How Endy Started, Scaled & Sold: Founders Discussion @ Dx3 2019

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Photo: Tas Photography

It’s been a great success story for Endy and their co-founders, Rajen Ruparell and Mike Gettis, selling their company to Sleep Country Canada in November 2018 for just shy of $89 million. At the same time, they’ll continue to operate it as an independent company. We got a chance to hear the Endy story this month as the company literally just turned 4 years old. How did they do it?
 

Start

We’ll go back for a moment in time – Rajen and Mike became best friends in high school and that same friendship is evident to this day. Growing up in Calgary, both Endy co-founders diverged into their own successful entrepreneurial endeavours. Continuing on their entrepreneurial passion, both Ruparell and Gettis ended up in Toronto where they wanted to build something Canadian – Endy was born. It’s important to note that the pair initially self-funded the company, they did not take any outside financing and therefore were in a position to scale exponentially however they felt right, not having to answer to any external shareholders. Direct to Customer is a difficult area of the market to compete in when you’re venture backed and need a high return, fast – Endy’s board is literally Rajen and Mike, allowing decisions to be made quickly and efficiently.
 

Scale

Endy is one of Canada’s fastest growing startups. At the time of their sale, revenues had approached the $50 million mark and Endy has shipped over 100 million orders to date. What were some of the keys to their envied, exponential growth?

  1. Disruption
    While you can sell just about anything online, you’ll never get the network effects and virality than by selling a product that’s disrupting. Mattresses have been sold in furniture stores for years and it would never cross our minds that there’s any other way to purchase one. Ordering a mattress online that comes in a box? You must be crazy. By disrupting a long-standing category, you get people looking, talking and buying. While in the beginning it was only the early adopters buying, Endy now sells to the mainstream.
  2. Brand
    A mattress in a box is still just a mattress in a box unless it has a brand behind it. Endy has done a spectacular job in branding their products and company and have also done well with brand awareness. The virality of unboxing the box was something Endy banked on to help with its success on social media channels. Taking it one step further, using look a like audiences on search and social can help a company find many more customers who would be interested in their products.
  3. Building Trust
    Trust was key for Endy as a mattress is a serious purchase – Endy understands that and treats the customer in that way. They understand the customer will need be interacted with a number of times in different ways before making their purchase. They understand that while there is a ton of content available out there for potential customers to peruse through, building trust offline is also an important factor. Their 100 night trial allows customers to purchase a mattress that they haven’t seen or touched risk-free, is an excellent way to provide assurance to those who may be on the fence about purchasing an Endy mattress. And their newly formed partnership with Urban Barn will now make Endy mattresses available in a retail setting for those who will not make a purchase without first seeing the product. All in all, Endy has ensured it has covered off the various paths to purchase for its mattresses, allowing them to build trust in various ways.
  4. Startup Culture
    Probably one of the most important factors to Endy’s success in scaling is the startup culture they ensure stays in place to this day. That means a number of things, such as failing fast – we’ve all heard this before but it’s important to try new things and cut them quickly when they don’t work and move on to the next. Further to that is empowering employees to ideate and directly bring their thoughts forward – Ruparell and Gettis note that no employee’s idea is shunned and they’re ok with employee ideas prevailing their own – this allows for innovation and empowerment to do better. The co-founders are also fine with others in the company speaking up when they feel there decisions aren’t the best way forward.

Sell

Initially, Ruparell and Gettis had the intention of selling Endy. However, as their exponential growth continued and their search to find a ‘partner’, not a ‘buyer’, wasn’t flourishing any results, they began to think that maybe they should continue running the business. So why did they actually end up selling?

  1. It wasn’t just about the money noted Ruparell. We were looking for a strategic partner that would allow us to stay independent and continue to drive the business forward our way. While Sleep Country has acquired us, we are continuing to run as a completely independent company.
  2. It was great validation for what they had built, not only for them but for all Endy employees who were on the journey or some part of it with them. It showed they had successfully built and scaled a well-known brand with excellent products that provide great value to the customer – as evident by the 1000s of positive reviews seen online.

And the one question that still remains:

Endy is now owned by Sleep Country Canada but Endy products are not available in Sleep Country Canada. How does that make sense?

Gettis notes that abruptly adding it’s products into Sleep Country is not a good strategy and is not one that keeps true to their customers. They’re working together with Sleep Country, brainstorming on how to streamline things – none of it is meant to have a timeline or be forced through.
 
Thanks to the panelists:
Rajen Ruparell, Chairman & Co-Founder, Endy
Mike Gettis, CEO & Co-Founder, Endy
Moderator: Amber Kanwar, Anchor and Reporter

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Mia Nancy

Techie by heart, journalist by trade.

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