Office Hours: I'm the co-founder and VP of brand and marketing at Eight Sleep. I'm Alexandra Zatarain.Featured

Hi everyone! I am Alexandra Zatarain, co-founder and VP of brand and marketing at Eight Sleep, the world’s first sleep fitness brand with a mission to fuel human potential through optimal sleep. Our signature product, the Pod, is a smart mattress with a cult-like following used by high performers across all fields including professional and olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, celebrities, investors and artists. We are backed by Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Craft Ventures, 8VC, and Y Combinator and were named TIME’s Best Inventions of the Year and Fast Company’s Most Innovation Companies. Ask me anything about the founder journey, wellness, health, brand building, consumer go to market, leading teams, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @azatarain!Elphas – please ask @azatarain your questions before Friday, March 12th. @azatarain may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Alexandra - congrats on the product success so far!!There's a lot of speculation lately about community vs. product first. How did you get started building such a devoted brand following?
For us it was product first. It took us years before our product reached a point where people really loved it. And so a community started forming around it. So I believe you can do it both ways and still be successful. We did do a lot of work on the brand side of things to foster that sense of community. Which I define more of a movement than a community. We are a mission first company. And we are building our own category (sleep fitness), so as a consequence we are ambassadors for this movement of living a sleep fit life and all that it entails.
Hi @azatarain,Thanks for this! I have a few questions regarding marketing and leadership. - Do you think marketing is something that can be outsourced ? The company I am about to join has a marketing team but all the campaigns and designs are outsourced to multiple companies (one for social media, one for paid social and emails), and I find that it is hard to keep a homogenous message this way.- How do you decide where you want to position your brand? Do you base it only on your customers and market research? Or do you use your market research in addition to where you would like the brand to go ?- How do you deal with team members who do what they want despite the fact that some things were agreed upon as a group during a meeting? (i.e we agree on something during a meeting, which is not what that team member had suggested/wanted, but they still go and do what they wanted to do instead of what was agreed on by the team).
Thanks for your questions!I do think you can successfully outsource functions of marketing. However, you need to come up with a clear and concise strategy internally. And someone internally has to manage all the stakeholders to ensure they move things ahead on time and cohesively. That’s not something you can expect vendors to do on their own. Then, as soon as you identify which areas of the marketing engine are crucial for your company’s growth, bring them in-house and invest in building that expertise within the organization.For brand positioning: based on our experience at Eight Sleep in a huge believer in building the brand from the core-out. Before you do any research, start with why. With the foundations of the mission, purpose, who you are as founders, etc. Once you have that clear then you can do focus groups, market research, and any other form of validation. I always recommend this book as a guide for this process: “Get to Aha!” By Andy Cunningham. We worked with Andy for our positioning actually. She’s awesome.To answer your third question: if these are your peers and not direct reports, I would first have a conversation with them. “Is there any reason why you felt it necessary to do B instead of A? Would love to understand why you thought that was important to do anyways?” This will serve to 1) make it clear that you’re noticing the behavior 2) open dialogue so you can understand why they are behaving this way. Both of these things are important in my experience, because maybe they have a strong reason for not committing to what everyone agreed and maybe they don’t feel confident enough to raise the point to the group. None of this will excuse their behavior, but this is where I would get started to open the discussion.
Appreciate you offering your time and insights to the Elpha community, @azatarain! I'd love to learn more about your habits in maintaining spiritual, mental, and physical health as a founder. What habits do you have in place that help you in your daily life? Also, do you have any advice for those with busy schedules on how to optimize for best sleep?Thanks in advance!
I’m sad to admit I don’t do much for my mental health other than than 1) sleep, 2) work out 3 times a week, 3) spend time outdoors (i live in miami), 4) no laptops anytime during and after dinner time. This works for me, but I still feel the load of it on most days. It’s been harder in the past year as I used to travel to see my family and friends back in Mexico 2-3 times a week and those days would recharge me and power me for months. Haven’t had that for a year and a half now but looking forward to it happening soon. The first thing I suggest on prioritizing sleep is to set a schedule. And try it for a week. See how much better you’ll feel and how easy it actually is to stick to it (unless you have kids which I’m sure can make it harder).
Ah I've heard of your product and super curious. Can you direct us to fact-based information about the proven results of using this? (I'll also be sure to check out the website now). Fascinating!
Hi @azatarain! Thanks for doing this. I’d love to know more about your positioning as a fitness x sleep brand - I think it’s super smart. Did it take you a long process to reach that (I.E validation, speaking to customers?) - or was that the position you knew you wanted to be in from day 1?
It was a long journey! We went through a company repositioning in 2018 after we raised our series B. The idea of sleep fitness came about because as founders we had always believed two things about sleep:1) sleep is the means to an end. It’s not the end goal, it’s what you do so you can stay healthy, be happy, live longer, perform well. 2) sleep, like fitness, can be measured, can be optimized, and should be prioritized. So that’s how the idea formed for us. It also has some roots in my co-founder’s past life as an athlete. So all in all, it was very authentic which is key when you build a brand. Needs to come from your DNA, vs identified through market sizing and customer research exercises. Once we identified it and fell in love with it, then we spoke about it with our team, our board members. But we didn’t seek validation, we needed buy in. We knew at heart this was the right thing for who we are and the company we want to build.
I love point 1) - strategically I’m sure it also allows you to build a more holistic brand, with many other lifestyle touchpoints? Also thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading all your answers on this AMA and following your thought process. All the best with Eight Sleep - defo keeping it on my radar now!
Dear Alexandra! Thank you so much for offering up your expertise and knowledge in this safe space.I am a first time founder (of a tech-based B2C startup) with a ton of passion and just as much self-doubt and nerves. Though I'm a first time founder I have more than a decade of corporate law practice behind my belt. Despite that, I can't help but feel slightly intimidated by the fact that I don't have a tech background. Can you provide any tips for overcoming your insecurities? Need this particularly as we were told that VCs have a hard time investing in our industry.Also, we are currently interviewing performance marketing agencies to help us craft and execute our go-to market plan. We're struggling whether to go with a big agency (which we can only afford contingent on funding), a boutique firm, or a fractional CMO. Any thoughts on what we should be looking for and what info we need to extract from them. Thank you again!
I too came from a non technical background. It doesn’t really matter if you’re technical or not, however most investors do care about the ability of a founding team to be in control of the areas of the company that are their differentiators or moats. If technical innovation is key for your company to succeed (as was the case for us) then someone in the founding team better known how to drive that technical vision and build something that is at least an MVP. If your company’s moat is community or distribution then make sure someone is strong at that - or can become really strong within a short timeframe. For the rest, focus on building your product and getting signs of traction. That’s all that matters. Ping me for agencies. I have a list that I’m happy to share. I would recommend to focus on partners who are channel experts, would discourage from a one-stop shop approach.
Thank you so much, Alexandra. Very helpful and sage. Is there a good place to ping you on agencies? Rogering re: one-stop-shop for agencies. It's so tempting but I can understand that there is no such thing as a jack of all trades -- something's gotta give. Look forward to connecting for your recommendations.Sincerely,Katya