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Seeing and Hearing the Future, with Harrison Gross, Co-founder & CEO of Lucyd

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What do eyeglasses, blockchain, and social media all have in common? If you answered nothing, then obviously you haven’t heard of Lucyd. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, I sat down with Harrison Gross, the Co-founder and CEO of Lucyd, a smart eyewear company that is bringing hardware and software together in pretty incredible ways. 

Harrison told me all about how the company was built on IP from research universities — an underutilized trove of crazy cool ideas — and how Lucyd’s crowdfunding backers became the perfect beta testers for the Lucyd Lyte glasses, which are glasses fitted with bluetooth technology that allow users to talk on the phone, listen to music, engage with Siri, and more, all without ever taking your phone out of your pocket. Smart glasses are not a new concept, so you may be wondering what makes Lucyd different. Harrison is developing an app to pair with the glasses that uses blockchain to create a social community where people can utilize tokens, buy and sell NFTS, and engage with people and brands — all from their eyewear. It’s a whole new kind of commerce, and I’m excited to bring you today’s conversation with Harrison Gross!

Main Takeaways:

  • The Will of the People: Crowdfunding is not just a way to raise capital, it’s a proven method to build a community of people who are willing to help your company succeed. Backers from a crowdfunding campaign can become a pool of beta testers and product development focus groups that can help a company get to a MVP much sooner than otherwise possible.
  • Meet the Market: Although the market might not be in place to adopt your original idea, you can always pivot to deliver something that people need right now. But don’t let the original idea die — find a new way to introduce that idea that is suitable to how people live and operate right now, the same way Lucyd is doing with blockchain technology, which you can tune in to hear more about!
  • Make it Easy: If you have a product that will solve a problem or make someone’s life easier, you might think it will sell itself, but it won’t. You have to fully explain how the product works and where they will see improvement in their life through using the product. You also have to train those who sell the product to build education into their sales speak, and every piece of content you create should illustrate how you are making life better, because when the consumer sees that, you make their purchase decision easy.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

 

“We really believe that having an amazing product is table stakes for playing in any of these arenas with so many options. Casper had a really amazing product, but it was copied and pasted so quickly by other bed in a box brands. So we really made sure to build a moat around our brand and product positioning in order to avoid that because we’re also in a category that’s dominated by big CPG with a lot more money to spend on marketing and product innovation than us and frankly, just a lot of options that create a lot of noise for the consumer.”

“Our vision was to create a superior product that was shelf stable and competitive to what exists in bags today with multiple access points at a more attainable price line. So it sounds like a mouthful, but what we did was really broke down the experience from shopping and selection through lugging that bag home and then also, pouring it into likely another container and then actually the feeding experience as well. We tried to solve and optimize for all of those specific moments in time.”

“There’s no real customization component to our diet. We have really formulated something that is appropriate for modern dogs of all breeds ages and sizes. So with that, and because there’s no tailoring to really specific conditions, the diet is really accessible to the majority of the market and in that sense, just allows for wider distribution and quicker distribution.”

“We’re continuing to really stand up these retail partnerships for wider distribution, but it really is an atypical growth strategy for a pet food brand since the logical process is to grow through pet specialty first on a regional level then on a national level, and then you start to make it into some of these bigger mass formats. But we just navigated as best we could and postured ourselves as opportunistic and really activated the partnerships that made the most sense given the circumstances and overall climate.”

“It’s really important to make sure that your product is retail ready from the start from both a packaging and shelf stability perspective. So without having to figure out any of the painful logistics around installing refrigeration units or scaling complicated supply chains, we really tried to solve for all of that up front through launch so when partners came and wanted to expand their categories and they were looking for premium brands to add to their shelves, we were ready to go.”

“I think that there is definitely some hunger from larger mass brands to partner with smaller, cooler brands to bring some freshness to various categories. I think Target, specifically, has done it with a couple of direct-to-consumer brands and really found a lot of success with it. So we were trying to use that same formula and really catch some of the momentum from brands that have come before us outside of the pet food category to think about some of the cool things that we could do to promote the retail partnership. Doing that through marketing and influencership and advocacy was really what we pitched as being the supporting mechanism to make the partnership successful.”

“As a new brand that doesn’t have a lot of awareness or hasn’t driven customer favor ability or advocacy quite yet, having an inline placement is really only beneficial if you’re able to compete at a price point that’s compelling among the brands that you’re sitting alongside. If it’s not, then winning share at the shelf is going to be a lot harder. So price is the first thing that I really considered the biggest lever, and if you can’t compete there, then you have to fight for space to deliver a really compelling message or proposition.”

Bio

Harrison Gross is the Co-founder and CEO of Lucyd. He is also a global eShop for innovative eyewear, an app developer & named inventor on several wearables patents.


Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

 

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hello and welcome back to Up Next In Commerce. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO at Mission.org. Today on the show we have Harrison Gross, who serves as the CEO and co-founder of Lucyd. Harrison, welcome.

Harrison:

Hey. Thanks so much for having me.

