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The Future of Sleep: Springfield startup targets the way consumers think about a night’s rest

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A Springfield startup is bringing new technology features and virtual reality shopping into the mattress business.

The vision comes from longtime mattress manufacturing executive Paul Longman. Through Advanced Sleep Technologies LLC, Longman debuted his iSense Sleep comfort control and adjustable mattress Jan. 28 at the 2018 Las Vegas Furniture Winter Market. There, the company signed its first international licensee with Russia-based Askona as well as 30 domestic clients, officials said.

Central to the startup is a unique VR shopping guide that will be in all stores where iSense Sleep mattresses are sold. It shrinks the user and takes them through an in-depth tour of what their future bed is made of, how they can adjust it and why they should choose it over other mattresses.

While adjustable technology has been around in air mattresses for a couple decades, Longman said iSense Sleep is bringing individual comfort control to spring and foam mattresses, too. In the spring mattresses, for example, the typical innerspring layer is paired with VariCoil technology that has the ability to adjust the mattress on demand from ultra plush to ultra firm via a smartphone application.

The products are at least a year in the making through an undisclosed self-funded investment by Longman when he founded Advanced Sleep Technologies in February 2017. He spent the previous 11 years as CEO of Australian-based bedding company A.H. Beard.

Prior, Longman served as a managing director for Carthage-based Leggett & Platt Inc. (NYSE: LEG) from 2001 through 2005. Though he was based in Australia, Longman made two trips a year to Carthage and met his wife, Denay, eventually prompting the move to southwest Missouri.

“This is a tough market, and if we can break in here, that’s a career highlight,” Longman said.
 
Product development
With the move, he brought a dream: to improve sleep habits with adjustable mattresses. To make it possible, Longman hand-selected manufacturers across the country.

But it all starts in Springfield.

Advanced Sleep Technologies and its 10 employees have operated out of upstairs office space at 333 S. Jefferson Ave. since May 2017, and next month, they’ll spill into the downstairs. At the northwest corner of Walnut Street, a showroom is coming to display the three types of iSense adjustable mattresses.

The company is working with three manufacturing plants, for each type of mattress.

Leggett & Platt in Carthage handles the production of the adjustable spring mattress, while California-based American National Manufacturing Inc. makes the air mattress. The adjustable foam mattresses are created with chemicals and technology from Fort Smith, Arkansas-based Peterson Chemical Technology LLC, and Georgia-based Elite Comfort Solutions handles the manufacturing.

“A startup is unusual for me,” said Peterson Chemical Technology owner Bruce Peterson, who met Longman about a year ago. “But we have had a successful history of finding small startup companies and seeing them thrive.”

Peterson’s company works with industry staples Serta and Simmons but also budding brands, such as Casper.

The iSense Sleep beds, Longman said, are priced similar to Serta and Tempur-Pedic mattresses – ranging between $2,800 and $4,200 on ISenseSleep.com.

Advanced Sleep Technologies owns the trademarks for VariCoil, which is used to make the adjustable spring mattresses, as well as the VariFoam technology, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The key is being able to make adjustments to both sides of the bed via the smartphone app.

“I am taking everything I’ve done in life and putting it toward a decent budget to get this program off the ground,” Longman said. “I have turned down seven funding opportunities because I have not needed it at this stage. I don’t want to take in additional funding until I have a purpose for it.”

Other companies, such as Sleep Number, use similar technology to iSense Sleep to make on-demand adjustments to a mattress but only have the mattresses with air surfaces.

“The design of the bed is unbelievably perfect,” said Don DePaulis, owner of four specialty mattress stores in Florida called Relax in Comfort.

DePaulis bought in at the recent Las Vegas market.

“I had no reason to go to market this year, other than to see iSense Sleep,” he said.
 
Las Vegas launch
DePaulis said prior to iSense Sleep, he hadn’t found adjustable spring and foam mattresses.

Here’s the difference: An adjustable bed has a motorized frame to create varying angles and sleeping positions. With an adjustable bed frame, it’s encouraged to purchase a mattress that is designed for adjustable beds. An adjustable mattress skips the motorized bed frame and makes all adjustments within its components, Longman said.

DePaulis noted most new technologies in the mattress market struggle after the initial splash, and while that remains to be seen for iSense Sleep, he expects Longman’s VR angle will energize consumers.

According to research conducted in 2016 by the Better Sleep Council, only 9 percent of consumers own an adjustable bed, though a third say they’re familiar with the concept and would be interested in buying one.

Conversely, a fourth of consumers said they are not interested in adjustable beds. According to the Better Sleep Council, adjustable beds can help alleviate health issues like snoring and back pain and make it easier for people to read, watch TV and work in bed.

In Las Vegas, iSense Sleep officials say they inked those 30 customers for the first order to go out in April, while close to 100 more customers are preparing for the second order of mattresses in July. The initial order will go out to boutique stores, like DePaulis’ Relax in Comfort, on April 2, resulting in sales of several hundred thousand dollars.

Longman declined to disclose the number of beds sold in the first order or other specific clients but said they exceeded their goal for the first show.

Longman said they avoided striking deals with major mattress firms to have more control over the first batch of mattresses. Still, Longman inked iSense Sleep’s first international licensing deal with Askona, which has over 950 stores in Russia.

“This is just a piece of the bigger game,” Longman said. “Advanced Sleep Technologies is the ‘what,’ and iSense Sleep is just one of the ‘hows.’”

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