You don't need 20/20 vision to see that Warby Parker is ripe for an IPO.
The five-year-old eyewear company recently fetched a $1.2 billion valuation and continues to attract more private investors than it can accept. Following a $100 million round led by T. Rowe Price last month, Warby has raised a total of $215 million.
So far the New York City-based company has kept mum regarding any plans to go public, but co-founder Neil Blumenthal's philosophy on long-term growth and brand building suggest the company could well be heading in that direction.
"All too often, especially within the tech community, we're talking about growth that comes at the expense of everything else," Blumenthal--who spoke at this week's Iconic: Chicago conference, told Inc. in a prior interview. "We believe that it's not intelligent to grow in the short-term at the expense of the long-term potential. For us it's all about wild, fast growth while maintaining awesome customer experiences."
While it's impossible to scale a brand without making changes to a company's DNA, for Warby Parker, preserving its culture and brand ethos remains a top priority.
"That's a balance of being ambitious from a growth standpoint but building the supporting infrastructure to deliver great customer experiences and simultaneously staying true to your values," he says. "Those values should impact what investors you choose to work with, what partnerships you engage in, how you work with and treat your vendors, and ultimately how you treat your employees and your customers."
Complementing his focus on growing with integrity, Blumenthal remains dedicated to practicing social entrepreneurship. In fact, he has been distributing glasses through nonprofit social enterprises in the developing world longer than he's been running Warby Parker. Last year the company distributed its one millionth pair of glasses through partners including VisionSpring, a nonprofit Blumenthal used to manage that trains men and women on how sell glasses to people in their community.
"It's about distributing glasses in a way that creates jobs and helps the local economies," Blumenthal says. "We take our social mission as seriously as we take any other aspect of the business."