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这家公司号称眼镜界的小米,创始人回顾创业历程

Dinah Eng 2019年06月16日

该公司大幅降低时尚镜框的价格,颠覆了行业,报道称其估值已达17亿美元。

戴夫·吉勒博阿(左)和尼尔·布鲁门萨尔,今年4月摄于Warby Parker在曼哈顿的产品展示厅。图片来源:Photograph by Rebecca Greenfield for Fortune

戴夫·吉勒博阿和尼尔·布鲁门萨尔是眼镜公司Warby Parker的联合创始人及联合首席执行官,该公司大幅降低时尚镜框的价格,颠覆了行业。目前公司在美国和加拿大经营着90多家实体店,报道称其估值已达17亿美元。《财富》杂志对两位创始人做了采访。

戴夫·吉勒博阿:我父母都是医生。我想为世界多做贡献,想着学商业会有帮助。但在金融服务业工作了一段时间后,我决定同步攻读宾夕法尼亚大学的生物技术硕士和沃顿商学院的工商管理硕士。我以为我会当科学家,研究一些伟大的东西,然后实现商业化。

尼尔·布鲁门萨尔:我妈妈是护士,爸爸是注册会计师。我上的是位于曼哈顿的一所规模很小很有使命感的贵格会学校。后来我在一家非营利组织工作,该组织在国外培训妇女如何做小生意,向有需要的人销售眼镜。人们对在非营利组织工作的人比较轻视,所以我认为去沃顿读书有助于事业发展。我在沃顿遇到了(联合创始人)杰夫·雷德、安迪·亨特和戴夫,后来我们成了最好的朋友。

吉勒博阿:在2008年夏天开学前,我花了几个月背包环游世界,在飞机上把眼镜弄丢了。结果第一学期大部分时间我都没有戴眼镜,因为眼镜太贵了,我很震惊。花200美元就能买部新手机,一副[设计师设计的]眼镜居然要700美元。我开始向周围人抱怨说,眼镜这么贵真是难以置信。

布鲁门萨尔:安迪问,为什么人们不去网上买眼镜?我知道利润空间很大,也知道在哪里制造眼镜。

吉勒博阿:所以有一天晚上,我们约好在当地的一家酒吧见面讨论想法,凌晨2点到家时,当中的一个人已经发了三页的电子邮件描述商业构想。其他人立刻回应,从一开始我们就非常兴奋。

布鲁门萨尔:最大的挑战是如何快速行动,深思熟虑,还要平衡好重点。眼镜既是时尚配饰也是保健产品,我们希望打造高质量的产品和具有文化影响力的品牌。

吉勒博阿:每个人分工负责一块。我负责网站建设、建立供应链、雇用第一个员工、,设立电话系统,以及客服系统。

布鲁门萨尔:我主要负责品牌,关注价值观和使命。我们花了很多时间从客户和焦点小组获得反馈。我们想了解陆逊梯卡(眼镜行业的巨头)和大型眼镜零售商的商业模式。我们既害怕又敬畏。但我们很清楚一副眼镜的价格可以从500美元降到99美元。

吉勒博阿:我们四个人各投3万美元,持有股份相等。2010年2月,我们上学的时候就创办了公司。创业的过程非常消耗精力,我只得放弃了第二个学位。

布鲁门萨尔:我们之前以为得求朋友和家人来买眼镜。

吉勒博阿:所有钱都花在了网站建设和最初的库存上。我们聘请了一位时尚公关,因为要打入市面上的杂志,建立可信度和关系。后来《GQ》和《Vogue》时尚杂志写了文章,社交媒体也开始关注。

Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal are cofounders and co-CEOs of Warby Parker—the eyewear company that disrupted the industry by drastically lowering prices for stylish frames. It now operates more than 90 physical stores in the U.S. and Canada and is reportedly valued at $1.7 billion.

Dave Gilboa: Both my parents are doctors. I wanted to make a positive impact on the world, and I thought it would be helpful to learn about business. But after working in financial services for a while, I decided to go simultaneously for a master’s in biotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA at Wharton. I thought I’d find a scientist working on something great and help to commercialize it.

Neil Blumenthal: My mom was a nurse, and my dad was a CPA. I went to a small Quaker school in Manhattan that was very mission-driven. I ended up working for a nonprofit that trained women in foreign countries on how to start their own businesses selling eyeglasses to people in need. People under¬estimate folks with a nonprofit background, and I thought that having an imprimatur from Wharton would help my career. That’s where I met [cofounders] Jeff Raider, Andy Hunt, and Dave, and we became best friends.

Gilboa: In the summer of 2008, before starting school, I took a few months to backpack around the world and lost my glasses on a plane. I went most of the first semester without glasses because I was shocked at the cost. I could buy a new phone for $200, but a pair of [designer] glasses cost $700. I started complaining to anyone who’d listen that I couldn’t believe glasses were so expensive.

Blumenthal: Andy asked, why aren’t people buying glasses online? I knew the margins were big and knew where we could get glasses produced.

Gilboa: So we agreed to meet at a local bar one night to kick around ideas, and when we got home at 2 a.m., one of us sent out a three-page email about the business idea. The rest of us responded and were really excited from the get-go.

