How Wharton launched Warby Parker — and dozens of direct-to-consumer companies

medium.com

For most of its history, University of Pennsylvania Business School (Wharton’s) reputation has been built on turning out the world’s finest management consultants AKA spreadsheet jockeys. But, a few years ago, four students met at Wharton and started a company that would help ignite a startup revolution: Warby Parker. The concept: selling eye­glasses directly to consumers (DTC) online, which is now valued at $1.75 billion.  Wharton has become a sort of incubator of DTC companies in product categories as diverse as razors, erectile dysfunction, lingerie, sofas, and, manual toothbrushes, and more. 

The appeal of the DTC movement encourages companies to sell directly to consumers online, avoiding exorbitant retail markups and therefore afford to offer some combination of better design, qual­ity, service, and lower prices as a result of cutting out the middleman. There are now an estimated 400-plus DTC startups that have collectively raised some $3 billion in venture capital since 2012.

Notable companies launched by Wharton alumni: Warby Parker, Jet.com, Away luggage, MeUndies, BaubleBar, Harry's, Hims, Burrows, and more.

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