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The 4 Ingredients Your Startup Needs to Hit the Ground Running

Around the Games: Day 6 - 2014 Winter Olympic GamesAround the Games: Day 6 - 2014 Winter Olympic Games

This piece was originally published on brunchwork.

“No one is going to buy a mattress online. That’s the dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard.” That’s what Neil Parikh thought when he first heard the idea of selling mattresses online.

Now, Neil is the cofounder and Chief Operations Officer of Casper, a startup that sells mattresses online and delivers them in easy-to-move boxes.

Prior to launch, the team spent months conducting research, interviewing hundreds of potential customers and even observing them sleep.

“We had probably ordered 40 or 50 beds for the first six or seven months, and we thought it was going to last us a long time,” Neil said. “In our first day, we sold $100,000 worth of mattresses. In our first month, we sold $1 million worth…We were completely blown away.”

Casper wasn’t prepared for the unexpected demand. “We were back-ordered for weeks and weeks and weeks, and we didn’t have enough product or people in our factories to be able to make more,” Neil said.

At the last brunchwork at WeWork Fidi, Neil revealed the lessons he learned in those critical first weeks and the ingredients to Casper’s runaway success.

1. Novelty. Casper achieved a lot of ‘firsts’. They were the first to offer a 100-day money-back guarantee on their mattresses; the first to use a combination of microfiber and latex; and the first mattress company to be called a tech company.

“You need to create something that is very difficult for other people to recreate…That’s what gives you the competitive advantage.”

2. Exceptional customer experience. Treat every customer interaction as an opportunity to say, “Let’s have an amazing experience together,” Neil advised. Positive experiences lead to customer referrals, which drive sales.

Make it easy and enjoyable for customers to shop with you. At their showrooms, Casper treats visitors to chocolate chip cookies and other snacks. “Even if you don’t need another bed for five years, you’re going to go out and tell other people,” Neil said.
Casper also alleviates traditional pain points like mattress delivery. Their mattresses are folded and shipped in small, easy-to-carry boxes; customers delight in the un-boxing experience.

“No one had ever [said, ‘Let] actually do this in the right way and it could make people’s lives easier,’” according to Neil.

3. PR strategy. Positive press coverage accelerated Casper’s growth. Their PR strategy centered around mystery and intrigue.
“Don’t share a lot of information until launch day because you want to give someone a story to write about.”

Casper also geared their story differently for each channel. “When I’m talking with Vogue, it’s a very different story than when I’m talking with TechCrunch, which is very different than CBS morning news. Sometimes you have to modify and tweak things,” Neil said.

4. Momentum. Startups need to retain customer interest long after the hype surrounding launch. “People will say: At launch, I’m just going to rely on press. But if you don’t have something to keep that going through time, then three months out no one is using your product anymore,” Neil shared.

“You have to do something meaningful and interesting enough that it’s going to change people’s lives in some way.”