Warby Parker

Business Insider has a story today about Warby Parker, a clever prescription glasses e-tailer, raising money at a $100-120 million valuation. I like this company, I think it has a great solution to a problem I’ve heard about over and over (though have never experienced myself) - glasses should not cost $350+. True. But let’s be honest…this isn’t a tech company. This is a retailer. Companies like this, Rent the Runway, Birchbox, etc, are billed as “tech” companies and are raising huge rounds off that classification. But if you dig into the company itself, you’ll see it has incredibly troubling internal operations, and is bleeding money because of it. Amazon is a “tech” company because they innovate in infrastructure, logistics, fulfillment, stocking, reordering, vendor management, the list goes on…from what I’ve heard and seen, none of these innovations are happening behind-the-scenes at these startups, and in fact it’s much worse back there than at any traditional retail company, because they’re learning as they go. Now, maybe these rounds will help them poach experts from that world to help them scale those ops using software solutions, but it seems like that’s kind of a backwards approach, if all the investment is based on them being a tech company at heart. I do love Warby Parker’s approach, particularly their design. It’s perfect for their products, and is super easy to use and enjoy. Even as a lurker I’ve had fun poking around (their monocle option is hilarious and a great touch, too). And I think Rent the Runway really has something with their model, perhaps some sort of subscription service might do them well, it seems to have been great for Birchbox and there are certainly some overlaps between the two. I just wish there was more emphasis on innovating in the not-so-sexy space of retail operations and logistics, because it’s such a necessary piece of the puzzle and would open up so many more doors to disruption. Maybe it’s already under way, but the fact that no one’s actively discussing it makes me think it’s not moving fast enough.