Company launches new line with Mattress Firm, expands price points, adds Sleep Genius adjustable and more
The global pandemic has presented tough, unprecedented challenges across all levels of society. But for one enterprising bedding company, the disruptions caused by Covid-19 have opened up and accelerated business opportunities.
“Intellibed with Gel Matrix is a 20-year overnight success story,” jokes Colin House, Intellibed’s chief executive officer. “Like many successful companies, we’ve taken some time to hit our stride.”
Inevitably, though, innovation sells “and because of that, Intellibed is finally seeing the fruits of many years of perseverance, patience and fortitude,” House says.
A key Intellibed technology is Gel Matrix, a flexible, rubberlike, honeycomb-shaped grid that provides a layer of both comfort and support in every Intellibed mattress. Dynamically adaptive, Gel Matrix offers ”maximum back support and alignment, as well as hip and shoulder relief, eliminating the tossing and turning that fragment sleep cycles,” House says.
AT A GLANCE
Salt Lake City
Luxury mattresses and pillows featuring exclusive Gel Matrix technology and the proprietary Sleep Genius adjustable base. Markets its line as “The Bed of the Future.”
Founded in 2000 by Bob Rasmussen and Shawn Clark
According to the company, Gel Matrix is up to three times firmer than memory foam while providing better pressure relief due to its column buckling properties. Gel Matrix also sleeps naturally cool thanks to its ventilated grid design.
“Intellibed with Gel Matrix technology is ‘The Bed of the Future,’ ” House says. “Other mattresses may promise a good night’s sleep, but Intellibed has the exclusive technology that ensures it.”
To back up that claim, Intellibed offers a 20-year, nonprorated warranty on all of its models.
From hospitals to homes
Gel Matrix traces its roots to 1996, when a former aerospace scientist and his brother developed the Hyper-Elastic Polymer technology for use as cushioning for wheelchairs. Soon after, the technology was licensed for use in a line of hospital beds produced by Gaymar Industries (now part of Stryker Corp.), where it was found to help reduce pressure points and bedsores for patients in long-term care and burn units.
In 1998, entrepreneur Bob Rasmussen licensed a version of the gel technology and created a new line of medical-grade mattresses and sleep systems for home use. In 2000, recognizing the opportunity that existed to bring the technology to an even larger consumer market, Rasmussen launched Intellibed with Gel Matrix.
“The goal was to make this exclusive technology widely available, so everybody could benefit and get a better night’s sleep,” says House, who joined Intellibed in 2014.
House first learned of Intellibed when Rasmussen approached him to learn more about an app House had developed called Sleep Genius. Based on technology originally developed for NASA to help astronauts sleep in space, the Sleep Genius app uses engineered layers of sound to activate and regulate the brain’s sleep centers.
“Astronauts orbit the Earth every 92 minutes, which completely disrupts their circadian rhythm, so NASA was looking for a way to counter the lack of a normal light-dark cycle and help them sleep better,” House says about the original research that led to the app.
Major new program
Intellibed markets mattresses and pillows featuring the patented Gel Matrix technology, producing all of its own gel at a new facility in Salt Lake City, where it is based.
Intellibed’s mattresses are produced by Tempur-Sherwood as part of a new strategic alliance. Sherwood Bedding began working with Intellibed this year. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sherwood has four manufacturing plants nationwide.
Until this year, Intellibed concentrated on high-end mattress collections with a health and wellness focus but with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has accelerated a major new strategy aimed at the mainstream of the market. Part of the effort is a new Sleepy’s Hybrid with Gel Matrix boxed mattress line launched last summer with longtime retail partner Mattress Firm.
The new line includes three models that combine Intellibed’s Gel Matrix technology with a specially designed, fabric-encased coil support system. The Sleepy’s Hybrid with Gel Matrix collection began as an online pilot but beds are being rolled out and sold through Mattress Firm’s brick-and-mortar stores, as well. Although those beds are delivered by local Mattress Firm stores rather than shipped directly to consumers in a box, the line is designed to compete with boxed beds sold via e-commerce.
The introduction of the Sleepy’s Hybrid with Gel Matrix collection, with queen sizes retail priced from $1,500 to $2,500, takes Intellibed, which is known for its luxury mattresses in the $3,799 to $8,999 range, into a more moderately priced market segment.
