On November 13, 2015 InSITE fellows from around the country were in New York City to meet startups and VCs including Casper, Digital Ocean, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Box Group, and Betaworks. I was part of the group that met with Casper, Digital Ocean, and Betaworks and found the visits to be extremely informative. As someone interested in launching an e-commerce business in the future, I valued the visit to Casper the most.
Casper launched in April 2014 as a company selling mattresses online. In their first 28 days of being live they sold $1 million worth of product and in August 2014 they raised $13.1 million in Series A funding.
We started off by meeting Casper’s VP of Data & Analytics and Director of Customer Experience. The Customer experience team was close to 40 people strong making it clear how important the voice of the customer was in dictating Casper’s strategy. Their team told us that as a new company you must pay close attention to your first 10,000 customers as they can then become promoters/influencers for your product. Casper still uses numerous marketing channels to reach its customers ranging from Social Media to advertisements in the New York subway as they are still figuring out the returns from each channel. While the brand was originally supposed to be targeted at millennials, Casper quickly realized that a majority of their customers were older and have since then modified their communication accordingly.
We then met with one of the co-founders, Neil Parikh to learn more about the buildup to the launch. Casper is obsessive about product quality and therefore spends more than a year designing each product. They have customized each component of their mattresses and are still involved with the sourcing off all the raw material. In the early days the founders spent 2 days a week at each of their suppliers and manufacturing partners. At one point Casper didn’t ship product for an entire month because of a small mistake with the labels on the mattresses, a mistake that customers would most likely not even notice but to Casper it was important to always ship a perfect product. Neil also spoke about how Casper has managed to defy conventional wisdom and work harmoniously despite having 5 co-founders. The secret to their success is each co-founder owning a separate portion of the business and being the leader of that functional area. He also noted that there is only one true boss with the CEO having final decision making authority.
Casper is one of the huge e-commerce successes of our times and there’s a lot aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from the way Casper focusses on both their product and customer.