This NYC Startup Just Raised $12.5M and Sets Their Sights on a Market in Need of Disruption


Online Eyewear

If you wear prescription glasses, you know how expensive they can be. A pair can easily set you back a few hundred dollars – and, if you’re buying them in NYC, that’s just for the frames alone. Then you need to replace the lenses every two or three years – and chances are that means that you’ll be buying new frames as well.

Believe it or not, only 3% of Americans purchase their prescription glasses online – at 20%, the number is significantly higher for contact lenses.

GlassesUSA wants to change all that, and considering that the online retailer just raised $12.5M in Series B funding – and offer 50-60 percent discounts as compared to the offline price of prescription eyewear, the chances are very good that we’ll see more and more people setting their sights on buying their eyewear online. The economics are there – and GlassesUSA delivers. In three business days, no less! Cofounder and CEO Daniel Rothman talks about the funding – and his company’s focus.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

The investor is Viola Private Equity, a member of the Viola Group.

The investment amount is $12.5M, Series B.

Tell us about your product or service.

GlassesUSA is the destination for prescription eyeglasses online.  We are one of the leaders in the industry as a direct result of our commitment to service, the quality of our product ant the shopping experience we provide.

We fulfill each order in house using our state of the art laboratory and fulfillment center using only quality materials in a timely and efficient manner.  Typically, it takes us 3 business days to provide customized prescription glasses to our customers

What inspired you to start the company?

There was a need for it – for a good and reliable online service in the optical industry. The contact lens world has roughly 20% of sales occurring online.Back in 2010, only 1% of total eyeglasses sales occurred online.  It was a purely offline industry and it was ripe for disruption, and this was the motivation. We knew we could make the process efficient and we knew we could do so without compromising on quality.  Improving the level of service, giving customers the best value possible and being a force in a multi-billion dollar industry is our continued motivation.

How is it different?

The advance of technology and the cultural shift we have seen towards online shopping is what makes it different.  We offer what most offline stores cannot, convenience and affordability on a product they need most.  Before we started the average eyeglasses wearer purchased a pair every 18-24 months.  These days we see customers coming back much more often.  We have helped change the mindset to the point where people are buying eyeglasses to match outfits and moods.  Remember, glasses are not simply medical devices, they are one of if not the most visible fashion statements out there and the customer we know is taking advantage of that.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

We focus on North America primarily.However, as a global brand, we do fill orders to over 90 countries.  Size matters, too – 60% of all people need glasses – that’s a great customer pool.

Which are the most popular styles of glasses? Do people prefer trendy or classics, for example?

We sell tens of thousands of pairs of glasses each month, all styles, shapes, sizes, colors.  We are like a department store for eyeglasses, a good selection of pretty much everything.

What’s your business model?

Happy customers.

What was the funding process like?

It was an educational experience.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

Making sure the process was not a distraction to the business.   Staying focused to the needs of the business while ensuring we kept up our growth and level of service.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

You really should ask them this question.  If I had to answer, I would say it was our track record of success – us hitting our targets, coupled with the potential that the online segment of the optical market has for growth.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

Continue to focus on your business and put your soul into it.  Do what you believe is right and demonstrate consistent growth and always do right by your employees.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

We will continue to implement our strategy while aggressively expanding our partnerships.

Speaking of eyesight, if you were a sightseer in NYC, which would be favorite spots to visit?

Williamsburg on a Friday morning – forget the sites – the smells and the flavors are unforgettable.  When you are finished, walk over the bridge and make a right on Orchard Street as you make your way for some to die for pastrami at Katz’s.

I am quite partial to the City Hall area, though, if you’re looking for a touristy answer (Park Row side), there is something majestic about it.

About the author: AlleyWatch

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