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eFuneral raises $250,000 from JumpStart

Online end-of-life planning site offers free tools and resources to grieving families

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
May 8, 2013 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/2f5c

Two of my grandparents passed away in the last few years and both times I remember watching my mother and my uncle planning the funerals and saying to myself, "I wouldn't have any idea where to begin if I had to be in charge of this."

I assume that they received some help, but planning something like that must be among the most stressful things that a person ever has to do. I can't even imagine the logistics that go into it.  Like which funeral home to take them to, how to make sure that the cemetary has a place to put them, etc. I'd be completely lost!

That's why online end-of-life planning resource eFuneral seems like a really good idea. It offers free tools and support to help people with both end-of-life and funeral planning.

The Cleveland-based start up has now received a $250,000 investment commitment from nonprofit venture development organization JumpStart, it was announced Wednesday. The investment from Jumpstart is only part of a larger seed round which is still open, and includes additional funds from Flywheel Ventures, Hatch Partners, and other angel investors, Mike Belsito, co-Founder of eFuneral, said in an interview.

The company previously raised $260,000 from non-dilutive funding sources, such as the Innovation Fund of Northeast Ohio, Ohio New Entrepreneurs Fund (which funds the 10xelerator), and the North Coast Opportunities Technology Fund. 

The new money will be used to ramp up sales, promotion and online marketing, and continue to develop its website and other product offerings.

The idea behind eFuneral is to help families make informed decisions about end-of-life plans, giving them information about local funeral providers, including pricing, ratings and evaluations. It is also there help organizations, such as funeral homes, cemetaries and estate planners, connect with more customers.

To facilitate this, eFuneral offers both free and premium accounts for businesses. Free accounts allow them to put up basic information, including one picture of their business and pricing. Premium accounts include the ability to include video and packaged pricing. They will also appear higher on the list when a user searches for a local business, though users also have the ability to shut that feature off when they search. A premium account costs $199 monthly.

The company has also developed and vetted partnerships with external organizations to connect interested users with estate planners, insurance companies, funeral homes and cemeteries, as well as companies that can facilitate funeral financing. These companies will pay eFuneral between $25 and $50 if they are able to connect with a customer through the service, even if the customer does not wind up using them.

In addition, the company has relationships with 80 influencer groups, such as hospitals, nursing homes and hospice social workers, who recommend eFuneral to potential customers. 

The idea behind eFuneral, which was founded in 2011 and launched in February 2012, came from the death of a cousin of Belsito's two years ago. The family was unprepared, and found that there was no one place to go online to find information about what to do next. 

There are some competitors to eFuneral, Belsito said, including funeralhomes.com, which is simply a directory of businesses. No other service offers the same amount of information that eFuneral does.

The service is available in 11 markets: Baltimore-Washington, Dallas, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, San Francisco and Tampa. It currently has over 4,000 reviews on the site, as well as reviews from Yelp and Google which are culled in.

(Image source: https://www.florals-by-design.com)

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