With the rise of mattress startups across Europe, sleep has become a trending topic in the past months. As it is sometimes hard to separate hype from fact as an outsider, we took the chance to visit Bettzeit in Frankfurt, one of the most successful sleep startups and one of the fastest growing tech companies in Europe according to the Tech5 award. In order to better understand their success factors, we met the founders in Frankfurt, Manuel Müller and Dennis Schmoltzi, two friends who started the company in 2013.
Their office is located on the top floors in a somewhat nondescript building in the heart of the trendy central station neighborhood. “Given the fast growth, this is already our third office. And we actively sought an office in this neighborhood. Logistics- and food-wise this is a perfect place. It is easy to reach for those in the team who commute daily and there are a lot of good restaurants for lunch”, Dennis explains. The team has grown to 130 employees. And according to Dennis this number will increase further: “We are constantly hiring. It is quite a challenge. But luckily we have excellent universities and very talented people in the Rhein-Main area.”
Bettzeit operates 3 key brands in the sleep market: Dormando, a multi-brand online-shop for mattresses with a focus on excellent advice, was their first business in 2013.Two years later, they created Emma, a mattress that is constructed in a way that it should suit anybody. By now, Emma is available in 11 European countries mainly through its own online shop and has won multiple awards as best mattress. And just one year ago, they acquired Dunlopillo, one of the best-known sleep brands in Germany, which is available at offline retailers.
What drives the team, can be read on t-shirts, which some team members are wearing: “Happy Sleep for Everyone.” What first sounds like a naïve happy world fantasy, is actually a dedication and hard work: “We have a growing in-house R&D team, currently consisting of 7 people with engineers and designers, and invest a couple of hundred thousand Euro into R&D”, Manuel says. “We want to provide the best products and customer experience in this industry.”
In the past two years, plenty of mattresses startups launched in the US and across Europe. While a large funding is common in the US, even European competitors like Eve and Simba have attracted investments in the double-digit millions. In contrast, information on funding from Bettzeit is at least scarce. According to the commercial register, the founders still own 60% of the company. Asked about their funding, Dennis says: “We have excellent support from private investors, High-Tech Gründerfonds and Beteiligungsmanagement Hessen. We want to create a long-lasting, sustainable company. Therefore, we required only little funding to grow the company.”
Clearly, Bettzeit has itself established as a key player in the European sleep market. But where does the success come from. “We believe that company culture, our DNA, is the key success factor”, Manu explains. “The company is about the people, who work here. We have a diverse, passionate and dedicated team. We do every effort to keep the agility of a startup as we grow, question ourselves and what we do, base decisions on data and good reasoning, not on hierarchy or emotions. For example, if in a meeting, we do not care about who gives a good idea or whether this contradicts something we decided in the past and put already effort in. But if it makes sense, we will take this path. There are no holy cows”, Dennis explains. “And we give responsibility to the team. Everyone who joins gets responsibility from Day 1. People have a much steeper learning curve and much more fun this way and, thus, will make a much bigger impact to the whole team”, Manuel adds.
It is an interesting perspective on the key success factor of a company, which seems to work very well for Bettzeit. And it is definitely a great example for the development of the startup eco-system in the Rhein-Main region.
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