Despite being one of the most prominent digital-first, millennial-favored retail pioneers to disrupt the market in recent years, Warby Parker has (quite smartly) taken its sweet time building its success. But the New York-based juggernaut, which was founded by four business school students just eight years ago, has since grown to an estimated $1.75 billion valuation, scaling up its funding rounds from $2.5 million in May 2011 to its latest — a whopping $75 million in a Series E funding round, led by investment management firm T. Rowe Price, as announced by the company on Wednesday.
In a statement, co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal stated that Warby Parker plans to put this new influx of cash toward its future, particularly in technology, research and development to ensure that the company remains at the forefront of the optical industry for years (and decades) down the road. "We're working to build one of the world's most impactful brands, and we've always taken a long-term view," said Blumenthal. Those innovations reportedly include the advancement of telemedicine services, which would allow Warby Parker to provide patient services for those who lack access to in-person care around the globe.
Also of note: Warby Parker reportedly has its sights set on an IPO sooner rather than later, or so according to Blumenthal in a new interview with Business of Fashion's Lauren Sherman. "We see going public as a financing event...a mechanism for us to to continue to raise capital over time," said Blumenthal. "Our goal is to remain independent, so the most likely outcome is an IPO in the next couple of years." Nothing's set in stone, however, and co-founder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa mentioned in a release that this $75 million will enable the company to deepen its relationships with pre-existing, longtime shareholders — again, to remain as independent as possible as a very large, 1,400-employee organization can be.
Prior to this Series E round, Warby Parker had raised $215 million to-date. It's been a big week for funding news: On Tuesday, fellow retail wunderkind Outdoor Voices announced that it had raised an additional $34 million to hit $57 million in total funding.