Tens of billions spent on funeral services, coffins, and other goods and services around the world each year.
Innovative tech startups are looking to grab a share of the industry as they have in sectors like health and financial services.
If you’ve ever wondered about the best way to plan a loved one’s last goodbye, the solutions tech startups are coming up with will push the boundaries of what you thought was possible. Some of the highest-profile tech startups are already transforming how we deal with deceased people’s bodies and in the process, how we think about funerals and death.
Startups undercutting funeral costs
Coeio is one of the best-known tech brands in the funeral industry. The late actor Luke Perry chose the startup’s “infinity burial suit.” Perry was buried in a biodegradable mushroom suit designed to speed up the body’s decomposition and in the process convey nutrients back into the soil. In doing so, the suit lowers the environmental impact of death while breaking down harmful toxins in the body that would otherwise have leaked into the ground.
Coeio’s burial suit isn’t just sustainable; priced at $1,500, it’s also far more affordable than a traditional casket. It’s a great example of new, more affordable products for those who have been priced out of traditional burials and ceremonies.
Alternatively, you can opt for a $125 cardboard coffin, and what’s more, these have half the emissions of an expensive wooden casket. For an extreme option, there’s US startup Recompose, which composts human remains and allows families to take home the resulting soil.
On the subject of ecological impact, traditional funerals use a long list of materials including embalming fluid, wood, and metal. Burials take up increasingly scarce and expensive space.
Cremation is more space-efficient but creates air pollution and emissions, which is partly why startups like Qico are offering water cremation. Water cremation or alkaline hydrolysis can reduce the waste associated with cremations. It speeds up the decomposition process and leaves only the bones, which can be ground up and returned to the family-like ashes.
Startups are also active in other areas. With even the simplest funerals costing many thousands of dollars, competitive pricing through comparison sites and financing could help make things easier for those who decide to stick to the traditional route.
Comparison sites for funeral goods and services such as About the Funeral have cropped up, allowing people to compare and shop for coffins, funeral services, wreaths, funeral insurance, and funeral loans.
Startup Willow, for example, promises to help consumers buy coffins and flowers at their real price. Ever Loved is another comparison-site startup that lets people shop for and review funeral homes, cemeteries, caskets, urns, headstones, and more.
Tech startups like Solace are addressing the cost issue by offering streamlined cremation for an all-inclusive price. Online-only companies like AdVitam have been founded to provide a more efficient and cost-effective funeral service with attentive, respectful customer service. On the other hand, startups like Simplifia have been focusing on providing software for funeral businesses to help with organizing funerals.
Other trends include 3D-printed, personalized tombstones and urns; turning your ashes into a diamond or a vinyl record; and even a service to send your cremated remains into space. There are digital tombstones that play videos and music chosen by the deceased and crowdfunding platforms for funding funeral costs.
Tech startups are disrupting the funeral industry by giving people more choices, especially greener, sustainable solutions. These new players could help break down the enduring taboo surrounding the topic of death. This could be a positive thing as it encourages families and loved ones to talk to each other about their final wishes and make plans in advance.
The entry of tech startups into space doesn’t necessarily mean funerals on average are quickly becoming more affordable. These startups are offering both premium and budget options for burials, services, and ancillary goods and services.
Nevertheless, the additional competition could shake up the sector and eventually see more competitive pricing across the board.