NYC Company to Know: Warby Parker

Excerpts from our chat with Warby Parker's Co-Founder & Co-CEO Dave Gilboa.

Dirt Road Travels is a series of adventure focused city guides, grounded in stories and local recs. This is an excerpt from our chat with Warby Parker's Co-Founder and Co-CEO Dave Gilboa as part of an upcoming guide for NYC. In the interim, check out our guides for Denver, Boulder and Salt Lake City.

My Story

“I’m from Sweden, and when I was 6, my family moved to San Diego. I traveled quite a bit as a kid and once I graduated from college I got the travel bug. I’ve been to all 7 continents and 70-80 different countries.

I think there’s tremendous value in seeing different parts of the world and meeting people from all over the globe, understanding different cultures and seeing natural beauty. It expands one’s mindset and understanding that humans have such common traits, but that those traits have evolved into different cultures in distinct and interesting ways.

If you’re curious and love learning, there’s no better way to do that than to travel, to immerse yourself into a different culture and to expose yourself to different ways of thinking.

At Warby Parker, we look to how different cultures have approached problems as we think about solving problems in our own lives and for our customers. In building out our team, we value a diverse set of perspectives, and that’s been critical to our development.

One of our core values is to treat others as they want to be treated which builds in this idea of empathy. To treat our customers well, we first have to understand them. I think traveling the world and being exposed to so many cultures has been critical to that recognition. That there is a lot of diversity out there, and when engaging with an individual or culture, you need to understand where they’re coming from first.”

 

Best Advice I’ve Received

“My parents are both doctors, and they instilled in me the advice to make sure that your profession is one that isn’t just a mechanism for you to make money, but is something that helps make the world better and includes challenges that excite you.

If you choose something that feels easy, you’re going to get bored. If you choose something that’s challenging but you get frustrated and annoyed by those challenges, it’s not something you’re going to stick with. So find something that challenges you and pushes you, and where you enjoy those challenges.”

 

My Advice for Others

“I think our education system and a lot of career paths are designed to remove risk. If you go to a good school and get a degree, there are going to be good job options that have low risk when you graduate, and the system is designed to funnel people into that type of path. Then, you work at that job for a couple of years, and that sets you up for the next job, or maybe a graduate degree, which also has pretty big rewards and low risk.

It’s not until you’re many years post college that you’re taught that at that point, you know enough to be able to do what you really want to do, and have enough experience to do what you really want to do, and I think that’s a fallacy.

If there are opportunities that excite you at a much earlier point in your career or while you’re still in school, take those risks.

Even if things don’t work out, all those other options will still be there. I think companies like Warby Parker will appreciate that someone took that risk, and got all the learnings along the way, even if things don’t work out."

 

What I Love Most about NYC

“I love the diversity that the city offers in every sense of the word. In terms of people’s backgrounds, coming here from all over the world. The diversity in how people spend their time, what their careers are, what their interests are.

Anytime I meet someone, I’m able to learn something because what they’re working on or where they’re from or what they’re interested in is very different than my background, so it tends to be an incredibly stimulating environment.

There’s just so much energy and diversity of activities - everything from tree kayaking in the Hudson River to stumbling on the world’s biggest bubble blowing contest in Washington Square Park or a random dodgeball tournament. There’s always something to do in New York, no matter what time of day or what day of the week."

My NYC Musts

“I live in the West Village so I’d probably start with brunch at Barbuto or Bubby's or Santina. Then spend some time outdoors and in a museum, like walking the High Line and going to the Whitney, or going to the Met and walking around Central Park. Then, grab dinner somewhere near the Theater District, like at Negril Village, and finish up with a Broadway show."

My Recommended Content

"I highly recommend the books Sapiens and Homo Deus, which are non-fiction. Sapiens explains how humans became the dominant species on earth, and Homodeus contemplates what the future of the human species will look like. It’s kind of an interesting, thought provoking view of humanity."

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