Death, while being among the inevitable moments, is also one of the most complex and difficult. It is a time of emotional and religious complications for a lot of families. It may also be a burden with organizational and financial issues. A new startup named Empathy is emerging from the shadows with the intention of taking some of the stigma of facing certain issues head-on using an AI-based platform that helps families arrange their lives (and consequently, to assist families who are caring for themselves) following the death of a loved one.
“On average, a family can spend 500 hours dealing with the different aspects related to the death of a loved one,” said the CEO, Ron Gura, who co-founded the company along with Yonatan Bergman. “We provide a digital companion in the form of native apps that are built to empower bereaved families.” He said he compared empathy to a “GPS for the recently bereaved.”
The Israeli company is launching its first in the U.S. market, and it’s doing this by securing $13 million in financing co-led by venture capitalists General Catalyst and Aleph.
Three million people are killed in the U.S. each year, which has been experiencing an increase in deaths because of COVID-19. While it’s one of the most common and predictable events that we’ll experience at some point or another, it’s something that people plan for, regardless of whether it’s due to religious or fear-based reasons or simply a lack of desire to think about morbid topics. This isn’t made any easier because it’s caused a stigma surrounding creating services to assist people cope with the issue, whether on their own behalf or for other people.
In a typical way for startups, it is a sign of opportunity, obviously.
“I’ve been obsessed with this narrative for a few years,” said Gura, who worked alongside Bergman as a consultant at The Gifts Project and then later joined eBay in Israel after it bought the social-gifting startup. “Death is among the consumer industries which are not being impacted by technological advancement. It’s not due to technological advancement or even because of a regulatory hurdle. It’s most likely due to our inherent optimism as humans, which causes us to avoid speaking about the reality of death and dying. This leaves an unspoken area which isn’t seeing the same changes that nearly all other sectors are experiencing at present. “
It’s also, I think, due to the fact that death leaves people extremely fragile, so any business that is based on vulnerability can be a bit off.
Empathy’s strategy is to make their assistance, as well as the creation of a company around that concept, as transparent as possible. Empathy’s company provides services at no cost during the initial 30 days, and then you pay a flat rate of $65. This is not increased depending on how long you utilize the service and could last for up to five or six years (or in some cases, even longer).
After filling in some details regarding your specific situation After that, you’re taken through a step-by-step process of all the various aspects one has to take care of after someone dies.
This includes things like the initial, immediate arrangements you may have to make; the best way to let others know (and inform them); arranging an event like a funeral and obtaining the appropriate documents; handling the will; as well as securing the identity of the deceased; handling the deceased’s property; organizing the probate process; paying the accounts and benefits; paying other assets; taxes; and possibly bereavement counseling for us. In the case of many, it’s not just that we are in a state of grief, but we have never had to go through these steps prior to this, and it’s a harrowing experience to go through when you’re already on an emotional rollercoaster.
The concept behind Empathy is that, while certain of these may require some assistance from your part, the platform acts as a “digital assistant” by helping determine what you must follow next and offering instructions on how to go about that. The platform doesn’t direct you to other services; it does not promote other services and doesn’t intend to do so. The information that it does put through the portal, Gura said, will never be used for any other purpose than the one for which you’re using it, for the purpose of settling disputes.
Empathy isn’t the only one, but is just the latest in a fascinating and increasing number of startups working on this issue. Farewill in the United Kingdom, which helps people create wills on their own; Lantern, which helps people talk about death and plan for death; and the estate planning startup Trust & Will are among them. It’s a bit of competition, but at the very least, it proves that there’s a way to use technology that can be built for even the most difficult aspects of life.
In a statement, Joel Cutler, MD and co-founder of General Catalyst, said the end-of-life industry is a large sector that has been untouched by the wave of digital transformation occurring in every other industry. “Empathy is unique because it deals with both the emotional and logistical pain of losing. We believe that this is the experience and the technology that will greatly benefit each family. “
“The Empathy team is directing their vast experience in consumer software to significantly improve how people handle the burdens that come with death,” said Michael Eisenberg, partner and co-founder of Aleph. “When grieving families, many do not have the time to cope with the burden of paperwork and tasks. Combining financial technology with emotional intelligence, Empathy has built a product that is designed for the next of kin that is based on compassion.
For the longer term view, Gura said that empathy could be looking at different aspects. For example, arranging funeral arrangements before the passing of a loved one, or maybe taking a look at other stressful life events, such as divorce, which can trigger many obligations that follow.