“We’ve been watching the whole boxed bed category for quite a while,” House says. “The category exploded, thanks to massive marketing spends, then it began to implode due to a glut of copycat products with little or no product innovation.”
With numerous boxed brands promoted aggressively online, consumers are left confused, House says. “They don’t know which product they should buy or who they can trust,” he adds.
While boxed beds disrupted the industry’s traditional buying method and supply chain, House says mattresses themselves didn’t undergo much change. “So, ultimately consumers are not actually getting anything new to help solve their real sleep issues,” he says, adding that he believes Intellibed’s technology “represents the biggest product disruption in the mattress industry in the past 30 years.”
A deepening partnership
When the spike in Covid-19 infections led to stay-at-home orders in March, Intellibed — like most companies in the industry — watched its mattress sales come to an abrupt halt. Before states began to reopen and business resumed, House and his team used the hiatus to ponder the state of the industry, the changing needs of consumers and the company’s competitive position.
“The downtime allowed us to step back and reflect on the market,” House says. “After much discussion, we realized that there was a golden opportunity to reach out to consumers that were traditionally focused on the boxed category and offer them a product with Gel Matrix.”
According to House, Intellibed had two choices in pursuing this market: invest hundreds of millions of dollars to develop its own online brand to go after the top players in the boxed bed segment, or team up with an existing retailer and co-develop a new line under an established brand.
“We started talking with our partners at Mattress Firm and we immediately saw the benefits of introducing this new line as part of the well-known Sleepy’s brand,” House says. “By teaming up, we could bring a new line to market much quicker, and we also could leverage the tremendous strength of the Mattress Firm brand to reach consumers.”
Mattress Firm acquired retail rival Sleepy’s in 2016. While all the company’s stores have been folded into the Mattress Firm network, the Sleepy’s brand lives on as a series of products sold exclusively at Mattress Firm.
Because Intellibed had been thinking about developing a new line to compete with boxed beds for some time, House’s team — led by Dave Wachendorfer, executive vice president — was able to get a prototype ready for Mattress Firm’s review within two weeks, House says. After a series of evaluations and tweaks, the bed was “fully baked” and ready for sale online in six weeks. In late summer, the boxed mattress debuted with a soft launch at several key Mattress Firm stores. The success led to plans for a three-model lineup to be available nationwide in all of the retailer’s brick-and-mortar locations by early next year.
“This new expanded partnership with Mattress Firm is really exciting and we believe the Sleepy’s with Gel Matrix line will be very disruptive to the market,” House says. “The line is unlike anything we’ve ever done but, with this innovative zoned construction, we’re able to deliver the benefits of Gel Matrix at much more competitive price points.”
Recognizing the opportunity that exists in the lower-priced market segment, Intellibed also added Gelee to its line at the Summer Las Vegas Market. The Gelee models, priced from $1,500 to $2,500 in queen, sell for well below the company’s traditional lineup. The collection is designed to give sleep shops and other brick-and-mortar mattress stores a Gel Matrix model that can compete head-to-head with the leading online boxed bed brands.
“A lot of people say that traditional retail is dying, but we have a very different view,” House says. “Brick and mortar remains the best way for consumers to test and find the best model to meet their unique needs. With Gelee, we’re giving retailers a high-value Gel Matrix model that can bring these boxed bed customers into their stores.”
In addition to Gelee, the Intellibed line includes two core collections. The Signature collection encompasses four Matrix models, with features such as luxury quilted covers, reticulated airflow, titanium-infused Energex foam and foam-encased edge support ($3,999 to $8,999 in queen). The Limited collection consists of three models — Starlight, Nightfall and Midnight — with enhancements such as phase-change cooling, gel-infused latex, steel edge support and as many as five coil zones ($6,999 to $8,999 in queen).
Across all of its mattress lines, the company promotes a sleep experience that delivers both firm and soft feels — at the same time.
“It’s defies logic, like saying something is both hot and cold,” House says. “But Gel Matrix’s unique properties provide both firmness and softness at the same time. It’s an engineering marvel that gives sleepers the best of both worlds. It truly is the first no-compromise bed.”
