10 Digital Death Start Ups Focused On Helping Consumers With the Loss of a Loved One

This article was written by BetterAdmin, on November 30, 2015

What happens to my social media accounts, or online accounts when I die

Lee Williamson died in the U.S. at the age of 73. Her son Glenn, who works in hi-tech, was her heir and estate manager. When he sat down to sort out what she had left behind, he encountered a problem: Lee had left a detailed list of her physical assets, but no mention of her photographs, emails or additional personal information on the internet. He knew she had accounts on Twitter and Yahoo!, but he didn’t know if there were others.

It turns out that there were other accounts. Glenn found his mother had no less than 13 online accounts, including profiles on social networks, subscriptions to shopping sites, and even a frequent flyer membership. The search lasted 20 hours and covered 75 sites, and was carried out during the mourning period. This grueling task gave Glenn an idea for a startup company, WebCease, that finds digital assets left behind by loved ones and instructs users how to proceed.

I too first encountered the world in which death, technology, and a digital, online world come together only as a result of my own personal story: my brother Tal Shavit was killed after being hit by a car in 2011. About a month after his death, his email account was hacked and distressingly, began sending out spam, supposedly from my brother. My family’s attempt to deal with this issue led me to the disorganized and unregulated world of digital death.

Over the past year I’ve become aware of many active projects in Israel – at least 20 sites and applications – related to the various aspects of digital death. Most of these projects were the result of a personal experience. When I contacted them, I was surprised to find that most had not heard of each other. They were unaware that their initiative was part of a larger, up-and-coming social and technological field that has yet to be acknowledged.

I am therefore happy to be the first to present you – and them – with the local scene in this field. This is my own initiative in collaboration with Geektime: I conducted a wide-spread review of the Israeli projects, of which ten are presented below.

1. Capsoole


Photo Credit: Capsoole

Photo Credit: Capsoole

Launch: 2013

Founders: Ayelet Hirshfeld and Mickey Bergman, childhood friends. Management is in the U.S., R&D in Israel.

Finances: Privately owned and funded. The first round of fundraising will begin soon. Subscription business model.

Target audience: Private people and businesses who will offer the service as part of their service package.

Listed users: some 500.

This is a service that allows users to determine ahead of time which actions will be carried out in their online accounts after their death. These can range from money transfers and canceling subscriptions to sending pre-composed messages and transferring account control to someone else. Capsoole is the result of brain-storming among its founders regarding the affect death has on a person’s loved ones and their digital heritage. The founders became involved in this topic following unfortunate experiences and challenges that Mickey went through after a tragic death in the family.

How does your service assist in managing digital footprints?

Ayelet Hirshfeld: “Today the only available solution is to trust a 3rd party (e.g., family, friend, or trusted lawyer) with this information so they might implement the person’s will in the event they become incapacitated. This solution has limitations, such as the need to update a third party every time a password is changed. This is especially important for financial institutions because when a person becomes incapacitated, or during the first 30 days after they die, their assets are vulnerable to fraud. Our solution will instantly alert the financial institution of the customers’ situation, thus allowing them to proactively prevent fraud during this sensitive time. Without Capsoole’s solution, it would take at least two months to alert the financial institution to the customer’s situation.”

What differentiates this project from other projects in this field?

Mickey Bergman: “We are the only company that, in case of an emergency, allows automatic implementation of one’s pre-determined action plan without sharing sensitive information with others or placing an additional burden on loved ones. Our delayed execution solution solves the technical and legal barriers of transferring full ownership of a digital existence to someone else. We are also the only service that allows automatic notification of an individuals’ incapacitation during an emergency.”

What are your future goals?

“We would like to see our solution duplicated across a variety of fields, from finance to social media, health, travel, companies’ institutional knowledge, etc.”

2. Docady


Photo Credit: Docady

Photo Credit: Docady

Launch: 2015

Founders: Nadav Naaman and Nadav Weizman. The company works out of Tel Aviv.

Finances: In August 2015 the company raised $1.5 million in seed funding from the Pitango Venture Capital Fund and other investors.

Target audience: Currently the focus is on U.S. citizens but the service is open to everyone.

Listed users: Just launched.

