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This Founder's Smart Sunglasses Retail for $849 — and He Crowdfunded More Than $300,000. Here's How He Came Up With the Idea That Could Revolutionize Eyewear. 'Entrepreneur' spoke with Deep Optics CEO and founder Yariv Haddad, who shared some exclusives about the startup's journey so far, plus its growth and expansion strategies.

By Sherin Shibu

Key Takeaways

  • Deep Optics is an eyewear startup that creates the first-of-its-kind adaptive sunglasses.
  • Yariv Haddad, founder and CEO of Deep Optics, spoke with 'Entrepreneur' exclusively about Deep Optics and its strategies for growth and expansion in 2024.
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Presbyopia happens to nearly everyone as they age. The vision condition, which affects almost 90% of Americans over the age of 45 — or about 128 million people in the U.S. — means people can't focus on near objects as well as they used to.

There are usually two options to help with presbyopia: Use different glasses for different distances or opt for progressive glasses, which cost up to $1,500 — significantly more than single-vision, bifocal or trifocal glasses. The startup Deep Optics is trying to introduce a third option to the market, starting with adaptive sunglasses that switch from reading sunglasses to regular sunglasses with a swipe on the frame.

Deep Optics' flagship product is the 32°N, a pair of $849 sunglasses for people who need reading glasses for close distances but don't have other vision correction needs. Users can put on 32°N and touch the temple of the glasses to switch between regular sunglasses and reading sunglasses on the go.

32°N sunglasses in action. Credit: Deep Optics

Since its founding, Deep Optics has crowdfunded more than $300,000 on Kickstarter, sold more than 1,200 pairs, won awards for the invention and received investments from some of the biggest names in the eyewear industry. The company's first users have already used the adaptive sunglasses to read and even knit outside.

Related: If You Want to Get Funded on Kickstarter, Research Says to Avoid These Tactics

Yariv Haddad, founder and CEO of Deep Optics, told Entrepreneur the company hopes to begin selling its sunglasses in U.S. optic stores this year.

Yariv Haddad, founder and CEO of Deep Optics. Credit: Meir Cohen

Haddad shared some exclusives about the startup's journey so far and its growth and expansion strategies this year.

What were you doing before Deep Optics, and why did you decide to start the company?

I've been in tech for nearly 30 years, working in various roles across sectors, including biotech, enterprise software and computer animation. In my last role before founding Deep Optics, I led the R&D at a startup that invented a new camera type for mobile phones.

After the startup was acquired, two of my colleagues (both electro-optics experts) and I met with serial entrepreneur Saar Wilf, who proposed we develop a new type of active-focus glasses for 3D TVs. This technology aimed to provide a more realistic and immersive 3D experience, eliminating common side effects of 3D displays like eye strain and nausea.

We quickly realized two important facts. First, developing these glasses for vision correction would be far more impactful than for 3D TVs. People over the age of 45 can no longer focus on closer distances as they used to and have a choice of either using multiple pairs of glasses for different distances or using progressive glasses that are limited and not intuitive. With this technology, the glasses would do the far/near focusing for them.

Second, the market lacked the necessary tunable lenses we needed for our product. With these insights, we began to develop the core technology for tunable lenses based on Liquid Crystal technology, focusing on the vision correction market.

We collaborated with liquid crystal research centers and top-tier LCD manufacturers in Asia, culminating in our first proof of concept in 2015. That same year, we received our first institutional investment from Essilor (now part of EssilorLuxottica — a global leader in eyewear, optical lenses and optical retail).

Related: Here's What's Brewing in the Minds of Startup Investors

How do you plan to grow Deep Optics in 2024?

We are preparing to launch the second generation of glasses at Vision Expo East in March. Our goal for 2024 is to begin selling 32°N glasses in U.S. optical stores during the second and third quarters.

Although our marketing goals for 2024 are focused on the current model of the 32°N sunglasses, our R&D team is already working on our next products. We plan to make the 32°N sunglasses available for people requiring far vision correction (prescription glasses) as our next milestone.

32°N sunglasses. Credit: Deep Optics

Next, we're working on new exciting features, such as automatic activation of the reading function. The first version of this feature will be demonstrated at Vision Expo, with the glasses switching automatically in and out of reading mode when the user looks at their phone. The glasses will activate automatically and apply different optical powers depending on how close the phone is to the user.

An even more advanced implementation of this approach is being developed in our labs now, utilizing embedded eye trackers in the glasses. The glasses can detect when the user is looking at a close distance, so this automatic lens operation can work not only when looking at the phone but also with any close object.

Related: How to Design an Eye-Catching Website That Truly Captures Your Audience

How did you ensure there was demand for the product?

That's a great question. 32°N isn't just about new technology; it's about a completely different human vision experience with lenses that dynamically change their focus. We couldn't predict how well people would embrace this.

That's why Kickstarter was an ideal platform for us. The campaign included a very detailed product description and a video that showcased the glasses and what it's like to use them. The enthusiasm and support for the project were incredibly positive indicators for us. This was especially true considering that the Kickstarter community is generally younger than the potential customers of 32°N.

Another form of validation was our beta test group. Early in the project, we manually assembled preliminary designs of the glasses and distributed them to about 50 users. Their essential feedback throughout the product development was invaluable, helping us guide our efforts in the right direction.

Related: 3 Values That Empower Entrepreneurs As They Start Their Business Journeys

Do you have any advice or tips for first-time founders?

When we decided to start Deep Optics, we said we'd build a prototype in three months and launch a product in two years. It took us 18 months to build the prototype and then quite a few more years to get to our first product. You have to have the commitment and resilience to stay on the journey and the open-minded approach to change course with every surprising development you encounter.

Another [piece of] advice I can offer is to remember that this is a lifestyle, not a one-time project. The more setbacks you encounter, the easier it becomes to deal with them. And the thrill of the achievements along the way is the fuel. Seeing people over 70 and 80 use smart optical glasses on a daily basis — a product that did not exist outside of our imagination a few years back — is something I'll never get used to.

Sherin Shibu

Entrepreneur Staff

News Reporter

Sherin Shibu is a business news reporter at Entrepreneur.com. She previously worked for PCMag, Business Insider, The Messenger, and ZDNET as a reporter and copyeditor. Her areas of coverage encompass tech, business, strategy, finance, and even space. She is a Columbia University graduate.

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