319: GREATEST HITS: The Biggest Ecommerce Mattress Brand Ever
Play • 1 hr 13 min
In this Greatest Hits episode we're revisiting a conversation about market disruption and big goals. JT Marino shares the story of his dream to build a company that would disrupt the mattress industry.

JT Marino was the co-founder of Tuft & Needle, and this is his story of bootstrapping his way from nothing to the largest online mattress retailer in the world.

JT, who is now the Chief Strategy Officer for SSB Phoenix, joins us to share his incredible story.

We talk about why customer-centricity was one of Tuft & Needle’s core principles from the beginning, and the role it played in their eventual merger with Serta Simmons. JT shares his thoughts on the importance, as a founder, of having an intimate understanding of how every aspect of your business works, and why they decided not to take any outside investments when they first started out.

This is one of my favorite founder interviews we’ve done and I hope you enjoy it!

Episode Highlights
  • 4:58 Introducing JT Marino
  • 6:47 How the friendship and partnership started between the founders of Turf & Needle, JT and Daehee
  • 11:13 How the Tuft & Needle co-founders maintain a strong friendship while running a business together
  • 12:51 How JT’s prior experience with heavily-funded, but unsuccessful, Silicon Valley start-ups influenced Tuft & Needle’s decision to not take outside investments.
  • 17:21 The importance of identifying “the problem” when you’re building a business, and how this led to the creation of Tuft & Needle
  • 19:28 Some of the other principles the Tuft & Needle founders committed to before starting their business
  • 22:11 How JT and Daehee used a problem-solution approach to determine whether they had a product-market fit for Tuft & Needle
  • 27:59 The benefits of being highly involved with and having an intimate understanding of every aspect of the business, from manufacturing to supply chain to marketing
  • 31:30 How Tuft & Needle moved through the pit of sorrow and started to scale
  • 35:12 How a Hacker News blog post contributed to explosive growth of Tuft & Needle
  • 37:51 The importance of customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth to Tuft & Needle’s success, especially when they had a limited advertising budget
  • 39:40 The various channels that helped grow the business over time
  • 42:45 JT's approach to tracking attribution across a variety of channels
  • 45:55 How Tuft & Needle developed advertising techniques and targeting that span across digital and non-digital
  • 50:34 The unconventional reason Tuft & Needle started selling on Amazon
  • 53:39 The Net Promoter Score target T&F set before making the decision to list on Amazon
  • 56:10 JT’s advice if you’re considering selling on Amazon and the importance of looking at the market picture as you start to grow
  • 59:35 The role customer-centricity played in Tuft & Needle’s decision to merge with Serta
  • 1:06:46 The future of the mattress industry
  • 1:09:48 JT shares his hobbies and what’s in store for him in the next year
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