Gunnar Optiks entered the Shark Tank with their glasses that protect eyes against the dangers of the blue light that is given off by electronic devices such as computers, tablets and smartphones. Their patented design helps ward against eye health issues caused by staring at a screen- such as damage to the retina, cataracts, sleep disorders and macular degeneration. They are available for people who need prescription lenses and those who do not.
We interviewed its president Scott Sorensen, who said computer users who look at their screen for more than two hours a day should be purchasing a pair of Gunnars. After two years of optometric research with a board of medical advisors as well as testing out prototypes, the company launched in 2006. Since then, sales have been growing slowly, due to what he calls a lack of consumer awareness. His vision for the future includes new technology and lens as well as additional partnerships.
So what makes their glasses the best look on the market right now? Sorensen explained that all their products meet FDA standards and competitors do not prevent all symptoms of digital eye strain or blocking blue light like theirs do.
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About Because of Wall Street
One of our founder’s husband, Matt Michelsen, had been experiencing frequent migraine headaches at work as a Wall Street financier and had been to the doctor to find out why. The doctor had referred him to an optometrist to check his eyesight, but the optometric exam was inconclusive because he had 20/20 vision. Both his doctor and his eye doctor came to the conclusion that it must be Matt’s work environment which included six video display terminals. The eye doctor determined that it must be Computer Vision Syndrome or later called Digital Eye Strain, and made him a pair of glasses with a light magnification to help combat the eye stress issue. From there, Jennifer and Matt Michelsen met with friend Joe Croft to begin discussions and development of an affordable solution for the public.
Their Lens Technology
The final lens technology was created over two years of clinical trials and development led by Joe Croft and his team of medical advisors. The original patented amber lens was engineered specifically to block out the bad short wave blue light from screens that is linked to disease and hormone suppression, while letting in the long wave blue light that promotes cognitive function and memory. We also built a slight a low plus power (+0.2D) based on common optometric practices and using straightforward calculations for focusing distance to relax the focus of the eyes and reduce the stress.
Not Being Anxious in the ‘Tank’
In the green room, Joe’s nerves were very calm, and the associate producers asked him how come. He mentioned that he’d pitched this so many times that the pitch wasn’t nerve-wracking any more. Once he was in the Tank, the pitch came off strong. There were a few points where the pitch started getting too technical, but they kept coming back to the basics. in the end, everyone made the experience great and Joe had a great time in the Tank.
We have already started placement in eye care professional locations in the US, but we would like to expand this to as many as possible. There are 30,000 eye care professionals in the US and we would like to expand to as many of them as can because there is still a customer that would like to try them on before purchasing.
Exposure Through Amazon
Amazon has been a great partner for us. Considering more than 60 percent of all product searches online start there, it is a strong market place for our glasses and it provides exposure to new customers.
Looking to the Future
We have a lot of new technology and products coming out in 2018. We are expanding our computer lens offering in February with a new Liquet Lens that offers a BPF35, which is a blue light protection factor blocking 35 percent of blue light from your digital screens. This will complement our current original patented amber lens with a BPF65 and our crystalline with a BPF10. The Liquet lens is the perfect in-between solution for those who need a balanced color spectrum as well as protection from artificial blue light. We also have a new Work-Play lens releasing in March this year. The Work-Play lens is a dual-purpose Gunnar amber lens designed for indoor blue light protection while you’re immersed in your digital lifestyle, and then transitions into a sunglass outside for outdoor protection from UV and the sun’s rays. We will also have our normal new styles releases and partner collaboratives this year to spice up the collection.
Other Shark Tank products: