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Casper, Mattress Maker, Raises $170M and Plans I.P.O (nytimes.com)
104 points by peterkshultz 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

I got a sour taste in my mouth for Casper when I learned of their Federal lawsuits against affiliate bloggers who reviewed their product. I personally felt like Sleepopolis's review of Casper was as fair and observational as one could get with such a thing.

Lawsuit Details: https://sleepopolis.com/blog/casper-sues-sleepopolis-with-fe...

Casper Mattress Review: https://sleepopolis.com/mattress-reviews/casper-mattress-rev...

> After months of discovery (the process where both parties in a lawsuit exchange documents pertinent to their case) it has come to light that Casper may be responsible for a web attack against Sleepopolis. This attack was aimed at reducing Sleepopolis’ traffic and attempted to prevent consumers from finding Sleepopolis via search engines. As a result of the documents uncovered in discovery Sleepopolis has filed a counter lawsuit against Casper for this attack.

Jesus Christ that's awful.

Also, from the initial complaint:

> 2. In early 2014, Casper launched as an innovative new sleep start-up, radically disrupting the traditional mattress industry with one mattress sold directly to consumers online with a risk free in-home trial—eliminating mattress stores and their inflated prices. Casper’s unique approach sought to create a universally comfortable product with a sleek design delivered straight to your door without the need for commission-driven salespeople working in retail Case 1:16-cv-03223 Document 1 Filed 04/29/16 Page 1 of 20 stores. Instead, Casper offers its mattresses directly to consumers via its e-commerce website. Casper immediately struck a chord with consumers, generating $1 million in sales within its first month

That might be new for the US, but the UK had Ergoflex selling memory foam mattresses direct to consumers in 2006. They only have one product, but in different sizes.

You appear to have gotten a bit of document footer in your copy/paste

That is absolutely insane, this "unlawful" review is as informative and objective as it gets:


You shouldn't be able to sue someone for writing a review, this reeks of violating one's First Amendment rights.

Reading the complaint (https://sleepopolis.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/caspers-a...) it looks like Casper is suing them for not disclosing their referral links are referral links whilst alleging that they steer people away from products they don't get good referrals on.

I have no idea about the basis or any of the details but it's not just "wrote review, got sued".

Here's a review from just before the first complaint. It doesn't seem to mention any affiliate money.


So, that might be a relevant complaint.

I'm not sure why, now the site has the needed disclosures, it's okay for Casper to keep up the lawsuit.

At the very bottom: If you use one of my links and purchase a mattress or other product you should know that the respective companies pay me a small referral fee.

Damages don't need to be ongoing to have standing, and damages in the past are still damages. The case isn't mooted by rectifying the situation that was causing harm unless it ameliorates the financial harms caused.

How can you possibly assess damages for this without knowing how many customers were lost because they were swayed into buying other mattresses because of the review?

The linked review in question even strongly favors the Casper over the competing Tuft & Needle mattress.

>You shouldn't be able to sue someone for writing a review

You can sue anyone for anything.

They said you "shouldn't" be able to. Being able to sue for anything becomes effective censorship by those with the deepest pockets.

>Being able to sue for anything becomes effective censorship by those with the deepest pockets.

You've misunderstood both my post and the post I was replying to. I know what they said, and I agree that the pay-to-play American legal system needs to be reworked. They were talking about stopping a specific kind of lawsuit, not all lawsuits that you'd consider "censorship".

Nothing was misunderstood. They want lawsuits for reviews stopped - lawsuits for reviews by the offended party, with deep pockets, is effectivly censorship - they can control the message. The poster never implied they can or cannot be sued - just that they shouldn't. Opinion vs fact.

That's irritating. I bought a Hyphen mattress based primarily on a comparison of the mattress reviews on Sleepopolis. Kudos to him for fighting the lawsuit.

The whole industry seems to be fucked.

From what I've read of Sleepopolis, might basically be an SEO-orientated affiliate scam with fabricated/misattributed reviews. Or it might be completely above board.

The Purple lawsuit against HonestMattressReviews was interesting, where it looks like Purple were actually in the right, and the guy was actually a shill for GhostBed. May or may not be the case, afaik it's still at trial.


I had no idea about this lawsuit, that is horrible. Fuck Casper.

I did a ton of research on mattresses when getting a new bed two years ago. Casper was my first choice since I heard so much about it from my startup friends. I wanted one that was biodegradable with no off-gassing. I took a deep dive into Casper's safety claims and it opened up a whole can of worms.

I've never seen an industry with so much greenwashing. The organizations that certify the mattresses as being safe are comprised of the suppliers themselves. They are basically chemical companies pushing cheap non-biodegradable foam with crazy markups under exotic brand names. Casper just sells this cheap foam with questionable safety standards like everyone else. The only standard I found not to be shady was GOTS [1].

I ended up making my own mattress from slabs of organic latex. It was cheaper and more comfortable than the Casper anyway. Now when I have guests over I can easily remove a layer and have another temporary mattress. They ship compressed and rolled up in boxes which were way smaller than the Casper one. (Btw, the box advertised in Casper ads and in their showroom is nowhere near the size of the actual delivered box. It's massive). If you don't want to make your own, here's a good one: https://sleeponlatex.com/products/natural-latex-mattress.

[1] http://www.global-standard.org

For anyone else who has never heard of greenwashing like me two minutes ago:

> Greenwashing is like whitewashing with a green (environmental) brush: companies and organizations making themselves and their products sound or look like they’re really helping the environment. And they lure you in — creating the perception that you can help, too. In some cases you are helping. In some cases, it’s greenwashing.

Source: http://greenwashingindex.com/about-greenwashing/

Now I need to go look up whitewashing

> I ended up making my own mattress

Never new mattresses were such a huge market with so much passion and crazy prices!

I used to suffer from (mild) back pain; I have been sleeping in a hammock for over 2 years now and couldn't be happier. No more back pain; lots of space saved; minuscule cost (under $60 all things considered).

Out of curiosity, are you hanging your hammock from studs in the walls, using a hammock stand, or something else?

I went through a similar process recently, and ended up getting the Spindle: https://spindlemattress.com/. It's also an "assembly your own" latex setup, although instead of shopping for layers individually, they sell 3-layer sets. I'm pretty happy with it.

I liked that the layers stay separate - you can break the mattress down to make moving easier, and you can replace layers individually, if you ever feel the need (with a 30% discount if you buy from Spindle again inside 25 years).

any recommendations on making your own foam mattress?

Check out the DIY threads here: https://www.themattressunderground.com/mattress-forum/index.....

You usually have some kind of firm base, a middle layer, and a soft top layer. I went with a firm latex layer (44 ILD), a medium latex layer (30 ILD) [1], and a wool topper [2]. Very comfortable with good support, and a decent amount of bounce.

[1] https://sleeponlatex.com/products/natural-latex-mattress-top...

[2] https://www.holylamborganics.com

I was under the impression this might have information about moulding and pouring your own mattress, but you are referring to buying your own components to stack up into a mattress correct?

Not OP, but correct. I've never seen anyone create their own layers. DIY in this space simply means selecting/arranging multiple layers yourself, rather than buy a brand that has a bunch of layers pre-selected.

For those looking for a new mattress, I'd highly recommend Thr Mattress Underground[0]. It's an unbelievably comprehensive resource for mattress reviews and discussion, and goes into great detail about the mattress industry in general (and the "disruptors" including Casper, among others).

[0] https://www.themattressunderground.com

Another great resource is Sleep Like The Dead: http://www.sleeplikethedead.com/

i am on my fourth mattress, i took advantage of the 3 - 6 month trial periods with these new online delivery mattress companies. :) if any more of these keeps popping up, i could probably have a free mattress for whole 2 years! i'm sorry but i'm just very picky i guess. :/

i've tried so far: casper, leesa, lull, and ghostbed.

honestly, lull is the best one so far for me. it has the most tempurpedic style cushy feeling where your body seem to melt. i was most disappointed with ghostbed with casper not too behind. leesa was also good too imo. next i want to try is purple. gotta love this new trend, hope there are more of these in other categories.

This, IMO, is extreme. I know it's nothing illegal and the cost of doing business, but you've tried four mattresses already. You're costing all of these companies real money with seemingly no real motivation to purchase the mattress as you already have yet another mattress on your list.

You might benefit from reading up on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_problem and I hope these mattresses stores create some sort of a shared blacklist of customers to prevent freeloaders like you. This is how the average consumer loses generous return policies from places like REI and Costco.

There's nothing wrong with giving products a free trial and returning those you're unsatisfied with during the normal trial period. That's why it exists.

Unlike the secretary problem, the parent can re-buy any mattress at anytime, and one person buying a mattress doesn't impact another's ability to buy the same model. Additionally the decision can be deferred until after trying many / every model to make a better / optimal purchase.

REI taking its unlimited return policy down to one year was not from normal trial usage but from a select few returning gear after years of usage.

well, yes, i felt bad at first but then again, i wasn't able to try any of these out to begin with and i'm not buying something unless i try them out. btw, i have already purchased lull and gave it to my son so it's not like i'm just returning everything i buy. if anything, i do believe this is the future of e-commerce. it is a great way to shop.

I felt pretty guilty and remorseful after returning ONE mattress that I did not sleep well on at all during the trial period, and then I found out about the incredible markup on these mattresses (at the price I paid, the markup was well over 5x).

It's hard for me to see your comment as anything other than virtue signalling.

In the UK, Eve, a rival maker also just (around a month ago) IPO'd here in the UK. Their figures are scary at the moment, with a CPA hovering around £250-£300 and returns of 15% on the mattresses with the 100-night trial. All that with an average order value was only £450, on a product people buy every 10 years! They lost £11.3m last year on earnings of £12m, so no wonder their shares have been on the decline since IPO.

The mattress market may be big, but there are so many clones - surely only one or two can win out.

That is a staggering CPA vis a vis product cost. Is that just based on the congestion of keyword bidding? Or does CPA actually mean conversion/sale and the path to close is very difficult?

I feel like Amazon could swoop in with a competitive offering and obliterate the competition, if marketing and acquisition were the only barriers to success. They've also got a lot of distribution infrastructure they can leverage, which seems like another large hurdle.

What competitive barriers can companies like Casper or Eve put up? Can they put up any? And how should that affect inclinations toward IPOs and valuations?

Anecdotally, I've only ever seen Casper marketing on the NYC subway. Never anywhere else. I enjoy the creative, but have no inclination to buy the product, neither now nor the time that I will need to buy a new mattress.

Part of the success of Casper is the lack of choices - this is briefly touched on in the article. They seem to want to take the Apple approach - offer few choices and do them right, charging a healthy premium along the way.

I don't see any competitive advantage that Casper offers beyond that - Amazon and WalMart have similarly lax return policies as Casper without the premium. I can likely get the same quality mattress at one of the two above retailers for slightly above half-price of the equivalent Casper offering.

I do see Casper billboards in Austin in the Domain, which is a mid-to-high tier shopping center where the demographic skews younger. I've also heard ads on podcasts. So they are advertising, though it doesn't seem like they are targeting the typical channels for a mass audience, but rather are marketing to the younger demographic.

Amazon is scary, startups can develop a new product and spend millions on consumer education and establishing a market, working out kinks, etc, and once it's proven Amazon can simply swoop in and dominate the market (almost any market with their breadth and network advantages).

Casper seems to advertise heavily in the podcast and music space - I hear their ads constantly on spotify, podcasts, etc

Or Ikea.

10 years is also quite optimist on this type of mattresses. Their compositions are usually very poor with low density foams that deform easily with time. I'd be surprised if models marked that cheap last more than 5 years on average.

Worth listening to this story from Marketplace: Why are there so many mattress stores?


Basically, mattresses in the US are sold at a very high markup (couple hundred times the cost) so it's an easy way to make money.

> Basically, mattresses in the US are sold at a very high markup (couple hundred times the cost) so it's an easy way to make money.

then, is there any reason why no-one disrupts the market with cheaper mattresses?

That's what's happening

Where? I want a cheap good mattress and Casper just seems to be expensive.

There are plenty of cheap yet decent foam mattresses on Amazon. Check out the "Lucid" ones. They have a variety of firmness to choose from ... I don't use it as a daily sleeper but slept on one recently and it was quite nice. Plus it's one fifth of the price of Casper or traditional inner spring ones.

If you really want to score a deal on one, find the one you want and track it via CamelCamelCamel. The prices change daily and if you're patient, you can get it for 30-35% less than the top line price.

Casper is 20% of the price of the mattress store.

Is your price target like $50 for a queen?

They're also twice the price of an IKEA mattress, so it's not exactly like they're a massive bargain.

I imagine that the initial capital costs are ....quite high. At least for brick and mortar stores. You need a lot of space to show off mattresses after all.

Combine that with the not-so-great retail story and a bank probably doesn't want to give out loans for a huge retail space that it might not be able to resell.

Though... I bet there's some opportunities when you look at all the malls that are closing down.

IKEA seems to be doing that. Or are they selling matresses at 100x markup too?

Along similar lines: Why are there so many mattress ads on the radio?


couple hundred times?

So you're saying my $800 mattress cost $4 to make and deliver?

ok dude..

I could see the markup being twice or even a little more than twice, but not 200x

They must have meant "couple hundred percent".

Yeah that's what I meantz sorry. Noprocrast means I often can't respond to comments or edit my post in time.

The other part of it that the podcast only briefly touches on but I think is integral to the whole story is that mattress stores do not have to hold a large inventory. Mattresses are ordered upon purchase and delivered either to the store location or directly to the consumer as necessary. High markup + low inventory requirements are really what pushes the surplus of mattress retail locations.

Strikingly similar article with a few different details: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-behind-beha...

It is nowhere near a couple of hundreds times cost. How about 2 orders of magnitude less.

Apologies I mean percent, it's too late to edit now.

Because margins are high, it is an attractive business meaning that competition is high. So it is actually difficult to make money and requires tons of investment in marketing, brand building and distribution.

Is it me or does anyone else fine $550 twin size mattress insanely expensive ? On amazon[0] you can find so many options under $100. I had one of these and used it for two years - it was still good in the end.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3...

I moved into a new apartment not too long ago, and I was initially thinking of getting a Casper for my new bed, but ended up going with one of the higher-end foam mattresses on Amazon instead for ~$200: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0125QZQNW

I've never tried a Casper, but this $200 mattress is by far the most comfortable mattress I've ever slept on. It's honestly very difficult for me to imagine how a Casper could justify its $400+ premium for someone who's even slightly price conscious.

Maybe someone who has tried both a Casper and a $200~ foam mattress on Amazon can shed some light on the differences.

If the $200 foam mattress you bought is anything like the $100-odd foam "mattress topper" I bought a few years ago, after about two years you'll find it start to develop some dead spots where the foam doesn't spring back.

Yes! I'd love to find out what the cost of manufacturing is. I'm sure the margins on $500+ mattresses is pretty high.

That said, a family member did give me a mattress a while back and wow, is it ever nice. They had spent close to $3000 on it. It was king size (which allow is great when you have a partner), but it was also foam over coil springs. Super comfortable. Before I would have said there was no difference in mattress quality when you get much over $500, but I take that back. Now whether the added quality is worth it, I'm not sure. No matter how comfortable this mattress is, there is no way I would spend $3000 on it.

I just use a high-end futon mattress with a featherbed on top and have been more than happy with it for a couple decades. That said, I sometimes stay at hotels that make a particularly big deal about their mattress and bedding and they can be very comfortable.

Well that's it, they don't last as long.

I shared a cowork space with some of the founders when they were struggling with a previous soon-to-fail startup. It's inspiring to see how things worked out the second time around.

What were they working on?

So we can say in retrospect that the biggest bubble in Silicon Valley started in the foam industry.

How much R&D does Casper do in developing their mattresses? Seems like they're more of a marketing experiment than a "bedtime is back" sleep revolution.

I tried a bed in a box from another well rated brand and didn't like it. Felt fine for a few days but gave me back problems after a week. I think there's a reason hotels aren't using these foam mattresses--most people don't like them. I see this as a fad to be honest, but I could also be wrong.

I have had my foam mattress for going on 10 years. Its great.

Very important not to go too soft. You need more dense foam after the top few softer inches. Im not sure bed in a box can ever fit this dense of foam. My foam mattress is 300 pounds and would take a really big box.

