Aussie ‘death-tech’ startup Gathered Here has raised $1 million in funding, as investors start to realise the opportunity in digitising — and improving — end-of-life services.
The round was led by Common Sense Ventures, and also included repeat backing from BetterLabs, the venture capital arm of RAC’s Western Australian arm, plus Tidal Ventures chair Murray Bleach.
It follows a $1.1 million seed round closed in May last year. According to founder Colin Wong, the fresh funding, which was finalised on Christmas Eve, saw the startup’s valuation double within just seven months.
Having started out as a comparison site for funeral services, Gathered Here expanded to help support consumers in choosing their offerings across the end-of-life sector, including headstones, celebrants and will writing.
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The aim is to create a tech layer connecting the full value chain of death-related services, Wong tells SmartCompany, improving customer experience around what can be unpleasant and emotionally draining.
The founder estimates that Gathered Here’s free will writing service is now used for writing about 6.5% of all wills in Australia — a 350% increase over the past 12 months.
Since last year’s funding round, however, Wong and the team have been focused on bolstering Gathered Here’s charity partnerships.
The platform allows users to leave gifts to charities in their wills, if they choose. This means charities can offer their supporters an easy way to leave them a gift, while accessing insight and data on how many do so.
That transparency on how much legacy income charities could expect to generate was not really possible previously, Wong says.
“It was all very manual … it was really difficult to get access to any of that data.”
Disruption death services
Wong doesn’t share Gathered Here’s new valuation, but he says the fact that it has doubled is indicative of increased confidence not only in his business but in this sector more broadly.
That goes for both investors and customers, he says.
During the first round, some investors “didn’t quite know what to make of us and what we were doing”, he suggests.
Death remains a taboo topic, and as such the industry surrounding it has been one of the last sectors to be digitised or disrupted.
That’s starting to change, Wong says. The death tech sector is generating a buzz.
Despite there being only seven months between raises, the second time around he had investors tracking him down, rather than the other way around.
Wong attributes the increased interest partly to the fact that, previously, those seeking services around death were not — for the most part — online.
Now we’re seeing a generational change. The people arranging death-related services are digital natives; they’re tech savvy and well accustomed to conducting their business online.
They’re searching for providers, but services are fragmented and inaccessible, often not transparent and largely offline, Wong adds.
“There’s a bit of a mismatch with what they expect in terms of how they consume just about every other product and service”, he says.
“That is becoming much clearer to and more obvious to investors.”