Inspired by mattresses

I preface this post with what Fred Wilson talked about his latest post - to steer away from doing a startup that replicates a framework or model, but in a different industry, for example an Uber for dogs, or an Airbnb for cats. The implicit reason why this is a bad idea is that it fixates the startup in executing a business model, when the startup should be executing a solution. That being said, frameworks are useful tools in analyzing other things - like whether the timing is ripe for a startup to take on an industry.

Over the weekend I encountered the startup Tuft and Needle, a Warby Parker for mattresses. I'm not looking to buy mattresses, but the company made me do one of those "why didn't I think of that!" reactions. I sleep on a mattress every night (mostly), but it was the last industry I had thought of for disruption.

How to be prevent being surprised again? Well, here's a framework I encountered that takes lessons from Warby Parker. Industries ripe for disruption possess:

  1. Oligopoly market structure
  2. Insane gross margins
  3. Opaque and misleading product naming
  4. Expensive distribution through unpleasant channels

One of the industries that come immediately to mind are luxury watches. In fact, a lot of the traditional luxury industries can fall under this framework as well.

I'd never advocate an entrepreneur build a business around this framework, but in combination with a strong passion about the industry and the understanding that timing is everything, this framework can be useful in thinking about certain businesses.