The eyewear market is growing at an exponential rate. With a 6.2% CAGR predicted until 2030, the e-commerce industry is expected to be inundated with smart wear startups and spectacle sellers.
(Image Source: Reports & Data)
The question is, which startup eyewear brands should we watch out for? While industry giants such as Rayban and Oakley take centre stage in a race for eyewear essentials, are there any other players that customers should consider?
From smart glasses to sunglasses, here are seven VC-funded eyewear companies that are rising through the ranks in 2023.
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1. Warby Parker
While Warby Parker has only been established for a decade, it has quickly become one of the most influential eyewear brands online. With a backing of over £573 million in VC funding, the Internet-first brand was one of the first companies to take spectacle shopping completely online.
Offering eyeglasses, contacts, sunglasses and personalised designs for men and women, their home-try-on program using customisable AR has sent their conversions sarong, especially in the wake of Covid’s push for digital shopping.
Better still, they offer their eyewear at a fraction of the price of luxury sellers such as Louis Vitton and Jimmy Choo.
“We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket,” they say in their mission statement.
“To help address this problem, we work with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. To date, over eight million pairs of glasses have been distributed through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.”
Most eyewear brands pour their primary focus into mature customers. Internet-first startup Pair does exactly the opposite after releasing an eyewear brand that prioritises a positive spectacle shopping experience for kids.
Established in 2017, the eyewear startup has received over $74 million in VC funding from investors such as Rick Yang and Christian McCaffrey in order to create a platform that ensures enjoyment when picking a pair of glasses.
Users can simply visit the website and upload photos of their prescription before customising frame designs, colours and shapes, all in the effort to create eyeglasses that are an expression of personality.
Specialising in contact lenses, Dubai-founded eyewear startup Eyewa has become the largest online eyewear provider in the Middle East in just 5 short years.
With over $27 million in VC funding over 8 rounds, this company has become popular online and on social media.
As a company that prides itself on being an easy-to-use platform for all specs wearers, the founders at Eyewa have promised their mission is “to become the best eyewear store in the region by making quality eye care and eyewear more affordable and accessible to all”.
Offering discounts on luxury branded eyewear has also made Eyewa a great accessible service for glasses wearers that want more for less. Alongside other affordable luxury retailers such as Eyeglasses, who sell brands such as Jimmy Choo and Balenciaga for low prices (visit website here), Eyewa has become a bargain brand to watch out for.
The smart glasses revolution is also not to be forgotten as we review the top eyewear entrepreneurs of 2023.
Ajna Lens creates AI-powered mixed reality specs in an effort to enhance digital productivity in the workplace. In the wake of a WFH boom, the smartglasses developer is quickly becoming well-known within the corporate sector and across the globe.
With only $8 million of VC funding backing its vision, Ajna lens is still a company to watch out for, especially after being further supported by the JITO Incubation & Innovation Foundation fund in 2022.
Working to provide users with 3D holographic product visualisation, Ajna Lens “aims to bring this future to everyone with its XR solutions powered by artificial intelligence.”
5. Hubble Contacts
For contact lens lovers, an e-commerce site dedicated to providing high-quality, customisable contacts could be destined to take off in 2023.
Hubble Contacts is an American-founded sustainable contact lens provider that aims to create disposable yet stylish eyewear solutions that serve style and sustainability. Partnering with St. Shine, one of the largest content lens manufactures in the states, the brand has quickly taken off amongst Gen Z and Millenial consumers.
Established in 2016, the company has since received $34 million in VC funding. In a mission to create new and accessible opportunities for contact lens wearers, Hubble founders believe that a customer shouldn’t have to choose between their health and their wallet.
“In the US, four manufacturers control about 95% of the contact lens market. Without much competition, they’ve set prices to be much higher than they should,” claims Co-founder Jesse Horwitz. “We started Hubble, so you don’t have to choose between your health and your wallet. Our contacts are barely a dollar a day, so you can finally afford to wear fresh lenses.”
Last but not least, another innovative startup tipped to see market success in 2023 is Dispelix. The Finnish-owned smartglasses company is pioneering new waveguide technology that aims to transform XR-eyewear for a seamless future.
Backed by £23 million in VC funding over only three funding rounds, the digital eyewear providers aim to integrate augmented reality into everyday life.
“We are driven by a vision to create the best possible waveguides for XR glasses. And to make them undistinguishable from ordinary glasses,” says founder Antti Sundari. “We believe waveguide XR glasses will bring about a tectonic shift in consumer behaviour – replacing the smartphone.”
In an attempt to conceal the true power of AR in a frame that would look stylish for the user, Displex is one to look out for as the world quickly becomes a hyper-realistic digital space.
The future of the eyewear market
E-commerce sales are predicted to make up 9% of all market revenue for the eyewear industry in 2030.
As the market moves online, industry giants such as Rayban are introducing new digital purchasing processes, such as their AR try-on filter. As startups rival top players, it won’t be long before we see more innovative try-on methods and even a step into the metaverse for brands that want to branch out.
Eyewear is essential for over a third of the entire population, making it a market that will never go out of fashion. As the industry evolves, those shopping for specs will have more choices than ever before.