In just a matter of 5 years, Barcelona-based Project Lobster has managed to establish itself as one of the start-ups to follow closely in the sector. Conceived under the idea of renewing and rejuvenating optics, simplifying purchasing processes and improving the customer experience, the brand is committed to a defined image, sophisticated designs and competitive prices. The goal? To seduce millennials with a concept close to their interests and build a solid business that aims to have 50 stores by 2025. An ambitious proposal that will allow the company to close its third capital increase. Through this operation, which is expected to amount to 1.2 million euros, the company will bring in new investors from its customer community.
«In the optical sector, the product is unnecessarily expensive, there are many intermediaries, the dynamics are very established and there is a situation very close to monopoly. But you can break this cycle,» confesses entrepreneur Óscar Valledor, who launched Project Lobster in 2018, when he was just 23 years old and finishing his studies in economics at Pompeu Fabra University.
«My idea was to propose a well-made lifestyle brand, characterized by quality, speed and easy shopping. The most important thing was to make things easy for the customer,» says the company’s CEO, explaining that his proposal was born as a reaction to a sector that seemed not to be designed for people of his age. A bet that required an initial investment of 40,000 euros, coming from his own savings and the support of close friends.
Shortly after its online launch and already with several thousand followers through Instagram, Project Lobster made the leap to the physical channel with a first space in showroom format, which ended up following a first own store in Barcelona and another in Valencia. In 2019, the company raised 300 000 euros in its first round of financing to face its development in the physical channel, giving entry to the Cabiedes fund (which also has stakes in fashion companies such as Laagam or We Are Knitters) and investors Abac Nest and Angel Club.
And at the end of 2020, although the pandemic forced the company to reinvent its strategy and concentrate on the online channel, Project Lobster boasted a turnover growth of 80% and managed to close its second capital increase, keeping the same investors.
With a forecast of 3 million euros of sales in the current year, the Barcelona-based company is now facing a new stage for which it will be promoted in a third round. As in the previous round, the initial investors remain, but the company opens its capital to its own customers. Buyers with high purchasing power and loyal to the brand that Valledor has convinced with an email inviting them to become investors in the project, with lifetime privileges or co-design proposals. Thus, the crowfunding proposal has attracted the attention of the most creative users. With investments ranging from 1000 to 100 000 euros, they will be syndicated to a single person and will represent half of the capital injected.
Target: 50 company-owned stores by 2025
«The goal is to finance a fairly aggressive retail expansion plan and work on innovations such as online view grading and simplifying the user experience,» says Óscar Valledor, who has also recently focused on building a «powerful team». Currently made up of 35 people, the Barcelona-based company’s staff includes talent from companies such as Facebook and Inditex and is supported by a solid network of freelancers.
Designed «in house» in Barcelona, Project Lobster glasses are made in 2 factories in Spain and another 2 in China from Italian materials. The result is an offer that aims to compete with «big names like Prada, Gucci or Gente Monster», at prices starting at 98 euros for prescription glasses. «I don’t want to sell glasses at 30 euros, that’s not our model. We propose design, quality and speed. We want to redefine the traditional optical industry and, if we succeed, the return will be brutal,» insists the entrepreneur, underlining the extensive demand for glasses in the population.
Project Lobster, which currently operates with 5 establishments (one in Madrid, another in Valencia and 3 in Barcelona, including its 400 square meter flagship store Casa Lobster, inaugurated last year), will face a first phase of expansion in the Peninsula. According to the founder, the brand’s challenge is to increase its points of sale to 50 by 2025. Although Spain currently accounts for 20% of the brand’s turnover, its main markets are none other than France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States. Available through its own e-commerce in 36 countries, the company registers around a quarter of its sales through the online channel.