Why red-hot Warby Parker left Philly and headed to NYC

From humble roots in Philadelphia, a New York eyewear company is quickly disrupting its industry. 

Friday morning, as part of Philly Tech Week, Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal was back in Philly to share some secrets about the company’s rapid ascent.

Today’s hottest name in eyewear started just over three years ago with four Wharton students at a Center City pub.

“We’d go back to Roosevelt’s on a monthly basis and put somebody in the hot seat,” Blumenthal said. “We’d go around the table and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing this great. Hey, this can be improved. Hey, when you shoot me a 10-page email at two in the morning about something that’s my area of responsibility, I want to punch you in the face,'” said Blumenthal, to a round of laughter.

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The youthful CEO shared practical tips and personal narrative to a crowd gathered by the region’s chamber of commerce.

The Philly Tech Week event focused on how the socially-conscious company — known for its affordable and stylish glasses — has used technology to fuel its rapid growth.

But one question from the audience did touch on the bittersweet: Why did a company born here go on to flourish in the Big Apple?

Blumenthal, a New York City native, said a lot of it had to do with family.

“Some of the business rationale was that we were building this fashion brand and we thought New York was the epicenter of fashion, the epicenter of media,” Blumenthal said. “We thought that we could really take advantage of that. And we thought that we’d also be closer and have more access to capital.”

The e-commerce innovator recently opened its first retail store in New York City.

It’s all a far cry from that four-top at Roosevelt’s just a few years ago. Blumenthal says Warby Parker’s SoHo headquarters now employs 175.

Click on the SoundCloud file below to listen to Blumenthal’s entire presentation.

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