Deals

Warby Parker puts on new pair of investors: J. Crew, AmEx join team

warby-parkerWarby Parker is looking even smarter by adding American Express and the CEO of J. Crew to its latest round of financing.

This hot e-commerce startup is known for turning geek into chic with its line of fashionable eyewear. In September, Warby Parker filed an SEC form for a $36.8 million round. The investment was led by General Catalyst Partners, with room to add additional, strategic money to the pool. Last night, the New York Times reported that Millard S. Drexler of J. Crew and American Express bring this round’s total to $41.5 million.

“We’ve tried to be very deliberate in getting people with specific expertise,” said founder Blumenthal in the Times report. “Nobody knows retail like Mickey. And within financial services, nobody knows a brand more prominent than American Express.”

Warby Parker takes an innovative approach to e-commerce by offering a home try-on service for people that want to test out a few different styles before they buy. Shoppers can sample five pairs of glasses for five days and then send back the frames they do not want when the time is up. It also has a “no questions asked” 30-day return policy. The glasses are well-made and cost just $95, which is cheaper than many brands of comparable quality.

The success of the brand not only stems from its stylish, reasonably priced product but also from its savvy use of the Internet to “disrupt eyewear.” Before Warby Parker, most people avoided by glasses online because physically trying on frames was a key step toward buying. The try-home service, along with a virtual “try-on” feature on its website and placing Warby glasses in “pop up” stores, gives consumers the real-world experience they need but keeps their transactions online.

Warby’s strategy is clearly a hit, and it’s looking to expand its reach. These new investors will provide fashion retail and financial expertise as well as opportunities for partnerships. Just last week, rumors circulated that Warby Parker was in talks with Google to make Google Glasses less geeky. While at first glance an online eyewear retailer hardly seems innovative, Warby has enmeshed itself equally in the worlds of technology and fashion and is demonstrating that high-quality products at a low-cost with seamless customer service are a good investment.

Founded in February 2010, Warby Parker previously raised $13 million from First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures, Tiger Global Management, SV Angel, Thrive Capital, and Menlo Ventures.


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