Travis Rush | Crain's Portland

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Travis Rush


Sightbox seeks to simplify vision care for contact lens wearers. Sightbox finances the upfront cost of an eye exam and delivers an annual supply of lenses to customers, and seeks to serve as a single point of contact for all of a person’s vision needs.

The Mistake:

I kept making the same mistake, over and over, for years. I was trying to get all facets of the eye care industry to talk to each other and make the process easier for people. I kept thinking I could make it happen.

But after 15 years of shaking my head and doing my best, I realized the effort was pointless. I needed to find a better way of getting people eye care, helping them to finance it, and helping them see with the use of contact lenses.

I’ve been in the web development industry and contact lens world for about 15 years. In that capacity, I’ve been dealing directly with practitioners. I’ve battled on behalf of optometrists building their websites to allow them to sell contact lenses to the public. There are companies out there that don’t really attempt to educate people on the importance of eye care, vision benefits, etc.

People need to value eye health just as they do their overall health.

The Lesson:

As we started working on the complexity of obtaining contact lenses, we also started to realize that part of the communication breakdown was because people don’t understand what a vision care plan typically entails. It’s not insurance. There’s no catastrophic insurance. People don’t understand what it is they’re paying for. What we’re now trying to do is provide a more convenient and easy-to-understand solution, getting exams once a year, getting a prescription, ordering contact lenses.

It has been a little surprising to me that people don’t seem to value vision care in the same way they do overall health care. The yearly eye exam, for instance. Some people don’t seem to see the need for that. If they think their existing contact lenses are working, they don’t want to get rechecked, they just want to keep re-upping prescriptions year after year.

People would come into my dad’s office long after they should have. Their eyes felt fine. But they have something going on in the blood vessels in their eyes, and wearing contacts was making things worse.

My father and sister are both optometrists. I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was 8 years old. Growing up in an optometrist family, we talked often about the importance of getting your eyes checked. The healthcare industry has done a terrible job in general in encouraging people to take care of themselves, but their eyes in particular, they aren’t as proactive.

We’re trying to educate people about eye health through our website, through our email communications. People need to value eye health just as they do their overall health. Things can happen in a year inside your eye. Eye doctors can detect diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure long before a healthcare provider will see it affect your body. Because I’m surrounded by eye doctors, I didn’t realize that people didn’t know that.

With Sightbox, I’m trying to correct the mistakes we’d all been making when it comes to eye care. We want to make it easy to be a priority.

Follow Sightbox on Twitter at: @sightbox

Pictured: Travis Rush. | Photo courtesy of Travis Rush.

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