In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.
mbaMission connected with Dave Gilboa, co-founder of online glasses retailer Warby Parker, who reflects on Wharton’s role in the firm’s success in changing the prescription eyewear industry. In the final part of this four-part series, Dave talks about how he and Warby Parker co-founders Neil, Jeff and Andy made launching and running a business together as friends work, taking some advice from Wharton classmates and entrepreneurs.
My Warby Parker co-founders—Neil, Jeff and Andy—were not just classmates of mine at The Wharton School, we were all really good friends before we started talking about launching a business together. Many people had warned us not to start a company with friends and also not to start a company with four founders, but we all really believed in each other’s abilities, integrity and drive. We were confident that if we put the right systems in place, we could make the venture work. Luckily, several of our classmates at Wharton were either current or former entrepreneurs and gave us great advice as we were starting out. Davis Smith, who founded PoolTables.com and later launched Baby.com.br, started both of his companies with his cousin and his best friend. He walked us through how he had made these scenarios work, and we implemented many of the same ideas when we were developing Warby Parker. We set up a vesting schedule so that if people left the company before we graduated they would get credit for “time served,” we set up monthly 360-degree reviews for both business issues and personal issues, and we established communication norms and expectations for our team before we launched the company. We agreed that above all, the four of us would remain friends throughout this process. Thinking about and having a plan for potential issues before they arose was critical for our success as a company. Now, three years later, Warby Parker has grown faster than we could have ever imagined, and Neil, Jeff, Andy and I are still great friends.