A company that sells expensive mattresses over the internet raises that much money ? And is doing an IPO ? This is literally internet gone mad. Mattresses are commodity products trying very hard to differentiate themselves.

The only way to buy a bed that makes sense to me is to go to the store and lay on them all, then buy the one that feels best. I don't understand apps and websites for this. You will sleep on it every night, for years!

I did that as well when buying my last bed, but I do genuinely wonder how rational it is. Is there really any correlation between how comfortable a bed is to lie on for 30 seconds and how comfortable a bed is to sleep on after a couple of month.

Certainly more correlation than whatever you can gather from casper.com.

I wonder how their 100 nights warranty works. Do they just come and pick the mattress back from your house if you don't like it and do you get a full refund? Anyone who bought it can explain? Are there hidden fees?

We tried em in Los Angeles. Called on day 89, said we didn't like it -- they asked us if we had a preferred charity to donate the used mattress to, we said nope. They sent it to some homeless shelter apparently.

Refund came right back to the CC as promised. No hassles at all. Not even much of a retention script, really. This was early 2016.

We sent it back because it was already starting to "set" and create a weird ridge between my wife and I, who are side-sleepers. It's not for us, but the company treated us just fine and as-promised.


So Casper sent someone to pick the mattress up from your home? Were you required to prep or pack it up before they would take it away?

When we returned ours, Casper coordinated pickup via the nearest Salvation Army who sent a truck to our place. We did not need to pack it up at all.

I'm going to be in the market for a new mattress soon, so might as well "Ask HN": Can anyone recommend a mattress with a reasonable price that I can buy in Europe (Germany, specifically)?

All these trendy mattress companies have 100 day free trials. My advice is to try them all and pick the one that you like the best.

I have a Leesa which is good (I tried Casper previously), it's also available in Germany. https://www.leesa.de/

Reasonable price though? Perhaps not... someone else posted a link to a DIY site though, which is probably worth trying. All these companies are basically selling you three or four layers of off the shelf foam.

Any owners here care to share what Casper's "killer app" is?

Their products are more affordable than much of their competition, they are very comfortable and easy to assemble. They only have online retail presence, no physical retail locations. The only thing I dislike about my Casper mattress is that sitting on the edge of the bed is a bit uncomfortable.

Your dislike is unfortunately a common flaw with Casper like foam mattresses which largely just have a number of layers of foam on top of one another. You can reinforce or line the edges with firmer foam/material so that sitting on the edge is more comfortable and robust, but I think a lot of mass manufacturers avoid that to keep their costs low.

I recall seeing the difference by going to a custom foam mattress store.

Plus they surf the 'ethical marketing' wave very big time.

e.g: If you buy a mattress from us, we'll donate one to someone in need.

TLDR -> You can only buy 2 mattresses from us and we will only give one to you, cash in the moral benefit of being 'good', possibly get tax exemption on your dollar. And btw, by doing this we don't just insult your intelligence, we also kill the competition as there are people competing on the market for people in need already.

Fun hint, I remember shopping for a mattress few months ago, eventually seeing their ads following me everywhere I'd go on the internet for a few weeks. But not only that, 2 days later I received an actual letter with a 'deal' from Casper.

Long story short, casper no thanks!

Which is interesting, given this: https://sleepopolis.com/blog/casper-sues-sleepopolis-with-fe... . Someone else posted it in this thread.

Their "niche" market of direct sales and delivery of foam mattresses already seems pretty crowded. I was in the market last year, and after some research it seemed like there is very little difference between the offerings from Casper, Leesa, T&N, Purple, and others.

Lookup "Zinus Memory Foam 12 Inch Green Tea Mattress" on Amazon. It's an incredible mail-order memory foam mattress for under $200. 7000+ 4+ reviews.

I'm lying on mine now. Incredible deal. It sounds like a too good to be true price. I'm sure it's not a very high quality mattress, but it was a huge improvement over my previous one and I'm comfortable.

In terms of comfort, they're nothing special. A bit too firm for my tastes.

They're definitely fantastic at marketing though.

good luck, there are like 10 clones out there already

Casper itself is a clone. There were/are at least two other foam mattress companies in San Francisco alone selling the same thing years before Casper existed.