Stephanie:

Excited to have you on. So, for anyone who can’t see you right now, you’re wearing some beautiful eyeglasses, that one would not even know there’s anything different from maybe what they’d be wearing in their everyday life. So, can you explain Lucyd and what are you wearing right now?

Harrison:

Yeah. So, Lucyd is a smart eyewear company. We’ve been developing different electronic glasses for a couple years now. I’m wearing our new product, which is called Lucyd Lyte, which launched this past January. It’s very exciting because it’s our first smart eyewear that really looks and feels like regular glasses, it weighs about the same as a regular pair of glasses, and it’s suitable for all day prescription wear, which is a major development in the smart eyewear space, because most of the products out there are good for a few minutes at a time or maybe an hour or two, but you can’t wear them as your all day glasses. So, that’s something that we’re really focused on, is delivering optical quality eyewear that’s enhanced with technology features.

Harrison:

So, for example, these glasses allow me to take a phone call, listen to music and use voice assistance like Siri and Google Voice, all without taking my phone out of my pocket. So, it’s really like headphones and glasses in one. Since it does both well enough, you really don’t need regular glasses or regular headphones anymore once you adopt our product.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love it. I mean, so we got a product, two of them sent to us. We were trying them out and it was so nice just being able to go walk the dog, listen to music, take a phone call. So, tell me about the buttons on the eyewear. How do you actually have the ability to not even touch your phone but do all those things?

Harrison:

Sure, sure. So, like I mentioned, it’s really like a Bluetooth headset built into the glasses. So, there are speakers on the inside of the arms and there’s also a microphone as well. Then there’s two touch buttons right here, which allow you to do a number of different functions on the glasses, like changing the volume of what you’re listening to, answering an incoming phone call or activating the voice assistant to use an app.

Harrison:

So, it really is very simple and very easy to use because there’s only two buttons. It’s very easy for anyone to just pick up the glasses and start using them and rocking out. So, it’s really a fun product and at the same time is very user friendly, which is something that we noticed was a major issue in a lot of other smart eyewear products. A lot of them use these kind of interesting touch pads to change volume or skip tracks, they’re very difficult to use and unreliable.

Harrison:

So, we really learned a lot along the way from our previous products and incorporated all of that knowledge into the Lyte.

Stephanie:

I love that.

Harrison:

Which as you can see, it really does look like a regular pair of glasses. You couldn’t really be able to tell that it’s a smart eyewear product unless I told you.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah, no. That’s what I love about it. So, is the speaker, is it bone conduction or is it actually just a speaker? Because I noticed that you couldn’t. When you’re walking next to people they can kind of hear it, but it’s not like a full on speaker blasting out to everyone around you.

Harrison:

Yeah, so it’s a directional audio speaker, not bone conduction, that projects directly down onto the ear from the arm. So, this is allows something called open ear listening, which allows you to listen to audio content and still be able to hear your surroundings at the same time, which is very important for certain activities like cycling or running where you’re on the street and you really need to hear the traffic around you.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, it provides a really nice balance of your hearing of the natural world around you and the audio content you want to listen to.

Stephanie:

So, what led you to getting into this world and creating that? Because I mean, especially when thinking about the history and thinking about Google Glass, the failures there.

Harrison:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stephanie:

What made you want to get into this world and show people there is actually a use case for this and it can be great?

Harrison:

So, I was working in an IP investment firm called Tekcapital a few years ago and we were tasked essentially with commercializing different university technologies from around the world.

Stephanie:

That’s cool.

Harrison:

One particular set of technologies we had out of UCF was these smart eyewear technologies. We were attempting to license them out to other companies. It wasn’t working really so well, and we figured, you know what? Hey, let’s spin it out and make a startup out of it and create the first mass market smart eyewear product, because when we started back in 2017 there really was nothing on the market that was suitable for prescription wear or had any kind of useful tech combined with optical glasses.

Harrison:

So, we set out to make that product and a few beta models later we finally achieved it. What’s really exciting about our company is that it’s largely crowdfunded. We raised over a million dollars from about 4,000 investors, and they really help inform the product development in a way that wouldn’t happen in a regular top down company.

Harrison:

So, since we’re community funded, we’re also community focused and we’re focused on delivering glasses that meet the needs of our community. So, they work very closely with us along the way and they’ve been our beta testers and our focus groups and all that. So, we’ve had this sort of built in audience and customer base that’s been actually invested in our success in a material way. So, they’ve really helped enhance our product development over time and really helped us figure out what styles me need and what features we really needed in the product.

Stephanie:

Wow, that’s awesome. I didn’t even realize there was a whole industry around licensing IP from universities. I mean, I want to hear a bit more about that. Can you tell me more of what were the things that you were seeing? I mean, I know universities are always doing cool things, but I didn’t know that was an actual investment firm saying, “Hey, I want to license your tech and see what I can do with it.”

Harrison:

Yeah, there aren’t too many. There’s only a handful of them that are pulling university IP. It is really a fascinating thing because really that model kind of doesn’t work anymore because everything is based around all the way that technology moves through the market is inside startups and inside small companies, and larger companies rather than licensing technologies directly, they’d rather buy a startup that’s kind of proven out the technology into a product.

