Mister Spex: You Have to See It to Believe It!
Since the arrival of glasses and lenses, the eyesight market has remained stagnant. Innovation-wise, the vision care market went into a decade-long drought and left the industry starved for new solutions.
Fueled by his love for entrepreneurship, Dirk Graber - a glasses wearer himself - noticed the vision industry has been long neglected by both technology and field experts. Inspired to ameliorate a field that not all dared tackle, Dirk created Mister Spex
- an eyewear startup that looks the future in the eye and gives it a wink!
Mister Spex offers prescription glasses, protective sunglasses, and contact lenses, all digitally optimized, affordable, delivered in 30 days’ time, and purchasable online and globally. Using 3D technology, a smart search, and filter functions, Mister Spex pairs up every client’s face shape to their optimal eyewear frame!
Breaking the eyewear market was an enigma, but here’s how one determined man took on the challenge and made Mister Spex the largest online retailer for branded eyewear!
Ambitions on Point
Dirk Graber was born and raised in Berlin. As he was growing up, Dirk suffered eye damage which ultimately required him to wear eyeglasses at all times. Even so, Dirk was never a fashion freak and could care less about accessories. He never favored his glasses, nor wanted to visit the optician’s office for appointments.
Aside from being pricey and prescribed, Dirk also found his eyeglasses too heavy to wear and impractical.
Although inspired by the idea of making a change in the way people wear glasses, Dirk first opted to study business administration in various cities - Marburg, Hong Kong, Moscow, and Leipzig - and graduated from the Leipzig Graduate School of Management, carrying a whole lot of knowledge and experience in eCommerce.
An Unhurried Beginning
Instead of diving into typical entrepreneurial waters, Dirk Graber first examined the overall market in order to learn which industry needed the most improvement. Noticing the missing technological and eCommerce link within the eyewear industry, Dirk had immediately found his career match and decided to create a platform to do the vision market justice.
Exploring the untouched eyewear market would be impossible to do alone, so Dirk decided to partner up with Mirko Casper, another German, born in Kassel. Mirko held a degree in business administration from the University of Münster and later acquired a Ph.D. in brand strategies.
Thanks to his doctoral knowledge in the area of business and management, Mirko was the perfect fit for Dirk’s future platform. Along with Mirko, Dirk also reached out to a few other specialists to help him build his eyewear brand. These included Lukasz Sadowski, his college friend Björn Sykora, and IT experts Philipp Frenkel and Thilo Hardt, both assigned to create the ultimate, most affordable, practical, and top-quality eyewear offer on the European market.
Combining the best of their craft and expertise, the team of four,- Dirk, Mirko, Philipp, and Thilo - launched Mister Spex in 2007! The aim of Mister Spex was to initially adopt eCommerce as a marketing strategy and enable those in need of quality eyewear to purchase it directly online. Whilst the company was founded in 2007 in Berlin, it took until April 2008 for it to become an online shop available to the world.
The Mirror Screen
One of the initial goals of Mister Spex, aside from going digital, was to become recognizable as a service brand that delivers. In the beginning, Dirk Graber found a great challenge in trying to convince the wider clientele that buying suitable eyewear did not require visiting a shop.
To make his mission even more known, Dirk created Mister Spex in a way that allows buyers to find their perfect fit product by simply using 3D technology. Namely, the company is most known for using a mirror-like and 3D camera that reflects one’s image just as naturally and authentically as trying glasses frames at an eyewear store, a tech-optimized move that made buying eyeglasses online a possibility for all.
Whilst Dirk had no problem appealing to a younger audience of buyers, seniors could still not adapt to the eCommerce meet eyewear trend. To get them interested and convinced, Mister Spex began heavy advertising and compared buying glasses online with buying shoes - if a buyer was willing to buy a pair of shoes online without trying them on first, they shouldn’t hesitate to do the same when buying glasses.
Troubling Business Seas
Although the team of four imagined an instant success of the company, the truth was - potential investors were difficult to find. After months and months of struggling to make a name for itself, Mister Spex continued failing in its efforts to find financial support and was ultimately led to the brink of bankruptcy.
Instead of letting his company fall into the rut, Dirk got even more motivated to pull his company out of existential dread and went knocking on investors’ doors for help. The first round of investment - although financially mysterious - came from a company called Grazia Equity via Series A funding.
From that point onward the company was fueled by even more investors, such as DN Capital, Scottish Equity Partners, Goldman Sachs, The Büll Family Office, along with a few incognito contributors. Overall, the company enjoyed total funding of $158 million, carried out over ten rounds of funding.
Growing Big or Going Omni?
One of the most significant company milestones took place in 2011. This was the time when the company expanded its business, this time from eCommerce to omnichannel.
Besides selling eyewear, Mister Spex also offered buyers the option to do eye tests and make individual vision adjustments. To make this happen, they partnered with local opticians and eventually landed their business in countless optical stores across Europe.
As it grew, Mister Spex faced one of its final challenges, its on-site competitors. Instead of battling their rivals, Mister Spex did the most genius thing and invited store-owned eyewear brands to partner up with the company, which then led to the rand opening over 40 physical eyewear stores in Germany and Europe.
Currently, Mister Spex is spread over ten European countries and plans on expanding even bigger. At the moment, the company has around a thousand employees, with its main HQ still located in Berlin. Since 2015, the company has been offering apprenticeships to eager opticians and experts willing to contribute to the innovation. As for sales, while a physical store sells 5 pairs of eyewear, Mister Spex sells and ships 1,000 items per day - online alone.
The Future is Looking Up
With their growing business, partnerships, and carefully designed omnichannel, Mister Spex ensured its longevity and prosperity on the European market. Distinctive, original, and downright practical, Mister Spex introduced a new glasses experience for all wearers and presented Europe with a selection of over 3,000 eyewear products to choose from.
For those unwilling to try the virtual glasses fitting experience, the company allows regular orders and gives buyers up to 10 days to decide whether the item they purchased is a good fit!
Buy them online or try them home for free - it doesn’t matter - as Dirk’s relentless mission to boost the quality of prescribed and recreational eyewear proves that the future of new and clear perspectives indeed lies in the eyes of the beholder!