"It's exceptionally rare for startups to be killed by competitors—so rare that you can almost discount the possibility."

- Paul Graham (http://paulgraham.com/startupideas.html)

it's a little different when mattresses are essentially a homogeneous good

branding, marketing, etc.

Yes we all remember when Facebook failed to defeat MySpace...

The quote is right. The only enemy of your startup is yourself. MySpace fucked up in so many ways that it's surprising that they managed to remain somewhat relevant until around ~2010 or so.

The point is that you're very unlikely to get to that spot, and you don't have to think about that in the beginning. And even then, if you focus on your own company and execute well, you generally don't have to worry about your competitors - it's yours to lose.

One example is not indicative of the larger picture

App.net lost to Twitter. Netscape lost to Microsoft. Yahoo lost to Google. Ouya lost to Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Coin lost to existing payment cards...

The sentence that follows the quote is "So unless you discover a competitor with the sort of lock-in that would prevent users from choosing you, don't discard the idea.". Most of the winners in the examples you gave had insurmountable lock-in (network effects, etc).

App.net lost to itself. I know of exactly one person who decided to pay money, and it's my friend who'd buy/try anything once.

Try to charge money in a space that's free, in return for..... I don't really know tbh, is a recipe for suicide. It may have worked in the 2 weeks of the novelty effect, and that's it.

There was a period of time where I used both MySpace and Facebook, and preferred MySpace – but the user experience kept getting shittier, it kept getting laggier, spammier... MySpace killed itself

Also how MySpace failed to defeat Friendster.

Did you listen to the recent Startup podcast series on Friendster? The folks at Friendster definitely saw MySpace as one of the nails in their coffin.

Does that not prove the market?

It proves there's nothing special about Casper — their market sways entirely amongst competitors by who has the best deal on an almost identical product.

It's like selling entry-level Windows laptops. The average consumer doesn't give a shit.

How the fuck!?

Yet another little corner of life where I'm left wondering out in the dark. Absolutely not denigrating anyone's preferences - it's just that I simply don't get it: Give me a slab of foam rubber - and maybe give me a new one after five or ten years - and I couldn't be happier. Fancy mattresses range - in my limited view - from quite on a level with foam down to way too squishy.

> I simply don't get it...give me a slab of foam rubber

I drink my coffee black and my espresso unadorned. I'm not "wondering out in the dark" why some prefer a cappuccino or venti frappé whatever-the-crap. People have different preferences.

May I recommend a little more wonder and a little less hostility?

Where's the hostility?

Where do I get a slab of foam rubber? I'm definitely not interested in spending money on a mattress, and I need to upgrade my size soon...

Some sort of furniture outlet. Even IKEA, I think. They still call them mattresses, only, they're 20 bucks, not hundreds of them.

Mind you, you'll be in for some pretty seroius HN downvoting. Not the done thing :)

Any chance you can link me to an example? are you talking about a topper?

e.g. https://www.overstock.com/Bedding-Bath/Splendorest-3-inch-Sl...

Sorry, no, not really. My local list of retail outlets probably won't help you all that much, unless you happen to be stuck in my Danish vicinity :)

My inlaw family does run a mattress distribution company. They have represented many brands over the last 30 years. There is one thing that never changes, you get what you pay for. So before buying into the whole "cut the intermediaries", "mattresses have big markups", lies - yes, lies, I'd advice to do a lot of research and see what you buy.

I've run the idea of moving the family business to a similar online model to what casper, eve and others are doing, with similar prices, margins, etc. multiple times. and we always drop this idea off because it's impossible to sell in the prices these companies do and sleep well with yourself, i.e. these guys have the same margins but they sell pretty basic mattresses with a 5 years ( if you are lucky ) lifetime under regular use.

I'm not convinced that a mattress is even a useful product. I have been mattress free for about a third of my life and it's basically fine.

The best argument for sleeping on a bed that I've heard is "chicks don't dig it", which has not been my experience, certainly not once you get through the door. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

What are you sleeping on instead?

Anything with about a centimetre of firm foam is fine. Yoga mats, work mats, etc.

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