Helix Sleep launched during the summer of 2015 as the first personalized online-only mattress company. We at mattress clarity sat down with Adam Tishman, one of the co-founders, to learn more about the founding of the company and how it is performing in its early days.
What is your background?
My background is in strategic start-up brand building and marketing analytics, both from the agency perspective and in-house. I’ve worked with multiple brands on growth strategies, including Zico Coconut Water, Voli Vodka, and Zola.com. But my most notable role was as Director of Marketing & Business Development at Sheets Brand, a line of dissolvable oral energy and sleep strips (think Listerine strips mixed with either caffeine or melatonin). We grew the product to distribution in over 40,000 US locations and boasted an impressive roster of brand endorsers including LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Pitbull.
How did you end up founding a mattress startup?
The founding story of Helix Sleep, like any good story, involves a healthy mixture of shared experience, chance meetings, late nights, and impromptu flights to Europe.
Jerry, Kristian and I all met at Wharton while pursuing our MBAs and found ourselves discussing shared terrible mattress buying experiences. Kristian had got fed up with the mattress search and bought a crappy mattress from a discount retailer. Jerry ordered a mattress online and was confused by the lack of choice. And I ended up walking into a retail store in Philadelphia and paying an embarrassing amount of money for my bed.
It just didn’t add up. We spoke with our classmates and found similar stories. A quick Google search later we noticed routine 1 out of 5 star ratings for most retailers. Why was it so difficult to buy a mattress?
We spent the next year obsessing over the three main problems in the mattress industry: (1) inflated prices, (2) confusing products, and (3) terrible in-store buying experiences. We learned the ins and outs of mattress manufacturing and materials, partnering with an industry expert with over 20 years experience on the way. Not only did we read multiple 100+ page PhD dissertations on sleep science and mattress technology, we flew to Europe to form a partnership with top researchers that would become the basis for our personalization algorithm.
What lead you to focus on a personalized mattress?
We believe the world is made up of individuals with different wants, needs, and styles. The research is clear that body measurements and sleeping preferences matter when deciding on a mattress. This makes intuitive sense – there is no reason a 6’4″ 300lb man who sleeps on his back should sleep on the same mattress as a 5’4″ 120lb woman who sleeps on her side.
The problem is it’s really hard to find that perfect mattress because most online retailers only offer one option and lying on a mattress at a retail store for 5 minutes is a really poor way to decide on a product for the next 10 years. That’s why at Helix Sleep we try to take the confusion out of the buying process by asking you questions about yourself and translating those answers into an optimal mattress construction. Additionally, we try to offer the best customer experience possible – including free shipping directly to your doorstep and a 100 night sleep trial. Our goal is to always provide you with the best possible product with the least amount of hassle.
What were the most difficult aspect of developing a personalized mattress?
Most manufacturing in the industry is not set-up to create custom-built, personalized products. We feel fortunate to be working with a manufacturing partner that has both the capabilities and forward thinking necessary for Helix.
What entrepreneurs do you admire?
Too many to list! We feel fortunate to have worked with many great entrepreneurs and constantly seek mentorship. I will say I admire any entrepreneur that turns down a terrible deal from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank.
What would success look like for Helix Sleep in 5 years time?
We aim to be at the forefront of two cultural shifts: (1) the shift from retail to online in the mattress industry and more importantly, (2) the shift from mass to personalized products driven by data and analytics.
I also have a personal goal of getting a Helix mattress into the White House.
What has been your most validating moment thus far?
We’ve been thrilled by product feedback and initial traction. We realized the other day we have already shipped to 40 states in just 6 weeks of business!
What are your plans for the company over the next 6-12 months?
We care deeply about our customers and want to continue to develop new ways to improve everyone’s experience with Helix Sleep. That’s our #1 goal. Stay tuned!
To learn more about Helix Sleep check out our full Helix Sleep review.