This application not only enables photographing and digitizing important documents so they are easily accessible, but also sharing them and receiving alerts and notifications about them.

What differentiates this project from other projects in this field?

Nadav Naaman: “We provide easy and secure access to all important documents, both those scanned through the smartphone and those stored online. The application also uses an innovative picture-processing application to understand the significance of each document and what it ‘needs.’ That way we are able to update the user regarding expiration dates and upcoming deadlines.”

How is this related to death in the digital age?

“We are used to thinking that paperwork is relevant only so long as we are alive, but many documents continue to be an important part of our loved ones’ lives even after we die. Our goal is to prevent situations in which people are left without a clue regarding how to cope with digital life after the death of their loved ones. My father would ask me, “When are we going to go over my affairs so you’ll know what’s what and where everything is? You know I won’t live forever…” The idea of sitting with him and going over things was really depressing and I know many would rather avoid such a conversation. Docady creates an easy way to manage these exact things. My dad now manages his documents easily and simply on Docady, and has provided me with access to the stuff I need.”

What are your future goals?

“We would like to form strategic partnerships with a multitude of services — government, financial, insurance or legal — that can help streamline the bureaucratic process for our users.”

3. E-Z-Safe


Photo Credit: E-Z-Safe

Photo Credit: E-Z-Safe

Launch: 2011

Founders: Alon Nativ and Roni Nimri (Aley Shalechet). Offices in Ra’anana.

Finances: Independently funded.

Target audience: General public.

Listed users: Undisclosed.

It’s a virtual safe, acting as a secure backup service to save important documents and allow sending them onwards after death to beneficiaries selected by the user. E-Z-Safe was created following the colleagues’ need for access to passwords following a death.

What differentiates this project?

Gil Arbel, VP: “I don’t think there is a difference other than the local difference of Hebrew. The whole micro-cosmos of this niche offers pretty much the same things; some do so better than others. The field of digital safes has been comparatively frozen since Google brought in the Death Switch model [the possibility of managing an inactive account – V.S.] as part of its basic account definitions.”

So why is E-Z-Safe necessary?

“A regulatory system has yet to be built to regulate the issue of digital death and the relationship between the user and the various internet platforms. Profit-driven companies do not necessarily represent all of the users’ interests or heritage. A digital safe removes the fear of losing control of your assets after death.”

4. if i die


Photo Credit: if i die

Photo Credit: if i die

Launch: Site – 2009; App – 2011

Founders: Erez Eshel, Michal Porat, and Eran Alfonta. Offices in Ramat Gan.

Finances: During the seed funding stage it was financed by three investors: an Israeli businessperson, an American investor, and an American fund.

Target audience: The general public, focusing on English and Portuguese speakers in North, South, and Central America.

Listed users: Hundreds of thousands. Exact numbers were undisclosed.

This is a Facebook application for leaving secure personal videos or text messages that will become public or be sent privately as predetermined by the user, after the user’s death. The application was the result of a personal experience: some five years ago, a friend of the founders went abroad for a few days with his wife, leaving the children behind. Following a minor accident on a highway, the idea came up of an internet service that would allow recording a digital will. The will would be sent to family members in the event of the user’s death.

What differentiates your service?

Eran Alfonta: “When we launched the app, it was considered ground breaking — until then there had been no real solutions in the field of digital wills. The major advantage is the complete accessibility we offer a person in order to build his digital heritage. You can add, edit, or change the recording at any time and so create a long-term digital heritage.”

What differentiates your approach?

“We chose the social aspect, therefore the Facebook application. We decided to take a light, humoristic approach and that’s why our campaigns and videos address death in a natural, light-hearted way without being apologetic or hesitant.”

What is your vision?

“Social changes that involve existential heritage in which a person is responsible for his or her own destiny and heritage, designing it throughout their lives.”

On the humor front, the if i die application gained points when they quickly responded to the purchase of Waze by Google in 2013: anyone who looked for the URL (which has since been removed) www.googlewaze.com found themselves on an if i die landing page, facing the banner, “Google, meet the only app that will navigate you to your final destination.”


5. LifeVU


Photo Credit: LifeVU

Photo Credit: LifeVU

Launch: 2014

Founders: Shlomo Silverstone, Eliezer Cohen, and Debra Eisenberg. Management in Jerusalem, marketing in the U.S.

