There was a time in my life when I twisted and turned at night, trying to find the correct angle to sleep on my less-than-adequate mattress. Like many other young people living in New York City, I hadn’t the cash nor the desire to invest too much in a mattress, often taking one off a friend when they moved out of town, or buying one cheap off whoever’s room I was moving into. Even though I value a good night’s sleep, I wasn’t sleeping on anything of value. That is, until I tried a Casper.
Started just under a year ago by a group of young technologists and entrepreneurs, Casper has entered into a wide-open market, all by recognizing the simple need for quality affordable mattresses. By offering home delivery in a compact box, the company has taken some of the stress away from the mattress process, one I had found to be both harrowing (mattress salespeople are a bit pushy) and a bit of a rip-off (there’s no returns and its difficult to tell a good mattress from a great mattress).
Casper hasn’t been around for long, but they’ve definitely already impacted the mattress retail market – but that’s not the end game for the company. They want people to rethink how they sleep, and why they should make a solid eight hours of shut-eye a priority, even if their lifestyle says otherwise.
Maxim spoke with Casper Co-Founder & COO Neil Parikh about Casper, his background in design and sleep science, and how Casper mattresses were made with every nocturnal activity in mind (and we mean every).
How did you get started working in the mattress industry? It doesn’t seem like the most obvious market for a young person to get interested in.
It’s a funny transition of how I got into this. I was in medical school before Casper. A couple of years ago my co-founders Luke Sherwin, Gabe Flateman, and I were working out of a co-working space and shooting ideas off of one another. On one side people were drinking green juice, were using Fitbit trackers, and were actually starting to care about taking care of their bodies. On the flip side of that though, everyone’s kind of passed out, and no one’s sleeping well. We were starting to see this transition from a place where it used to be in the days of crazy Wall Street where everyone was like, “let’s sleep four hours, and then crush it.” But something cool started happening where I think a lot more people just started caring about sleep. We started realizing that it doesn’t have to be an afterthought. You can hack it, you can track it, and do other things with it. For the first time we were just paying attention to it.
And so you connected the need for sleep with the lack of good mattresses?
Our co-founder Philip Krim started explaining to us how the mattress industry is a total racket. If you go to different stores you see what looks like the same product but it’s radically different pricing. Everything is like 20 percent off – and it’s only for the next ten minutes. It’s impossible to price shop and compare. Buying a mattress in a store is like the worst experience next to buying a used car. I actually think it may be worse than buying a used car because at least with a used car you have the Kelley Blue Book and stuff to help you compare prices. For a mattress, no one knows how much it is supposed to cost, if you’re getting a good deal or not.
We set off on a simple mission, which was how do we form a hypothesis that there has to be one perfect mattress. When you go to a hotel room they don’t ask if you want a hard bed or a soft bed or whatever else. You usually end up sleeping well. We just tested thousands of material combinations until we arrived at one that we thought would work for the vast majority of people. Thankfully, I think the reception has been awesome. Turns out, you don’t have to have a crappy experience.
What’s the nap policy like at Casper headquarters?
We have unlimited naps, thankfully. A big part of what we’re thinking about even in our own culture is making sure that people are sleeping well and thinking about the restful aspect of it.
How did you guys come upon your delivery method. Why the box?
It started by solving our own problems. Luke and I used to live in a fourth floor walkup in Prospect Heights. For a time when I wanted to change my bed it was like “how the hell am I going to get a king or queen sized bed up a fourth floor walkup into a room?” None of that stuff makes sense. It’s just difficult to do. It started with that and thinking about if we could compress it into a box, we could deliver it in a much narrower window. We could actually have cargo vans drop them off in an hour window. You don’t have to worry about being home for six hours. You can actually make the unboxing experience fun. All the other mattress companies for the most part are regional players. They have huge warehouses and huge distribution centers and really big trucks. From day one we reached out all over the country. Outside of New York we distribute through UPS. You get to sign for it like a regular package.
When it comes to learning about the science of sleep and mattresses, did you have any experience in this or you just wanted to learn everything you could about sleep and mattresses?
It was actually pretty fortuitous. I’d done a year of medical school. My dad is actually a sleep doctor and so it runs in the family. Phillip, one of our co-founders, had been selling mattresses online since college. So for ten years he had realized he could sell mattresses from his dorm room, and he sold like 70 or 80 million dollars worth online. The connecting piece was Jeff. Jeff had been working at IDEO for ten years as a product designer and had been working on a lot of other sleep products.
When you guys talk about becoming a lifestyle brand, are you going to branch out and educate people about sleep habits and naps?
It’s all of the above. I would encourage people to be more proactive in thinking about sleep, whether it’s taking naps, whether it’s trying to go to bed earlier, whether it’s controlling other parts of your lifestyle that can help you there. If we can at least get more and more people to think the way in which you’re sleeping, that’s a big one. We’re not prescriptive. We’re not going to go out and say hey everyone needs to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night because a lot of times that not realistic. I run Casper, there’s no way that I sleep 8 hours because sometimes it’s just so many things that you have to do. At the very least if you’re not prescriptive you can at least get people to think about it and be cognitive about it. That's the first step.
What kind of sleeper are you?
I’m usually starfish. The funny thing that we don’t talk about enough is that I don’t think most people sleep in one position. In our studies we’ve found that almost everyone rotates through different positions. That’s part of our philosophy around the universal mattress is that even when it comes down to asking if you're a back sleeper or side sleeper or stomach sleeper, really everyone sleeps through all of them through the course of the night.
When you guys were making the design, did you take into account all possible activities that could take place on a bed?
There’s a reason we picked latex foam for the mattress, and I'll leave it at that.