Biohacking Sleep: How Eight Sleep is inventing the sleep fitness category
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Nutrition. Exercise. Sleep.
Most people know that they need to eat well, move their bodies, and get some rest if they want a healthy lifestyle. But if you talk to anyone on a health kick, you’ll probably learn more about their diet and exercise regime than their sleeping habits.
According to the CDC, about 70 million Americans have chronic sleep problems. If you live in the U.S., you have a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing insomnia at some point in your life.
Since the invention of smartphones and streaming, sleep has become an elusive part of a healthy lifestyle. We understand what we need to do to get more sleep: stick to a routine, put away the phone before bed, and avoid screens altogether in favor of a book or meditation.
But knowing and doing are two different things—and we just can’t seem to shut down and recover.
Eight Sleep wants to fix your broken REM
Five years ago, Matteo Franceschetti was a founder who needed some rest.
When his cleantech company, Global Investment Renewable, was acquired in 2014, Franceschetti relaxed long enough to wonder why he couldn’t sleep—and why technology hadn’t yet figured out how to help him.
His first product—called “Luna,” then “Eight”—was a tech-enabled mattress cover that regulated body temperature and delivered personalized metrics on sleep quality through an app. Franceschetti raised almost $1.5 million for the product through Indiegogo in 2015.
Eight Sleep has since raised an impressive $40 million Series C from an equally impressive list of investors, including Khosla Ventures and Y Combinator. In 2021, the company raised an undisclosed amount from SoftBank as part of the firm’s new Miami tech initiative. Celebrity investors like actor Kevin Hart and retired baseball player Alex Rodriguez have also put their money where their head hits the pillow.
While Eight Sleep is a DTC brand, they have installed their mattress at San Francisco's B8ta, indicating a larger retail strategy in the future.
How is Eight Sleep different from Casper?
Casper is a mattress. Eight Sleep is a sleep system.
After Casper’s botched IPO in 2020, it may be tempting to dismiss Eight Sleep as just another mattress company in a sea of harsh competition. But with smart product design, Eight Sleep has managed to differentiate itself beyond comfort.
The Pod, Eight Sleep’s flagship product, is a tricked-out mattress that uses ambient sensors to regulate body temperature based on personal preference, room temperature, humidity, and local weather. The mattress comes with a hub containing 3.2 litres of temperature-regulated water that flows through the mattress.
Eight Sleep maintains that body temperature regulation is a key component to the quality of your sleep, and they’ve established a scientific advisory board to help keep them on the right path with evidence-based sleep research. Their advisory panel includes doctors and researchers from Harvard, UPenn, Mount Sinai, and Yale—although scientific studies from the advisory board have yet to be published.
Product positioning FTW: Eight Sleep as the world’s first sleep fitness company
“Rather than fixing the economics of the mattress industry, Eight Sleep is thinking of sleep as a fitness category––something that can be enhanced with the use of technology.”—Trae Stephens, partner, Founders Fund.
Sleep fitness: Eight Sleep is inventing the market category through clever, conscious brand positioning.
Creative agency Nessen helped reposition Eight Sleep as a sleep fitness brand.
Eight Sleep is making great use of Silicon Valley’s obsession with productivity. As productivity experts like Tim Ferris popularize lifestyle hacks for optimized work performance outside of Silicon Valley, more people are investing in ways to keep themselves in tip-top mental shape—which opens the door for Eight Sleep to swoop in and claim the sleep hack slide of the productivity hack pie.
Here are some examples that reflect Eight Sleep’s sleep performance positioning on various channels:
Homepage hero banner: “Join the sleep fitness movement. Welcome a new season with an upgrade to your sleep and recovery.”
Athlete endorsements: “Learn more about how top athletes and top performers use our products to maximize their sleep.”
Founder Matteo Franceschetti’s philosophy: “We are obsessed with helping people get sleep fit. Sleep, just like fitness, can be measured and improved. High quality sleep enables peak health and wellness, giving you energy and confidence to take on the day.”
“Health Stack” series Instagram story takeovers by biohacking influencers: “A Stanford lecturer, prolific startup consultant, and expert on biohacking, longevity, and futurism, Dr. Molly Maloof is the person you go to when you have a question about cutting-edge, effective ways to lead a healthier, longer life. Head to our stories to learn all about Maloof’s daily routines, the products she uses, and why she believes good sleep and a strong social network are integral for increasing longevity.”
Evidence-based sleep education through the Eight Sleep blog: “In 2017, researchers found that even a single night of shortened sleep impaired recovery from the previous day’s HIIT session. Subjects had reduced muscle power, increased blood pressure and soreness, felt sleepier, and lost motivation to train.”
The benefits of creating a market category: How Eight Sleep is fighting the competition through positioning
When swimming in choppy waters, sometimes it’s best to get into a boat and glide on top of the waves instead.
Eight Sleep is following in the footsteps of other market category creators, including SPANX and Nintendo. While SPANX disrupted the pantyhose market with innovative product design, Nintendo positioned itself as a toy company for kids when no one was buying video games—and both companies overtook their respective markets as a result.
In a Harvard Business Review analysis, 13 companies that created their categories accounted for 53% of incremental revenue growth and 74% incremental market capitalization growth over three years. The bottom line: Category creators see faster growth and receive higher valuations from investors.
Eight Sleep has taken a good, hard look at the mattress-in-a-box category and … run the other way. The decision has been for good reason—Casper’s 2020 IPO was a disaster after filings revealed the company’s lacklustre profitability, reporting losses of $94 million in 2019—2% more than in 2018. As it turns out, it’s tough to make a profit on cheap mattresses.
While Casper has positioned itself as the cheap, convenient option for millennials in need of a nice mattress, Eight Sleep’s price point is much more expensive—but it makes sense because what you’re buying is an investment in “sleep fitness for better performance.”
Eight Sleep’s investment in a health advisory board and evidence-based educational content are classic signals of DTC healthcare rather than a consumer product. If Eight Sleep can successfully partner with the right companies in that space, we may never refer to it as a mattress company at all.