Well truth be told this is a special eye glass company. First off they’ve developed a new technology that will greatly benefit those with varying degrees of bad vision.
Secondly, they’ve found a way to make their eye glass technology make an impact and a difference in developing countries.
First off, Eyejusters has created a new technology for those folks that need glasses to see. The technology they’ve developed is called “SlideLens” technology. This allows the user to change the actual lens within the glass frame. Say you need one strength of reading glasses in the light, and another when it’s not so light. This can be achieved by simply turning a dial.
The real neat thing about Eyejusters is how their product is changing the vision in the developing world.
The premise behind Eyejusters is to turn the knob on the lenses until the user is comfortable seeing out of them and they improve your site. Once the user finds the comfortable spot the glasses are working their optimum with no real eye exam to boot. That’s why the Eyejusters product is so valuable in developing countries.
Many people in these countries can’t afford regular doctor’s care, much less a specialist like an Opthamologist. With SlideLens technology and Eyejusters the folks in developing countries don’t need an opthamologist the eye exam is actually built into the glasses.
We got a chance to talk with Owen Reading, one of the co-founders of Eyejusters about their startup, product, social cause and how they’ve approached the product itself in the same way any startup would. Check out the interview below.
What is Eyejusters?
Eyejusters are self-adjustable glasses, where the power of the lens can be changed with the turn of dial. This means they can be used in loads of situations where you want to change the lens power – for example as adjustable reading glasses, allowing you to get rid of having multiple pairs of reading glasses for different tasks and allowing you to focus on what you want.
They can also be used to solve a major public health issue in the developing world – the lack of access to eye care (and therefore) eyewear, due to a lack of trained optometrists. Eyejusters let people turn the dial until they can see clearly – they’re a sight test and a pair of glasses in one.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
Each lens in our glasses is in fact two together – we call it SlideLens technology. Both have very special surface shapes, and when they slide across each other the overall power looking through both changes. Have a go with a demo at www.eyejusters.com/lens/
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
We are four co-founders:
David Crosby has 15 years’ research experience in physics at Oxford University, and is responsible for getting us all together initially. He designs the SlideLens optics.
Greg Storey has considerable experience developing medical devices and putting products into production, and has taken our product from concept through to production. He’s also from New Zealand, although we don’t hold that against him.
Richard Taylor has a PhD in retinal imaging and a background in manufacturing engineering, and is responsible for a lot of the production and manufacturing.
Owen Reading graduated from Oxford University in Physics 4 years ago and since then has been responsible for lots of things – business development, our website, talking to customers and other stuff.
You can find out more about us at www.eyejusters.com/about/
Where are you based?
We are based in Oxford, in the UK
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
There’s a fair few startups here, mainly in very high technology spinouts from the university. It’s not as concentrated or as organised as it is in say Silicon Valley or Boston, but there’s organisations designed to help people get started and network. Britain has experienced a bit of a revolution in startup support recently – there’s been a lot of government interest, tax breaks, support and useful programs that can help early-stage companies, which is great.
How did you come up with the idea for Eyejusters?
The concept of self-adjustable glasses has been around for a little while, and the Professor of David’s former research group, Josh Silver, does a lot of work on liquid-filled adjustable glasses for the developing world. We wanted to make a product with our new lens technology, SlideLens, that allows us to make a pair of rectangular, metal-rimmed glasses that can be re-adjusted at any point, and to bring them to the mass market.
How did you come up with the name?
It took a while! We threw around a lot of ideas, and eventually came up with Eyejusters. It’s catchy, explains the product pretty succinctly, and is unique.
What problem does Eyejusters solve?
There’s a number of different problems that can be solved with adjustable glasses. We’re keen to concentrate on areas of the ophthalmic market where the ability to repeatedly re-adjust the lens improves on what’s currently out there.
Initially we’re focusing (sigh) on two areas:
– Adjustable reading glasses: millions of people wear over-the-counter (OTC) reading glasses every day. Typically, they have multiple pairs – one for reading, one for the computer, one for TV and other activities. Wouldn’t it be great to have one pair that can do it all, even if your eyes can’t change focus any more? Eyejusters are the world’s first adjustable reading glasses, and allow users to change the focus of their lenses at any time. They let you replace all your reading glasses with just one.
– Developing world: Eyejusters can also be used to overcome the lack of trained optometrists in developing world nations. Over 670 million people worldwide lack a pair of glasses that they need to see clearly, mainly due to a lack of eyecare services. We can deliver a pair of glasses that a user can put on and adjust until they see clearly, that doesn’t need highly-trained professionals and can be delivered on the ground by private and public sector operators, local entrepreneurs and NGOs.
What’s your secret sauce?
Our core technology is SlideLens – we’ve worked very hard to make the lenses suitable for use in glasses. Based on an existing ‘sliding lens’ technology called Alvarez lenses, SlideLens technology is optimised for glasses and the particular needs of the eye’s optical system. We’ve reduced distortion and given them improved optical clarity, whilst controlling thickness and weight.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We’re bootstrapped so far, but looking to expand in 2013 with an investment round.
What is your go-to-market strategy?
We’re already selling through a few online/mail-order retailers, and directly through our website at www.eyejusters.com in the US, UK, EU and Canada.
We want to expand the availability of our over-the-counter adjustable reading glasses, with presence in brick-and-mortar retailers such as pharmacies, general stores and opticians. In the developing world we’re exploring micro-business as a really promising avenue for our products.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
It’s hard to pick out just one! We’ve learnt everything, from bespoke manufacturing techniques all the way through to the joy of tax and accounting. But our key learning is this – you need more money than you think, and more time.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
We’ve long seen ourselves as less of an ophthalmic/medical device product and more close to the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) market with our OTC products, so we’ve admired a lot of companies that do well in that area. I don’t think we’ve got any specific business role models, although a lot of the new US hardware technology startups are great to watch and learn from.
What’s next for Eyejusters?
More sales, more retailers, more markets and new products. We’ve always been a lean startup – we wanted to get a product out and see how people reacted, gain feedback and improve our product and offering. There’s a lot of things we want to do – keep following us on Twitter or Facebook for more!