, and worth the trip for me to get assistance and try on all available styles. I think I might not have been a customer without the brick and mortar stores, but I might be a minority.

Same, I mean with the try-on policy it might be fine but when I buy glasses I try on like 30 different pairs.

Another big value-add for me was having an employee there to give me some feedback.

That's not true. There's a retail location about a mile from where I live and while I usually wear contacts, I have sunglasses and a backup pair of glasses from Warby Parker. A couple years ago I lost my pair of sunglasses in the airport and instead of spending another $200 on a replacement pair of Ray Bans, I walked into the Warby Parker store and was surprised to find that you can buy sunglasses without a prescription on the spot. I've also found their staff helpful when selecting frames and once you get the frames in the mail you can bring them back to the store for free fit adjustments. Apparently some of the stores also do eye exams.

The comment you're responding to was talking about prescription glasses. Obviously if you buy the non-prescription sunglasses there you get them right away, since there's no need to wait for the lenses to be created.

The other benefits I've had is that the retail stores can adjust the glasses to fit. Additionally at least a few of the retail locations will do eye exams, so you can get your eyes examined, get your new prescription and pick out your glasses at the same store, which is useful.

The one I went to in Philadelphia also did examinations, which I imagine is also a major drawing point. Get a prescription in-store, get it in their system, then you can order replacements online without much of a hassle.

Some locations also offer eye exams, but it makes sense to me. This allows them to buy small storefronts. The one near me is something like 250 or 300 square feet with only 1 or 2 employees at a time.

didn't gateway try this approach? come look at the products, try them out, then order and get in the mail?

This thread exemplifies why employee count isn't suitable as even a rough indicator of corporate performance.

What is? Revenue per employee or net profit per employee?

Average salary excluding executives.

How so? Anyone can burn through VC funds, how does that ability measure "corporate performance?" Even if you aren't VC funded, you can burn through all your profit easily overpaying your employees and go into debt, but that means just the opposite, in that case you have poor corporate performance and the business isn't sustainable.

You are right. I wasn't trying to come up with a serious determinate of business success. Maybe a minor factor of a complicated formula.

Average with a blacklist seems like it's just a worse median.

Profit? Cashflow?

I can't say this is the case here, but Warby Parker does have like a hundred retail outlets now. Frequently (as with Apple) journalists will just report the total number of employees including retail employees without breaking it down into categories. This obviously throws off a lot of weird numbers if not accounted for, which is part of what "public relations" is all about.

According to wikipedia they do manufacture their glasses in house now, and there are apparently 150 employees in that factory.

They're not just mail order - the article wasn't clear, but perhaps that 1,400 number includes all of the people that work at their retail stores: https://www.warbyparker.com/retail

There are certainly enough of them that I'd imagine it bumps the numbers up quite a bit.

Okay, I didn't realize they had retail stores, that makes more sense then.

Honest non snarky question, why does it take 1,400 employees to sell mail order glasses, which are essentially a quasi-commodity product?

Ideally, a whole lot of them would be brilliant people working on improving design, improving support, and improving the supply chain. Most likely, a lot of them are working on or administering the retail storefronts, which in 2018 is a somewhat a marketing function. Also more likely: A lot of them are working on marketing.

The incentives of the investors and customers don't quite align. This misalignment vector generally expresses itself through the Marketing, PR, and legal teams.

Check out their job listings to get an idea.


They have a bunch of retail locations. Software. Accounting. R&D. Marketing. Logistics.

> Honest non snarky question, why does it take 1,400 employees to sell mail order glasses,

Because before technology fucked the labour balance of the global economy, this is how industry worked.

This is going to sound really insensitive, but I've noticed that trendy VC-backed startups often hire people that they believe are smart, but who often turn out to be entitled and ineffective, and thus the company needs to hire more employees than is typical to get the job done.

I think there's also a tendency for people not spending their own money to chase absolute outcomes rather than Pareto outcomes. e.g. if an 85% solution costs $n, startups often spend $10n on the 100% solution. My guess is that if you're a founder spending your own money, you'd pick the 85% solution.

On the other hand, what is a startup if not an experiment? Especially a VC-backed startup. Hiring non-traditional employees in non-traditional ways (compared to enterprise companies), playing around with headcount and job roles in non-traditional ways, and seeking non-traditional ways of doing business. Many of them fail, but the ones who succeed often change the way business is done in multiple industries.

Every startup is an experiment in doing business a different way. If they went with the 85% solution or hired off-the-shelf employees, they'd just be another small business. There's nothing wrong with being another small business, but startups are so drastically different that we came up with an entirely different term to talk about small businesses who do things in wildly non-traditional ways with the hope that those non-traditional tactics will lead to unprecedented success. We call them startups.

Ineffectiveness in this sense is leaderships fault. They hired without vision for why the role was needed, what’s expected, and established accountability. Combine that with a culture where you’re expected to be real friends with everyone results in a lot of people sitting around drinking coffee and playing ping pong.

