At least 30 million people wear contact lenses in the U.S., but somehow, less than one-third of this population wears daily disposable lenses, which are deemed the most hygienic and healthiest option by eye health professionals.
A New York City startup called Hubble Contacts, co-founded by Ben Cogan and Jesse Horwitz, wants to make daily disposable lenses the norm here the way they are in most of Europe, Japan and other markets globally.
Their newly launched startup promises customers a high quality but more affordable option than what’s available from traditional and online sellers of contact lenses, like Walmart, Walgreens or 1-800-Contacts.
Hubble can offer lower prices, in part, because the company controls its own supply chain. It has partnered with a Taiwan-based factory to manufacture a Hubble brand of FDA-approved lenses in fully recyclable, branded packaging.
If their business model sounds familiar, that’s because companies like Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club, Julep, NatureBox, and others have succeeded with “direct-to-consumer,” brands and subscription commerce services in several categories by now.
In fact, Cogan previously worked for Harry’s (HF Global Inc.), the rapidly growing brand that makes and sells razors and other men’s grooming products on a subscription basis, and at retail.
Following in the footsteps of these “vertically integrated ecommerce” startups, Hubble has been able to raise $7.2 million in early stage venture funding to-date (in a seed round and extension).
Hubble’s backers include Founders Fund, Greycroft Partners, Wildcat Capital Management, Two River, and two individual angels, Oscar Salazar a co-founder of Uber, and Brian Levy, formerly Bausch and Lomb’s Chief Medical Officer.
The deal marks Levy’s first angel investment.
The veteran of the eyecare industry said, “There’s more than a subscription service that matters here. There’s a great price point and the know-how that the Hubble executive team has in terms of safety, efficacy and getting word out to wearers of contact lenses. These things would all be hurdles to competitors.”
Cogan and Horwitz said they are the only new contact lens brand to launch in more than a decade in this country, and that’s because it’s not easy to outsource manufacturing of contacts the way it is to do so with apparel, snacks or even mattresses.
Hubble “members” can buy a monthly supply of lenses for $30, shipped directly to their homes. Customers can use a valid prescription from any source to register and start a Hubble subscription. The startup verifies all prescriptions painstakingly.
Hubble is also working to stay in the good graces of the eye care industry. Its site lets visitors book an appointment with a licensed eye doctor nearby, should they need a new prescription.
Hubble doesn’t require eye doctors to prescribe their brand of lenses to referred patients. But driving new business to ophthalmologists or optometrists certainly gets their attention, and makes them aware of Hubble’s offering, the cofounders said.
Greycroft Partners’ Ellie Wheeler, a Hubble investor, said she expects the company to use its funding for hiring, to get word out about its brand in the U.S., and to make sure every operational detail leads to great customer experiences.
She said, “In a lot of categories, you didn’t care about a brand until you did. We’re making a bet that Hubble can create a brand that resonates with consumers. Delivery and convenience are only part of what they’re offering.”