4 May 2021
You are a serial entrepreneur, moving from the travel industry into bereavement technology. Tell us about your journey?
The journey has been a convoluted one. My first business, A Hedonist’s guide to… turned the traditional travel guide market on its head-turning away from traditional to experiential travel and creating a flattering raft of imitators. In 2010 we pivoted the business to become a digital content agency, Hg2, working with some really high profile lifestyle brands (Aston Martin, NetJets, Avis, Virgin Atlantic, Sipsmith, Fever-Tree etc).
This stood me in good stead for setting up Life Ledger. We have been looking at how we can disrupt the current sclerotic and frustrating processes using technology and partnerships. It’s about transforming people’s experience of death and helping them through a time when they are at their most vulnerable, exhausted and angry.
What motivated you to start ‘Life Ledger’? How did you get your idea/concept for the business?
Life Ledger was born out of the death of the mother of a close friend. It took her the best part of a year to discover what accounts her mother had and then be able to close them all down. She found it a very distressing experience. We sat down together to try and work out a way to address this. The output of this is the Life Ledger platform that we have built today.
We wanted to take away the administrative burden of the bereaved families after a death so that the families can concentrate on grieving. Life Ledger is about trying to make death easier. We hope what we have built is a commercial business with a real social purpose.
Your mission is to support the mental health of bereaved individuals? How are you going about this?
The emotional impact the death notification process has on individuals is one of the main reasons we set up Life Ledger. We aim to support the bereaved throughout the process of losing a loved one, both before death where they can start the estate planning journey and trying to remove some of the admin for the family, and then after death with closing or switching their accounts.
Families are already going through a difficult time coming to terms with their loss and we recognise that the last thing they need is the added pressure of speaking to multiple organisations. The notifiers have to discover what accounts the deceased had, often by rummaging through drawers, research what channels they need to use to notify the companies and what documentation each individual company needs, and then spend hours on the phone or filling in the same form over and over again. They have to do this alongside funeral arrangements and fulfilling last requests, at a time they are grieving the loss of their loved one. It’s a huge mental health issue – but one that is not addressed or spoken about as much as it should be.
By making the time consuming and confusing system simpler, quick and as pain-free as possible, we hope to alleviate the stress and mental health impact this can have on their wellbeing.
What have you learned from starting a business in the middle of a pandemic? What would be your advice for founders looking to do the same?
Starting a business in pandemic has been interesting. There have been challenges based around trying to keep a team engaged remotely, and not being able to meet and build relationships with potential partners in person, or speak at events. We have been ‘lucky’ as customer vulnerability has become a hot topic, which has made it easier to engage with the companies we need to talk to.
Now, people are now taking the impact estate admin has on the bereaved more seriously and so innovation is bringing these processes into the 21st century. This year, emergency legislation was passed to “enable documents that currently have to be physically presented in connection with death registration to be transmitted electronically or by other means”, preparing the way for deaths to be dealt with digitally.
Life Ledger had already been planned pre-pandemic, but the seismic digital change that has taken place across the industry in the last year has allowed us to gain more traction from stakeholders, whether that’s the companies we are notifying, industry regulators, or consumers themselves.
My advice to founders looking to do the same would be to stay in regular contact with team members to keep productivity high, and make sure they have a suitable comms tool in place. The one benefit of this new remote working culture is that it no longer matters where in the world the team is, and we can build a strong team that is less reliant on location.
Where would you like ‘Life Ledger’ to be in five years?
In the next five years, we hope to see Life Ledger grow and essentially become the private sector ‘Tell Us Once’. The next 12 months are crucial, and we plan to build on our existing relationships with companies we notify and begin to provide a deeper level of integration for Funeral, Legal and Will services. We are also keen to fully leverage the digital identity space and are part of Open Identity Exchange, a group collaborating around the ID sector.
Overall, our key goals are to continue our momentum and to grow and with that being said we will have only succeeded when we can make death easier for the recently bereaved.
In your roles as a founder, what has been the most challenging thing so far?
One of the most challenging things has been building the relationships between our organisation and the service providers we are informing.
We are of course, on their side and want to help them make this process more streamlined for the benefit of the bereaved. Whilst navigating the pandemic and working from home, the team here has been working hard to build ongoing relationships and we are seeing the benefits – at the moment we have 650 companies on our system that we make notifications to and this is growing all the time.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
When I was six my vision deteriorated to the extent that the optician said I would qualify for a white stick. I was the kid at school with super thick glasses. About 25 years ago I had laser surgery on my eyes and haven’t worn glasses since.
The other was buying a Fitbit many years ago and the gameified platform meant that I entered calories from sandwiches, tracked my daily steps etc and I soon realised that what I thought was an active life was actually rather sedentary. It changed the way I approach life, and to an extent, food.
What invention do you hope to see in your lifetime?
The invention that will make a big impact on my life is the coming advent of the driverless car. Shuttling between London and Cornwall by car means I lose four hours each way, and while it might be valuable thinking time, it is a waste. The other field I am interested in is longevity, as a new(ish) and slightly older father I relish the advances of life-prolonging technology that will give me the opportunity to see my own children and grand children’s lives flourish.