In addition to its mattress collections, Intellibed offers the Gel Matrix Pillow. Designed to provide therapeutic neck support for a variety of sleeping styles, it was added to the company’s line in 2018. According to House, the pillow provides another important element, along with adjustable bases, to the company’s holistic approach to sleep.
Complete sleep system
At the Winter Las Vegas Market, Intellibed launched a new adjustable base incorporating the latest version of the Sleep Genius app called the Sleep Genius Smart Base. Rooted in the science of the body’s vestibular system, the base uses music and sounds that are intended to activate and regulate the brain’s sleep rhythms and prepare the mind and body for sleep. According to House, the low-amplitude sounds, or vibrations, stimulate the inner ear to mimic the calming experience of riding in a car or train. “It’s similar to the effect that babies feel when they are held and rocked gently to sleep,” House says.
The base, which is sourced from Ergomotion, also features a built-in, six-speaker Bluetooth soundbar; connected home integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Home; and a variety of massage and personalized comfort configurations.
“In recent years, the adjustable base business has been viewed as a fast and furious race to the bottom in terms of price,” House says. “As a champion of innovation, we’re on a mission to change this by providing retailers with a unique and technology-driven adjustable base that offers consumers intelligent solutions that help them sleep better. Combined with a Gel Matrix mattress, the Sleep Genius Smart Base is intended to act as an entire mind and body ecosystem in order to ‘treat’ sleep issues, not just ‘track’ them.”
Priced starting at $2,499 retail for a queen, the Sleep Genius Smart Base is designed for use with Intellibed mattresses, but the unit and app can be used with other mattresses, as well. “This base provides a premium step-up opportunity for retailers that enhances any sleep experience,” House says. Intellibed’s line also includes three adjustable bases sourced from Malouf and priced from $1,499 to $2,199 retail.
Intellibed started out with a franchise store model and then pivoted to a chiropractor-driven sales model for many years. In 2018, the company relaunched with a wholesale focus. Today, it is growing rapidly thanks to its expanding network of retail partnerships, and the “gel category” also is gaining significant momentum, House says.
Since joining the company six years ago, House has focused on attracting the right mix of leadership and talent to position the company for growth. Scott Peterson, a former managing partner at EY, joined in 2017 as chief financial officer and chair of the board.
“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Scott’s background and experience join our company,” House says. “At Intellibed, he has done an incredible job of improving and managing our financial position.”
In the past few years, Intellibed also has established a “world-class” product development and sales team, House says. On the product side, Intellibed hired Ross Olinski in January as vice president of manufacturing and product development. Olinski is a bedding veteran who has served in multiple sales and manufacturing roles with companies such as Innocor, King Koil and Talalay Global. “Ross’ expertise, particularly related to manufacturing processes, will be critical as we bring new innovations to market and expand our U.S. footprint,” House says.
The sales side of Intellibed is led by Wachendorfer, a bedding veteran and former senior executive with Mattress Firm, Mattress Giant, Mattress King, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic. Wachendorfer joined Intellibed in early 2019 as part of the company’s move to expand its network of retail partners.
Working closely with Wachendorfer are two vice presidents of sales hired in early 2020 — Bryant Looper, a founding partner of ReST, who also worked for Mattress Firm and Tempur Sealy International Inc.; and James Berry, formerly with Bedgear and Serta Simmons Bedding LLC.
One of the key focus areas for Wachendorfer is retail training and development. “Dave has quickly built the most incredible, talented and driven sales team I’ve ever seen in my career,” House says. “It’s the backbone of our success with our growing base of retail partners.”
One of those retailers is Furnitureland South in Jamestown, North Carolina. This summer, the retail giant unveiled a major remodel of its Sleepland department and among the lines featured in the 11,000-square-foot space is Intellibed. A high-impact display with bold wall graphics spotlights several of the company’s mattresses, along with Sleep Genius adjustable bases.
“Retailers are looking for fresh ideas and technology to help them stand out from the crowd,” House says. “We see ourselves as ‘The Bed of the Future,’ and this new branding is resonating with our customers — and consumers.”
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life by delivering a better, healthier sleep,” he adds. “We’re not just a mattress company — we’re a sleep and wellness provider.”