How Kingaru Sleep Disrupted a Tired Mattress Marketplace

It’s one thing to stand in a grocery store aisle choosing from dozens of cereal or shampoo brands, but standing amid a sea of mattresses, trying to distinguish one from another, is a different proposition altogether.

In 2017, Sven Vervaert ran headfirst into the mattress-buying morass. A co-founder in a virtual reality telecom startup, Sven took an analytical approach, intending to dissect the process of making his purchase before ever entering a mattress store. Things didn’t go well.

“I started doing research online, and that is when the challenge began for me,” he remembers. “Almost everything was marketing spin or just false. I couldn’t feel confident in what I was researching.”

When he visited mattress stores, things only got murkier, as commissioned salespeople appeared to be putting up smoke screens. “My objective was to learn the brands and compare features and models,” Sven says. Instead, he found that the same mattresses were often rebranded for different stores, or small tweaks were made to differentiate them. Some seemed to be identical, but one cost $500 more than the other. There was no real way to compare and contrast.

“Honestly, it was a lot like the Burger King menu,” Sven quips. “It’s all these same ingredients mixed around with different formats, like a different mix of fabric, springs and thicknesses.”

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In the end, Sven spent more than $3,000 on a mattress. After a couple of weeks, he was ready to return it, but shipping costs were prohibitive. “I settled on this thing, and every night it just reminded me of my mistake,” he says.

He wrote down all the things they hated about his mattress-buying experience. Then he tore apart actual mattresses and called suppliers to gather information about manufacturing costs and processes. What he learned was that his $3,000 mattress cost only about $300 to manufacture, including materials and labor. In general, he found, big-brand mattresses are marked up five to 10 times.

Armed with that knowledge, Sven left his job in June 2016 to work on his new venture full time, investing $50,000 and renting work space in Jakarta. He launched Kingaru Sleep in December 2017.

The startup sells one style of foam mattress: 25 cm thick, 6 sizes ranging from single to king. The mattress is priced between $200 and $700. Using an industrial vacuum sealer, Kingaru is able to compress the mattresses flat, reducing shipping costs and allowing them to sell through their own website and some marketplaces in Indonesia.

Initially, Sven says, Kingaru sold a single prototype. “We then called every customer and asked for detailed feedback,” he explains. “We had a much higher return rate then, but we hustled to continuously iterate on our mattress like it was software. Now our return rate is under 1 percent, our customers are super-satisfied, and they’re sharing with friends. That’s how we started to grow. We’re as viral as a mattress company can be.”

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Over the next year, Sven hopes to release new sleep-related products while also implementing a more efficient shipping method. The goal, Sven says, isn’t to go head-to-head with the big guys.

“We’re not even looking at the competition. Our model is so different and unique,” he says. “We want to build loyalty and a company customers can fall in love with. If we do that, we’ll have a shot at being globally successful.”

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