Harrison:

So, it’s not so common anymore, but what was really interesting about Tekcapital is that at Tek we had built a research network of 4,500 universities around the world, which is something like 80% of the IP producing schools in the world. The schools all have a very hard time commercializing technologies themselves because they’re not set up as businesses. They’re set up as academic institutions. So, they have a really hard time finding commercial partners for all this really interesting innovation that’s coming out of their labs.

Harrison:

So, some of the more interesting technologies we had seen, some really cool stuff actually. One was a phone charger that was actually inside a shoe, and as you walked in the shoe it would generate a charge and you’d pull a little USB-C-

Stephanie:

What?

Harrison:

… out of the shoe and then you get a backup battery for your phone.

Stephanie:

Okay, that’s actually awesome. Where is that? I’ll license that. That’s really cool.

Harrison:

So yeah. So we had actually licensed that technology, but it was one of the ones that didn’t quite make it into production.

Stephanie:

Yeah. You don’t want them powering your eyewear? I mean, then I will never have to charge it anymore.

Harrison:

It’s a possibility. Yeah, it’s definitely a possibility. One thing that’s nice about the Lucyd glasses though is the battery life is about eight hours of playback.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So you really only have to charge them every couple days, for most people. Obviously some people listen to music from dawn to dusk while they’re working. For those people they’ll need to charge it on a daily, but the battery technology has gotten really impressive. Just in this little tip we store that eight hour battery.

Stephanie:

Wow.

Harrison:

With some new interesting battery polymers that are out there, you can actually have a battery in any shape now. So, we’re working on creating an even larger battery that’s spread more evenly throughout the arm to enhance the battery life even further. But one of the technologies that did make it out of the universities that is really powerful is one called MicroSalt. What it is is it’s a salt particle that it’s just salt but it’s way smaller, so it has more surface area by weight, so your tongue senses it twice as fast as regular salt. So, you can have food that tastes just as salty but has half the sodium.

Harrison:

So, that’s another technology that Tekcapital, my former employer, did bring to market. So, there are a lot of really interesting things coming out of the universities. You have some of the smartest people in the world working in these research labs and creating these wonderful technologies, but they have a hard time really turning them into companies. You do have some universities like Stanford that spin out dozens of startups a year around the technologies they develop. So, some of them are kind of getting wise to how to do it, but yeah. It’s been a very interesting time working with all these emerging technologies, very fascinating stuff.

Stephanie:

Wow, that’s cool. So, I mean, early days, you’re licensing this tech. You’re like, “There’s big potential here.” What did it look like next to even create your V1 set?

Harrison:

Oh well, so that’s kind of a long story, but … So, we had all these technologies. We’re trying to license them out, and we just saw this need in the market for good, user friendly, comfortable smart eyewear, didn’t exist. We basically set out to tick off these boxes that we believed needed to all be answered in order to create that product.

Harrison:

So, one by one we went through and we figured out okay, so how do we get it in a user friendly form factor that is very easy to use? That was the first thing. Second, how do we get it suitable for all day optical wear? How do we get it with a battery life that’s long enough to be useful? How do we get the audio quality high enough to be able to listen to music enjoyably? So, we’ve had to answer all these different issues that existed in smart eyewear one by one to finally result in a mass market product.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

So, it’s been a long journey, and step by step, this is really our fifth product that we’ve done. So, it took several models and it also took the chip sets getting more miniaturized and all these other things that happened along the way. Some innovations, which were internal to us and some which were external by our manufacturers, et cetera, to really create this product.

Harrison:

It’s been an ongoing process, and we’re not nearly done yet. There’s still lots of innovation to be done. We’re getting the arms even thinner so they’re really indistinguishable from regular glasses, and improving the sound quality and all these other things that we’re working on to make it perfect. So, we’re not quite 100% finished with our job. We still have a lot of work to do in getting smart eyewear to be the new standard in eyewear at large.

Stephanie:

It’s amazing. So, I mean, so far we’ve kind of talked about the speaker capability, and music and things like that. But what was so interesting to me was seeing also kind of how you guys are going to be leaning into augmented reality and blockchain. To me, when you’re looking at the market right now you see some competitors with smart speaker eyewear, then you see smart glasses, but seeing someone who can put it all together in one place in a way that’s actually usable, you don’t really see that right now.

Stephanie:

So, I want to hear how you’re thinking about AR in the real world and blockchain coming together around smart eyeglasses?

Harrison:

So yeah, so we were originally developing a visual smart glass before we realized the market was not nearly ready for such a product, nor was the technology sufficiently advanced enough to make it user friendly. So, in that world I had envisioned a system where we could use blockchain to sort of automatically moderate and promote content. So, as content we get highly, and what’s interesting about visual smart glasses, AR smart glasses is that it will be a platform where you both create and consume content in one wearable, which is really kind of a first.

