Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why this is my last blog post (sort of...)

When I created the "Running a Startup" blog, the point was to share my first-hand experiences of being an internet entrepreneur in my efforts co-founding eFuneral.com.  Other than that, there wasn't very much purpose -- it was simply to share the journey.

Here's the problem though:

I've come to realize that as eFuneral is growing, I'm building an audience.  But it's not an audience of people who care about my "journey" as an entrepreneur.  It's an audience of families that are coping with the loss of a loved one.  It's an audience of caregivers that are trying to figure out what to do in terms of the end-of-life choices they'll inevitably need to make for the person they're caring for.  It's an audience of funeral directors...and hospice professionals.  There's a real need from these groups to hear what I have to say -- and the reality is, I'm very grateful and appreciative that this group even wants to hear from me.

So fellow startupers, I'm afraid that you won't be hearing much from me in terms of my tales of entrepreneurial whoa (and hopefully someday, glory).  Not to worry, though.  There are already great resources for this.

But this doesn't mean I've given up on creating great content.

Families and hospice professionals alike may be interested in the resources I contribute and help curate for eFuneral, which can be found at eFuneral.com/resources

Funeral professionals also may be interested in following our Funeral Director Blog or my contributions on Connecting Directors (a resource that I like to call the TechCrunch of the Funeral Profession).

For those of you that listened as I spoke -- thank you.  I'm hopeful that the content I create through some of the above channels can be helpful to you in some way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why I'm launching a "death care" internet startup

Whenever I tell people what it is that I do, I'm usually met with a smirk and a bit of disbelief.

"Wait, you're serious?  You run a company that deals with death and funerals?"

It's true.  We're soon launching eFuneral (into our first Beta markets) as an online portal that helps Funeral Directors connect with undecided families -- while providing those families with actionable information to make more informed funeral planning decisions.

Soon after I explain that, the natural next question is..."Why??"

Most times, I tell people about the story of my cousin, who unexpectedly passed away about a year ago:

My family didn't really know where to start in terms of planning his funeral service.  It's not that we didn't know where there were funeral homes.  There were about 10-12 within 2 miles of where he lived -- and we were familiar with several of them.  We were more interested in understanding why we were to choose one over the other.  Our budget was a big concern -- but just as important was our desire to have a respectful service for someone who we cared about.

Being the digital native in the family, I was asked if the internet might be able to help us make a decision.  I assumed that there had to be good info online that would be helpful to us in making an informed decision.  I quickly learned that it just wasn't the case.  Sure, there were online directories -- and Google -- which was good at giving me a list of funeral homes.  But opening up a phone book (remember those things?) could have given me the same information.  We weren't interested in finding a simple list of funeral homes.  We were interested in understanding which would work best with our budget, and which would offer the best service quality.


So for us, we just sort of picked one.   The Funeral Home we selected was one that we were familiar with, but we really had no idea if the costs we were incurring was actually resulting in a better service than any others we picked.  And in the end, the service they performed was an admirable one.

But afterwards, it really bothered me.  It bothered me that for as important as a life decision as planning a funeral is -- and for the money we spent (likely around $10K) -- we just sort of picked one.

I started talking about this experience with my (now) partner, Bryan -- and we both agreed that this was a huge problem that people currently have to deal with.  We weren't sure what the solution was quite yet -- but knew that we had to do everything we could to solve this problem.

This passion only grew after we started to have conversations with Funeral Directors and learned that for as much money that was spent on marketing and advertising (close to a billion dollars a year), there really weren't any great ways for them to track whether their spend was actually bringing new families in their doors.  Generally, these Funeral Directors were very proud of the relationships they held with families (and rightfully so) -- but when it came to attracting new families, most Funeral Directors we spoke with were uncertain whether their efforts were resulting in new business.

This is when it clicked.  If we could provide a service that actually helps families by providing actionable information that they can use to not only find funeral homes, but make an informed decision -- and if we can actually help Funeral Directors market their Funeral Homes more effectively -- we could be onto something.

And that is why we decided to quit our full-time jobs last June, pour (very) long nights, weekends, sweat, tears, and everything else we could find into building eFuneral.

Here's to hoping it does what we intended, and can actually soon help people...