#8 Empathy: Helping the bereaved cope with loss and bureaucracy

Empathy  credit: Avishai Lipner

Ron Gura and Yonatan Bergman’s startup provides technological and emotional assistance in the $100 billion US end-of-life industry.

Empathy accompanies bereaved people, step by step, as they deal with a new reality, in particular the tangled web of end-of-life bureaucracy.

Empathy's founders, CEO Ron Gura and CTO Yonatan Bergman, have extensive experience in entrepreneurship and technology. After selling his startup "The Gift Project" to eBay in 2011, Gura ran the retail giant’s innovation center in Israel, and later served as a senior executive at PayPal and WeWork. Bergman served alongside him in various positions at these companies during the previous decade.

Questions related to the end of life have accompanied Gura throughout his life, starting with the early death of his brother. As a young manager at eBay, he recalls, "One of my senior employees in San Jose lost his wife. I tried to be a good manager and colleague, and listen to him. Only then did I realize how much I didn’t understand. Two months after the funeral the man was still dysfunctional. When I went to visit him, I saw piles of paperwork - and that’s the image most burned into my mind. So I realized that this needed to be solved." Israelis, Gura feels, find it difficult to grasp the enormity of the bureaucratic pit that those left behind have to deal with in the US. For example, "If you don’t notify Social Security that someone has died, you’ll be fined. Because they assume non-reporting is in order to receive payments in the deceased’s place," Gura explains.

Assistance and support

"To know what to do with life insurance, pensions, you need to check if you are entitled to benefits, cancel subscriptions and credit cards of the deceased, alongside a variety of household tasks. Every day, we’re helped by technology in so many ways, but when we get to the point where we need help most, there’s no one there. The reason isn’t because of a technological barrier or a bureaucratic or regulatory barrier. It’s mainly the aversion to something that’s easy to block out." The company estimates that the end-of-life industry is worth about $100 billion.

The Empathy app provides step-by-step instructions for all necessary tasks, tailored to the user’s specific location and situation.

After downloading the app and completing an introductory questionnaire, a daily tasks checklist is presented (for example, photocopying documents like death certificates, sending them to the appropriate parties through the app). Users can enter updates on how they’re feeling and, for those who need it, Empathy runs a 24/7 call center manned by specially trained "Care Specialists", advised by bereavement expert David Kessler, who according to Gura is, "The most important authority in the field".

A savings of 200 hours

Use of the app is free for the first month, followed by a one-time fee of $65. "We have major collaborations with leading hospice chains, New York Life Insurance Company, and funeral home companies. They buy Empathy for their clients. It’s really a life saver. As of now, our app saves users more than 200 hours of hassle, and we intend to double that number. And that’s not including the amount of mistakes people make,  even when things are normal. "

Along with cooperative agreements, Empathy experienced significant growth after fundraising. The company raised $13 million in its seed round, and $30 million in a Round A last September. Investors include entrepreneurs Shai Wininger and Micha Kaufman (Lemonade and Fiverr). The young company employs about 40 people, 30 of them in development and marketing in Tel Aviv.

Empathy

  • Business: Platform to aid bereaved persons cope with both the emotional and practical sides of loss.
  • History: Founded in 2020 by Ron Gura (CEO) and Yonatan Bergman (CTO)
  • Stats: The company, which employs 39 people, raised $43 million chiefly from VC funds Aleph, General Catalyst and Entrée Capital, as well as from a number of prominent angel investors such as Shay Wininger, Sir Ronald Cohen, John Kim and Micha Kaufman

     

 

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 7, 2021.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.

Empathy  credit: Avishai Lipner
Empathy credit: Avishai Lipner
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