GlassesGroupGlobal, a Kuala Lumpur-based eyeglass retailer founded by a former Rocket Internet executive, is eyeing expansion across Asia and Europe with its recently closed $3 million Series A. The round was led by Caixa Capital and Nova Founders Capital, and angel investors including Toivos Annus, Uwe Kolb, and Siegfried Drueker.
Along with a previous seed round, this brings GlassesGroupGlobal’s total raised so far to $4.5 million. The startup was founded in 2013 by chief executive officer Christopher Strauch, a former managing director of Zalora and CEO of Rocket Internet UK, who say that customers in many Asian countries only had access to very limited and often overpriced inventories of designer eyewear.
“Eyewear as a vertical seemed particularly interesting and feasible as it allowed me to start the business with comparatively little starting capital,” Strauch tells TechCrunch. “The problems for customers are vast. Outside of the larger cities, accessibility of branded goods is very limited as the industry is strictly controlled and brand principals prefer high-end locations.”
The company currently runs online shops in 14 markets, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region (Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand) and is currently making inroads into Europe. It has 75 employees, and an office in Berlin as well as Kuala Lumpur.
There are already several large sites that sell eyewear to customers at much lower prices than brick-and-mortar stores, including FramesDirect and ZenniOptical. Strauch says GlassesGroupGlobal stands out by being the “first regional eyewear player in Asia-Pacific,” which means it has been able to put together a partner of networks and launch in countries where online options were limited (a business expansion strategy similar to the one used by Strauch’s former employer Zalora).
While Asia’s bustling e-commerce market is huge and still has a lot of room for growth, Strauch says GlassesGroupGlobal decided to enter Europe because “the eyewear market is unique in its setup and probably one of the most global verticals in retail due to its consolidated supply chain. Once supplier relationships and the platform have been built, expansion comes at marginal costs.”
“The eyewear market is globally still very fragmented, hence opportunities are vast across regions,” he adds.
Strauch declined to disclosed sales metrics, citing competition, but said GlassesGroupGlobal is seeing “strong growth across our markets, new as well as old.”