Harrison:

So, we envisioned this kind of robust system where you’d have content creators on one side and you’d have content consumers on the other side, and you’d have kind of these blockchain systems in between them to help modulate the transfer of content, the exchange of content between them, as well as kind of automatically scalable moderation of content.

Harrison:

So, essentially as content gets highly rated on the platform you would have tokens released to the content creators, which they can then use to promote their content and form other functions of the system. However, over time, since we’re now focused on audio eyewear, which is much more suitable to today’s market, we’ve actually translated a lot of those concepts into our upcoming app called Vyrb, which will be actually a fully tokenized social app.

Harrison:

So, many of those concepts that we had originally about using blockchain to moderate and control the exchange of software on smart eyewear, we’re now applying that to social content in Vyrb. So, as highly rated content creators release more content on the platform, they’ll be able to do all kinds of different things, like set up tokenized paywalls to their content and use their content. Use, sorry, the tokens that they generate by creating highly rated content to then promote their brand and promote their company on the platform.

Harrison:

So, we’re sort of using blockchain technology to create this network of social content on Vyrb that uses blockchain to help manage the payments, peer-to-peer payments for that content, and also to reward the content creators with an automated system.

Harrison:

So, it’s changed a little bit in terms of our view of how we intend to apply blockchain technology, but is now being distilled, instead of being on the glasses itself it will be in a companion app that enhances the functionality of the glasses while also being usable without any wearable or without headphones. It’ll have a full visual interface, it could be used as its own social media app by itself.

Harrison:

So, that’s essentially the long and short of it, is just creating this sort of token system that creates a gamified social media experience where people accrue tokens by creating positive content and then they can spend those tokens on a number of different things, premium content, promotions, app upgrades and the like.

Stephanie:

Okay. So, if I’m the creator, what does that look like? I’m just imagining wearing the headphones, saying what I want to be posted. It’s going and getting posted, is it just the audio that’s going or what’s actually happening?

Harrison:

Well, if you’re posting on the glasses it would be just audio, which is something that we’re enabling. You’ll be able to post fully hands free by activating Siri and using a custom Siri command we’re creating that’ll allow you to create new voice posts. So, that’s one way. But essentially yeah, you would create … It’s sort of a similar layout, the visual component is sort of a similar layout to Twitter to create a new post, but you’ll have a lot more control over your content. You’ll be able to set a price for it and users will be able to send you custom tips. So if they want to tip you one token or five tokens for the content, they’ll be able to do that. So, that’s based on a very successful model in the livestreaming apps like LiveMe, where it’s actually the content creation on those apps is solely powered by user tips.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I didn’t know that.

Harrison:

Yeah. We actually cobbled together a few different monetization schemes from some different popular apps, and turned them into kind of a more complete system on Vyrb. So, we’ll have the tipping mechanisms. We’ll have the sort of content paywalls that you see on some premium sites, and then we’ll have sort of features like the Steem blockchain, where users can provide tokens to each other if they like their content. Then all these sort of automated token releases that we’ll have in the app just for let’s say checking in and all of that. Then everything will run in this token in the app. So, let’s say you want to run an ad, that will cost you tokens. So, you would be able to either buy those tokens in fiat or accrue them by using the app on a regular basis, or by creating highly rated content.

Harrison:

So, essentially that’s what we’re trying to do, is implement this reward system to attract premium audio content creators to the platform, and then they would be able to cash out their tokens as well if they wanted to remove that value from the platform. Because one thing that we know is I’m kind of an audiophile, I listen to a lot of music, I create audio products. There’s not many places for indie artists or even big artists to monetize their music. So, that was something that we really wanted to create with Vyrb, as well as with podcasts also. I mean, there’s Patreon, but very few people use Patreon or are comfortable signing up with a Patreon account.

Harrison:

So, we’re trying to create a very smooth system where people that create high quality audio content have a new home to share their content with the world and get paid for it.

Stephanie:

How interesting. Okay. So, I mean, when I hear both of these things that you’re working on, you’re essentially kind of creating two businesses. You’ve got building a wearable, hard, building a social network, very hard.

Harrison:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Stephanie:

So, how are you going about attracting customers to both, and finding your audiences, and showing people this wearable is an everyday thing now? The future is here, you just have to come try it out, and also there’s a new social network as well. How are you finding your audience?

Harrison:

Well, just to backtrack for one second. I think the hardware is actually much more difficult than the software.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

Because this is just for the other entrepreneurs watching and things like that. Getting into developing a tech hardware product is infinitely more difficult than developing software, because software there’s much lower overhead, you’re not dealing with physical materials, you’re not shipping products back and forth and to and fro across the country and across other countries, and having this very slow iteration process of designing new styles in 3D, and creating those samples, and checking the … There’s just so much more that goes into hardware that it’s mind-boggling.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, if I have my choice of one or the other I would love to just do software, but I think things are going so well with the eyewear business, we have to keep at that as well, but there’s really … What’s interesting about the two sides of the business is they work fully independently but they also work together very well through these different voice commands that we’re programming into the app that allow you to do all sorts of different things, like hear different types of content through Siri. I can be like, “Siri, let me hear a podcast on Vyrb about fishing.” And then it could just fetch that podcast and start playing it through the glasses, but there’s a lot of cross-promotion opportunities. We can sell the glasses within the app, we can promote the glasses within the app. We can have download codes for the app on all of our glasses on the packaging or on the glasses itself even.

