2. Warby Parker

Chic eyewear for the masses

Neil Blumenthal (left) and David Gilboa, co-founders of Warby Parker
Getty Images
Neil Blumenthal (left) and David Gilboa, co-founders of Warby Parker

Founders: Neil Blumenthal (co-CEO), David Gilboa (co-CEO), Andrew Hunt, Jeffrey Raider
Date launched:
$115.5 million
Industries disrupted: Fashion, Health Insurance, Retail
Disrupting: Luxottica, VSPGlobal, Wal-Mart
Competitors: Made Eyewear, Rivet, Sway

Warby Parker was created to be an alternative to the overpriced and bland eyewear that's been a staple of the industry for decades. The four founders all met as students at The Wharton School in Philadelphia, where in between classes they traveled the globe and tried to figure out ways to do business differently while making a positive impact on the world.

Eyewear fit the bill.

Read More FULL LIST: 2014 DISRUPTOR 50

Almost 1 billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, according to the company. This means that 15 percent of the global population cannot effectively learn or work—a problem that Warby Parker set out to address. They figured out that the eyewear industry is controlled by a few large companies that keep prices for prescription frames and lenses artificially high.

By circumventing traditional channels and selling vintage-inspired eyeglasses and sunglasses to customers directly through their website and select showrooms, Warby Parker is able to offer high-quality eyewear starting at around $95, a far cry from the $250 to $300 charged at most major retail chains. The company, whose name was inspired by a pair of Jack Kerouac characters, also believes in giving back: For each pair of glasses sold, it distributes a pair to someone in need.

How did you come up with your big idea?

"We both had frustrating experiences buying eyeglasses, so we decided to offer an alternative to the overpriced, uninspiring eyewear on the market." -David Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO


Latest Special Reports

  • CNBC’s Women & Wealth explores ways that women can increase their income, save for the future and make the most out of current opportunities.

  • Unlock the keys to building a successful long-term financial plan: manage your money, grow your money, and protect it.

  • In a world of big box retail and e-commerce, successful business owners are taking new paths to Main Street success.