Casper Wants to Make Sleep Fun Again

This company staked its success on a mattress—and it was a winning bed.

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The mattress that started it all.
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This is a story about mattresses, but no, you won't fall asleep while reading it (and we promise we'll go light on the sleep puns). Because if there's one thing bedding company Casper is aiming to do, it's making the business of sleep fun again.

Casper co-founder Neil Parikh.
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"It's very hard to imagine romanticizing a mattress," says Casper co-founder Neil Parikh, "unless you step outside the box and say: a mattress is just a platform for your holistic well-being." And this is exactly the way that Parikh and his four co-founders were thinking when they launched Casper in April, 2014. They had noticed a trend—and, with it, an opportunity.

"Five years ago, it was cool to sleep four hours a night and crush it all the time," Parikh explains. "Today, we're all thinking about wellness and health." And that, right there, was Casper's point of entry. "Disrupt the [mattress] industry," he says of their thinking, "and make it more about wellness and sleep."

Inside the company's downtown Manhattan showroom.

Parikh likens the traditional process of mattress-buying to shopping for a used car. "The salespeople are pushy, and the products are gross," he says. So their first priorities were coming up with a better product, and a more user-friendly buying process. They decided to cut out the middle man. "Since we can cut $2,000 off the cost—and compress the mattress, and put it into a box—it's cheaper for us to ship a bed to you than it is for a normal retailer to take a bed across the street. They need two people, a huge truck, and a large mattress; we can just send ours via UPS." That, he says, is what makes the whole thing work.

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The box in which Casper ships its famous mattresses.

But how do they get the mattress into the box in the first place? "Well, it's a foam-based mattress," Parikh explains, "and foam has an enormous amount of resilience." So, with the right machinery, it can be compressed to a fraction of its size, thrown in a box, and shipped out the door. And while foam beds do offer significantly more support than old-school spring mattresses, Parikh is quick to point out that they can often leave you "feeling like you're stuck in quicksand." But by adding latex on top, Casper has managed to keep its beds springy and bouncy.

Parikh knows the importance of a good night's rest.

Their plan very much in place, the five founders got to work, hunkering down in one of their apartments. "We worked in there until there were about 30 of us," Parikh says, laughing, "and people were working on the kitchen sink." Over the course of the next two years, the team quickly grew to a staff of nearly 150, scattered across New York, L.A., and San Francisco. "We've been super-lucky," Parikh says. "We had no idea it would grow like this."

Casper recently launched its own line of sheets and pillows.

With the runaway success of its mattress, Casper recently branched out into sheets and pillows, as well as launching Van Winkle's, a website dedicated to the science of sleep. "All across the board, we're thinking a lot more holistically about sleep and how to improve it," says Parikh. "Those eight hours are like the last frontier," he adds excitedly. "We've already optimized the shit out of everything else—we have fitness trackers, calorie-counters, the Apple watch—meanwhile, you spend 25 years of your life in bed."

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