Blumenthal: The biggest challenges were how could we move fast enough, thoughtfully enough, and balance our priorities. For a fashion accessory and health care product, we wanted to have a quality product and a brand that would influence culture.

Gilboa: Each of us took the lead on something. I took point on building the website, setting up our supply chain, hiring our first employee, setting up a phone system, and the customer service system.

Blumenthal: I worked on branding, looking at our values and mission. We spent a lot of time getting feedback from customers and focus groups. We wanted to understand the business model of Luxottica [the 800-pound gorilla of the eyewear industry] and the large optical retailers. We were scared and awed. But we knew we could lower the cost of a pair of glasses from $500 to $99.

Gilboa: The four of us each put in $30,000, so that we’d have equal stakes. We launched in February 2010 while we were still in school. The process of starting a business was all-consuming. I had to drop my second degree program.

Blumenthal: We thought that we’d have to beg friends and families to buy glasses from us.

Gilboa: We spent all our money on getting the website built and the initial inventory. We hired a fashion publicist because we knew we needed to get into established publications to develop credibility and relationships. We ended up getting articles in GQ and Vogue, and social media picked us up.

****

我们的商业建议

戴夫·吉勒博阿,39岁,Warby Parker联合创始人兼联合首席执行官

永远不要把关键业务外包出去。

我们几个都不会做网站,后来征求建议,有些机构投标。我们选择了最便宜的一家,但在几个月后才发现犯了错误。他们根本做不到之前的承诺,所以后来我们解雇了那家公司。

现在,我们开发了大部分内部使用的技术,确保对客户体验充分掌控。我们自己开发了网站,还有叫POE(或各项业务终端)的销售终端系统,两个应用程序也是由内部开发的。

Dave Gilboa, 39, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker

Never outsource critical components of your business.

None of us were qualified to build the website, so we solicited proposals and got a handful of bids from agencies. We chose the cheapest option, but a few months in, we realized it was a mistake. Their execution wasn’t what they promised, so we ended up firing them.

Now we develop most of the technology we use in-house to ensure we maintain as much control over the customer experience as possible. We’ve developed our website, a point-of-sale system that we call POE (or point of everything), and both of our apps internally.

****

布鲁门萨尔:《GQ》提到过在家试戴的镜框,但当初上市后48小时内,眼镜就被客户拿光了,只能暂停发放。三周内我们就达到了第一年的目标,库存也空了。人们开始打电话抱怨。我们诚恳道歉,解释公司刚刚起步。我们发现,创业时表现得越脆弱和透明,跟客户建立的关系就越深。

吉勒博阿:客户开始支持我们的业务。他们知道我们在努力让他们开心。现在公司里已经有2000名员工,让用户开心也一直是我们不断实践的企业文化。

布鲁门萨尔:我们毕业后,杰夫回到了他工作过的私募股权基金,然后创立了Harry’s。安迪接着创办了自己的风险投资公司Elephant。Warby Parker搬到了纽约的一处阁楼,顾客可以当场试戴眼镜。我们通过办公室和SoHo的一家快闪店卖出了价值数百万美元的眼镜,所以2013年4月才有信心为第一家店面签下长期租约。

吉勒博阿:我们拿下了初步胜利。后来开的店越来越多,公司就聘请验光师,让人们能更容易拿到配镜建议。我们也提供远程验光服务,人们在家就能检查视力。社会使命也得以拓展。全世界有500万人通过“买一副,送一副”计划获得了免费眼镜,我们正为纽约市和巴尔的摩的学生提供免费视力检查和免费眼镜。

布鲁门萨尔:最优秀的企业能解决真正的问题。我们的创业就是现成的例子,公司能扩大规模,能盈利,还能不收高价就为世界做贡献。(财富中文网)

本文另一版本登载于《财富》杂志2019年6月刊,标题为《回顾Warby Parker的创业过程》。

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

Blumenthal: GQ referred to our Home Try-On frames, but within 48 hours of launch, all our glasses were out with customers, so we had to suspend that. We hit our first-year target in three weeks and ran out of inventory. People started calling to complain. We would apologize profusely and explain that the company just got started. We found that the more vulnerable and transparent you are, the deeper the relationship you build with customers.

Gilboa: The customers became champions of the business. They saw that we tried to make them happy. With 2,000 employees now, that’s a lesson we continue to practice in our corporate culture.

Blumenthal: Once we graduated, Jeff went back to the private equity fund he had worked for, then went on to found Harry’s. Andy went on to start Elephant, his own venture capital firm. Warby Parker moved to a loft space in New York, and customers came to try on glasses there. We sold millions of dollars’ worth of glasses through our office and a pop-up store in SoHo, which gave us the confidence to sign a long-term lease for our first store in April 2013.

Gilboa: We’re still at the top of the first inning. As we open more stores, we’re hiring optometrists to make it easy for people to get their prescriptions. We’re using telemedicine so people can do vision checks from home. We’ve expanded our social mission. Five million people around the world have gotten free glasses through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, and we’re now giving free eye exams and free glasses to students in New York City and Baltimore.

Blumenthal: The best businesses solve real problems. We’ve created an example of a business that can scale, be profitable, and do good in the world without charging a premium for it. 

A version of this article appears in the June 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Warby Parker in Hindsight.”

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