Harrison:

Then one thing we’re rolling out is a virtual try on display for our different optical stores that carry our product. So, this has a little experience, shows a video about the glasses, and then it lets you try on the glasses virtually and then kind of prompts you to ask the sales person to try it on physically, but we could update all of these kiosks as they’re out there in the marketplace with new content about the app, and download codes for the app, and promos and all of that. So, there’s a lot of interesting things where we can use our eyewear business as sort of a gateway into the app.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

Then once they’re in the app they’re kind of part of our community, and they get more information about our upcoming releases and all of that stuff, and all the latest company updates just by virtue of being on the app, because we can automatically subscribe everyone that signs up to follow, much like Tom on Myspace, we’re the Tom of this app.

Stephanie:

Tom.

Harrison:

Right.

Stephanie:

Haven’t thought about Tom in a while.

Harrison:

Yeah, I’m aging myself a little bit, right?

Stephanie:

No, I mean, I was on Myspace. It was great.

Harrison:

That was the beginning of the social internet, it was.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s how we knew it was possible.

Harrison:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

So, I mean, what’s awesome about that is you think about every person, every company with a product wants a community. Every community wants a product, so you’re kind of doing both. Are you going to be encouraging people inside the social network to all use Lucyd or will they be able to use any of their devices to be able to post and update?

Harrison:

Yeah. I mean, you can use it just speaking into your phone microphone. You don’t have to have our glasses, but the idea is that we’re enhancing smart eyewear with social content through the app.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, there is definitely sort of a little bit of a mini ecosystem that’s created between the hardware and the software together. But what’s really nice about the app is that it’s so much easier to get someone to download an app than to buy a pair of glasses, but once they’re in the app we can sell them pretty hard on the glasses, show the different functionalities that are possible, be like, “Hey, you want to take a quick tutorial about how to use the Vyrb app with wearables?” Sure, okay, and then it shows the glasses, a video of posting on the glasses. We could do all kinds of stuff like that, that once they have downloaded the app we can strongly encourage them to purchase, even releasing discounts and coupons through the app as well.

Harrison:

One reason that we are so ambitious in creating both of these things, which are really massive products onto themselves, is we want to create a viable alternative to these huge social media giants that are sort of taking over a lot of people’s lives and eat up so much screen time. There’s an addictiveness to a lot of the social media that’s out there. There are so many … I read something crazy, that the average American sees like 5,000 ads a day.

Stephanie:

Wow. I believe it probably, yeah.

Harrison:

So, we wanted to take the focus away from all that and the focus away from harvesting your data to sell to advertisers and all the stuff that the main social networks are now notorious for and really just focus on the human voice. Something that has largely gone missing from the internet age and really focus on just people’s voices and letting people speak their truth and really share what they love in a very direct fashion, without having to look at their screen, because there’s all these studies coming out now that the more time you spend on your screen the less happy you are, and it’s especially pronounced in adolescents.

Harrison:

There’s something inherently wrong with the amount of time and energy that people are devoting on these visual photo based social platforms. So, we wanted to make one that was all about just people speaking their mind and having conversations with each other. It sort of grew out as a natural extension of the eyewear.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s very, very cool. So, what other technologies are you exploring on that side? I mean, you said you’re utilizing blockchain. I can imagine NFTs could be important if you’re having artists on there potentially trying to monetize their music. I mean, what other things are you thinking about?

Harrison:

So, it’s funny that you mention NFTs, because we hired two NFT artists to create unique pairs of glasses. They’re physical Lucyd glasses that are in artist designed handmade packaging, and they have a component digital NFT with them. That’s a product that we’re releasing in the near future.

Harrison:

Another thing we’re considering for NFTs. So, in the Vyrb app there’s a robust item system where all these app upgrades and ads and everything is tied to items. We’re considering backing those items with NFTs to allow people to withdraw them from the platform and trade them on open marketplaces.

Harrison:

But we want to have this robust item system, where even if you get a new skin for the app, or let’s say an item that allows … So, in the app instead of emojis we have what’s called sound effects, which are like audio emojis that are just like a dog barking, or a heartbeat or something representing a visual emoji that you can drop into your audio track. So, you’ll be able to get new packs of those as like an in app purchase, right? So that’s something that would be tied to an item that you would be able to trade to other users.

Stephanie:

Got it.

Harrison:

Then ideally by making those items NFTs we allow people to withdraw them and exchange them, the rare items at least, on OpenSea or other marketplaces like that. So, we’re very into that space. We think it’s a very interesting opportunity. I mean, it’s hard to not be kind of a jump on the bandwagon company when it comes to that, when it comes to a lot of these different things in crypto. So, we’re trying to stay true to our original goal of just creating user friendly smart eyewear and software that enhances that.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, the NFTs aren’t as directly relevant to what we’re doing, but we do think there is an opportunity to just add another level of fun and excitement to the app through NFTs.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s great. So, tell me a bit about your marketing when it comes to finding new customers for your eyewear. What are your preferred channels right now or where are you seeing success to kind of drum up interest and also show hey, we’re way different than anyone else in the market right now?

