Death tech startup Bare raises $10 million in Series A funding to change how Australians approach the end of life

bare

Bare founders Cale Donovan (L) and Sam McConkey. Source: supplied.

Australian death tech startup Bare has raised $10 million in Series A funding as it prepares to unveil a single space for customers to navigate their end of life journey, from pre-planning to funeral, grief, legal and estate management. 

The capital raise was led by Perennial Partners and Ord Minnett Private Capital, bringing Bare’s total funding to $15 million over the past three years. Previous investors include OIF Ventures, Athletic Ventures, Who Gives A Crap co-founder Simon Griffiths and former NBA basketballer Andrew Bogut.

Speaking to SmartCompany, co-founders Cale Donovan and Sam McConkey explain that Bare aims to change what the end-of-life journey looks like in Australia, with the startup looking to provide a single platform for multiple services in an otherwise disjointed industry. 

“The investment is going into three core components,” McConkey said.

“The first is investing deeply in product experience. We’re a digitally enabled service business. If we take an extended view of what end-of-life looks like, everything from pre-planning to estate planning, the funeral to grief and estate administration, we want to build out a suite of products that can make it elegant and simple for the family.” 

Bare is also looking into ramping up market education as it scales the company, with the founders noting that Australians are generally reluctant to discuss or talk about death. 

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in educating Australia generally around end-of-life,” McConkey said.

“It’s not a topic we talk about or like to talk about, and there’s still a lot of misgivings around what a funeral could look like. So there’s a role for us to play across the end-of-life journey around educating Australians on what it can be and how it can look”. 

Bare was founded in late 2019 and currently has a team of 42 staff, with the new funding to go towards expanding its product and engineering teams. It has served more than 15,000 Australians to date, having expanded its offering from just direct-to-customer cremation services to include funeral services, memorial celebrations and legal support.  

Disrupting death

A traditional burial in Australia can cost $19,000 on average, while cremations can go for up to $7400, according to funeral price comparison website Gathered Here, and these involve working directly with the funeral director to make arrangements in a single hour. Bare’s co-founders say this decision is often hurried, with families forced to make decisions in the space of an hour and hold the ceremony the following week. 

“At a fundamental level, the historical funeral industry has been built around this idea of the body being present at the ceremony or the funeral service. And because of that, this necessarily compresses both space and time and needs to be held quite quickly and at the funeral parlour where the body is held,” McConkey said. 

The decisions are not only rushed, but the co-founders say the options available are limited and expensive too. Bare wants to change this and give its customers the option to decouple the cremations from memorials and give families the time and space to choose. The traditional $1.8 billion funeral industry, the co-founders add, is no longer catered to changing the preferences of its market. 

“There’s a lot of really good people in the industry, but their business model has lagged behind modern consumer preferences,” Donovan said.

“The modern consumer is tech enabled. They want personalisation, they want choice. What we’re doing is addressing these preferences.” 

The pandemic played a part in changing those consumer preferences, says McConkey.

“I think in particular, for senior Australians, COVID-19 fast-tracked their adoption and trust in technology. It also had people thinking about personalised options. Lockdowns also made people rethink the timing and the type of ceremony that they could have, as opposed to choosing the traditional path,” McConkey said. 

And it’s not just having the option to hold the memorial at a later date. The founders have also noticed an uptick in people prepaying and planning their own funerals — down to the guest list and the playlist — and even hosting a pre-death funeral where the customer gets to attend while they’re still alive. 

“Most recently, we had a gentleman who is happy, healthy and in his mid-60s have his own living memorial,” McConkey said. “I think the impetus is that they want to have all the important people around them and acknowledge their own mortality.” 

“We’re investing in a product that will redefine what that funeral service can look like,” said Donovan. 

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