When Roy Hessel arrived in Vancouver in 2014 to head all of French optical giant Essilor’s online eyewear operations, he was a seasoned entrepreneur and corporate executive.
He had left his native Israel to discover China and in late 2005 found the pioneering online eyewear seller EyeBuyDirect in Shanghai.
Success followed, and the profitable company expanded quickly.
When Essilor offered to buy a majority stake in the venture in late 2013, Hessel agreed to the deal, knowing that Essilor’s deep pockets would help him scale the venture.
Essilor moved Hessel and his young family to Austin, Texas, to head EyeBuyDirect and another recent Essilor purchase, FramesDirect.com.
When Essilor spent $430 million to buy the Nasdaq-listed Coastal Contacts, which owned U.S. operations under that brand as well as Canada’s Clearly Contacts and Europe’s LensWay, Hessel merged all of Essilor’s operations to be run out of Vancouver.
“We’re growing nicely and faster than the eyewear market,” Hessel said. “We’ve got an amazing team that I’ve been fortunate to put together.”
Revenue is deep in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the profitable venture is doing research to develop a smartphone app that enables users to determine their prescription without having to see an optician.
“That kind of app is inevitable,” he said. “We’re not the only ones investing in this type of research.”
Since arriving in Vancouver, Hessel has rebranded Canadian operations as Clearly and repositioned the company’s operational focus to be more on education and a high-quality experience, as opposed to simply low prices.
Acquisitions in 2016 included buying the Brazilian online eyewear sellers Eotica.com.br and Elens.com.br.
Outside work, Hessel is a devout believer in disconnecting from technology between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday to observe the Sabbath.
“There’s something to be said for the insight, which I think surfaces when you put yourself in a position where you can’t be disrupted or distracted.”
Join us to celebrate the 2016 Forty under under 40 Awards January 25, 2017 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.