Sydney-based startup Dresden Optics is disrupting the optometry trade – chipping away at a global health issue one pair of glasses at a time. Now, with $4 million in equity funding, founder Bruce Jeffreys is taking the brand global, and even he says he was surprised by the size of the market.
Dresden Optics was a startup born out of principle. Jeffreys, along with co-founder Jason McDermott, took issue with the easily breakable and unsustainably made glasses readily available on the market, as well as with their price point, and the sheer mystery around costs when you walk into a shop.
Ultimately, Jeffreys tells StartupSmart, glasses are “just something you need”.
“It just felt like a bit of a sham. [Optometrists] give you all this choice, but they’re actually over-charging you.”
The model is to provide low-cost glasses with interchangeable and easily-replaceable pieces, made sustainably using recycled waste plastics, that are stylish and affordable.
Now, the startup has secured $4 million in equity funding from global investment bank Investec’s emerging companies division.
According to Jeffreys, Dresden Optics, getting the funding “wasn’t just about the equity raise, it was also about partner contacts”.
He added: “We needed a backer with an international focus … we identified that there was a really large mass market out there for what we do.”
While the startup has already opened its first international shop in Toronto, the issue of unaffordable eyewear is a universal one.
“In other markets and also in developing countries, the need is staggering,” Jeffreys says.
Hein Vogel, managing director at Investec Emerging Companies, tells StartupSmart the investment bank was impressed by Dresden’s “unique product composition” as well as the low price-point and high profit margins.
However, the health benefit was something Investec was attracted by, too.
“This is something that affects people’s health, and at the price point [Jeffreys] can manufacture the product, he can get it out to people who really need it.”
That said, the product is not only targeted at low-income families, as it aims to be convenient, with glasses made quickly in-store, without a long wait for the customer.
Second startup for Dresden founder
Jeffreys, who also co-founded car-sharing startup GoGet in 2003, says while the sectors may be different, he applied the same logic to glasses manufacturing.
“We wanted to make it more of a service,” he says.
“Once you get in the system, you’re sorted. Just like, if you’re a member of GoGet, whenever you need a car you’re sorted.”
Jeffreys says: “The thing that’s very exciting for us is that our market is really wide – we sell to people on high incomes and low incomes. For people on high incomes it’s still a really smart, fashionable convenience. We don’t segment our customers in that way.”
He adds: “You can be on a high income and still not like being ripped off.”
In fact, Jeffreys says he didn’t even realise how big the market was until he got the product out there.
He says, for new startup founders, “the most important thing is to get out into the market as quickly as you can”.
“We would never have anticipated the level of demand,” he adds.
Getting a product out, identifying the market, and understanding customer needs are critical, Jeffreys says.
“We didn’t really realise the scale of the issue and the degree to which we can play a part.”
“It’s an amazing opportunity for a small Australian business to be a part of one of the world’s global health problems.”