Finances: Following the self-funding stage, the company raised investments from an ‘angel’ investor. Subscription business model.

Target audience: Funeral homes and retirement homes, mainly in the United States.

Listed users: Undisclosed.

LifeVU offers funeral homes a package that includes building profiles for their clients and using them throughout the funeral service. Friends and family are invited to post stories, condolences, and pictures to the profile from any mobile gadget. This enables real-time construction of the slideshow they are viewing during the funeral. Every profile is given a link to a feature in the system that collates all profile activity to an updating presentation that the funeral home broadcasts on screens and projectors in real-time. As it is online, the family and the bereaved can “take” the profile and later on, screen it at home, in a family ritual and so on, and it can also serve as an updated digital album.

What problems does this service address?

Shlomo Silverstone: “The service provides solutions for the inability of social networks to cope with personal relationships among people after the death of a loved one. Another solution is regarding the market: funeral home directors see the long-term abandonment of this generation and the financial loss that entails. The belief is that by including innovative digital elements — such as a designated social network — it will bring back the young, technological generation.”

What differentiates this project from others in this field?

“Our overall aim is to bring together, on a uniform platform, a designated social network that will run in all funeral homes. This uniformity will provide a solution to the existing confusion among family and friends of the deceased regarding where exactly to send condolences: through a general condolence site? Through the funeral home site? Does the funeral home have a site? Is the site adapted to mobile devices? Does it have the option of sending condolences? What type of condolences does it allow — text only? A picture? Something else? Will anyone see it was sent?

“With LifeVU, any activity that takes place on the profile appears instantly, not just on the funeral home screens but also on the Facebook page of the friends of the person who posted the picture, condolences, memories, etc. to the profile. This allows the extended circle of friends and family to participate, including those who are not at the ceremony itself for various reasons. It also enables advertising the funeral home and this is the innovation of this service.”

What are your future goals?

“Developing a social network to commemorate beloved pets.”

6. Memories.com


Photo Credit: Memories.com

Photo Credit: Memories.com

Launch: 2014

Founders: Meir and Asi Ohana, twin brothers. Management and R&D in Petah Tikva; design in London; management, marketing and investment in the U.S.

Finances: Self-funded.

Target audience: The general public.

Listed users: Some 2,500.

About five years ago, Meir and Asi were living in the U.S. and they returned to Israel to pay a condolence visit to the family of a good friend who had been killed. The friend’s mother was very moved to see a picture of her son she had never seen before on Meir’s mobile phone screensaver, so she asked him to send it to her. It was then that the brothers realized that nowadays, when a person dies there are many pictures, videos, and stories of them spread among their friends. They thought it would be a good idea to set up a website that would collate all this valuable information in one place that everyone could visit and see, and they set up memories.com.

How does your site help commemoration?

Meir Ohana: “The site allows assembling memories from those who knew the deceased without having to contact them directly; compiling all the content gathered and deciding what content will be published and what won’t. You can make separate decisions regarding the privacy or sharing of each album, picture, video, or story. The site also serves as a social network that allows commemoration in a way that is simultaneously public and private.”

What are your future goals?

“For the site to become the main platform in the world for commemoration and retaining memories.”

7. MyHeritage, BillionGraves


Photo Credit: MyHeritage

Photo Credit: MyHeritage

Launch: MyHeritage, 2005; BillionGraves, 2011

Founder: My Heritage: Gilad Japhet. Head offices are in Israel, with additional offices in the U.S. Over 200 employees worldwide. They work in collaboration with BillionGraves but do not own them.

Finances: MyHeritage raised $49 million from private investors and venture capital funds.

Listed users: MyHeritage: some 80 million.

Target audience: The general public.

The BillionGraves project works in collaboration with the MyHeritage family tree site. Together they are creating a digital archive of gravestones all over the world: users photograph a gravestone using an application and the picture is uploaded to the site with an automatic notation of the coordinates. Volunteers type in the text on the gravestones.

What is special about your services?

Aaron Godfrey, MyHeritage marketing director: “We created a global sharing tool that enables preserving the family story by gathering information about the family from different sources. We help people discover more about their family history.”

