Warby Parker CEO: Innovators Don’t Have To Be ‘Crazy Risk Takers’

By Matthew Patane
The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of online glasses retailer Warby Parker. He says, “There’s never been a better time to start a business in America.”

The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Start-up founders don’t have to be “crazy risk takers” in Neil Blumenthal’s mind.

Instead, entrepreneurs can and should learn how to “de-risk” the leap into starting a company, including whether to leave their current job.

“There’s always a tipping point where you have to leave your job, but the point is, know where that point is before you quit,” said Blumenthal, the co-founder and co-CEO of online glasses retailer Warby Parker. “Because frankly being in the workforce, you’re probably more likely to see opportunities for innovation, opportunities for new businesses as opposed to just sitting at home in your garage.”

Blumenthal will give a keynote speech at EntreFEST in Iowa City Thursday. This week’s event, which runs for two days and will take over the downtown Pedestrian Mall, marks a return for EntreFEST after a year off in 2016.

Marketed as part conference and part festival, EntreFEST is a large gathering for the state’s entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and others involved in the start-up community.

Warby Parker launched in 2010, selling eyewear direct to consumers online. While it started as an e-commerce business, Warby Parker now operates 50 brick-and-mortar stores around the United Staters and has a lens manufacturing facility, Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal spoke with The Gazette Tuesday about his New York-based company and his thoughts on building a business. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Question: What do you plan to talk about at EntreFEST?

A: The big thing is the journey of Warby Parker and how the best businesses solve real problems and that we all have the ability to be entrepreneurial in every aspect of our life. … I think the other thing we think a lot about is, what is the role of business in the world.

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