The valuation makes Warby Parker the latest unicorn to top the $1 billion mark, and it highlights the value of a very effective business model: Find a relatively expensive product, cut out the middle man, and sell it direct to consumers online for cheap.
That model has cropped up in various forms over the years, particularly in fashion. It’s the driving force behind upscale basics brand Everlane, for instance, and a whole raft of custom menswear companies. By manufacturing and selling their own products, these brands avoid hefty retail markups and can undercut the competition on price.
In Warby Parker’s case, it also dodges the expensive licensing fees that other eyeglass makers, even massive ones like Luxxotica, have to contend with.
Warby Parker is by far the most successful of the startups working from this blueprint. Fast Company went as far as to name it the most innovative company of 2015 for “building the first great made-on-the-internet brand,” putting it ahead of Apple, Alibaba, Google, and Instagram on the list.
It’s also been one of the quickest and most successful online brands to move into brick-and-mortar retail. The company now has 12 retail stores across the US, each selling an average of $3,000 per square foot, which according to one estimate, makes their stores more profitable per square foot than Tiffany and Best Buy.
The company said in a statement that the $100 million it raised will go toward developing their products and expanding both their mobile and brick-and-mortar presence.
“This round of funding will allow us to continue to scale the business while focusing on product and technology innovation,” said co-founder and co-ceo Dave Gilboa. “We’re excited about what’s ahead.”
If the past is any indication, that means lots of kids in Fran Lebowitz-esque glasses, which is sure to tick off Fran Lebowitz.