Kauffman Sketchbook Features Insights from the Founders of Warby Parker

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Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal share the story of collaboration between close friends to create and build an online alternative to overpriced eyewear.

Visionaries who founded Warby Parker and disrupted an industry along the way are featured in the latest installment of the Kauffman Sketchbook video series released today by the Kauffman Foundation. Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who along with classmates at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Andrew Hunt and Jeffrey Raider, founded Warby Parker to be a transformative lifestyle brand with a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear while demonstrating that businesses can do good in the world, share their insights and inspiration for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs.

Outsiders in an industry controlled by a few large companies, the friends set out to circumvent traditional channels, engaging with customers directly through the Warby Parker website to provide high-quality, vintage-inspired eyewear with a contemporary twist at a fraction of the price. The company also partners with the nonprofit organization VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.

“We started Warby Parker to be a pretty disruptive company, and challenge convention, and we also wanted to create an organization that did something good in the world,” says Gilboa. “And so I think everything that we do really stems from those two goals, to disrupt this industry that we thought was broken, and then also prove that for-profit businesses can have a positive impact on the world.”

The three-minute animated video segment features practical advice for early-stage entrepreneurs. Recalling the early days of the company, Blumenthal suggests breaking down complex issues into much smaller bite-size pieces. “When you’re starting a business, every decision feels like this monumental decision. At times you just need to take leaps of faith. But ideally you’re taking steps of faith,” he says. “For us, it’s always been about how we simplify things and how do we take steps in a very methodical way.”

Beyond building the business, the founders talk about creating an unconventional work environment based on a set of core values that include taking the work seriously, but not taking themselves too seriously.

“We started the company as four friends and recognize that we need to treat each other well and fairly. We wanted to set really ambitious targets for ourselves, but also have fun along the way. And we’ve been able to infuse kind of those core tenets as we continue to build our organization,” Gilboa says.

“It’s just this virtuous cycle, and I think it really just starts with caring,” says Blumenthal.

About the Kauffman Sketchbook Video Series
Since the Kauffman Sketchbook series launched in September 2011, the videos featuring the insights of influential thought leaders in the areas of education and entrepreneurship have drawn more than 317,000 viewers to YouTube and kauffman.org. The Sketchbooks, which won a top award from the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, have been widely shared on a variety of websites, blogs and social media outlets, as well as at numerous events and conferences.

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