A CEO Who Is Revolutionizing The Comfort Industry
“There is strength in vulnerability.”
I had the pleasure to interview Sam Bernards, CEO at Purple, one of the fastest growing mattress companies that is revolutionizing the comfort industry. Purple has grown from 30 to 600 employees in less than two years and is on track to becoming the next billion-dollar-company in Utah.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve always had an affinity for entrepreneurship. I’ve been involved with eight companies as a founder, co-founder, or part of the starting team — and most of them failed. I’ve got the battle wounds on my back from those failures. I’ve been through the earliest of early stages and the maturest of global organizations. I’ve seen the unique strengths and common challenges throughout. I believe entrepreneurship is about creating opportunities and taking advantage of market circumstances, and there are opportunities everywhere to make a difference.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Recently my team and I were talking to a major U.S. retailer about a potential partnership. Our beds are really unique, so I encourage everyone I meet with to lay down on the mattress for a minute or two, so they understand the product. This big-wig retailer CEO laid down, and then never got up. We had the whole meeting — everyone in suits talking serious business — with this CEO laying down on a Purple® Bed the whole time. It was a hilarious sight to see, but speaks to how ridiculously comfortable our beds are.
So what exactly does your company do?
We are a comfort technology company. We combine innovative material science with highly engineered design to make the most comfortable products in the world. Right now, our hero product is a mattress, which we sell direct-to-consumer. We also have an amazing pillow, seat cushions, sheets, and other sleep-related products. Currently, we’re working on expanding our offerings so we can bring comfort to people during every minute of their lives.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We manufacture our Purple material — called Hyper-Elastic Polymer™ — at our two production facilities in Utah. We own the formula and the design of our products, which means there is literally nothing else like our products on the market. Unlike most mattress companies that just use some combination of foam and memory foam, we have a patented technology on our bed. And that technology, which is the product of 20 years of engineering, has been designed to make pressure a non-issue and maximize comfort.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors throughout my career, but there are two who stand out. Sid Krommenhoek and Jeff Burningham at Peak Ventures have that rare combination of grit, hustle, vision and fearlessness. They pulled me in and together we created what I still view as one of the best venture capital groups in Utah.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At Purple, we have a big goal to help one billion people feel better through our products. We have many opportunities to do that through our patented technology that has a long and successful medical history, our bed donations to people in need, and through our humorous commercials that bring smiles to people’s faces.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
There is strength in vulnerability — When you deal with human emotions in challenging environments where mistakes are being made and there are extraordinarily high expectations, there is power in being human and vulnerable with your team and being able to say, “I don’t know, let’s figure it out together.”
Alignment of the executive team is critical — They fundamentally have to believe what we are achieving in the moment. The power of alignment is incredible and it cascades out through the entire company. A tiny deviation has huge ramifications.
Entrepreneurship can feel like the zombie apocalypse — I’ve always had a soft spot for the zombie apocalypse. There’s something about the extreme odds being against you and having to find a way to prevail anyways that draws me in. I didn’t realize how much entrepreneurship would feel the same way.
Find ways to connect better — It’s a challenge being a CEO. Every single second of my day is occupied by other people, and that environment makes it difficult to interact with the 600 employees at Purple. I’ve had to find ways to connect and be available even when I can’t give everyone face time who needs it.
Team is everything — When a team is in motion, magic is in the air, and it makes my heart soar. The Purple t-shirt I wear everyday is the same shirt everyone on our production floor wears. Something as simple as feeling like one united team creates a sense of comradery, cohesiveness, connection and hustle on the manufacturing floor that I don’t see in a lot of offices.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Jeff Bezos is a true entrepreneur. He can envision a better future and inspire teams to change the world. He’s had great success, but has achieved much of it through encouraging patience, and helping people to see the vision he sees. That spirit ignites my imagination and inspires me.