We sat down with Jas Bagniewski, founder and CEO of Eve Mattress. Eve has been selling mattresses for a few years, but officially launched in the UK and Germany this year, and is currently launching in the US. Learn more about the Eve mattress in our Eve mattress review.
How did Eve get started? What’s the background of the company?
We have had a long story in mattresses. We started 3 years ago in 2012. Previously, I was with Rocket Internet, a company that takes proven business models and develops them internationally. With them, I had a great e-commerce experience, and after leaving them my friends and I had some ideas around sleep.
We found the sleep space to be very elitist – it seemed like only rich people could afford to sleep really well. We had a fundamental problem with this, so we set out on a mission to see if we could create an amazing mattress that would be affordable for everybody.
Given our e-commerce background, we launched only online. People talk about a mattress being built in a laboratory with a group of scientists and engineers, but we wanted a mattress built by people for people. We wanted our product to be for the everyday consumer, so we built a prototype and gathered a small sample group (a couple of hundred people) to get their feedback. We thought the approach worked brilliantly, but the group just ended up being too small. So we decided put the product out at scale, try it out, and then build the mattress as an incremental process. We seek our customer’s feedback very regularly and then go back and improve the product. Initially, we used Groupon to get the product in front of a lot of people very quickly, so we would send the product at cost, then take the customer feedback and improve the mattress. We finally launched earlier this year once we felt like we had the perfect product.
Our thinking is that a product should be phenomenal all the way through, inside and out, and so we wanted to launch only when we knew we had it right. Even now we’re always optimizing it. Some people compare densities, foam layers, etc, but most consumers aren’t interested in those technicalities. We think it’s more about how the layers are put together and interact with each other, and how they balance one another. It’s more like cooking the perfect dish, not just going by specs. We do provide all of the specs, but we try to emphasize the mattress has been thoroughly tested by our consumers.
So you started just in the UK? How have things gone so far, and is it the same product in every market?
We launched in the UK in February, now we’re in Germany, and we’re launching in the US. Through our testing, we have already sold 75,000 mattresses across 18 countries all over Europe and North America. We’ve sold mattresses from South Africa to UAE to San Francisco, so we have become very good at understanding what consumers want. We’re not starting from scratch, and actually the product varies slightly by market. For example, people in Germany like a firmer mattress than people in the US. We’re happy with that because we want to make the right product for the right people, so really understanding the consumer need in the specific market is our specialty. Thus we plan to internationalize the product very quickly.
What are the plans for the launch in the US?
Because we have such a unique story, and a unique brand, we want to foster that and grow the business. Most companies would launch by advertising on Google or on TV, but we think those formats aren’t a great way to get our message across. We’re planning a grassroots movement focused on content, talking to influencers, reviewers, and other outlets where we can tell our story.
In terms of the scale, it’s very hard to predict. In the UK we have about 1% of the market after about 7 months, which we think is phenomenal. The biggest direct to consumer mattress companies have about 0.5% of the market in the US by comparison, but we anticipate the US to be more competitive.
What does your team look like now?
There are about 15 people in London, that is where the logistics, branding, and creatives sit. There are 6 of us here in San Francisco focused primarily on marketing.
We brought in a branding genius who was the head of marketing for Channel 4, one of the major TV channels in the UK. He bought into the vision of creating a lifestyle brand. Then we brought in the SVP of Rocket international, who has taken companies to India and China. He’s running our ops team. It takes years to build a team of that level, but we picked out the absolute top people in their field and didn’t rush it.
What are your investors?
We are VC backed as of 6 months ago, but the first few years for product development was a bootstrapped business. We raised money because we saw there would be more brand marketing.
What do you think of the US market? How does your mattress fit in?
It’s a really interesting market. We look more at Tempurpedic as the brand to beat because we are fundamentally about quality and comfort. If you go out on the street and ask, “what is the most comfortable mattress in the world,” people will say Tempurpedic. They own something like 10% of the global market, so they are the ones to beat in terms of quality. We set out to create a Tempurpedic-quality product and see if we could do it at a lower price given our logistical and e-commerce piece.
We see the US as two consumer groups. The first is a young transient population in the US that is buying every time they move, and, for them, product quality is less relevant, so they are interested more in a fun or quirky brand that resonates with their lifestyle. The second group is 35+, settling down into a place they will call home for a long time. They are married or have kids, and want a top quality mattress that is going to last and that will be good for their health and wellness. The majority of the direct-to-consumer companies are targeting the first group, whereas we are targeting the second. Our customers want a great product at a fair price. We view this group as completely underserved, which is actually the vast majority of the market.
What are your goals for the next year?
We’re starting with mattresses, but we’ll move to become a sleep and lifestyle brand. We think about it like we think about the health industry. If I buy a supplement, I don’t take that supplement because of how it tastes, I take it because of how it makes me feel. We didn’t want our brand to be about sleep, but about the next day, about feeling great, about light. That’s why the color scheme is bright and yellow, like the morning sun. This is where we’re going over the next 12-24 months. We want to become the top direct to consumer mattress company globally. We want to build a household brand, where when you want to buy a home product, Eve is the trusted brand that you go to to get a beautiful, high-quality, luxury item for your home.
Any last thoughts?
It’s not hard to get a mattress and put it online, and that’s why you see so many in the direct-to-consumer space. At this point there are so many, it’s almost more complicated online than to go into a mattress store. So many of these companies look the same and have the same message. We want to stay outside of that as much as possible and really get across that we’ve been in this space and have been thinking about how to build it for years. We knew it was going to take time and didn’t want to rush it, so we don’t like to be dragged into the direct-to-consumer phenomena, and would prefer to create something more resonate and permanent.