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5 Tech Start-Ups Making 'Real' Products

Warby Parker

Warby Parker produces fashionable prescription eye glasses that cost $95 --a fraction of what eyewear boutiques charge.

To keep prices low, Warby Parker doesn't pay licensing fees or deal with eyewear retailers who mark up the cost of glasses significantly.

Instead, Warby Parker's retro-style frames are manufactured at a plant in China where co-founder Neil Blumenthal leverages his connections -- he was formally director at VisionSpring, a non-profit that trains low income women to sell affordable glasses in their community.

The prescription lens, which are made from polycarbonate plastic, are set in frames at a lab in New York.

As for now, Warby Parker glasses can only be purchased through its Web site, through it has plans to open a brick-and-mortar storefront in New York City sometime this year.

Besides offering lower prices than the competition, Warby Parker will differentiate itself via its customer service. The site features a "virtual try on" feature, where customers can upload a picture of themselves to see what they "look" like wearing a particular pair of glasses. The company also sends up to five pairs of glasses to try on for free with no obligation to buy.

It also rents space or has teamed up with boutiques in New York, San Francisco and Oklahoma City so that you can try on glasses before ordering them online.

Launched last year by four friends from business school, the company has already sold 60,000 pairs of eyeglasses and recently launched a sunglass line. It's also planning a prescription sunglass line later this summer.

The start-up also has a charitable twist -- for every pair of glasses that are purchased through its site, it donates a pair to someone in need through its non-profit partners.

"We want to be a model for how for-profits behave," Blumenthal said.

Warby Parker has raised around $1.5 million in funding from First Round Capital, Lerer Ventuers and SV Angel. It has 40 employees.
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