Casper, a startup that says it’s developing a “vertically integrated” approach to the mattress industry, is announcing that it has raised $1.6 million in seed funding.
The round was led by Lerer Ventures, with participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Crosslink Partners, Vaizra Investments, and Correlation Ventures.
Casper’s actual mattress, it seems, won’t be available for a few months, and the team remains secretive about many of the details in order to save some surprises for the product launch. The basic approach, according to co-founder and CEO Philip Krim (pictured above), was to look at every aspect of the supply chain and, working with partners, figure out how things could be made more efficient or improved for the customer.
The ultimate result, Krim said, was to use some unique engineering processes to create a new kind of mattress that’s “super premium” while still remaining affordable.
To develop those processes, co-founder and Vice President of Operations Neil Parikh said the company has gone through extensive testing — in fact, to “A/B test” different variations, the team even glued two mattresses together. They’re putting the final touches on the design now, with early versions sent out to beta testers, including investor Ben Lerer.
“I have been sleeping on a Casper for the last couple of months and I can only say that the sleep is awesome,” Lerer said in the funding release.
Other signs that Casper will be doing things differently are the fact that they’re only going to offer a single mattress in different sizes (Krim said that all the different options found in retail stores can be overwhelming for consumers, and often obscure the fact that the products are fundamentally the same) and that they’re selling direct to consumers through the Casper website. Krim added that delivery will work in a “radically different” way, though that’s one of the areas where he wasn’t willing to go offer details yet.
Are people willing to make a big, long-term purchase like a mattress without actually trying the product out in-person? Co-founder and Creative Director Luke Sherwin suggested that the existing buying process is broken, because lying on several mattresses for only a few minutes each doesn’t tell you anything meaningful about the actual sleep experience. Better, instead, to have Casper send you the mattress and to feel more confident because of the company’s lengthy 40-day return policy.
The company is aiming for a younger customer base, a group that Krim suggested is starting to care more about the quality of their sleep, as evidenced by the proliferation of sleep-tracking devices and the broader quantified-self movement.
“It’s not cool anymore to brag about how you only got three hours of sleep,” Parikh added.
You may already have picked up on the fact that Casper has a lot of co-founders — five, to be precise. There’s Krim (who previously sold 40,000 beds through an e-commerce company started in his dorm room at the University of Texas), Product Lead Jeff Chapin (who worked at famed design firm IDEO for 10 years), plus Parikh, Sherwin, and Gabe Flateman (who all attended Brown University and co-founded a startup called Consignd together).
When I asked if having such a large founding team created any challenges, Krim responded that each of them brings different knowledge and experience to the company, and each of them has a different role.