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Did This Rule Breaker Just Signal Its Intent to Go Public?

By Tim Beyers - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:05AM

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Warby Parker expands its board and its cachet with investors.

A hot IPO market could get hotter soon, presuming rebellious eyewear maker Warby Parker makes good on signs that it'll go public.

J. Crew CEO Millard "Mickey" Drexler. Photo credit: Boston University.

The latest? Mickey Drexler joining the company's board. Fortune reports that the J. Crew chief executive made it official earlier this month after spending considerable time as an informal advisor to Warby co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa. He's also an investor, joining American Express and venture capital backers General Catalyst Partners and Tiger Global Management.

This wouldn't be the first time a private company has added heft to its board before heading for the public markets. Remember when Reed Hastings agreed to join Facebook's (META 1.96%) board?

He'd been serving for about a year when the social network completed its massive IPO. Months later, as the world decried Facebook's plummeting stock price, Hastings spent $1 billion to increase his bet. That was at $21 a share; Facebook just closed above $50.

And why not? The social network's active mobile user base has doubled over the past year while fast-growing photo sharing network Instagram is no more than a rounding error. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is still in the early stages of realizing Facebook's growth potential.

Should IPO scouts be thinking of Drexler's addition to Warby's board similarly, as a sign the company is not only readying itself for an IPO but also gearing up for a new phase of growth? Blumenthal hints as much in speaking with Fortune.

"Mickey's always been excited about the role of technology in fashion and retail," Blumenthal told the magazine, "and we are certainly playing a part of that future."

Indeed, initial reports say that Google and Warby are working on a pair of fashionable techie spectacles as a follow-up to Google Glass. Then there's Drexler's position as a member of Apple's board to consider. The Mac maker has been busy trying to capitalize on the inevitable shift toward more wearable computing.

There's a fortune up for grabs. In May, Britain's IMS Research published a forecast that put the entire market at $6 billion by 2016. That has software developers racing to build apps fit for the uber-portable, Bloomberg reports.

Add it up, and Warby has all the options I'd expect in a Rule Breaker. Including, by the looks of it, a very receptive IPO market. Would you buy shares were you able to participate in the company's initial public offering? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool recommends American Express, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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