Is James Murray Wells cunning or naive?

Last night, I attended Imperial Entrepreneurs event at Imperial College where the speaker was James Murray Wells – founder and managing director of Glassesdirect. Just 23 years-old, James has grown Glassesdirect from starting with a £1000 to a business expected to turnover over £3m this year in just two years. Undercutting his high street rivals by up to 10 times. Glassesdirect has sent shockwaves through the optical industry, a market worth over £2.4Bn a year in the UK.

James has been feted in the media and has won a number of awards in the young entrepreneur category. I'd also spoken to him a couple of times at recent events.

Well, it was a very strange presentation consisting almost entirely of James whining about the big boys being nasty to him in trying to crush him when he was plainly trying to massively undercut them & rip out cosy profits - I think a first year economics student would understand this as natural oligopoly behaviour.

Yet he is clearly marketing savvy and milks this bullying for maximum media impact - low cost brand promotion. The advertising they do undertake is very confrontational and is designed to provoke a reaction in a manner reminscent of freddie laker.

Crusades for "natural justice" may be morally right & in the best interest of the consumer, but its naïve to believe the competition is just going to roll over and forego excess profits. He may have small market share presently ["why are they trying to crush us when we only have 1.5% of the market?"] but why should they wait till he's grown big.

Entertainingly, James is being somewhat parasitical in encouraging his customers to use the high st infrastructure for sight tests & frame fittings before routing their order to him at a cheaper price. It may be rational consumer behaviour but no need for competitors to be willling accomplices.

Good on him for getting his venture going and making a success of it which is admirable (too many people fail to try to execute ideas), but I think his playing for sympathy is a thinly disguised [too transparent I think] and calculated marketing strategy or else he's just plain naive which I doubt..

As for the rest of the evening, it was great to see so many students bursting with ideas and enthusiasm to run businesses, albeit the venue for the post-show drinks wasn't suited to mingling.

posted by John Wilson @ 9:48 AM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read into the Glassesdirect phenomena a little deeper and you will find a very interest web.

James Murray Wells moved in to online glasses at a time when the public could demand a copy of their prescription and shop around for the best glasses.

Far from the “wet behind the ears” student that James’s marketing machine likes to portray the business appears to have been finely orchestrated and supported by very professional backers.

What the Murray-Wells publicity machine fails to tells us how a young student can recruit a top advertising agency, appoint an executive director from London’s most important eye hospital, sustain massive advertising almost immediately on commencing trading.

Murray Wells appears to me to be a front for some very big businessmen and ophthalmologists who have seen a business opportunity and employed or recruited a top class advertising / publicity agent. The basis of the campaign being David versus Goliath with James the people’s champion.

The objective to or exit strategy being to become a rich as possible as quickly as possible. Expect this company to raise money possibly through and IPO or AIM listing, the City is already being courted through the publicity campaign. Those really behind the business will cream off massive profits on their investment.

People’s friend or “internet exploiter” in the same way as Specsavers are the “High Street exploiters”. Not much difference between the two!


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