Harrison:

Well, what’s interesting is that until about three months ago we’ve been almost exclusively a direct-to-customer business, selling directly through our website. We do have our own lens lab, so we’re able to shift prescription pairs and all of that. Excuse me, and selling through Amazon. But about three months ago we kind of debuted the brand to the optical industry at a show called Vision Expo East, and the response from the optical industry was so positive that we immediately started coordinating a lot more of our efforts around getting optical stores and eyewear stores around the country to start carrying the product. Now the balance has tipped almost to fifty-fifty, where we’re about half direct-to-consumer now and half B2B.

Harrison:

So, things have changed a lot, and now we really see these optical stores, and there’s 30,000 of them in the US, we see them as the future of the company, because that’s where people are comfortable trying new glasses.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

That’s where people are comfortable having new eyewear experiences. That’s where they go for that. So, we think it’s really a natural fit for all of those outlets, so we’re very focused now on getting opticians around the country become aware of the brand, start carrying the products, and we have a very optician centric business model for that. We give them a lot of support, co-op marketing and all of that, and really encouraging them to introduce this new product category in their stores, because it’s coming whether they want it or not. Smart eyewear is now,

Harrison:

It’s here. It’s here now and it’s not going anywhere. We really believe at Lucyd in the future that all eyewear, almost all eyewear will be smart eyewear.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

Because once you get to a point where you have two pairs of glasses that cost the same, look the same, feel the same, but one of them has all this Bluetooth tech, which one are you going to go for? Most people will go for the tech nowadays, especially when it’s really fully explained to them how can it really make things a little bit more convenient for them throughout their day.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, that’s sort of … We’ve been trying to market it through the eyewear stores basically now and trying to get them to adopt it. Like I mentioned, that try-on kiosk. We developed a piece of software for that and we’re getting that out to the stores starting next month. So, we’re trying to give them everything they need to not just carry the frames but also educate the customers about smart eyewear in general, because still 99% of people never tried a smart eyewear product, don’t fully understand what it does, what it feels like. So, these kiosks will really go a long way in educating customers in store without the reps having to go through the whole spiel. So, we think that that experience will be really important.

Harrison:

Then we do drive a lot of traffic from TikTok these days.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I think I saw in your homepage it said popular on TikTok, so I want to hear what that looks like for you guys.

Harrison:

Well, it’s just mostly user generated content that we use. Some influencers, some regular customers create great videos for us, just talking through the product, and it comes across as much more authentic and real than a traditional advertisement. So, yeah, we’re seeing I think the larger portion of our web traffic is now coming from TikTok.

Harrison:

This whole thing with, I don’t know how much you know about it, but there were some changes in the iPhone OS

Harrison:

What that did was, I mean, it turned the whole Facebook model on its head and we’ve driven not just sales through Facebook but also investment through Facebook in the past. All of that was kind of nixed by this latest update. So, we had to really go back to the drawing board and we’re like we know video is more engaging. So, let’s focus on TikTok, let’s start making a lot of great videos and engaging content. We only created the account I think maybe a month or two ago. We have over 1,000 followers now and we have a lot of great, some of our best content is on there, because it’s just real people doing real things with the glasses, you know?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

Zhooshed up to the ninth degree, to the nth degree. It’s just people cycling, or having fun, or talking about how the glasses make their day easier.

Stephanie:

Are you encouraging these people to post something or how are you kind of getting that conversation started? Because I can imagine a lot of brands being like, “I want organic content like that.” But it’s easier said than done.

Harrison:

Most of the higher quality stuff comes from influencers that we work with that are just accustomed to developing unique content for different products that they work with. Some of them are just people that are kind of our fans that just really like our product, and we work with them and they just create awesome videos for us. But yeah, I think having that sort of organic content approach is really vital and it just really helps the brand, a brand which is normally is just kind of seen as a corporate entity, really make it more a relatable, human experience.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, we think that the TikTok content is performing very well for that reason, because it’s just so authentic and it’s just show people having a great time with the glasses. It’s not so salesy.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

Which people really balk at these days.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I agree. Are there any other platforms you guys are trying out or testing that are maybe outside the norm? So not Instagram or Facebook, but anything that’s a little bit out there.

Harrison:

We’re very active on Pinterest. I think our Pinterest page has like 200,000 views a month or something. It’s pretty high volume, but it doesn’t convert that well.

Stephanie:

Okay.

