Venture Corner: After Steps
AfterSteps is developing an online platform to educate consumers on end-of-life planning and to enable them to create an end-of-life plan, store it, and transfer it to designated beneficiaries upon their passing.
Who: Jess Bloomgarden (NG), Emma Taylor (NG), Alex Stratoudakis (NG)
What: New company
Where: HBS / New York
What is your business?
Everyone dies, and yet 65% of Americans do not plan for their death. Why? The current end-of-life planning process is too daunting and overly complex. AfterSteps is developing an online platform to educate consumers on end-of-life planning and to enable them to create an end-of-life plan, store it, and transfer it to designated beneficiaries upon their passing. AfterSteps combines the traditionally siloed end-of-life verticals: financial planning, estate planning, funeral arrangements, and personal wishes into one comprehensive platform.
Through information transparency, peace of mind, and connecting consumers to related products (e.g., life insurance, pre-paid funeral costs, etc.), AfterSteps eases the end-of-life process for the user and saves their loved ones additional hassle and expensive last minute decisions at a time of great grief.
How did you come up with the idea?
After the recent death of a grandparent, Jess Bloomgarden watched her mother going through the ‘aftersteps’ of the process. Not only did she notice how needlessly complex it was, but she also began to receive daily calls from her parents with one-off requests and instructions (e.g. where their will was stored, how they wanted their remains dealt with, or personal messages to the rest of the family). Jess realized that there had to be a better way to compile this information leading her to the idea of AfterSteps.
What is one of the most exciting aspects of your business at this point?
We are very excited about creating an online business targeted at the baby boomer generation. Our work to date has proven that the online baby boomers are an underserved demographic. Combined with the fact that the death-care industry is ripe for innovation, we believe that AfterSteps will touch a real pain point for users, solving a significant societal problem in the process.
What is one of your main challenges at this point?
One of our biggest challenges has been tackling the technical aspects of our business without being computer programmers ourselves. We have been lucky to find a great contracted developer, but we are always on the lookout for star designers and developers.
How was your Business Plan Competition experience?
We were very happy with our Business Plan Competition experience. We made it to the semi-finals and received helpful feedback from the judges in the process. Additionally, one of the most important aspects for us was the chance to refine our presentation and practice communicating the idea to others.
What would you improve about it?
Well, it would have been nice to win.
How can HBS encourage more entrepreneurship?
Our experience to date with the Rock Center and entrepreneurship at HBS has been very positive. We received funding from the Rock Center’s Minimal Viable Product fund to build our first prototype and have found the advisors and mentors such as lawyers and Entrepreneurs-in-Residence to be helpful. The most difficult part is honestly just finding the time to work on the venture in the middle of a very busy RC year.
What are your next steps?
We are working on the business fulltime this summer, based in New York City, as part of the DreamIT Ventures incubator program. Our goal is to have a full beta product and the first distribution contracts signed by summer end.
About the entrepreneurs:
Jess Bloomgarden: Jess most recently served as Chief Marketing Officer for early stage, VC-backed startup Aero Farm Systems. Jess previously worked in the Marketing & Products group at DFJ-backed SolarCity. Jess also served as Principal of early-stage technology venture fund 21Ventures and received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University.
Emma Taylor: Emma most recently was a Fellow for Agora Partnerships, a social entrepreneurship support organization where she developed a new entrepreneurship accelerator program in Central America. Prior to Agora, Emma worked at Goldman, Sachs, & Co. for four years in both investment banking and the large cap private equity fund. Emma graduated from Princeton University with an engineering degree in operations.
Alex Stratoudakis: Alex most recently served as Interim VP of Corporate Development for Mercury Payment Systems. Prior to that, Alex worked in finance as an Associate at Silver Lake Partners focusing on large scale technology and technology enabled investment opportunities. Alex worked at The Blackstone Group as an analyst and received his undergraduate degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.