Once making it through the mourning process, the way we remember loved ones who have passed hasn’t changed a whole lot in 5,000 years. We still mark their passing with memorial services, and express our admiration in eulogies; and we are largely still managing “remains” through standard burials and cremations.
We certainly have gotten a bit more creative (and even weird) in the ways we handle their bodies, but the fundamentals about how we remember their lives have remained the same: over time, memories tend to fade and most of us gradually go back to our lives. It’s the nature of life and death. But these days, inexorably linked to the nature of life and death, is the nature of our relationships through the channel of technology.
Mylestoned, a new death tech startup that raised $1.5 million earlier this year, knows that relationships don’t end at the passing of a loved one. Their new app wants to help individuals remember, celebrate, and document the lives of those we are mourning in a way that most of us today find engaging, evolving, and ultimately, effective.
The idea for Mylestoned was born when founder and CEO Dave Balter was flying in and out of LaGuardia airport on a regular basis. There is one particular approach that takes a plane directly above two cemeteries, and out of sheer boredom, Dave began trying to locate a living person among the dead. To his shock, even after 20 flights, he never saw a single person in the cemetery.
He began asking himself why. “Some of the answers are obvious,” Balter told me. “We live in a transient society, no longer living near where our deceased loved ones are buried. And graveyards, well, they’re kinda spooky. We just don’t like going into them. But more than that, we began to realize that in a social world, people were seeking ways to memorialize far beyond the cemetery. We wanted to solve that.”
He began assembling a team and pondering the solution in earnest in late 2015. They officially launched the company in February of 2016 with an initial $1.5 million in funding from Founder Collective, Boston Seed Capital, Converge Venture Partners and a variety of angels. Since then, the team has been working to develop the just-launched Mylestoned app for iOS.
The core of the app is a suite of tools that allows individuals to share memories of deceased loved ones when the moment strikes. At any time they can write down a special memory, upload or snap a photo, or share a single word that captures the essence of that person. I used the app to remember my grandfather.
Soon users will be able to create a map of places that were special to the loved one they are mourning, and upload or record videos. As the screenshot above illustrates, family and friends can be invited to join in on remembering the one who has passed, creating a small online community dedicated to the ongoing celebration.
The application is and always will be free, although Balter did mention that they will consider adding premium features over time. Mylestoned is also running a Beta program with funeral homes; at the moment, it is a partnership program through which the homes refer families to the software. “They introduce to their families to us as a way to help those families preserve memories—to move from grief to remembering to celebration,” Balter explains. “Funeral homes are very interested in ways to stay connected and engaged with families and this provides them a way to be a part of that.”
In June of 2016, Mylestoned purchased Heirloom, an app that provides a simple way for users to scan and digitize photos. Currently, Heirloom users upload approximately 18,000 photos per week, many of deceased loved ones. Balter said it won’t be long before the two services are integrated.
Mylestoned is primarily aimed at Millennials, which makes sense given that Millennials are the ones most likely to integrate (and already integrating) technology into their key manners of mourning and remembering. Millennials are also in that window of life where support roles quickly become leading roles. “Millennials are actually critical to this,” Balter said. “They are becoming the primary individual in a family who is responsible for preserving memories for deceased family members.”
At around $26 billion, the death industry is an enormous one. With the Baby Boomer generation galloping over the crest of “The Hill,” Millennials are going to soon find themselves dealing with death-related issues on a regular basis. The classic solutions may not cut it for a connected consciousness. That’s the good news for Mylestoned; to be a bit blunt, you could say that our pain may very well be their gain.
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