Free Enterprise Staff  | November 7, 2014

Would You Sleep on a Mattress that Fits in a Box the Size of a Mini Fridge?

When Philip Krim and a few of his friends were operating out of a co-working office in New York City a couple of years ago, they made a casual observation about the people who shared the space with them. People kept falling asleep in the office.

“Everyone was focused on being more productive, living a typical start-up life, and drinking lots of coffee and caffeine,” says Krim. “Sleep wasn’t given the priority that it should, and that led us to talking about sleep and tracking your sleep, which led us to mattresses: how buying a mattress, shopping for a mattress, and trying a mattress was just such a terrible experience.”

Little did they know that this casual observation would ultimately serve as the foundation for Casper, the start-up that Krim co-founded along with Jeff Chapin, Gabriel Flateman, Luke Sherwin, and Neil Parikh. The five friends set out to create both a mattress and a retail model that addressed each of the pain points that make the traditional process so frustrating.

The co-founders started working on the idea about a year-and-a-half ago, initially focusing on building a mattress that was suitable for people with different comfort preferences. Chapin, the company’s chief of product, led the design effort that ultimately created The Casper, the template model that the start-up now sells in six standard sizes.

“I think that the final product speaks to the long, very thoughtful, and specific process that went into creating it. We work with every step of the supply chain—from textile manufacturers to foam fabricators—to make sure that the bed was built exactly to our design and our aesthetic.”

To make a supremely comfortable mattress, Casper’s design team melded a top layer of premium latex foam with a middle layer of premium memory foam. Combining these two kinds of products, Krim says, had never been done before, prompting the team to apply for a provisional patent on the concept.

Such a configuration means that The Casper bed is “insanely comfortable” without being flimsy.

“We’ve created a bed that supports you the way you want to be supported,” Krim says. “But it still maintains the bounciness and traditional feel that you want from a bed, so you don’t have a feeling that you’re stuck in it. The bed also doesn’t sleep hot because it circulates air very well, and it just creates an incredible sleep surface.”

The Casper, however, offers more than just comfort. The bed is also significantly less expensive than traditional models, with prices ranging from $500 to $950, depending on size. In an industry that routinely charges upward of $3,000 for a California King mattress, Casper’s customers are spending roughly one-third of what they would at a brick and mortar store. Casper can offer such savings, Krim says, because it has a more efficient supply chain and only a single showroom—which happens to double as its New York headquarters.

The savings is also evident in how the mattress is packaged and shipped.

Once a consumer has placed an order through Casper’s website, the company goes about filling it at its manufacturing plant outside of Atlanta, Georgia. After the order is processed, the mattress—regardless of its size—is packaged in a box that’s roughly the size of a mini-fridge. That’s right, a mini-fridge. The package is designed as a sort of jack-in-the-box. Using a tool provided by the company, the customer cuts open the box and the mattress springs open to its full size.

“Thanks to using some very premium materials, the beds bounce back into their old form within a matter of seconds,” Krim says.

“It really speaks to the materials that we use and the innovative manufacturing process.”

To win over skeptical customers who prefer testing a mattress in person before buying, Casper offers a risk-free purchase policy for all of its customers. If a customer isn’t satisfied with the mattress at the end of the 100-night trial period, Casper will refund the cost, send a courier to pick it up, and then donate it to a local charity.

Since launching in April, Casper has seen strong demand from customers across the U.S., Krim says, with sales handily surpassing what they had initially hoped for. “We very much believe in this kind of direct-to-consumer business model,” Krim says. “By selling directly to our customers, we’re able to cut out a lot of the middlemen that go in the supply chain, and offer the bed for a fraction of what beds would cost using our materials in a traditional showroom. We don’t have any immediate plans for traditional retail, but we think increasing exposure to our product is something that’s really exciting and something that we definitely will be testing more aggressively as time goes by.”