Upon moving to New York City and then Philadelphia, Adam Tishman '09 and his colleagues from Wharton Business School were experiencing extreme frustration while choosing a mattress to buy. There were too many important factors to consider and too many mattresses that failed to meet their needs—then there was the steep price and the awkwardness of lying down on mattresses in public stores. In their dissatisfaction, they decided to launch Helix Sleep, a company that would do all the searching work for consumers by asking its users information they know about themselves—such as whether they sleep on their side or whether they prefer a softer mattress—to algorithmically match them with a mattress that would work best for them.
Since then, Helix Sleep and other companies specializing in what Tishman dubs "quiz commerce" have exploded; Curology, for instance, is a popular skincare company that utilizes a quizzing process likely inspired by Helix to match its users with a personalized skincare formula and routine. Tishman says that the solution that this process solves is not a product problem, but rather a matching problem: it’s not that there never existed products that fit users' unique needs, but it's always been difficult for consumers to find these products. The job of "quiz commerce" companies is to cut out the middleman by directly connecting consumers to the best products for their needs.
In addition to the novelty of the quiz commerce idea, Helix's success can also be attributed to its unique, effective marketing strategy, particularly through podcasts. Personally, even though I'm just a college freshman with no experience in mattress-buying, I was already familiar with Helix's name through quite a few podcasts featuring my favorite gaming YouTubers. That was intentional: Tishman says that Helix works hard to target "high funnel" audiences, or audiences who are likely not looking to buy mattresses but may do so a few years into the future. Helix targets a variety of communities in the podcast and YouTube spaces, such as gaming and home decor, so as not to "put all of [their] marketing dollars in one basket," as Tishman puts it. If one type of community fails to show results, Helix quickly moves on to the next.
Tishman’s time at Princeton had a large influence on his entrepreneurial career—in our interview, he recalled his Computer Science and entrepreneurship classes, particularly a management entrepreneurship class with Professor Ed Zschau '61. Tishman, who was part of the Ivy Club and IvyLife, a startup and entrepreneurship network across the Ivy League universities, stresses the importance of making connections at Princeton. He ended up utilizing these connections in the first seed round of Helix, in which the investors were mostly made up of family, friends from Princeton, and small to medium-sized angel investors.
Princeton Entrepreneurship Council congratulates Helix on their merger with Brooklyn Bedding under Cerberus Capital Management. With Brooklyn Bedding's expertise in manufacturing and product development, Tishman, now in charge of direct-to-consumer affairs such as design and user experience, will be able to use both companies' strengths to gain a competitive advantage and produce better mattresses.