Yeah, our name is Cloudbeds, and that confuses some people who think we sell mattresses. We don’t (we sell hospitality software), but we decided to have some fun with the common mix-up. The Cloudbeds team took the 100-day Leesa mattress challenge. We tested half a dozen mattresses from popular mattress startups and big brand hotels. At the end of our experiment, cheap mattresses from Internet startups defeated all other contenders by a wide margin (and of them, the Leesa mattress was our favorite).
And that got us to thinking. How is it that a handful of mattress-making novices can make products that are so much better than those made by big chain hotels with billion-dollar war chests?
Ten years ago, the hospitality industry was wrapping up its “bed wars”, which started around 1999. During this period, name-brand hotel chains like Marriott, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and Hilton founded sleep research labs all across the United States. The goal was to produce the perfect sleep experience–from bedding to mattresses. Fast forward to today, and the end result is that these hotel brands now have their own line of mattresses for sale, to compete with traditional mattress manufacturers like Serta, Simmons Beautyrest, and Sealy.
Westin has its “Heavenly Bed”, the result of years of research. You can purchase a king for a cool $1,800 (bedding to complete the Heavenly Bed set is another $2,500 on top of that). Hilton has their “Hilton Bed”, a king going for $1,250, and Marriott has a king foam mattress dubbed “The Marriott Bed” going for $2,150.
Conversely, mattress startups sell beds under $1,000. Leesa, Casper, Tuft & Needle, Saatva, and Yogabed are mattress startups that specialise in foam and latex mattresses. None of them are over five years old (the oldest is Staava, launched in 2011). Their goal is to sell affordable beds directly to consumers, eliminating the middleman and commissions. Thus, their beds can only be found online, or in their own stores. In our experience, these beds were much more comfortable than any hotel beds we tested, and the public appears to agree.
Sleeplikethedead.com is one of the best places to go to see comprehensive, unbiased mattress reviews. They aggregate and summarise mattress reviews found in online forums, and left in the comment sections of retail websites. They ranked all of the major mattress brands against “owner satisfaction”, and they only list brands that have a satisfaction rating of 50% or more. Only one hotel mattress even made the list–Westin’s The Heavenly Bed came in at 64%.
Every single mattress startup measured better against Westin. At the top of the list came Keetsa at 83%, then Saatva at 82%, Casper at 80%, Leesa at 78%, and finally Tuft & Needle at 77%.
To say it another way, only one mattress produced by billions of dollars spent by every major hotel chain over a period of ten-plus years made this list. Every mattress startup younger than five years old did.
In my view, this is further evidence that megalithic organizations produce poorer products more slowly. Almost every company starts small. But as it grows, it hires more managers. It then hires more managers to manage those managers, then managers to manage the managers managing managers, until it bloats to the point where every decision it makes needs the approval of five different managers. This slows down decision-making, pushes back product release dates, and turns every small decision into a big one with many facets. It strips each individual employee of personal accountability, filling them with apathy. This is how small, once noble companies like Google can lose their souls.
Many say that it takes such bureaucratic behemoths to produce anything exceptional. After all, would the iPhone exist without the gargantuan Apple? Or Windows without colossal Microsoft? Certainly not in their current form. But perhaps in a better one.
The phenomenon we’re seeing unfold concerning mattresses is evidence that bigger companies do not always make better products–that more research and shinier labs do not result in superior quality. Keep this in mind when shopping for software. There are many companies that have been making slow, unresponsive, unnecessarily expensive hospitality management software for decades. They sell legacy systems disguised by “in-the-cloud” and “responsive” masks, but have ancient bones.
Instead, look for young companies doing something truly unique. There you will find nimbler software that stays in-pace with technology as it evolves.
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