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Can Warby Parker reach the vaunted $10 billion valuation?

September 29, 2021, 2:59 PM UTC
Warby Parker Co-Founders and Co-CEOs Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal at the 'Making A Leader' Series at the SiriusXM Studios on April 22, 2019 in New York City.
Cindy Ord—Getty Images for SiriusXM

It’s been a long time in the making.

Eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker is coming into focus Wednesday on the public market after 11 years as a private business.

This direct listing will matter: To an extent, it will serve as a bellwether for other direct-to-consumer businesses coming to market; It has been billed as the “godfather” of the trend, with the public listing coming ahead of other venture-backed, consumer-facing businesses including Allbirds and Fabletics.

Now the question is—last valued in public markets at $3 billion— will Warby Parker be able to shoot itself into the $10 billion club one day? 

This comes amid a mixed backdrop for companies in the direct-to-consumer ecosystem. There have been success stories—Stitchfix has reached a $4.5 billion valuation in public markets, scrubs company FIGS is valued upward of $6.2 billion—but few have reached the $10 billion valuation, with the most obvious exception being Peloton, now valued at about $28 billion plus. And there have also been plenty of companies in the space that have flailed after their public debuts: Mattress retailer Casper now commands a roughly $197 million valuation while Blue Apron, the meal-kit company that really should’ve done great in a pandemic, is now valued at about $147 million. The bottom line: Direct to consumer is doable—but it is hard.

Warby Parker is still unprofitable: Revenue grew about 53% in the first six months of the year to $270 million in 2021 while its net loss more than doubled to $20.4 million.

But the founders’ answer to the question, “what do you wish you had done differently”, however, may offer some clues as to how it plans to grow in the future. I asked co-founders Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, in hindsight, what do you wish you had changed? I had assumed they might mention their growing storefront footprint, but that wasn’t the case.

“If we could, we would’ve moved faster on adding complementary products and services to the business,” says Gilboa. “The vast majority of sales came from glasses and there’s a massive opportunity to scale [there]. But in addition to that, there are newer parts like eye exams and contact lenses, or… telemedicine where we are seeing really natural growth.” 

Those newer lines of business, says Gilboa, are attracting new customers and adding revenue from the existing base.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: 
@shenlucinda
Email: 
lucinda.shen@fortune.com

Jessica Mathews compiled the IPO and SPAC sections of this newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- Merama, a Latin America-focused acquirer of direct-to-consumer businesses, raised $225 million in Series B funding, valuing it at $850 million. Advent International and SoftBank Group led the round.

- Semios, a Canadian farming platform, raised $100 million in funding. Morningside Group led the round.

- Cover Genius, an Australian insurtech, raised AUD$100 million ($72 million) in Series C funding. Sompo Holdings led the round and was joined by investors including G Squared.

- Kepler Interactive, a London-based interactive gaming company, raised $120 million from NetEase.

- Totango, a customer management software company,  raised $100 million in Series D funding. Great Hill  Partners led the round and was joined by investors including BGV, Pitango Ventures, and Canvas.

- Sisu, a San Francisco-based maker of analytics and decision-making software, raised $62 million in Series C funding. Green Bay Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including a16z, NEA, and Geodesic Capital. 

- Lifebit, a London-based biomedical data company, raised $60 million. Tiger Global Management led the round and was joined by investors including Eurazeo, Pentech Ventures, and Beacon Capital.

- Buckle, a Jersey City-based financial services company, raised $60 million in Series B funding. Volery Capital Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Eldridge, Assurant Ventures, and HSCM Bermuda.

- EquityBee, a Palo Alto, Callif.-based stock options funding solution, raised $55 million in Series B funding. Group 11 led the round and was joined by investors including Battery Ventures, Latitude, Local Globe, Greenfield Partners, and ICON. 

- Highnote, a San Francisco-based card issuing company, raised $54 million in Seed and Series A funding. Oak HC/FT led the Series A and co-led the Seed with Costanoa Ventures. Other investors include XYZ, SVB Capital, and WestCap

- Avo, a New York City and Israel-based same-day delivery company, raised $45 million Series B funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Kleiner Perkins and JLL Spark.

- NovaSignal, a Los Angeles-based company focused on brain health, raised $37 million in Series C1 funding. Alpha Edison and Reimagined Ventures led the round.

- DroneSeed, a Seattle-based reforestation startup, raised $36 million in Series A funding. Social Capital and Seven Seven Six led the round. It also acquired Silvaseed, a 130-year-old forestry company.

- Parafin, a San Francisco-based fintech for small businesses, raised $34 million in seed and Series A funding. Ribbit Capital and Thrive Capital led the round.

- Cleancult, a New York City-based cleaning brand focused on plant-based ingredients, raised $25 million in Series B funding. Reynolds Channel and Anchor Capital led the round.

- Cocoon, a San Francisco-based employee leave platform, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Index Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including First Round Capital, SemperVirens, XYZ Venture Capital, Magnify Ventures, and Springbank Collective.

- Nomad Homes, a San Francisco-based property tech startup in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, raised $20 million in Series A funding. 01 Advisors led the round and were joined by investors including The Spruce House Partnership.

- Arize AI, a Mill Valley, Calif-based machine learning startup, raised $19 million in Series A funding. Battery Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Foundation Capital, Trinity Ventures, The House Fund, and Swift Ventures

- Sureify, a San Jose, Calif.-based insurtech platform, raised $15 million in Series C funding. Aspen Capital Group led the round.

