When it comes to planning for death, "We found a lot of people just don't want to talk about it because you think you don't have to rush," says Jaan Leemet, founder of Austin-based Memorialize Me. "You think you have time until you don't.
The startup, which launched on Nov. 2, The Day of the Dead, was partly conceived when the serial entrepreneur lost a precious voicemail from his mother, who died of ovarian cancer. It spurred the idea of a service that would allow people to better plan their affairs for after death as well as leave documents, photos and videos behind for loved ones.
WHAT THEY DO: The company offers free and premium services that allow those who sign up to create an interactive memorial in advance or for someone already deceased. Clients can express their after-death wishes and instructions, upload contacts and set up messages to be shared in the future. "There are aspects that aren't covered in traditional estate planning," Leemet said. "We hope this is a platform we can offer people for free and help them get their affairs in order.
HOW THEY DO IT: Memorialize Me uses Amazon web services to keep data in the cloud. Until the end of the year, Memorialize Me plans to grandfather in clients for free to its premium service. After January, its premium tier, which allows for more storage of online data, will cost $299 for perpetual service. The company has plans for a mobile-app version due out next year. Memorialize Me also plans to incorporate ads into its site and plans to partner with traditional estate planners and other after-life businesses as an add-on service. Leemet says that while nothing in life and death is guaranteed, the company will offer a way to export data should the company ever go out of business.
WHO THEY ARE: The company has about nine employees working part time to develop Memorialize Me. Leemet founded Anomalous Networks, which was sold in 2012 to Tangoe, Inc. He also worked on startups including Avantas and Sunrise Telecom. Leemet's background was originally in computer science and he worked at Nortel and Sun Micro.
INVESTMENT: The company is self-funded for now with hopes of a convertible note or a round of funding to continue developing features.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Whether it's with investors or potential customers, death is not an easily approached subject. "It's tough just to get people to give this subject mind share," Leemet said. "Just getting people to sit down and do this setup work and get them over the hump of starting seems to be the challenge." Leemet said he believes too few people are properly planning for the inevitable. He said he hopes Memorialize Me will make the process much easier and create awareness of why estate planning is so important. "We all," he said, "end up there one day."
About this series
The Startup Spotlight highlights early stage Central Texas technology companies. To nominate a startup for the series, email technology reporters Lilly Rockwell at email@example.com, Lori Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or Omar L. Gallaga at email@example.com.
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