Irish blue light glasses brand eyes up the global market

We’re all well aware of the harmful effects of blue light emitted from our PCs, laptops and smartphones, and the need to cut back on screen time, writes Ruth Doris.

But what about those of us who work at screens all day?

An Irish startup is offering a solution — a range of glasses which blocks blue light from screens. As well as blocking the blue light, the company also says the glasses don’t compromise on style.

Two years ago, Ambr Eyewear co-founder Dan Nugent, working as a digital marketer, and his girlfriend Sacha Cahill, a digital designer, were spending long periods of time at computers.

They were suffering from sleeping problems, headaches, and eye strain, which they realised after researching the symptoms was down to the blue light from their screens.

They looked online and found computer glasses which block blue light, but thought the products were ugly and of poor quality.

Thinking that spectacles were in trend, Mr Nugent recognised the opportunity to offer a “functional and beneficial product” that is also a fashionable accessory.

“We thought if we can create styles and colours and a brand that makes this kind of computer glasses cool —for want of a better word — then we’ve got a really good idea.”

As young parents to Aurora, their social life was on hold, so they decided to create a little side business, Mr Nugent said.

Putting in €500 each to start off, and following months of prototyping, they found a manufacturer in China they were happy with and began to work on styles and colours.

Previously, blue light blocking lenses were orange-coloured, so the challenge was to find a “happy medium of protection from blue light while maintaining a clear lens”.

In May 2017, the website was ready. Ambr glasses were an instant hit.

Boosted by a post on LinkedIn and a review by Lovin’ Dublin, they sold out of their initial stock of 100 pairs of glasses, plus one month of back orders within three days. Demand took them by surprise. The pre-orders helped to fund the next batch of stock, so they continued growing the range.

Prescription glasses were added to the options when Ambr teamed up with an independent optical lab in Dublin. Non-prescription glasses start at €49 to €56; and €75 for standard prescription lenses within the +4.00/-4.00 range, with an additional €30 charge for prescriptions outside this range.

All glasses come with anti-glare and blue light filter.

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Fresh, motivated and ready to conquer the day🔥

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Having grown from bootstrapping, Ambr Eyewear has been accepted onto Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme, which Mr Nugent says will help to get the company investment-ready.

“We’ve done very well in the first year. We have a world map in my office, and we put a pin in every city where we’ve sold glasses. It’s 48 countries.”

Plans to get into brick and mortar stores are underway, and the founders are in talks with a major high street retailer to stock their glasses.

Having sold almost 5,000 pairs of glasses, and with over 60% of their customers in the US, Ambr Eyewear’s biggest competitor in that market is Felix Grey. Mr Nugent says Ambr stands out as a quirky brand when compared with Felix Grey’s more corporate image.

“We don’t want to appeal only to people who work in a bank; we want to appeal to graphic designers and creatives. The thing with our glasses is because they have clear lenses they don’t affect colour perception. If you are a photographer, designer or videographer who spends a lot of time editing you need to maintain very accurate colour perception; that’s another reason our glasses are popular with that demographic.”

The market for computer glasses is new and growing. The function to turn off the blue light is becoming standard on most devices. “When we started nobody knew what blue-light-blocking glasses were. Now it’s way more mainstream, and hopefully, we can remain at the front of that wave,” Mr Nugent said.

At the moment, customers need to visit their optician to get a prescription. However, Mr Nugent says Ambr is hoping to provide a full service from eye test to complete glasses from the comfort of home.

The brand is exploring a partnership with online eye testing software company Opternative to integrate an eye testing solution into their website. “Our goal eventually is to become an online optical hub that retails its own products.”

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