When the cofounders of Helix met at Wharton’s MBA program, one of the first things they bonded over was the pains of moving to a new city — particularly buying a new mattress. Their experiences read like a fable: one bought a cheap one from IKEA he hated, another bought one online and ended up returning it, and the third spent an obscene amount of money at a local Sleepy’s. At least the third one liked his mattress.
The mattress industry, they ranted over drinks, was hopelessly broken. And so they decided to go into business together to help fix it. They founded Helix, a startup publicly launching today, that constructs custom mattresses based on a series of criteria you input into an online questionnaire.
Of course, Helix isn’t the only startup taking aim at the mattress industry. Casper, a company dedicated to making the process of buying a mattress as easy as possible, recently raised $US55 million from investors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Casper’s pitch is that they only sell one mattress, and they deliver it right to your door. There is nothing for you to worry about.
Helix’s founders think Casper has resonated so much with consumers because of how frustrating and opaque the mattress-buying process is. But they say that in trimming away customisation in the name of convenience, Casper left a hole in the marketplace.
“People who sleep differently actually do need different beds,” says Helix cofounder Kristian von Rickenbach. But going to a mattress store and trying a bunch of mattresses in a row has no statistical correlation to whether you will be happy with it, he claims.
Helix doesn’t do that. Instead, it asks you a set of questions — like your height and weight — and then constructs a mattress for you based on four key metrics: feel, support, temperature regulation, and “point elasticity” (the “mattress nerd metric,” as they call it). Point elasticity refers to how well a mattress takes a part of your body that pokes out, like an elbow, and gives it the same support as the rest of your body, without compromising the bed. It’s important, the founders promise.
One of Helix’s main selling points is the ability to create a split mattress for couples. In their research, they have found that most couples are drawn to these split beds, which customise each side of the bed for a different type of sleeper. This fact in itself suggests to the founders that there is a market for their product, that people want “custom.”
The “one size fits all” philosophy is convenient, they argue, but ultimately unsatisfying. And Helix aims to be competitive on price with companies like Casper. Helix charges $US800 for a full and $US900 for a queen — with a $US100 charge if you want to split the bed into different styles. The founders say they can deliver within 7 to 10 days of an order, for free, and that there’s a 100 day return policy.
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