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Helix Sleep's Customized Mattresses

A direct-to-consumer bed actually made for you

by Katie Olsen
on 04 August 2015

In the Western world, it seems one of the most universal narratives is that of the nightmare mattress. We've all had a Goldilocks moment (or three) in beds that are too hard, too hot, lumpy, squishy, lopsided or creaky. Unsurprisingly, it was the shared experience of buying lousy mattresses that brought Jerry Lin, Kristian von Rickenbach and Adam Tishman together to create their new company, Helix Sleep. Joining the ranks of young mattress brands like Casper, Tuft & Needle and Leesa, Helix Sleep offers a more accessible, high-quality product directly to the consumer via online purchase. Distinctly, however, they are adding personalization to the process. The three graduated with MBAs from Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania just a few months ago, but they've been researching and building Helix Sleep for over a year.

"Our mission as a company is to make sleep more personal, by helping people sleep better through technology," Tishman tells CH. "There’s a lot of misinformation and distrust of the mattress industry in general today, and we’re trying to cut through that by offering our customers a product at a great value, at an easy experience, and most importantly that’s made for them... We believe that making the place where we all spend a third of our lives a little more personal can help people sleep better and ultimately be themselves when they wake up."

The jump off point for the team was in joining forces with a group of PhD researchers who "focused on the biomechanics and ergonomics of sleep." And based on their findings, Helix Sleep designed a technology to focus specifically on spinal alignment—essentially, "keeping your back straight and supported while you sleep, based on your body shape and sleeping style," von Rickenbach says. "Spinal alignment is associated with a number of benefits: more time spent in restorative REM sleep, greater levels of subjective comfort and feeling refreshed the next day, and reduced back aches and pains."

While the e-commerce mattress model isn't brand new, Helix Sleep's offer of customized versions certainly is. "The mattress industry today has two fundamental issues from a customer perspective—the products are really expensive and they’re really confusing. A lot of the other start-ups in the space today are trying to address the issue of value by offering through a leaner supply chain, but they are glossing over the product issue by offering a limited (or usually single) set of options," von Rickenbach says. As the team began their research they found—logically—that people have different preferences and need different levels of support and performance from a mattress. "It’s a lot like an athletic shoe," von Rickenbach continues, "Each person needs different sizes, different levels of support, different levels of comfort depending on who you are, how you sleep and what you like. Offering everyone a very limited (or single) set of options makes it easier to choose, but it ignores those different needs."

To personalize each mattress, the team formulated an online survey. Striking a balance between playful and data-gathering, the questionnaire is quick, easy and even entertaining at times. Collecting information from your height and weight to how hot you run, Helix Sleep then puts together a combination to suit your body and preferences perfectly—layer by layer. Regarding the survey, von Rickenbach tells us, "What we landed on is a set of questions that allows us to statistically map you to a database of thousands of 3D body scans, and then see how different materials interact ergonomically with that body model. We use that data to create the right mattress for you, to keep your body supported and keep you comfortable and cool at night." Even more interestingly, a Helix Sleep mattress can be customized for two people—one side is crafted for you, and the other for your partner.

What happens next is behind the scenes, but Lin says the team wanted to ensure all materials used are high-quality and durable, while also being able to achieve a range of performance characteristics and variations on comfort and feel. "We landed on a combination of latex, high-quality foam and microcoils (hundreds of miniature innersprings that are individually pocketed in a layer of fabric)," Lin says. "All these materials are seriously durable, and by changing their density along with their order within the mattress, we’re able to build a mattress that performs just as well for a 300 pound bodybuilder and a 105 pound gymnast."

Even though each mattress is personalized, Helix Sleep lets customers take advantage of a 100-night trial. They're confident that returns will seldom occur, but when they do, the mattresses are recycled or donated. "We don’t resell our products if they’re returned, instead we have a partner that tries to donate the mattress, and if they’re unable, they recycle the mattress whenever possible," Lin says.

Packaged in a clever octagonal box (which, the founders point out, is so it can be easily rolled up and down stairs and through hallways), the mattress is compressed to a manageable size and comes with a personalized label and welcome booklet—made just for you. Available in double, queen and king sizes, Helix Sleep mattresses start at $600 and launch today.

Images courtesy of Helix Sleep

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