What Brooklinen’s done in the past few years could be best summed up as an execution of the internet-disruption model of business: Find a segment of the population that’s underserved in an area, research that area to scholarly levels, market perfectly to that segment, and put the salesp on the internet. Before Brooklinen released its first collection of percale sheets (the crisp, cool ones you often find in hotels), he spent weeks at big box stores interviewing people in the bedding aisles, as well as trendy coffee shops. The entrepreneurial leap was met with some skepticism.
“My parents weren’t too pumped about it,” he recalls. The initial goal on Kickstarter was to sell $50,000 in sheets in the first month. “They questioned if we’d ever sell $50,000, forever.”
But he knew he was onto something. The toughest aspect, perhaps after cold-calling and emailing textiles factories in far flung locales (Brooklinen sheets have been made in Israel, Portugal, Canada, Germany, and India) and hoping they’d get a reply, was blocking out “haters,” he says.
“There’s a lot of naysayers, and you have to be able to believe in what you’re doing and persevere; you just have to feel that you know better,” he says. “Especially when it’s in the early stages.”
He says he knew he was onto a good idea because nobody was trying to sell this product to him in the way he wanted to buy things, researching them online. “Guys particularly like the more accessible solution. I could speak from personal experience on that. I created that so it’s not a surprise. I came into thinking that guys would be low-hanging fruit. I was the market,” he says. So, it’s no surprise that one of the bedding sets was named the “Hardcore set.”
Yeah. Premium sheets can be hardcore, Brooklinen messaged to dudes on the internet.
Precisely seven days after I first made an account on the Brooklinen website, Rich Fulop emailed me. “Can I Help?” was the subject line.
My name is Rich Fulop and I’m CEO and one of the Founders of Brooklinen. I see you previously checked us out but haven’t purchased just yet so I wanted to see if there’s any way our team can help you find what you’re looking for.
The email goes on to include the phrase, “If you’re ready to jump into bed with us right now…” Of course this wasn’t the actual Rich Fulop emailing me, but a marketing email (I had been getting Brooklinen emails every few days since signing up and adding a few items to my basket). When I ask Fulop about how much Brooklinen pays attention to data, he jokes, “We don’t have enough time to talk this, I’m so immersed in this.” The company uses vast amounts of user data to its website — plus any reviews its customers post about the products on its site or surveys they fill out — to not only develop new products but to sell existing ones. Listening to Fulop rattle of scenarios can be a little dizzying, or if you’re a cynic, confirm suspicions that marketing algorithms know your behavior better than you know it yourself.
“We know that when we buy ad space, we know what color to put up there based on what people are most prone to buy their first time,” he says. “So we used that data and bring it back.” There are also closely watched statistics on sessions, repeat sessions, time-on-site, conversion rate (percentage of people who visit a site that also buy something), basket size, time to repeat visit, buying on a repeat visit, and more.
Despite the reliance on data, Fulop’s predictably adamant about his sheets: “The product has to be awesome,” he says. “If you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re launching anything, your product has to be awesome, first and foremost.”
Just don’t lie about thread count, and avoid middle-men.