Our start-up of the week, Ambr Eyewear, produces glasses especially for people who spend prolonged periods of time using digital screens.
“Almost all of us in computer-dependent roles experience some sort of symptoms of digital eye strain – be it headaches, blurred vision, itchy eyes or even sleeplessness,” explained Ambr Eyewear co-founder Daniel Nugent.
“Most, like me, may have thought that these symptoms were unavoidable and something that just goes hand in hand with this type of work. We’ve discovered that it’s not.
‘We’ve got orders from all across the globe – US, Canada, India, Australia – it’s amazing to see the reach of our product so far’
– DANIEL NUGENT
“The lenses in our glasses filter the harmful light that aggravates these symptoms. Importantly, though, they are clear, so as not to affect colour perception and also to look more stylish and subtle. Most other brands in the market provide glasses that are somewhere in between sunglasses and regular glasses, with deep orange and yellow tints.
“We combine these clear lenses with great-looking designer frames and give our customers a product that’s stylish, affordable and functional. We give them something that becomes an essential part of their daily lives.
“Oh, and it’s important to say, because this is a question we get asked a lot: our glasses are for everybody, not just people who wear eyeglasses regularly,” said Nugent.
Nugent said the market is pretty much infinite when you consider all the tablets, computer and smartphones in the world.
“Our product is aimed at anybody who works with computers or spends a lot of time using devices at home. As I’m sure you’re firmly aware, this sector just grows and grows exponentially.
“Region-wise, in our first few weeks of operation, we’ve seen a huge portion of our sales concentrated in Ireland, mainly Dublin city. But our immediate plan is to enter the UK market.”
Nugent described himself as a keen internet marketer, specialising in SEO, who has always had a love for the internet and computers.
“I suppose, growing up, I was always that friend who would help you out with a problem on your laptop or phone. I studied commerce in UCD and followed this with an internship in a digital agency in Manhattan, which really ignited a love for this branch of work.
“I completed a degree at the Digital Marketing Institute and began working in creative agency In the Company of Huskies in Dublin, learning an incredible amount from some incredibly talented people. All this gave me the ammunition to build this brand and get it out into the world!”
Co-founder Sacha Cahill is an art aficionado who is passionate about design, fashion and style. She studied art history in Trinity College Dublin before moving to New York and working in the Dumbo art galleries. She obtained a degree in digital design upon her return to Ireland and became a creative director at a hotel brand.
“Sacha has a great eye for making things look nice and is the driving force behind all the branding that we’re very proud of. I think both these skill sets create a brilliant synergy that’s perfect for a venture such as this,” said Nugent.
The glasses work by blocking harmful blue light emitted from the screens we use each day. This light can have damaging long-term effects as well as the noticeable short-term ones, as discussed above.
“It’s been shown that this blue light limits the brain’s ability to produce melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. So naturally, reducing your exposure to this light has positive effects on your vision, your sleep and your general comfort.”
Nugent explained that the lenses are also equipped with a premium anti-glare coating. This additional feature can cost approximately €50 alone in many opticians, and virtually eliminates reflections on the surface of the lenses, allowing for sharper, clearer vision.
“We don’t want the wearer to even notice they’ve got glasses on, that’s why our lenses are clear. Colour perception is important for designers, photographers, people in advertising, everybody really. We just want them to say to themselves a week later that ‘Wow, I actually haven’t had a headache or sore eyes all week.’”
He said the goal is to make every digital worker aware that computer glasses should be a necessary part of their daily work.
“Alongside this, we want to ensure that Ambr is the dominant brand in the market, and the first name to spring to mind whenever anyone decides to purchase such a product. We plan on complementing each other’s skills of marketing and design to become an unavoidable voice across social, search and web.
“To support this objective, we very much wish to soon partner with retailers and have our product stocked across Ireland, UK and the world. I’d love to even have our own premises but, for the moment, we’ll keep this on the back burner.”
First batch sold out
Nugent said the company has struck an instant chord with its target audience.
“We launched our brand about four weeks ago, getting some people to try them out and launching our website. After about one week, we began to attract media attention and things just went crazy. We sold out of all stock with our first week of launching the site.
“We began taking pre-orders about three weeks ago and let’s just say we’re due some very busy few days when our stock is replenished! It feels like everyone is talking about Ambr, especially in Dublin. But we’ve got orders from all across the globe – US, Canada, India, Australia – it’s amazing to see the reach of our product so far.
“The reaction from people who’ve got their glasses has been lovely to hear. It sounds like everyone really loves them. We’ve got so many comments on Instagram and Facebook from people saying they’ve noticed clear improvements in their sleeping habits and how their post-work bleary eyes have virtually vanished. This, of course, was great to hear.”
In relation to investment, the company wants brains, not just capital.
“Investment isn’t something I have fully thought about during the madness of the last few weeks, but I suppose we’d be interested in listening to what someone had to say. Liquidity and logistics could be improved by having an experienced person on board.”
An eye on the middle distance
Nugent said that finding a manufacturer that shared the start-up’s vision for a perfect balance of style and protection was the single biggest challenge.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time and found the design, branding and marketing came naturally – it was more fun than challenging. So, yes, it was definitely identifying the right manufacturer and luckily, we have found a great partner with whom we’re building an excellent relationship.”
He said that the evident energy in the Irish start-up scene could be a game-changer, and not just for the business world.
“I’m obsessed with seeing clever, young minds break down the door of what’s possible, and take Irish society a step forward into the future.
“We’re lucky in Dublin that we now have such a thriving environment for ideas and innovation. There’s some amazing stories coming out of this country, like the Stripe brothers [the Collisons], FoodCloud and Storyful. It makes everyone so proud to part of this little island and long may it continue.”
Nugent’s advice for fellow founders? “No matter how small you are, you can compete in the market if your message is right, your product is great and you’re willing to work as hard as it takes to push it over the line. Experience in internet marketing surely is a plus too, and gives you a leg up on most competitors.
“Also, I think it’s really important for people to understand that uncertainty can be fun. Taking risks is fun and challenging. Even if everything goes belly-up, I’ll still have learned so much doing this that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t.”