What sets you apart from the others?

BillionGraves: “Advanced technology (awaiting patent) offering support in 42 languages; a system that enables handling Gregorian, Hebrew, and Julian dates; and GPS location of the gravestone.”

8. Neshama


Photo Credit: Neshama

Photo Credit: Neshama

Launch: 2013

Founder: Shelly Furman Asa, home office.

Finances: Private funding. The business model will be examined later on, after the next version of the site goes live.

Target audience: The general public.

Listed users: Some 1,000.

Four years ago, friends of Shelly from various European countries came on a one-time visit to Israel. Of the ten days they were here, one full day was dedicated to finding the gravestone of the grandmother of one of them (a grandmother she had never met) in a Jerusalem cemetery. After seeing the condition of the gravesite, another day was dedicated to caring for it. This experience was an eye-opener for Shelly, leading her to establish a knowledge system with an internet interface. It includes documentation and a digital archive of gravestones in Israeli cemeteries, in addition to providing a service and a location to commemorate the deceased.

What differentiates your site?

Shelly Furman Asa: “After standing for years, exposed to the elements, the gravestones become worn and sometimes blurred until the identity of the person buried is lost. We created an archive that perpetuates the gravestone and allows for reconstruction in the future. The archive we created for digital graves enables writing an unlimited amount of text on them, unlike stone markers. There is currently no other site that contains over 130,000 gravestones in 19 cemeteries in Israel.”

What are your future goals?

“I’d like to translate the site into other languages in addition to Hebrew, and expand the circle of users to include people from outside the country as well.”

9. Personal Memorials


Photo Credit: Personal Memorials

Photo Credit: Personal Memorials

Launch: 2012

Founders: Alon Nativ and Roni Nimri (Aley Shalechet). R&D in India and Israel, management and design in Israel. Office in Ra’anana.

Finances: Independently funded.

Target audience: The general public, funeral homes, burial societies, organizations interested in providing their members with a free commemoration area.

Listed users: Undisclosed.

This is a platform for creating commemoration and memorial sites. The service allows private users to build and store a commemoration site for free. Organizations and institutions can develop a site to commemorate members.

What differentiates your site?

Gil Arbel, VP: “The opportunity to easily construct a memorial site, even without prior knowledge, through a user-friendly wizard. I don’t believe that there is anything different from other memorial sites, possibly other than local reference in Hebrew. The whole micro-cosmos of this niche offers practically the same thing. Some are better than others. It must be kept in mind that platforms such as WIX are undermining the need for designated platforms for memorial sites.”

In that case, why is Personal Memorials necessary?

“The field of a person’s last rites continues to be very conservative. Having said that, all over the world the field of after-death sites is growing, as technology is permeating even into the most conservative fields. We offer private end users access to information regarding their family heritage. We offer organizations the option of constructing a heritage, the consequences of which is being realized only by the current generation in Israel.”

What are your future goals?

“Integration into funeral home sites around the world.”

10. SafeBeyond


Photo Credit: SafeBeyond

Photo Credit: SafeBeyond

Launch: 2015

Founders: Moran Zur. Investor: Yaakov Engel. Office in Tel Aviv.

Finances: Independently funded by the founder and the investor.

Target audience: The general public, focusing on people over 60 and people at high risk due to illness, occupation, or other reasons.

Listed users: Just launched.

This service enables users to store personal messages on video, text, pictures, audio or other formats, and determine who will receive them and when. Among other things one can set a date, place, or event that will serve as a precondition for sending the message, a message to be posted on Facebook or Twitter, etc. The site also allows sending access passwords and account details according to user guidelines.

SafeBeyond is the result of the founder coping with his father’s death, and later on having to deal with his wife’s cancer.

What are you actually offering?

Moran Zur: “We offer a solution to the human need to continue accompanying our loved ones even after we die. The initiative will help people cope with death better through personal messages and content that will be released after death. These releases for the designated beneficiaries will be based on triggers pre-determined by the user, and only at the appropriate time and place after the user is deceased. Leaving an emotional inheritance can be no less important, if not more important, than leaving a physical inheritance.”

What are your future goals?

“To reach every home in the world.”

Article VIA.

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