Glasses Direct Looks at Bigger Picture

07/22/07
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The young entrepreneur behind the online spectacles retailer Glasses Direct has raised $6m (£2.9m) from two venture-capital investors to help turn the business into a household name.

 

Jamie Murray-Wells, 24, founded Glasses Direct three years ago while he was still a university student. Today, it has sold more than 150,000 pairs.

 

Now Index Ventures, which previously backed Skype, the internet telephony firm, and Betfair, the online gambling group, together with Highland Capital Partners, a US fund behind eToys, the retailer, have taken a significant minority stake. Accelerator, another investor, has also contributed to the fundraising, It is not clear what percentage of the equity the firms have taken, but it is thought to be on a par with Murray-Wells and his family, who have previously provided capital.

 

Murray-Wells said: “We’ve shown the market this can work. But we want to become a household name in the UK.”

 

He said that the new funds would be spent on marketing. Murray-Wells, a friend of Prince Harry, said he would like to do for spectacles what Swatch did for watches.

 

He thinks that rather than buying glasses simply because they are cheap, customers will buy different pairs for varying occasions. “People have different Swatch watches to go with different outfits or for sports. People could have five pairs of glasses.”

 

Although success in Britain is the main aim, the business may also expand overseas. Saul Klein, a partner at Index Ventures, said: “We believe this is a business that has international potential. What’s great about the proposition is that we think it can work well in any number of markets.”

 

Fergal Mullen, a partner at Highland Capital Partners, and Klein will both join the board.

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