In the lead-up to our PSFK 2017 conference, we look back at key speakers from past years. Here, Casper Co-Founder Neil Parikh gets customers to ask philosophical questions about sleep.

Earlier last year, the Center for Disease Control published a study showing that more than a third of Americans are not getting enough sleep. As the Internet fills with tips on how to get a better sleep from blue-light screen protectors to eating walnuts, few people talk about the actual surface on which we slumber. At PSFK 2016, Casper’s Co-Founder and COO Neil Parikh will discuss how his mattress startup is looking to change that.

We caught up with Parikh ahead of the conference to learn how he is shaking up the world of sleep, and you can watch the full conference appearance here:

What is Casper?

Casper is a brand that’s focused on helping people sleep better. That has always been part of our DNA. When we started we saw people tracking their sleep with Fitbits, drinking green juice, really focused on a healthy life but not having many ways or products to actually improve their sleep. We started with a mattress because it made the most sense as the core platform, but we’ve always wanted to solve the problem of buying a mattress from the product to the process of actually getting it. We had to completely change up the model by which people got beds.
Why did the mattress industry need disrupting?

Think about the process today. We wanted to create a system where people wouldn’t have to go into a store, talk to commissioned sales people, and wait all day to get a mattress. We created a product that is supportive, but also sleeps cool, is still bouncy, and thinks about all the facets of your life whether it’s sleep, sex, reading in bed, or whatever. We created a product that takes into account how we actually spend time in our beds.

Casper COO On Creating A Lifestyle Brand Around Sleep

How do you make Casper different from the rest of the industry?

We launched with one perfect mattress and since then we have really been thinking about how to create products that holistically help you sleep better. Casper’s brand is quirky, fun, and looks at the world a little bit differently. Let’s say five out of a hundred people need a mattress at any time. Most brands are designed to talk to people who need mattresses right now. It’s very clinical. They talk about a mattress, spinal alignment.

Our brand gets people to ask those more philosophical questions about how sleep impacts their life. ‘What if I slept 10 percent better?’ Think about how much more creative you would be, how much smarter you might be, how better your memory would be, how big a personality you would be. We make products that help them attain that aspirational life.

Is it fair to say that you’re trying to build Casper into a lifestyle brand?

Exactly, but I would say it’s a lifestyle brand that’s really rooted in science. Traditionally, lifestyle brands have been focused on aesthetic and form over function. It can’t just be an aesthetic change. It has to be something that actually, really improves how people sleep.

How has that impacted some of your communications strategies?

There are very few people talking about the lifestyle of sleep out there today. There are academic papers and medical journals. Not many people have dissected the content around sleep in a way that connects with everything else in our lives, whether it’s art, music, lifestyle, meditation, yoga—all of the other parts of our life. We hosted a sleep symposium last month that was really born out of the idea of, “how can we help people see the importance of sleep in order to sleep better?” It’s the same reason why we launched Van Winkle’s. Van Winkle’s is one of the first independent publications that writes full‑time just about sleep. It had nothing to do with Casper other than we were the ones who produced it, but for us it was just to get people to ask questions about sleep and the lives we humans live getting more or less of it.

How has your background in medicine influenced Casper’s product?

To be fair, I only did a year of medical school, but the reality of being a good doctor is being a really good listener and being empathetic to what people are asking for. That’s what Jeff [Chief Product Officer at Casper] and our product‑development team and myself have been working on. We’ve interviewed hundreds of people, listening to their sleeping and waking habits, using human‑centered design to figure out what people want and not just how to sell gimmicks. That’s the real connection.

What technologies have impacted how people think about sleep?

A lot of people are trying to track the way they sleep. While I do think tracking your sleep can be important, it’s more important to be knowledgeable about how it’s affecting you and what you can do about it. If you get a sleep score of 38 percent, most people don’t know. “OK, what do I do next?” If you’re tracking your weight or something else, then you at least have actionable things that you can do like increasing how much exercise or walking. There will be a world, I would imagine, within the next decade whereby you can track sleep and then actively make changes to improve your sleep, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Other than sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, there are not a whole lot of people talking about how the average person could be sleeping better. That’s where we see a huge opportunity to help.
Can you give us a little bit of a teaser about your talk at PSFK 2016?

I am going to be talking about how science and brands come together to form the intersection of the modern lifestyle brand.

Expect to see great talks like this and more at our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19! Get your tickets today before they sell out!

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