Health

This startup developed a digital assistant for bereavement support and is attracting major investors

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences to deal with, and all the responsibilities that come with it make it even more challenging.

One startup is trying to use technology to provide support to bereaved families and help them navigate the logistical details resulting from the death of someone close to them — with services ranging from connecting families to counseling to arranging the funeral and helping plan estate paperwork and taxes.

Empathy emerged out of stealth earlier this year and recently received $30 million in series A funding to help keep up with strong early demand. The funding round was led by Entrée Capital, with participation from General Catalyst and Aleph, which doubled their seed investment.

Other backers included LocalGlobe, Primetime Partners, and angel investors including Shai Wininger, CEO and co-founder of Lemonade, Sir Ronald Cohen, John Kim, ex-president of New York Life and Micha Kaufman, CEO and co-founder of Fiverr. 

The series A comes just five months after Empathy announced a $13 million seed round. 

The funding will be used to expand New York-based Empathy’s presence across the U.S. with new products, additional strategic partnerships and growing its multidisciplinary team to help with the emotions that come with loss, the company said.

Empathy has raised $43 million in the last year as it ramps up to take on the U.S. end-of-life industry by helping the families deal with their grief and the complications that come with loss.

“We think it’s much-needed,” Ron Gura, co-founder and CEO of Empathy told Fierce Healthcare. “We think it’s purposeful and I personally made it my life’s mission to help people deal with loss. I think it’s going to be very empowering to do that with technology.”

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The U.S. end-of-life industry is projected to grow to about $100 billion in the next three to five years, including death care, estate management and other services, yet it remains outdated and fragmented, according to a statement announcing the funding.

Bereaved families deal with hundreds of hours of logistics and responsibilities that can be confusing, unintuitive and emotionally draining. Empathy’s app combines technology and human support to save families time, money and stress.

The app streamlines end-of-life logistics, minimizes tedious tasks, and automates estate administration, while providing emotional guidance along the way, according to the company.

In August, Empathy inked a concept partnership with New York Life to make its app available to the life insurer’s beneficiaries.

“We are proud to continue to support Empathy as it strengthens its position as a market leader in the end-of-life industry and provides a service that is incredibly necessary for families struggling with loss,” said Joel Cutler, co-founder and managing director at General Catalyst, in a statement.

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Empathy, he said, “has proven both its commitment and its determination to reach as many families as possible, partnering with companies across different sectors to connect with diverse audiences, as well as recruiting the best and the brightest to further their mission.”

Gura said Empathy is starting with the U.S. because dealing with grief during the loss of a family member is more difficult there than in many other parts of the world.

“In the U.S. it is a very complicated system,” when it comes to such things as probate and estate issues, he said, and the added funding will help the company build the tools and services for families during those challenging moments.

“We think grief is made harder by logistics, and logistics are made much harder by grief,” he said.

Loss, Gura said, “is something that does not escape any of us. Loss is an inescapable truth. It is a taboo topic and like many other taboo topics it is time to put it front and center.”

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