(Ep 49) FELIX GRAY -> One fish, two fish, red fish, blue light blocking glasses 👓

David Roger | Co-Founder & CEO

Hey friends,

Back again with another edition of The Founder recap - this is Episode 49. If you’re new here, my goal is to give you a quick synopsis of what got me thinking from this week’s episode of The Founder Podcast in 5 minutes or less.

No idea what The Founder is? Read this.

Mission control:

And who am I?

I’m Kallaway - a future founder trying to get some answers before I jump in the ball pit myself.

Let’s get it.

This Week’s Episode (Ep 49) 👓

Guest -> David Roger, Co-Founder & CEO of Felix Gray

Mission -> Felix Gray is on a mission to improve the relationship between people and their technology through digital wellness solutions.

Discount -> Use promo code Kallaway for 10% off all products

Episode available on -> Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Website

In this episode we talk with David about…

👶 The origin story of Felix Gray

📖 Learning as an understudy of legendary Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh

👓 The problem with blue light and how Felix Grays are 15x more effective than the competition

🤓 Pioneering the digital wellness category

🏢 Designing an in-office try on program to validate early consumer needs

🔨 Brainstorm of the week -> Building products for the future of remote work/living and solutions to enable influencers to create and grow their own brands

Summary 🔍

What is Felix Gray and how did David get started?

Tell me if you’ve heard this story before…

You wake up and immediately spend 5-60 minutes scrolling mindlessly on your phone.

Then, after a short 10 step commute to your couch, you sit down for a long day of looking at your computer for 8-12 hours with intermittent phone breaks.

Your only downtime from screens (if you could call it that) are the periodic glances you make away from your lunchtime Netflix episode to make sure your fork actually makes contact with your leftovers from the night before.

After work, it’s some mix of laptop, TV, phone and tablet until you go to bed, ready for a steady dose of the same tomorrow.

Apart from that sounding super depressing, it’s easy to notice a common thread…screens.

Screens dictate our lives and are slowly eroding away our eyesight (not to mention our ability to communicate in-person).

In 2015, David Roger realized that he and his colleagues at The Downtown Project (part of Venture for America) were experiencing the same thing. This digital eyestrain, as it would later be coined, faces millions of Americans everyday.

Enter Felix Gray.

Felix Gray is the pioneer of mainstream blue light blocking glasses and a dominant player in the digital wellness category.

Their lenses are 15x more effective than competitors and 9/10 customers report a significant improvement in digital eye strain when wearing the product consistently.

I’ve been wearing them for 3+ years and they are a lifesaver, especially when you’re trying to burn the midnight oil.

And because David is a friend of the show, he’s offering 10% off all Felix Gray products for our listeners. Use code Kallaway at felixgray.com to give your eyes the gift that keeps on giving.

David’s Startup Manifesto 📜

What’s a Startup Manifesto?

During each episode, I ask all of my founder guests this question:

If you had to write a Startup Manifesto with 5 of the most important key lessons or pitfalls to avoid when starting out, what would they be?

Here’s what David had to say:

  1. Learn to hire well. Talk to people who have done it well. Read different books on hiring. Build scorecards. Find out what works for you in your company.

  2. Learn to onboard well too. Hiring well doesn’t mean anything if you don’t put that person in a position to be successful once they’re in the organization.

  3. Be adamant about doing 1-on-1 conversations. At the end of the day, everyone is a human being with emotional needs. If you don’t have a 1-on-1 with direct reports to talk about things like emotions and career growth, it’s a missed opportunity in development and trust.

  4. Listen first. I tend to process pretty quickly, so I’ll just jump in and share my perspective. That’s not ideal. To solve that, I have a little notebook and I take notes to bring up later. That gives people the opportunity to bring up their points first before I weigh in.

  5. Celebrate the wins. There is going to be good stuff and bad stuff going on. Make sure to celebrate wins with your team even as you go through the ups and downs.

What Got Me Thinking From the Episode 🤔

After reflecting on my conversation with David, here’s something that really got my wheels spinning:

The Power of Being Customer Obsessed 👍🏽

“Being customer obsessed” is a popular line used in the media by founders, especially ones that don’t lead consumer driven product orgs.

Believe it or not, many companies claim to be “customer obsessed” but don’t actually value collecting feedback from customers. They operate under a “the customer doesn’t even know what they need yet” mentality.

From my experience, these companies are rarely the category leaders.

While there are anomalies that win occasionally, the best companies seem to be the ones that put the customer above everything else. These companies prioritize customer service and delighting the customer in every scenario possible.

Tony Hsieh at Zappos was the epitome of customer obsession. Legend has it that while running Zappos, Tony reallocated a significant portion of his paid advertising budget to go directly into the customer service org as a way to generate incremental growth through word of mouth.

When talking with David, I was fascinated to learn his connection to Tony and how he infused a similar customer-centric DNA into Felix Gray.

I asked him how he thinks about innovation and assessing when to take resources away from what’s working (blue light glasses) and pour it into other complementary product verticals.

David said that although cliche, he lets the customers decide the product roadmap. By using post-purchase surveys and customer interviews, he’s able to get a better pulse on unmet needs and let his dollars follow consumer needs.

David even said that he still reads every single product review because it’s the best way to understand what is/isn’t working.

After listening to just 10 minutes of the conversation, you can immediately tell that David cares deeply about his customers and has their best interests at heart.

As a Felix Gray fan and customer, I’m excited to see how they build a customer-led product strategy around digital wellness and expand their market foothold into other verticals.

Wrapping it Up 📕

I hope you found this interesting and inspiring! If so and you want to help support our journey to bring The Founder to millions of people across the world, here’s a couple things that would be really valuable to me and the show:

  1. If you enjoyed this post, share it with one friend that you think is on the same wavelength.


  2. If you haven’t already, subscribe to this newsletter so you can get them delivered to your inbox each week!

    Subscribe now

  3. Listen to the full podcast episode with David on Apple or Spotify. If you don’t have an hour to listen to the full episode, pick a couple of topics you’re interested in and skim through (topic time codes in the show notes).

  4. Watch the full episode and our top clips on YouTube.

If you’re feeling super giving:

  1. Find our show on Apple Podcasts (https://apple.co/2VCosu6) and (1) subscribe, (2) give a 5-star rating and (3) leave a couple sentence positive review. This doesn’t seem like it would move the needle but it really is a massive help!

  2. Give our Twitter/Instagram (@founderpodcast) a follow.

Till next time ✌️


Want more? Check out other founders we’ve featured on the show!

— 🏭 48. Italic | Jeremy Cai

— 📩 46. Morning Brew | Alex Lieberman

— 💪 42. Future | Rishi Mandal

— 📖 36. Toucan | Taylor Nieman

— 🛋️ 34. Burrow | Stephen Kuhl

🛌 30. Eight Sleep | Matteo Franceschetti

— 🌵  25. The Sill | Eliza Blank

— 🥦  22. Levels | Josh Clemente

🐑 18. Naadam | Matt Scanlan

— 💍 11. The Clear Cut | Olivia Landau and Kyle Simon

🥘 7. Kettle & Fire | Justin Mares

— 🥾 2. Thursday Boots | Connor Wilson

See any mistakes or have feedback? Let me know (kallaway@thefounderpod.com)