Alarm Bells Don’t Have to Signal a Startup Nightmare

By Philip Krim, Co-Founder & CEO of Casper

Every startup has a pivotal moment that defines its future — a specific instance when they encounter an unexpected and monumental problem. It’s the steps taken to clear that hurdle that defines its entire operation moving forward. For some, it’s years before they hit rocky waters, and for others, it’s early in the discovery phase.

At Casper, that moment happened very early on. So early, in fact, it happened on launch day, just minutes after the website went live.

The mattress industry hadn’t evolved in decades. It was stuck in a rut littered with archaic price-gouging and sleazy mattress salesmen. We worked to identify the major pitfalls in the existing market and spent over a year testing thousands of combinations of hundreds of foams to find one perfect mattress. Our design allows us to pack the mattress into a box the size of a mini-fridge, and ship it directly to your door.

It was April 22nd, 2014 at 6:50am and our brand new site had just gone live. Our team of five founders and a handful of employees sat in our NoHo workspace under a light fixture made out of springs from an old mattress when our first order came in. About ten orders later, in about just as many minutes, we realized that we had underestimated our early success. To say we struck a nerve with consumers is an understatement.

Prior to our launch, we had forecasted selling just 100 beds in the first month. To our shock and surprise, those projections for the entire first month were blown out of water in a matter of hours.

Excitement turned to panic. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect the sales numbers to skyrocket.

We didn’t have enough inventory to fulfill orders to our earliest adopters. Leaving our customers with nothing to sleep on was not an option. So we decided to do something crazy.

We contacted every single customer who would face a shipping delay. If we couldn’t send our customers a Casper immediately, what’s the next option? Where do you turn when you don’t have a mattress? A blow-up bed. We pulled out our personal credit cards and practically deflated the air mattress inventory of some big-box retailers.

With our lack of inventory from the outset, we quickly devised a plan to manage shipping delay messaging, ramped up our production, and figured out how we could ease the pain of shipping delays. The seven of us jumped on the phone to clearly explain the delay, and turn our earliest group of customers into our most loyal supporters — who all have air mattresses handy for visitors.

Now that Casper is closing in on our third birthday, and has over 100 employees, we’ve experienced our fair share of unexpected hurdles. Any fast-growing startup can relate. This especially early and insurmountable hurdle has shaped our team’s values, even throughout our rapid growth. We approach each and every customer interaction with this same drive to create amazing experiences, at all costs.

No matter the company, no matter the vertical, no matter the market size, one thing is common across every fledgling business: early adopters are a startup’s most valuable asset. Word-of-mouth and personal referrals can push a startup into breakout territory.

It’s those early adopters who have contributed significantly to Casper’s success, making us one of the fastest growing consumer brands of all time.

Every person who buys a Casper mattress (or sheets or pillow) should feel as if the Casper team has done everything possible to ensure an unparalleled end-to-end experience. Thankfully, those experiences no longer require an air-pump.

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As CEO of Casper, Philip Krim leads the company’s comprehensive business strategy, expansion, and vision for the future. Working with the company’s four other co­founders, Philip drives Casper’s goal of becoming the first end-to-end sleep brand. Philip and Casper’s co-founders recognized a paradox in 2014 — a generation of entrepreneurs and working professionals who were placing increasing value on their health and fitness were neglecting sleep. Casper is now reimagining the sleep industry from the ground up.

A serial entrepreneur, Philip has founded and served as CEO at two previous startups, where he focused on new and evolving consumer and e-­commerce trends. He launched his very first business out of his dorm room at the University of Texas, Austin.

Philip’s work has been profiled in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and he has been featured on CBS This Morning, Mad Money with Jim Cramer, and Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN. He was named one of Business Insider’s Silicon Alley 100 and received a TechCrunch Crunchie award for Best in E­Commerce.

You can follow Philip on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on May 17, 2016.