By now it’s a familiar narrative in startup circles: you can make millions by disrupting industries where exorbitant markups are the standard.
Usually though, a company doesn’t try to attempt to change an industry responsible for manufacturing something that you put on top of your eyeball. Hubble is the exception.
The company launched Tuesday and offers FDA-approved daily contact lenses for $30 a month or $264 a year (before what your insurance may cover). They’re delivered directly to your doorstep under Hubble’s own branding.
If you already wear contacts, you know that’s cheaper than what can be up to an annual cost of $720 for traditional contact lenses purchased from an optometrist or middleman like 1-800 Contacts.
The annual subscription is where Hubble provides the most value. If you pay per month, you could end up shelling out close to what you already pay. With the annual subscription (cancelable at any time) you could save hundreds of dollars a year.
For now, Hubble only makes daily contacts, not monthly lenses, because the company feels that they’re more healthy and comfortable (they said that they were investigating selling longer-wear options in the future, if they find the right manufacturer).
It’s also important to note that now Hubble only offers prescriptions from -.75 to -8. That range covers the vast majority of Americans, but if you need a prescription outside that range, or have astigmatism, you’ll have to wait until later this year.
If you don’t have an eye doctor, Hubble will help connect you with one in your area, although the interface is a little haphazard.
The company joins the ranks of Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club — which both offer razors directly to consumers — as well as Warby Parker, which makes glasses and lenses under its own brand.
What unites all these businesses together is a direct-to-consumer model, as well as clean, modern branding.
The similarity makes sense, since one of Hubble’s two founders, Ben Cogan, 26, previously worked at Harry’s. He met his co-founder, Jesse Horowitz, 28, when the pair interned at an investment firm during college.
What’s different about Hubble is that Cogan and Horowitz chose to innovate in the medical space — where mistakes could be costly.
Cogan and Horowitz understood that building Hubble would be a challenge. “We’re asking someone to put the product in their eyes,” Horowitz explained over the phone.
He admitted their biggest challenge was navigating regulations.
The payoff could be great though — over 30 million Americans wear contact lenses. Providing them with a cheaper option could make a huge difference for people who can’t afford contacts sold at exorbitant markups.
So far, Cogan and Horowitz have effectively sold Hubble’s story. Over the past year, the company has quietly raised $7.2 million via two different fundraising rounds and hired 10 full-time employees.
I don’t wear contact lenses myself — but my boyfriend does. Hubble let him sample a several week supply. He alternated wearing them with his regular contact lenses, and found that Hubble’s made his eyes significantly less dry.
He also felt that his eyes were a little less sore when he took them off than when he removed his brandname lenses. “I felt like my eyes were less fatigued,” he told me.
What also appealed to him was the delivery model — one of the reasons my boyfriend avoids wearing contact lenses regularly is that he has to visit his doctor to purchase them. He also has to buy a huge supply, since he has a different prescription in each eye.