We talked to Harrison Gross of Lucyd on how the community-funded firm is creating smart eyewear for people with a diverse set of needs.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Harrison Gross: Thankfully, we are well and working hard. My sister is a healthcare worker on the frontlines in PA, and we are always praying for her safety, and have been very fortunate so far.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Lucyd.
Harrison Gross: I have a background in brand creation and creative marketing, and have been entrepreneurial since I was very young, founding many small businesses and projects over the years. Some of my ventures include a charity-focused publishing imprint, a vending machine business, and a herbal supplement business. About 5 years ago, I joined Tekcapital, an IP investment firm that turns beneficial university technologies into quality-of-life focused startups. When Tekcapital was looking to build a home for a suite of smart-glass technologies we had acquired, the idea for Lucyd came to me. And that idea was an eyewear brand that introduced tech features into useful, prescription-ready, affordable eyeglasses for the first time.
How does Lucyd innovate?
Harrison Gross: We are community-funded and supported from the very beginning, and our community fuels a lot of our innovation. Our community contains an incredible mix of typical optical customers, early tech adopters and startup investors, and this helps us create smart eyewear that people with a diverse set of needs will want. We also heavily test each potential new product by doing a closely monitored beta test of 30 frames sent to our core community and tech reviewers. This trial tells us what we need to improve for production.
In addition to this community-based ideation process, we have a talented in-house team with significant product commercialization experience.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Harrison Gross: Fortunately for us, we are not a brick-and-mortar retailer, and have focused on eCommerce from the very beginning. Like many other eCommerce businesses, we believe the Covid pandemic will ultimately be beneficial to our company. In the wake of many brick-and-mortar eyewear and electronics shops shuttering across the country, we believe more customers will be looking to upgrade their eyewear online.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Harrison Gross: We certainly did have a lot of challenges along the way–who to hire, who to keep, what to spend our limited resources on, and so forth. We have very ambitious goals for a startup–creating a new wearable computing environment among them. The key takeaway has been one of the categorical imperative; your business must do ONE thing better than the competition, and focus on that one thing like a laser until you succeed. Everything else will pour out of this single dominant USP. In our case, it’s adding Bluetooth features to optical quality eyeglasses and sunglasses. Once we perform that, then we are concerned about secondary objectives like offering more styles, more features, an on-glass camera, and so forth.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Lucyd in the future?
Harrison Gross: My original and longest-lasting hobby has been writing poetry and short fiction. I’ve published 11 books, including 10 volumes of poems and a collection of short stories about growing up in Florida. Writing really helps me do a lot of things, including relaxing and recording my thoughts and experiences. It’s quite satisfying, and something so right-brained complements my work in the tech world very well.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Harrison Gross: It seems that every major tech company is trying to break into the eyewear space. But we’re counting on our belief that the first successful smart eyewear products will come from an eyewear company, not a consumer electronics company. This is because eyewear is such a highly nuanced and customized product. It’s not like an iPhone where you can have 2-3 colors and call it a day. With eyewear, you need dozens of sizes, styles and lens options to suit the mass market. Furthermore, we have built a unique IP position to protect our brand, including a patent on modular Bluetooth frames that allow you to swap frontplates to change the style and fit of your glasses.
Your final thoughts?
Harrison Gross: We’re very excited to release what could become the first mass-market smart eyewear product next month, the Lucyd Lyte. We encourage everyone to try the glasses with our risk-free 7 day trial period. We ship worldwide as part of our mission to make smart eyewear accessible to everyone. Finally, we are launching a new donation program where we will donate a new optical frame to the New Eyes charity for every Lucyd Lyte sold.
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