In my experience 360 peer evaluations will be gamed. Employees cosy with each other but not necessarily in exactly the same team will give each other good reviews and won't ask for reviews from their direct teammates. They'll pull out extremely harsh criticisms without warning, and without fully understanding the person they're reviewing. Btw, this isn't just my personal experience. Here's a bit from that NYT piece on Amazon again:

> After she had a child, she arranged with her boss to be in the office from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, pick up her baby and often return to her laptop later. Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon. ... “I can’t stand here and defend you if your peers are saying you’re not doing your work,” she says he told her. She left the company after a little more than a year. ... Ms. Willet’s co-workers strafed her through the Anytime Feedback Tool, the widget in the company directory that allows employees to send praise or criticism about colleagues to management.

( https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-... )

It appears the manager did not comprehensively 'arrange' this for the employee. Part of this job would have been ensuring that this information was transparent, and the decision fair.

If employees are complaining, it is presumably a mix of a) company culture issues and b) a lack of information that meant they perceived it as unfair.

c) they've been given an easy outlet to complain without taking the time to understand what's going on. Complaint as gamification. d) other.

I hate to sound cynical but I am very skeptical of the chart that claims employees place a higher importance on "Culture and Values" compared to any/all of "Senior Leadership, Career Opportunities, Business Outlook, Work-life Balance" or that they value "Compensation and Benefits" least of all

I noticed that too. This seems more like how Senior Management wants things to be. Culture doesn't cost money.

Pretty surprised this hasn't been flagged already. It's clearly content marketing that doesn't have anything of substance.

As for Warby Parker, it is not a particularly innovative technology company, which is neither a good thing or bad thing on its own. I will give it credit for being a solvent business with a working business model. I interviewed for a pretty high level position there and was pretty unimpressed. I got the impression of a company that has an undifferentiated product, more funding (and likely dilution) than they should, fairly slick marketing, a healthy dose of startup kool-aid combined with altogether pretty ordinary people who were really sure they were doing something more technologically sophisticated than running a DNVB.

Given how late stage they were, I was surprised by their offer being as mediocre as it was, and I took a competing one. No regrets.

The podcast "How I Built This" featured an episode with Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal the founders of Warby Parker. It's an interesting background into why they chose the eyeglass market and some of their initial problems. The podcast can be found at:


The article has definitely been fluffed up by marketing, but if you read it with a critical perspective, there is a valuable message: The company network is a cheaper retention strategy than career/salary growth

People are less likely to career-hop to the next $10k boost that a headhunter sends them if they like their employees and feel like their time is well-spent.

The 60 minutes episode on Luxottica and why glasses are so expensive was interesting context for reading about Warby Parker.


A lot of things are important, but in terms of sustainability and longevity onboarding has to be in the Top 3. Whether it's new employess or new customers, establishing the foundation for the ongoing relationship is essential. It's not something that should be assumed, left to chance, etc. Else, the odds of having to back fill that hole - and probably failing to do so - at some future date is going to be very expensive.

I had a pair of WP frames that were just fine (my first pair of glasses). When they broke, I ordered not one, but two pairs of similar acetate frames for $20 from Zenni. Quality was identical, so much so that I wonder if they came from the factory. A pair from one company cost 10 times the other, and they both came quickly in the mail... I don't anticipate that this will be sustainable.

The Takeaways section is pretty funny. It reads like an rote instruction manual for an extraterrestrial middle manager who has never socialized with human beings before. Straight out of Office Space.

Unsuccessfully tried to order my third pair of Sibley's last week but they were discontinued. :( Got the Wilkie instead but just not the same. Too large and a white line I didn't notice online. Still ordering through them is a great experience.

PSA - If you have a Costco membership, try getting your glasses there. Great prices, pretty decent selection, will fix and tune your glasses free for life.

Zenni Optical eats Warby for lunch. They are over hyped and over priced.


This is another market entirely. A lot of those 1400 employees are retail, which can't be auto-scaled away as easily.

I mean, if they can make meaningful jobs that pay ok without shady business practices or bad work conditions, more power to them. I'm all for leveraging people more effectively, but sales and in-person support is a nice job I still like being done by humans.

IMHO, as long as founders are engaged, employees will be happy.

What makes you think that?

Past experience, leaving companies because founders are not showing up for months etc. Besides, article also mentions compensation is not the first reason to stay in a company? I believe everything else needs an involvement from top to the bottom, that is what I wanted to point out.

Engaged in what?

I think he meant to each other?

True story: I worked at a startup where the founders were married. Nobody told me, they had different last names, and I looked like a complete fool when I was shocked they were going on a beach vacation together.

Married couples co-owning a small business isn't uncommon, of all the small business owners I know probably half or so are married couple co-owners. But, you're right, it's not like their relationship status is necessarily discussed with new employees, since it's not a business matter.

I had a similar situation happen - was really confused when they showed up together as dates to a wedding I attended.

Protip: next time don't act shocked, and you won't look like a complete fool ;-)

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