Neil Blumenthal Is Behind Each Pair of Distributed Warby Parker Glasses

Company Co-Founder Created Novel Philanthropic Model

Glass Half Full: Neil Blumenthal is one of the four founders of Warby Parker.
Courtesy of Warby Parker
Glass Half Full: Neil Blumenthal is one of the four founders of Warby Parker.

By Margaret Eby

Published November 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

If you’re one of the 150 million Americans who wear some sort of corrective eyewear, you already know an unfortunate truth about shopping for specs: Glasses, particularly fashionable ones, don’t usually come cheap.

Click for the Giving Special Section! Click for more Giving stories

Frustration with the traditional glasses industry’s byzantine business plan led a band of four former business students from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — Jeff Raider, Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt and David Gilboa — to found Warby Parker, a brand that seeks to make affordable, high-quality blinkers for the masses. The name is a combination of two characters’ names in one of Jack Kerouac’s journals.

Since Warby Parker began hawking sleek frames over the Internet in 2010, the company has become shorthand for a certain model of commerce, one that cuts out the middleman to sell stylish goods directly to consumers. Part of that design is Warby Parker’s program of donating a pair of eyeglasses for every one that it sells. It’s a strategy that’s clever as well as generous: It marks Warby Parker not simply as a discount company, but also as being concerned with the good of the glasses-wearing community.

The charitable end of the company was cooked up by co-founder Blumenthal. Before meeting the rest of the Warby Parker crew at Wharton, Blumenthal, who is Jewish, studied international relations at Tufts University. After graduating, he attended the Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution in The Hague, Netherlands.

Blumenthal then went on to work as director of VisionSpring, an organization dedicated to providing prescription glasses to people in countries like India and El Salvador. VisionSpring is now Warby Parker’s biggest partner; it trains members of low-income communities to sell affordable glasses, creating jobs at the same time it distributes much-needed eyewear. It’s this aspect of Warby Parker that makes it different from an organization like Tom’s, which gives away a pair of shoes for every one purchased. The glasses become part of the economic infrastructure of an impoverished neighborhood.

“Dropping a shipment of a product into a place can destroy local businesses. You’re effectively dumping on the market,” Blumenthal explained, arguing that using the glasses to create an economic incentive is a more effective system. “By selling something to someone, you’re actually designing for them. They’re value conscious consumers. Even the poorest people would rather be blind than wear a pair of 1970s cat eye glasses.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.