Stoggles, a Stylish Spin on Safety Goggles, Seals $40 Million

Pat Maio
Pat Maio has held various reporting and editorial management positions over the past 25 years, having specialized in business and government reporting. He has held reporting jobs with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, Dow Jones News and other newspapers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Stoggles, a Stylish Spin on Safety Goggles, Seals $40 Million
Image courtesy of Stoggles
  • The Pasadena eyewear startup has found a market with health care workers and is looking to grow with new investment from L.A.-based The Chernin Group.

Safety goggles are usually anything but stylish. But just as direct-to-consumer brands FIGS and Clove brought sophistication and flair to medical scrubs and health care shoes, respectively, so is Stoggles looking to spice up its own dull niche.

“We are the FIGS for faces,” according to Rahul Khatri, co-founder of the Pasadena-based safety eyewear brand. Stoggles—a playful combination of words “style” and “goggles”—has found traction with buyers who work in medical fields and are tired of donning bulky protective goggles while in surgery or tending to patients. The company offers a sleek, trendy look in bright colors like lilac, coral red, and mint green, as well as prescription lenses and bifocals.

On Wednesday, Stoggles disclosed a growth equity raise of $40 million led by Los Angeles-based investment firm The Chernin Group, which focuses on consumer brands in media and tech. (Among Chernin’s investments include West Hollywood-based neo-bank Dave and Pasadena-based youth sports streaming service BallerTV.)

Stoggles, which is eyeing a new headquarters location in Culver City or West Hollywood, generated more than $13.5 million in revenue last year, according to the company. The new funding will help the 15-person company triple its current headcount by the end of the year, Khatri said.

Stoggles co-founders Max Greenberg (left) and Rahul Khatri.Image courtesy of Stoggles

The startup isn’t the first rodeo for Khatri and his co-founder Max Greenberg, who met as students at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design in 2015. By the following year, they had started Roav, an athletic eyewear brand specializing in foldable, high-performance sunglasses. While the startup raised $225,000 through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, the concept never really caught on as hoped in a fiercely competitive market for sunglasses. (Roav continues to operate with less than $1 million in annual sales, according to Khatri.)

The pandemic proved to be the catalyst for a new venture separate from Roav for the duo. In mid-2020, after Greenberg showed Khatri an illustration he found on Instagram of a pair of retro-looking goggles, the industrial designers agreed that they could produce something better. Their creative doodling came as public health officials were urging people to wear face shields to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19.

The confluence of events—the illustration and the pandemic—led the two designers to the concept of protective eyewear with a chic flair. Stoggles launched last year after raising around $3.5 million through a crowdfunding campaign.

Now, doctors and surgeons are buying the brand’s glasses to protect their eyes from germs and fluids, firefighters use them to shield their eyes from smoke and chefs use them to keep from tearing up while slicing onions. Stoggles glasses start at $39 each, though the price can rise to nearly $200 as prescription lenses with anti-fog coating and bifocals are added.

Stoggles may be ramping up its business at an opportune time. According to research from optical industry trade group The Vision Council, sales of frames and lenses in the U.S. began rebounding in 2021, after diving during the first year of the pandemic in 2020.

Nearly 65 million pairs of frames and more than 72 million pairs of lenses were sold in 2020—down from nearly 79 million pairs frames and nearly 88 million pairs of lenses in 2019, according to the research. However, frame and lens sales showed significant growth through the first nine months of 2021, climbing 27% over the same period in 2020 and “actually increas[ing] above pre-pandemic levels,” according to Vision Council spokesperson Hayley Rakus.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.