Harrison:

I think people just like to grab the photos and check us out, but they don’t really necessarily go through to purchase. We do get a lot of brand awareness from Pinterest. I think YouTube, while it’s really hard to build a following, is where you get kind of a higher level of engagement. So we focus on that as well, but since we’re developing our own social platform it’s like how much effort do we want to put into these other social platforms when we have our own now, where we’re going to need this huge robust content [inaudible] just keep it going.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

So, a lot of our effort is just focused on creating our own app.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

But yeah, yeah. Again, TikTok has been the star though of the year in terms of social promotion. So, highly encourage any brands listening to get on the platform, start creating some fun portrait format videos.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, I agree definitely, especially if you’re seeing conversions. I know that was a question in the early days of oh, is it fake followers, and is this engagement real, but if you can actually see the conversions after the fact, then you might as well try, if you can have the stamina to keep up with the videos and the new content.

Harrison:

Yeah. One other thing we do, which is kind of surprising for a startup, is we run broadcast TV ads on cable.

Stephanie:

Oh, interesting.

Harrison:

It’s expensive. It’s kind of a high buy-in. Pay around 25K a week for the ads that we run, but we get thousands upon thousands of views of the commercial. It does drive a huge amount of brand awareness.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, that was very impressive. I even have my best friend from childhood call me up be, “Hey, I just saw a Lucyd commercial on TV. I’m thinking about buying another pair.” So, you really get a huge amount of recognition in a very short period of time, especially if you have an A-list brand ambassador to be the face of that commercial.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, yeah. So, there’s a lot of opportunity for very rapid compressed growth with TV. I think that is still there for companies willing to roll the dice and take the higher buy-in. The one sort of major downside I’d say is that it does, like everything, all types of ads, it takes some time to optimize.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, you might be kind of just very disappointed in that first week, but in that second week you might see just that slew of orders come through that makes it worth it. So, we think TV has a lot of potential as well, but mainly from an awareness perspective rather than from a direct conversion perspective. Also TV helped us get a lot of investment as well.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s cool. Yeah, I mean, I can definitely see it from the investment standpoint. I mean, it’s a crowdfunding aspect you have, right? Where you can even go to your homepage and you have the ability to invest in Lucyd. Can you still do that? If so, tell me a bit about how you guys are thinking about that.

Harrison:

Yeah. So, it’s all through StartEngine actually, which is the sort of big names in equity crowdfunding these days. But the equity crowdfunding has been wonderful because it’s really a new advent in terms of how you can start a company these days, because until I think between 2000 and 2015 or so you weren’t able to really do equity crowdfund. So, you could only do traditional investment, you could have friends and family investors, you could do a Kickstarter, which is not an equity crowdfund but rather a sort of pre-order crowdfund where you’re selling the product. The thing is with Kickstarter your chance of actually coming out ahead capital wise is pretty low because all that money you’re taking in you’re not just spending on product, you’re spending on product development to get you to that product, if you can even get there.

Harrison:

So, what’s really nice about the equity crowdfund is we can take the best parts of the Kickstarter where you get the exciting new product as part of it, we have that as a perk, but you can actually buy shares in the company. So, this was not allowed for quite some time, and then the new legislation revived it in the mid 2010s.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

Then it was still very difficult at that time, and then a few years went by and then you started having these kind of very refined crowdfunding platforms that have huge communities and investors behind them already, which then they’re able to put on these new projects, and then the crowdfund platform takes a percentage of the raise.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

So, it really is a very powerful thing, because if you were an entrepreneur five years ago and you wanted to raise a million dollars, and you’re not in Silicon Valley, you’re basically SOL. But now through these powerful platforms if you have a great idea, a great team, a great company you can put it up there and let the world see you, and if they like what you’re doing, they’ll invest.

Harrison:

So, that’s been a major benefit to the company. Not to mention in terms of raising the capital, but building that community, which is what is going to give your brand staying power and not just be a flash in the pan. So, we have these 4,000 investors who are materially vested in our success. That means they buy our products. Some of them buy every new product launch we do for years now. So, it’s a much more powerful thing to build a company this way because we’re not just a couple of guys with some funding, we’re a couple of guys supported by thousands of eyewear enthusiasts.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. That’s awesome.

Harrison:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

You’ve got your true fans essentially.

Harrison:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It’s created this kind of extended Lucyd family and we’re all kind of in it together and they support us, and we give them great products, and it kind of creates this very positive mutual relationship. I think in large part our success with the Lucyd Lyte product is due to that community and their support, not just because they’ve helped fund the product but because like I mentioned before, they’re so integral to the actual product development process itself.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I love it. Okay, so where do you guys want to be in the next one to three years? What are you betting big on right now? Where do you see yourself?

Harrison:

Well, we want Lucyd glasses in every optical store in the country. There’s no doubt about that. I think it’s very achievable because it’s a great product at a great price. That’s what any sales person or any retail business needs.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, I think that the potential is there for really a nationwide rollout of this product, and making Lucyd … So, I think in one year I’d like Lucyd to be a household name in terms of smart eyewear. Then you go out another year or two, we’re on the shelves in every city in the US and beyond. We actually just signed a really big deal with Canada, a three year distribution deal with a company called Marca. It’s one of the biggest eyewear distributors in Canada. So, they’re already getting to work getting in the product across Canada. So, now it’s on us to do the same in the US.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

The potential is there, because we see it in our customers’ faces when they first try on the product. They just love it.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

They don’t want to go back to regular glasses once they get used to the audio eyewear.

