Hundreds of startups would gladly trumpet that they're the next Warby Parker of their industry. The trouble is, doing so is getting much harder.

While investors seem to be scooping up direct-to-consumer product makers--investing some $3 billion in such companies since 2012--it's becoming more difficult to acquire customers and scale over time. As Inc. explored in a recent feature, a startup's pursuit of the so-called Warby Parker model is, quite simply, much harder than it used to be.

Even razor behemoth Harry's, which recently raised $112 million and could be mulling an IPO, has not yet turned a profit. Though, the founders say it's on track to do so this year. 

"The big trade is that the faster you grow, the more money you end up investing in the future," Raider explains.

Navigating this increasingly crowded market will be a key topic at this year's Collision Conference, a technology event now in its fifth year and headed up by Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave. Collision, which bills itself as America's fastest-growing technology conference, is expected to draw some 25,000 attendees from more than 5,600 companies to New Orleans, running from May 1st through May 4th. Speakers are set to include Lyft founder and CEO John Zimmer; Harry's and Warby Parker co-founder Jeff Raider; and investors with firms including Khosla Ventures and Kleiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers, among many others.

Of course, for many direct-to-consumer businesses, times are still booming. After all, consumers aren't buying less stuff online. And as companies continue to seek ways to outpace Amazon, any way to work around that e-commerce giant is worth exploring.  

"There's a huge shift in consumer behavior now, where we're more comfortable purchasing stuff online because we have access to reviews," Tom Cortese, the co-founder and COO of the fitness-subscription service Peloton tells Inc. ahead of the conference. He'll sit on a panel dubbed "the next big thing" with Raider from Harry's. 

Other consumer executives are sure to weigh in. On Tuesday, the audience will hear from the likes of Jennifer Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO of Policygenius, and Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp, as part of a panel on 'disruption' in the consumer technology sector. Then on Wednesday, there's a discussion around consumer financial technology, with heads of companies such as Earn.com and MoneyLion. And on the final day of the conference, you'll hear from Ernie Garcia, CEO of Carvana; Vishal Makhijani, CEO of Udacity; and JD Ross, co-founder of Opendoor, on the future of e-commerce goods. 

Published on: May 1, 2018