How Mattress Startups Can Help You Understand Market Trends


What does it take to launch a great startup? One way to determine what will work in a given marketplace is to look at what’s already trending. Popular startup concepts rarely stand alone and copycats frequently succeed. Trends can also point you towards complementary ideas for your own business. Consider an individual, successful startup a cipher for the wider marketplace.

By Anna Johansson

Right now, one of the hot trends in the startup world is the bed-in-a-box: mattresses made from innovative materials delivered right to your door. We can use one brand, Purple, as an example of exactly how to pin down a startup concept.

Spotting A Trend

Anyone who has ever lived in an urban area has likely considered the challenges associated with buying a mattress. You might not have a car to pick it up yourself and even if you get it delivered, your stairwell and your cramped apartment likely aren’t designed to easily negotiate a mattress through. There’s got to be a better way – and Purple found it. Actually, to be accurate, Purple realized others had found it.

Based in Silicon Valley, Purple was founded by two brothers, Tony and Terry Pearce, who saw something shifting in the mattress sector. Specifically, they saw more mattress sales moving online and the birth of several other mattress startups, like Casper and Leesa. They decided to get in on the game.

Of course, in order to stake a claim in an established niche, you need to do something different. For Purple, that was using a unique, pressure relief material, the same material used in wheelchair cushioning, in fact. This makes for limited options, but since no one is coming in and lying on the mattresses anyway, that may actually be beneficial. It also boosts efficiency, always an advantage in the fast-paced startup world.

Funding A Trend

Funding is always a concern in the startup world, so it’s worth considering how spotting trends can help increase your odds of finding financial stability as a startup founder. First, we should say that e-commerce has been a gift to startup funding. Though, obviously, Purple was going to need warehouse space and manufacturers, ecommerce still reduces costs. You don’t need a storefront, for example, or as many staff members.

Beyond ecommerce, jumping onto a trend is a good way to convince investors that this is a business model that will work. You can point to other businesses that have found success as proof that people want what you plan to offer. When you have serious startup costs, that’s all to your benefit.

Of course, meeting a clear need is also a good way to bring investors into your thrall as a startup developer. Casper hit the scene in NYC shortly before Purple opened shop on the West Coast, but because Casper came first, they couldn’t point to other bed-in-a-box models as easily.

What the Casper founders could do, however, was explain the clear niche for their product, specifically urban mattress delivery problems: space and scheduling peak among them. Their model runs on New Yorker time; they’ll deliver your mattress within 90 minutes of ordering by Uber or even bike messenger. That’s a niche within a niche.

Spreading The Word

Finally, trendy startups need to read the field carefully and spread the word if they’re going to remain competitive, particularly when riding the coat tails of other established companies. For the brothers behind Purple, they were their own best evangelists, spreading the good word of their brand to investors across the region. Combine that with their Edison-like talent for inventing (the brothers have 50 patents between them), and they were a market force to be conquered.

If you can spread the word, building hype and a devoted following, you can make it big, and this seems to be working for Purple, the follower, and Casper, the original. While Purple is still hewing to a more grassroots styling, Casper recently picked up Target as an investor, pushing the product into the hands of a wider audience.

Has Purple won the battle of the startups? Not necessarily, but they’re certainly succeeding – and you don’t have to conquer the field to make it big. And by learning from Casper and other mattress startups, Purple entered the field with their own advantage by picking a newly established niche.

Where do you see a trend breaking out? And how can you fit into that market?