Optimizing for Empathy

TL;DR: Today we are officially rolling out Empathy, a new product built to solve a very old problem: the complexity of human loss. We know that losing someone you love is very hard, we‘re dedicated to making it a bit less hard, for everyone, every day. Starting now.

A few months ago, I set out to start a new company. Like many entrepreneurs, I looked for areas of opportunity, fields that were ripe for disruption. The lack of tech available to help those dealing with end-of-life issues was a problem domain I had kept coming back to for years, and now I decided to properly research it. I was no stranger to loss in my own life, and it’s also vividly present in some of my closest circles, but when I started actively learning about grief, loss, and bereavement, my eyes were opened. When you really look at families experiencing loss, the idea that what they need is “disruption” starts to seem too small, limited, even trivial.

In a world where every new company is trying to make systems more efficient, sleeker, and more seamless, end-of-life seemed like a field in dire need of an entirely different approach, one that fully honors the real lives and real experiences of those going through the hardest time in their lives. It’s not a system they can beat, or a puzzle they can solve. They can’t win; they can only cope. It was the opposite of sleek: It was emotional, personal, even messy. In short — it was human.

Death is the single largest consumer sector that remains untouched by innovation. This is not because of a regulatory or technological barrier, but rather due to the inherent optimism of human nature, which causes us to avoid talking about death’s inescapable truth. But as dark as it sometimes is, death is a topic we need to talk about more openly, so that we don’t cut ourselves off from vital sources of support. Looking at the landscape of end-of-life, Yon and I were convinced that if we faced the issue head-on, technology could provide tremendous help with the massive burden that bereaved families face: planning, logistics, bureaucracy. The 540-plus hours it takes just to settle the average estate. Making crucial decisions under pressure, when everyone often doesn’t agree. And all of it is made so much harder by the emotional pain and distress of this moment.

As we began to build up the product — an app that would guide families through all of these challenges, taking on some of the burden for them — we began to understand just how different an approach this would require from other tech solutions and industry best practices. While the (very) long list of tasks bereaved families are faced with may seem like the most obvious challenge to overcome, we couldn’t simply optimize for productivity. Our success wouldn’t be measured in jobs completed successfully, but rather in increased peace of mind, greater empowerment, more open communication backed by clearer and more complete knowledge, and more time spent with loved ones, rather than on the logistical details.

Today, together with my longtime friend and collaborator Yon, and Empathy’s fearless core team, we embark on a journey to change the way the world deals with loss. We’ll be there, during this difficult year and every year to come, guiding bereaved families, giving them peace of mind and clarity about complex processes. As we do so, we’ll continue to recognize and remember that helping families administratively requires us to tap into the personal, the messy, and the emotional. To keep in contact with our own experiences of loss, and embrace what makes us all, together, human.

For more information, visit empathy.com

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