We recently interviewed Eight Sleep CEO and Founder Matteo Franceschetti. Check out the interview below!
As we’re here trying to build a story, a tale, about your business, the reader might need some exposition. What is the prologue to your business, the smaller things that led to Eight Sleep?
Matteo: Eight was founded in 2014, but the idea started years before. I frequently had trouble sleeping and I wanted to understand why. I thought if I could read metrics about my sleep, I’d figure out the underlying problems. I met with Max, at the time a good friend and now my co-founder, and explained the concept of a device that seamlessly tracks and measures your sleep. He loved it and helped me design the first prototype of the Eight Sleep Tracker. A few months later, we launched a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that raised over $1.5 million in preorders. By November 2016, we released our first smart mattress after customers were demanding a bed to go with the smart cover. Within a year, we added two more smart mattresses to our collection, making Eight one of the most sophisticated sleep enhancement companies in the industry.
What was the turning point when you realized that the world needed your product?
Matteo: Sleep hasn’t fundamentally changed in over 50 years. The last major innovation in sleep was memory foam, created in the 1960s. Clearly, the sleep market was ready for disruption – and technology would be the means to doing so. We have self-driving cars on the street, but we still sleep on layers of foam glued together. By leveraging technology, we can truly transform the sleep experience. We need technology to change the way we sleep. It’s important now more than ever because good sleep is being recognized by scientists and experts as a key pillar of health. A growing body of research shows that poor sleep has negative effects on the body and brain. This is why it’s imperative we sleep better.
Did your previous experiences or education affect your decision to start Eight Sleep?
Matteo: Before Eight I was a lawyer, but I left that life to be an entrepreneur and change the world through successful business ventures. As my life was getting more stressful, my sleep quality got worse. I realized I had lost approximately 900 hours of sleep due primarily to restless legs syndrome. Since it was starting to compromise my health, I knew I had to make sleep a top priority. At that time, however, there was nothing on the market that actually helped improve the quality of sleep. I noticed that everything was becoming smart, except my bed. As an entrepreneur, I figured if the product didn’t already exist, I’d have to build it.
What was the biggest difference between your service and the competitors?
Matteo: Eight is a technology company, not a mattress company. Our mission is the help people lead happier and healthier lives through better sleep. We are redesigning the traditional concept of a mattress by developing cutting-edge and data-driven technology that enables your mattress to improve your sleep and help you wake up refreshed. Additionally, there are so many bed-in-the-box companies out there, but only one of them is smart. R&D, machine learning, and the most sophisticated technologies are a core part of our DNA. Even though we sell smart mattresses, we are not a mattress company. We are a technology company first. Our products are enabled through powerful software that we continue to improve as we discover new ways in which technology can help people sleep better. We understood early on that technology would disrupt sleep, and therefore, we became among the first patent-holding player in the smart sleep space. Everyone is getting excited about sleep technology in 2018, but we have the advantage of years of data tracked and analyzed. Having tracked over 20 million hours of sleep and analyzed over 200 billion data points to date, we are leveraging machine learning to extract information from sleep data and discover things that have yet to be discovered in the field of sleep research.
What were some of the biggest hurdles when you were first starting your business?
Matteo: Funding a hardware product was the first challenge, and planning a crowdfunding campaign made for a lot of (ironically) sleepless nights. We also got rejected from Y Combinator twice, before getting accepted to the program in 2015. Being a part of YC really helped propel our company forward, but it was extremely hard to get there. It took three tries! Beyond that, the technology continues to become more robust. When we shipped our first units, the product could track a lot of factors about sleep but were not yet displaying everything to our users. We needed to adjust algorithms to verify accuracy. Once we accomplished that, we released the data points one by one to our users. They were really patient and really helpful along the process.
As someone interested in marketing, were there any creative marketing techniques that you used?
Matteo: Don’t be afraid to try something new and do a total redesign or rebranding. There’s a freedom in a startup to try as many brand iterations as possible until you find one that works. When we launched, we were initially called Luna. As our company evolved into Eight, our messaging changed as well as our packaging colors, website copy, and mattress names.
What is one interesting thing that is not well known about your business?
Matteo: The Eight team is a family first and foremost. I started this company with my wife as the CMO, Alexandra Zatarain, and my good friend Max Bassi as the CTO. In just a few years, we’ve grown into a small but mighty company full of brilliant minds and passionate people.
Has your focus changed from the beginning to now?
Matteo: Slightly. When we launched, we were all about growth. Now that we have a consistent customer base, we are focusing more on building a brand that people love.
What is your vision for the future?
Matteo: We believe that smart mattresses will eventually replace standard mattresses. In a few years from now, sleep will be different from what we know and technology will be driving this evolution. Sleep will come down to personalized optimization. Our environments will adapt to our individual needs in real time so we can achieve maximum recovery and rest.
Do you have a message for any aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Matteo: Product is king. You must build something people want. Without that, the business won’t scale. Another important lesson is to surround yourself with A+ players – people that you’d work for if the tables were turned.