Back in 2014, a young New York City startup raked in an astounding $1 million in revenue in its first 28 days of business. Today, that same company has generated over $100 million in revenue and raised over $70 million in venture funding — all in the name of revamping an age-old mattress business.
Chances are you’ve heard of Casper, the bed-in-a-box mattress darling that has given your friends the right to brag about their ultra-comfortable bed and has swept the city with adorable subway ads. The company was founded in 2013 by a group of five guys working on different projects out of the same coworking space. Surrounded by startup workers drinking green juice and donning Fitbits, they noticed that these seemingly-healthy people were also pulling all-nighters and falling asleep at their desks. As the founders realized these people were taking their health seriously, but sacrificing sleep, they set out to improve how people got their rest. Their founding mission became to engineer one perfect mattress.
As a team, the group tested thousands of material combinations over months of rigorous work to arrive at the final Casper prototype. While the bed offers a ‘just right’ level of comfort, mattresses are not a tech product by any stretch. However, Casper has largely separated itself from the traditional mattress business, and disrupted an antiquated market in the process, through the power of technology.
We spoke with Gabe Flateman, co-founder and CTO at Casper, to find out how the company leverages technology to fuel one of the fastest growing consumer brands of all time.
Built In: What are some of the ways that Casper uses technology in its business?
Gabe Flateman: One of the cool things about my role and the role of technology in a tech startup focused on a non-tech product is that we have the ability to work with every other element of the business powered through technology. I consider that one of our many competitive advantages. We can build a process that's more effective and more efficient into how we operate and work.
For the product itself, we own so much of the lifespan of production. We are involved in the product development process from supply chain to movement of goods throughout the world to warehousing to delivery to the purchasing experience — it means that at every single step we’re able to make it better through technology.
For example, we have a lot of custom software around warehouse management and delivery management that can directly take an order and route it to wherever it’s going to get fulfilled most effectively. That allows us to pretty quickly spin off new ways of connecting with shipping carriers and we’re able to optimize for how quickly customers are able to get their product.
Built In: From a technology standpoint, how has the company evolved since it launched?
GF: When we started out it was me building a working, but small, e-commerce site. We would download excel spreadsheets everyday, send them to our warehouse partners and they would get fulfilled — usually. It was a really exciting way to get off the ground and present ourselves as a brand. But as we’ve grown as a company and become more complex we’ve added products, recently launched in Germany and we’ve added tons of functionality through referrals.
The process of evolving has been learning, iterating and improving on what we had. We started with a rinky-dink website, which I’m still quite fond of, and evolved into a full creative team that’s thinking about what we need to build a brand, an aesthetic message that connects to our customers and a tech team that makes sure everything functions perfectly. So we’re building software that can orchestrate all of that without getting bogged down in all the added complexity.
Built In: How have you used technology to disrupt an antiquated industry?
GF: The mattress industry is not generally known for its tech innovation. To me, that’s a challenge — that’s an opportunity for us to come in and provide some of the tenets of how you run a tech startup and spill that into the way we work and and really jump by leaps and bounds ahead of what’s out there. We do this by doing a ton of testing on the site, which ranges from creating different user experiences to different sets of functionality. That testing allows us to be really data driven in how we create the best experience and hold ourselves accountable for what is and isn’t working.
BI: Can you tell us about the technology team at Casper?
GF: Casper has about 25 engineers on its staff right now. The team itself is oriented around different business goals, such as the core customer journey and the operations experience. This allows for micro teams that can really target a specific goal and execute really quickly on them. That’s allowed for a lot of ownership within specific domains and for engineers to really think through the best technological solution. They’re empowered to make decisions and figure out how to move forward without a lot of overhead.
Our workflow between our front-end engineers and our designers is also pretty best-in-class. As engineers we’re empowered to know exactly what iterations are for type, different color schemes and for how things interact aesthetically. The blending of engineers and designers at Casper allows us to move super efficiently because designers can address and answer the types of challenges that engineers will face. The designers are also so focused and involved while engineers are working through it. In this way, our designers have a window into the way the front-end is working, and it really empowers both teams to take ownership over the whole process.
BI: Are there any projects you’re currently working on that excite you?
GF: We just launched internationally in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. For tech it’s been a great project because it touches on everything that we do. There is a whole new set of actual products because there are different sizes and dimensions for beds in Europe. We also had to connect with a totally new warehouse and set up an entirely new supply chain in mainland Europe. We’re also adding new payment methods and changing the layout of our website to make sure all of the content on Casper.com is fully aligned and translated. For technology, it’s thinking about the ideal e-commerce infrastructure so we can ideally scale up in a bunch of new countries, currencies and languages with very little overhead. I’m really excited to refine that process, improve upon that process and continue it.
We're a site that's incredibly attentive to individual user needs. For our URLs, we’ve actually translated URLs from language to language in different countries. During a cursory glance of the market we noticed that many established companies aren’t doing that. We think it's important to provide a really local and on the ground experience.