Dubai-headquartered eyewear startup Eyewa has raised $ 21 million in a Series B co-led by Kingsway Capital and Nuwa Capital, it said in a statement today. The deal was also joined by French Partners, Endeavor Catalyst, Derayah Ventures, Palm Drive and Hardy Capital, and brings Eyewa’s total capital raised to date to around $ 30 million. He had already raised $ 7.5 million in Series A in 2019 and $ 1.1 million in a 2018 fundraiser.
Mehdi Oudghiri and Anass Boumediene, who previously ran Foodpanda in the Middle East, launched Eyewa in 2017 with the aim of creating the largest tech eyewear company in the region. It started out as an online retailer selling sunglasses, contact lenses, and prescription glasses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and has now grown into an omnichannel player that also offers in-house brands. Its e-commerce platform now also sells to customers in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. The startup said MENBytes that it has doubled its turnover year on year during the current quarter.
Eyewa kicked off its retail expansion earlier this year by opening its first physical store in Dahran, Saudi Arabia. It has since opened two more stores in Jeddah and plans to add many more in all major cities of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over the coming months.
This move may have come as a surprise to many in the region, as it is very rare to see online players here go offline. For Eyewa, however, that was the plan from the start, “It has always been part of our vision to eventually become an omnichannel retailer,” said its co-founder and CEO Mehdi Oudghiri. MENBytes. Explaining why they were interested in going offline, he said, “We want to be as close to our customers as possible. We started as an e-commerce company because this is where the biggest gap in the market was, as no one was offering high quality, affordable eyewear products with a good customer experience online. Expanding our reach to offline will complement our strong online presence and consolidate our position as a leading player in the eyewear industry. “
The omnichannel model has worked very well for different eyewear startups around the world. Warby Parker, an American direct-to-consumer eyewear brand, was valued at $ 3 billion when it was most recently funded, and India-based Lenskart, which started in 2010 as a trading platform. electronics for eyewear, and now operates more than 500 retail stores across the country, raised funds at a reported valuation of $ 1.5 billion, in 2019.
So Eyewa’s shift to retail makes perfect sense, but it does mean that it pits against many established offline players with a large retail presence across the region. Its co-founder and co-CEO Anass Boumediene argues that their store concept is different (from traditional retailers) on several levels: “We offer an omnichannel experience and integrate virtual try-on in stores to try products not displayed in the store and products that generally cannot be tried on (colored lenses). Eyewa also has exclusive in-house brands and collections designed to meet the needs and wants of our local audience. This allows us to offer high quality products at a significantly lower price than comparable products.
Internal brands the startup has created include the 30Sundays lifestyle eyewear line, the Blackout fast fashion collection, and the Layala line of natural color contact lenses. Each of them addresses the untapped needs of the local market, the startup noted in a statement.
In addition to further expanding into its existing markets, Eyewas is currently also exploring the opportunity in other markets in the Middle East and North Africa. He plans to use the remaining funds to execute these expansion plans and invest in “leading technology and product teams, as well as the best retail and omnichannel technologies.”
Khaled Talhouni, Managing Partner of Nuwa Capital, commenting on the progress made by Eyewa so far, said: “We have been working with Anass and Mehdi since the start of their journey and it is such a privilege to have a front row seat. to the development of a company as remarkable as Eyewa. A big part of our thesis at Nuwa Capital is to focus on the next evolution of retail. The confluence of offline, online and private label commerce is at the heart of this thesis, and we would be hard pressed to find a team that performed as well as Eyewa on this concept in the region. Joining this latest round of funding is a testament to our strong confidence in the company and the team to build a unique regional champion for direct-to-consumer commerce. “