Stephanie:

Yeah, you should get videos of when people are trying it on, and first reaction. There was a couple things going around that happening with Netflix series, but imagine it with your product instead and capturing how people are when they’re kind of listening to it, being able to do everything from one spot.

Harrison:

Yeah. I mean, that goes back to the UGC thing we were talking about.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

The user generated content is just so powerful because it’s authentic.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

It rings a lot truer than salesy kind of ad content. But yeah, so I think that is another goal. By the end of this year we’re hoping to have 20 styles available, which is far and away more than any of the competition is offering. Also, we’re trying to come out with the first Bluetooth safety glass. So, that would be really major for a lot of people in different industries that just can’t use their hands to touch their phone while they’re working, or they need to wear safety glasses but also need hands-free communication with their team.

Harrison:

So, one example of a great story about this. We had a doctor in the Dominican Republic order I think 30 units for his students because he wanted to be able to talk them through surgeries and totally hands-free without anything in their ears, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, the product was a great tool in the hospital. Then we hear from, for example, like we have a couple of postal workers that buy from us. They can’t wear headphones. They’re not allowed to wear headphones while they’re working, but our glasses let them not only protect their eyes but also enjoy audio content while they’re working for the first time because of that open ear technology.

Harrison:

So, we’re hearing all the time about how glasses are making people’s work lives better, and helping their leisure life as well and it encourages them to go out with the dog more, and go exercise more. They don’t need to worry about having the headphones and the glasses, and it’s just simpler.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, we’re seeing already that the product is already benefiting a lot of people. So, now the challenge is to make it a frame that fits everyone. So, we want to make all these different frames that anyone, regardless of their head shape or head size can find a style that they like. That’s something very different from what a lot of the other smart eyewear companies are doing. For example, if you look at it from Microsoft or Bose’s perspective, it’s a consumer electronic product, it’s not eyewear.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harrison:

So, they don’t see that need for 50 different styles in the way that we do, since we’re primarily an eyewear business.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Harrison:

So, we think that that’s really now that the technology has gone to where it is, that’s the remaining hurdle to full mass market adoption of smart eyewear, is having this huge customer choice in terms of style.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love it.

Harrison:

That’s what we’re trying to address now.

Stephanie:

All right, let’s move over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I ask you a question and you have 30 seconds or less to answer, Harrison. Are you ready?

Harrison:

All right. Let’s do it.

Stephanie:

All right. First one, what’s one thing you don’t understand but wish you did?

Harrison:

App development. I wish, I’ve done a lot of front-end app design, and I actually have an awarded patent for the utility patent on Vyrb, sorry, on another app I developed called Link, but actually creating apps and the mechanics of designing and developing app systems is something that I feel like is a major gap in my knowledge.

Stephanie:

That’s a good one. I love it. What’s the best piece of business advice that you refer back to?

Harrison:

Best piece of business advice. Okay, I can’t remember exactly where it came from, but there is this line about find a need in the market and fill it. I don’t know who originally came up with that line.

Stephanie:

Someone smart.

Harrison:

Yeah. That was sort of the raison d’être of Lucyd. There was no smart eyewear out on the market that just did the job, so we set out to fill that need.

Stephanie:

I love that. All right. If you want to get creative, what do you do?

Harrison:

I’m kind of a night owl. So, my creativity will often strike when I’m sitting in my boxers on my couch on the laptop just watching Netflix and I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s a great idea. I got to implement this now.” So, I feel like I’m just one of those kind of people where the juices just start flowing when they start flowing, and for me it’s usually in the middle of the night. Yeah.

Stephanie:

Nice. Love it. All right, and then what’s been the most surprising thing while building Lucyd that you weren’t expecting?

Harrison:

I don’t think I ever expected us to really become a full-on optical eyewear company. I always thought, in the beginning we saw it as a tech product as well. Then we quickly figured out that this actually needs to be an optical product, and we changed tack and now we’re … Eyewear stores around the country love us because we created a product for them that gives them a whole new category. So, we think that that’s something I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t think Lucyd would ever be sold in eyewear stores. I always thought it would be a direct-to-consumer business, but now it’s completely flipped.

Stephanie:

That’s cool. Hey, pivots. Every company has some big pivots that-

Harrison:

Oh yeah.

Stephanie:

… are mostly unknown actually, but I love that.

Harrison:

You have to to survive, I mean, it’s [inaudible].

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, completely agree. All right, Harrison. This has been, yeah, really fun having you on the show. For anyone who hasn’t checked out the Lucyd glasses, you should, but for now where can people find out more about you and Lucyd?

Harrison:

Of course. Check out our website, Lucyd.co, L-U-C-Y-D.C-O. Feel free to email us if you have any questions, love to answer. Really appreciate the time today. Thank you so much.

Stephanie:

All right. Thanks Harrison. See you.

Harrison:

All right. Cheers.

Episode 149