Frazer Blog

The rise of funeral startups

by | Dec 1, 2016 | Funeral Profession

An office full of computers

There’s been a lot of news lately about funeral startups. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and others have covered these startups and their role in “high-tech funerals.”

But what exactly are they? And who’s behind them?

And more importantly, should traditional funeral homes be worried about the increased competition?

The Reasons Startups are Popping Up

Technology has crept into every aspect of almost every industry, but there have been several factors that have stalled technology’s growth in funeral homes.

  • The funeral business is a human business. It means person-to-person interactions.
  • The funeral business is also a business of tradition, and traditions only evolve as fast the generations that create and practice those traditions. Religion plays a big part in this as well.
  • The taboo of death. American society doesn’t like to talk or think about death, and the lack of conversation leads to a sort of stagnation in new ideas and growth.

But that’s all changing. Technology has grown to supplement our human-to-human interactions, not replace them outright. The use of technology now leads to more meaningful experiences between funeral directors and their client families.

Traditions are changing as well. Cremation is the new norm and secularism has shaped new ideas about memorials. Baby Boomers have taken charge of the conversation and aren’t afraid to openly discuss their desires for a unique sendoff.

On top of that, the New York Times reported that “with nearly 2.6 million people dying annually in the United States, entrepreneurs see an opportunity to innovate.”

Meet the New Guys and Gals

So who are the funeral home startups? The New York Times says that “many are founded by millennials, who have grown up online and expect to shop for — and curate — everything there.” Here are a few:

  • Grace: Grace offers funeral planning and aftercare services — all online. Families build a personal checklist and are provided with online courses to help guide them. Families also are connected with licensed funeral directors, funeral homes, lawyers, and other professionals who can help get them through the process. As of now, the service exists only in California, but it has plans to expand in the future.
  • Parting: Parting is a price comparison site like Autotrader or Shopzilla, except it’s for funeral services. Just enter a zip code and you’ll be able to compare prices, services, and facilities of area funeral homes. The site operates in all 50 states and has a current database of funeral homes that’s 15,000 strong always growing.
  • Cake: Cake is a lot like Grace. It’s an online platform that guides a person on decisions like health and life support, funeral and memorial options, legal and financial information, and their legacy. Their motto is “Making it easy to celebrate life.” The site works by asking several questions on “Cake Cards” that are meant to get a person thinking about death. All the decisions are stored in the cloud and shared with a designated group of people who will carry out their wishes when the time comes.
  • Willing: Willing is a new startup that allows anyone to make a legal will online. It’s reasonably priced, as well — the average will can range from $100 to $150, but Willing’s services only cost about $30. And the will is just the beginning — co-founder Eliam Medina said the company plans to “not only create wills but help you plan all your final arrangements.”

Other companies making waves in the industry, however, aren’t small funeral startups founded by millennials. Take for example tech giant Foundation Partners Group headed by Brad Rex, the former manager of Disney’s Epcot theme park.

The company’s goal is to sell more of an experience, not products. The company owns 50 funerals homes and has started equipping them with “multi-sensory experience rooms.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “Using audio and video equipment, the experience rooms can create the atmosphere of a golf course, complete with the scent of newly mowed grass, to salute the life of a golfing fanatic. Or it can conjure up a beach, mountain or football stadium.”

It may sound futuristic, but that’s not surprising considering it’s coming from the guy who used to run Epcot.

Coming Sooner than You Think

We’ve seen it happen to countless other industries — Blockbuster falling to Netflix. Traditional taxis losing to Uber. Amazon changing the retail landscape.

This is a warning call. While it’s safe to say these high-tech funeral startups won’t sweep away business in the next year or two, they are making a ripple in the funeral industry, and it won’t be long until that ripple becomes a tidal wave.

Stay modern. Call us today at 866-372-9372 or fill out the form below to see Tribute Pay, our latest feature, in action. Tribute Pay currently offers families convenient payment options right on your website, from mobile pay to crowdfunding — with funeral financing and insurance assignments coming soon.


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