Sitting down with Ashleigh Hinde, founder and CEO of Waldo, it is quickly apparent that this woman has not only done a breadth of research about the optical industry and contact lens technology specifically, but that she is eager to share this with others. The Harvard graduate founded Waldo as a direct-to-consumer contact lens start up based in the United Kingdom. As a contact lens wearer herself, she saw the industry as ripe for an overhaul because of poor communication and understanding by contact lens wearers about the lenses that they put in their eyes every day. Her market research revealed patients have no idea why they wear the lenses they wear, and feel the process of buying contact lenses is complicated and a chore. Her focus with Waldo was to address all of these issues:
- Simplify the Process: Waldo’s model is a monthly subscription so that the lenses you need arrive on your doorstep when you need them without the hassle of large up-front purchases. Hinde sites that her research shows fresh lenses arriving every month improves compliance and reduces the risk of contact lens overwear.
- High-Quality Lenses: Waldo’s social media focuses on showing her state of the art manufacturing facility and discussions about the health and safety of wearing daily disposable contact lenses over multiple wear lenses. Waldo lenses are made out of etafilcon material and she actively sites that her goal is to offer lenses on par with Johnson and Johnson contact lenses in quality and comfort in interviews.
- A Happy Experience: Hinde references a customer she interviewed in market research leading up to Waldo’s creation as a big inspiration for her focus on experience. This customer told her every time he bought contact lenses, he felt like something was wrong with him. In eyecare the contact lens prescription process is often focused on the idea that the wearer’s eyes have a problem and you’re prescribing contact lenses much like you would prescribe or talk about a medication that the person needs for a chronic health condition. Instead, Hinde’s goal with Waldo is to make contact lenses and the broader conversation around eyecare more engaging and positive. Her contact lenses come in quirky and fun packaging -not sterile cardboard boxes. When lenses arrive on their doorstep, it’s a fun and vibrant box with positive branding. Wearing contact lenses doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.
It was clear in our conversation that we can learn a lot from Hinde’s research and how she is giving patients what they are looking for in an eyecare experience. As often as we think of disruptors as competitors, her focus with Waldo has been on growing the relationship between patients and their optometrists. Her research revealed that most patients view going to the optometrist as a “chore” – something they have to do, but would rather avoid. “We want to take that [feeling] away,” Hinde told Business Insider in 2017. The doctor-patient relationship she feels is vital to healthy eyes; “our aim is not to disrupt the role of the optometrist.” Her goal is for Waldo to actually help drive more patients to the optometrist’s office to seek care by removing the idea that going to the doctor for eyecare is a chore to avoid.
She shares her research on contact lens wearer’s thoughts and habits, and how eyecare providers can help better serve their needs on this podcast!