The Flat-Pack Strikes Back
In targeting the needs of young city dwellers, a new generation of entrepreneurs is building digitally driven businesses that could revolutionize residential design.
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The "IKEA Killers"
Location: Emeryville, California
Funding: The company recently raised just under $3 million from Blumberg Capital, Ludlow Ventures, and other investors.
Named after the lavish folding furniture that British soldiers transported on camelback from tent to tent during military operations in India and Africa, Campaign makes sofas, chairs, and love seats that can be assembled, according to the company slogan, with “two hands” in “three minutes.” With a staff of outsiders—none of the full-time staff hail from the furniture industry—CEO Brad Sewell brings a fresh ethos to his three-year-old company. Future plans include easy-to-install replacement upholstery kits for Campaign sofa frames and permanent pop-up product installations in coffee shops, hotel lobbies, and other retail spaces.
Location: New York City
Funding: In 2015 it raised $55 million in Series B venture funding.
According to company legend, Casper was born of the selfies that the aspiring entrepreneurs brought into their shared New York City workspace after pulling all-nighters. “We started thinking about a lifestyle sleep brand,” says Luke Sherwin, one of those aspiring entrepreneurs, and one of Casper’s five cofounders. “We thought that sleep might be the last lifestyle frontier.” Launched in 2014, Casper ships mattresses in mini-refrigerator-size boxes by UPS ground; on opening, the mattress inhales, unfurling, in Sherwin’s words, “like a big burrito.”
Funding: It raised $123,252 on Kickstarter for its most recent product, the Floyd Bed Frame.
“We’re not here just to give work to the area,” says Floyd CEO Kyle Hoff about his Detroit-based start-up. All of Floyd’s products are manufactured by facilities in the Great Lakes region. Since the triumphant 2014 Kickstarter launch of the Floyd Leg, the company has expanded its product line to include a coatrack, a bench, a bed, and several table and desk items. Hoff is clear that he’s not trying to compete with Amazon. “Quality and accessibility are important,” says Hoff, “but our real advantage is simplicity. People today tend to want fewer things. But they want the things they have to make sense, and to last."
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Funding: An Indiegogo campaign in September 2015 raised $270,313.
All of Greycork’s sofas, chairs, tables, and shelves are easy to put together and dismantle, and ship by courier in flat cardboard boxes. Yet convenience is only one feature of this Providence, Rhode Island, manufacturer’s offerings. “We want to be the brand leader for young people who live in urban settings,” says CEO John Humphrey. “There’s a huge opportunity to connect with that market now. And the opportunity can only grow as our target group gets older.” Greycork sold out its first collection in February and is now preparing to present a refined product line at ICFF in May.
Funding: On February 3, the brand was acquired by a private investment company.
Founded in 2014 after online retailer Fab purchased Finland’s One Nordic design brand, Hem ships designer items to customers in 35 countries. With a stable of designers that includes Luca Nichetto, Nendo, Form Us With Love, and GamFratesi, Hem is very popular in Silicon Valley. “The biggest change today is that people expect brands to communicate what they are about,” says CEO Petrus Palmér. “But our customers are buying the same types of furniture they’ve always bought. Yes, shipping and mobility can matter. But I’ve never seen people choose either of these over aesthetics when they choose furniture.”
Location: New York City
Funding: Snowe is backed by angels and seed funds such as Box Group and MI Ventures, as well as leading retailers.
Snowe creates value in online housewares retailing with a rejiggered supply chain and direct-to-consumer marketing. Its streamlined Web interface offers easy passage through the choice, select items in the company catalogue. Rather than touting its exclusivity, the site’s imagery and messaging speak more of elegance and casual comfort. Explains Rachel Cohen, who launched the Brooklyn-based company with her life partner Andres Modak last June, “We noticed that most traditional houseware images showed sweeping mansions or staged, pristine interiors—places where people may aspire to live, but never end up living. We wanted to communicate something more playful—images of tables with food on them, or of ruffled beds.”
Courtesy Mikkel Mortensen/Tylko
Funding: Designer Yves Béhar is an investor.
DIY means “design it yourself” at Tylko. Catapulted into orbit after a wildly successful presentation at the 2014 Launch Conference in San Francisco—an annual event that has christened tech start-ups like Yammer, Dropbox, and Fitbit—the Warsaw-based company offers customers an easy-to-use online configurator so they can have it their way. “We chose products that were already available elsewhere for customization,” says Mikolaj Molenda, head of design and one of Tylko’s five founding partners, “so we didn’t have to educate our customers about the concept of customization. Instead, we gave them completely new tools, and an environment where there is always a designer behind them.”Edit ModuleEdit Module