- Vital, an Atlanta-based A.I. patient experience software maker, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Transformation Capital led the round and was joined by investors including First Round Capital and Threshold Ventures. 

- Height, a New York City-based collaboration platform, raised $14 million in Series A funding. Redpoint Ventures led the round.

- Altada Technology Solutions, an A.I. company with offices in San Francisco and New York, raised $11.5 million. Investors include Rocktop Partners, Elkstone Partners, and Enterprise Ireland.  

- Benepass, a New York City-based benefits company, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Threshold Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Modern Venture Partners, Operator Partners, and Alumni Ventures Group.

- Fiveable, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based social learning platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Union Square Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Owl Ventures and Progression Fund.

- Heydoc, a London-based health administration tech company, raised $8.3 million of Series A funding. Smedvig Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Hambro Perks, Triple Point Ventures, and InHealth Ventures.

- Archera, a Seattle-based cloud automation company, raised $7 million in Series A funding. Ridge Ventures and Amplify Partners led the round.

- ForMotiv, a Philadelphia-based behavioral data and predictive analytics company, raised $6 million in additional seed funding. Vestigo Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Plug & Play Ventures and Dreamit Ventures.

- Merkle Science, a Singapore-based blockchain monitoring and investigative platform, raised $5.8 million in Series A funding. Darrow Holdings led the round and was joined by investors including Kraken Ventures, Bain-backed Uncorrelated Ventures, Fenbushi Capital, Token Bay Capital, Kenetic, and Lunex Ventures. 

- Angle, a protocol for creating and trading stablecoins, raised $5 million in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round and was joined by investors including Fabric VC, Wintermute, Divergence Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Alven, Julien Bouteloup, and Frédéric Montagnon.

- RunX, a San Francisco-based cloud infrastructure deployment startup, raised $4.1 million in seed funding. Unusual Ventures led the round.

- Three Spirit, a London-based drinks maker, raised $3 million in Series A funding. CircleUp Growth Partners led the round.

- Urbio, a Swiss clean energy software company, raised $2 million in pre-seed funding. Wingman Ventures and Contrarian Ventures led the round.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- A group led by Bain Capital will acquire Rolls-Royce Holdings’ ITP Aero unit in Spain for about € 1.7 billion ($2 billion).

- AUA Private Equity Partners recapitalized Epi Breads, an Atlanta-based baker of custom bread. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Francisco Partners invested in SourceScrub, a San Francisco-based intelligence platform for the financial services industry. Mainsail Partners will retain a stake. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Brightstar Capital Partners acquired XLerate Group, a Carmel, In.-based nationwide car auction company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Marlin Equity Partners made a majority investment in Linnworks, a commerce automation company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Peak Rock Capital acquired SAM Companies, an Austin-based geospatial services company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Marlin Equity Partners raised ProcessUnity, a Concord, Mass.-based provider of cybersecurity management software. Long Ridge Equity Partners will retain a significant minority stake. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- OceanSound Partners invested in RMA Group of Companies, a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based provider of laboratory testing, inspection, and quality management services for critical infrastructure. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Falfurrias Capital Partners acquired Rice’s Honey, a producer of premium raw and unfiltered honey doing business under the ‘Local Hive’ brand, from Mission Consumer Capital. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Vista Equity Partners acquired Blue Prism, a U.K.-based robotics process automation company, for about £1.1 billion ($1.5 billion).

- Canada Pension Plan Investment Board agreed to acquire Ports America, North America’s largest marine terminal operator, from Oaktree Capital Management. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Mercer Global Advisors acquired Quest Capital Management, a Dallas-based wealth management firm with about $1.5 billion in assets under management. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHERS

- Spanish soccer clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will challenge CVC Capital’s agreement to buy an 11% stake worth €2.1 billion ($2.5 billion) in a company that will manage broadcasting revenues for LaLiga.

- Toyota Motor’s Silicon Valley research arm acquired Renovo, a California-based data automation company focused on cars. Intact Ventures and True Ventures back the firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

IPO

- ACWA Power International, a Saudi Arabian power, renewable energy and water production plant operator, raised $1.2 billion in an offering in the country—one of the largest Saudi offerings in history, per Bloomberg. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund owns 50% of the company.

- Life Time Group Holdings, a Chanhassen, Minn.-based fitness health club chain, plans to raise up to $970 million in an offering of $46 million shares priced between $18 and $21 per share. The company posted $930 million in revenue in 2020 and reported a net loss of $360.2 million.

- Allvue Systems Holdings, a Coral Gables, Florid.-based alternative investment management software company, says it is postponing plans to IPO due to adverse market conditions. The company posted $111.3 million in revenue in 2020 and reported a net loss of $45.1 million. Vista Equity Partners backs the firm.

- Motor Fuel Group, an independent gas station operator in the U.K., may go public in the country, according to Bloomberg. An offering could value the company at $6.8 billion. Clayton Dubilier & Rice owns the firm.

F+FS

- Heartcore Capital, a European consumer technology-focused startup, raised $200 million for Heartcore IV and $50 million for Heartcore Progression Beta.

- Acrew Capital, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm, raised $680 million across two new funds.

PEOPLE

- The Vistria Group, a Chicago-based private market investor, opened an office in Texas and added Boris Rapoport as a partner and co-head of financial services; Mona Sutphen as partner and head of investment strategies; and Bill Macatee joins as partner and head of strategic relationships.

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