Who says glasses can't be edgy? Warby Parker out-innovates tech giants

Inside Warby Parker's innovative strategy

When many think about innovation, big names like Apple or Google may come to mind. However, the company touted as the most innovative company of 2015 isn't any of those tech giants; it's eyeglass maker Warby Parker.

Fast Company's widely followed ranking touted the e-commerce company as the "first great made-on-the-Internet brand," and the company is slowly but surely earning a reputation as both an edgy brand and disruptive force.

Warby Parker co-founder Dave Gilboa told "Squawk on the Street" he and co-founder Neil Blumenthal saw an industry that hadn't been innovating. The two met years ago as students at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where they envisioned eyewear as a viable business model.

"Innovation is about thinking differently and bringing new ideas to life," Gilboa said. "We thought there was an opportunity to sell glasses online and that enabled us to sell a product that normally sells for $500, offer it for $95."

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'Came from nowhere' to shake up the industry

Source: Warby Parker

"Warby Parker has come from nowhere to break into [the eyeglasses] market. They are a company that is created by millennials for millennials that are connecting across all different demographics," Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Robert Safian told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

For its ranking, the magazine looked at things like how companies sell and market products and how that's integrated and executed across the company. According to Fast Company's criteria, Warby Parker came out on top.

"It's very distinctive, this platform basis that makes the most innovative companies take off," Safian said.

When the New York-based start-up began five years ago, it wanted to shake up the eyeglass industry by selling glasses online, but for a fraction of the price. Warby Parker has since expanded offline, opening 10 stores nationwide that are all bringing in north of $2,500 a square foot. According to Fast Company, the company has annual revenues well over $100 million.

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Now that the company is no longer new to the scene and is branching into more traditional avenues such as brick-and-mortar stores, Blumenthal said it is important to remember that details matter. For example, they are applying the same types of metrics to their physical locations that they use for their online business.

"We look at traffic actually walking by store versus entering in the store, versus actually completing sales" by using things like infrared cameras, Blumenthal said.

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Even the opening of those stores went against the grain, since the company already has a successful ecommerce model, Gilboa said.

"In some ways we were kind of disrupting what was already working for us and really thinking about how can we have the best possible experience for consumers, regardless of how they want to engage with us," he added.

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Looking forward, the pair wants to continue to open new stores, continue to focus on experiences while remaining open to future opportunities.

"This environment is changing so quickly that it is all about adaptability," Blumenthal said.

As for the names that didn't make Fast Company's list this year, both Twitter and Amazon were absent. Safian noted that only five companies can be on the list two years in a row. This year, Warby Parker, Apple, Google, Tesla and Netflix are repeats.