Funeral Industry News, What Led To The Crumble Of The First Virtual Graveside?

August 27, 2009, What Led To The Crumble Of The First Virtual Graveside?

image The termination of came as a surprise to merely everyone in the industry, one day there supposedly going strong, the next day the homepage is now an obit notice stating ?This site is no longer operational. In the event at such time that it does become operational, a notice will be posted supplying further information. We regret if anyone has been inconvenienced. For any further information, please contact your local participating funeral home?. There have been a numerous amount of articles posted on industry blogs asking the same question ?What happened to ES?? The following post will layout what I know about the situation and what I think led to the ultimate decision to shut down the site and company.

There is a documentary I watched a few years ago and recently downloaded from iTunes that runs a very similar line to the building and crumbling of ES. The documentary is titled ? and it follows the rise and fall of an Internet start up. The company in the documentary, GovWorks, blows through of 50 million in funding (hiring to many people; web designers, coders, big office space, ect) and launches a product (website), that is full of bugs and doesn?t function properly, the end result is the company folding just 6 months after launch. Very similar to what has happened with ES.

ES debuted in the industry last October when they exhibited at the NFDA convention in Orlando. If you remember I posted an article after the convention giving my review of the company. I will be honest, even though they didn?t have a working site (product) at the convention; I bought into their idea and concept, as did many funeral directors. The problem was they spent tons of cash on a 20? x 40? booth space simply to tell the industry how great there non-existing product was. I personally do not think it was premature for them to exhibit even though their product was not complete; they did have a very impressive demo video for attendees to watch. The problem lied in the fact that they went over board with the booth to the point that I think some funeral directors were turned off by the flashiness. Though I don?t know the exact amount of cash they spent, it was plain to see that they had plenty and they spent plenty.

Shortly after the convention the company grow to over 40 people, but still did not have a finished product and they weren?t creating any revenue.

Also, shortly after the convention I received the invitation to be on the ES advisory board, which I excitedly accepted. My acceptance of the offer lead to many phone and email consultations. I believe the company made the right decision when they decided to sell their product strictly through the funeral director.

In April of this year ES officially launched their product at the ICCFA convention in Las Vegas. Their launch was well received by the industry and they began to sign up their first round of funeral homes. This is when things began to unravel.

After such a big hype at NFDA and a very hyped official launch at ICCFA, I believe ES expected their product to catch on like wild fire. But when it didn?t they panicked. My though is how do you know if something is catching on after only 30 days? I explained to the management team a hundred times that the funeral industry is very slow moving and it takes time for the industry to embrace new technology. Once the product didn?t produce the immediate revenue they were hoping (through the option of virtual gifting by families who purchased the product), and they had many complaints of the software not performing like it should many questions began to rise from the investor(s). Since I have signed a non-disclosure document with ES I cannot go into detail; but I believe they were concerned about the complexity of the product and the ability of the funeral director to sell the product and share the idea of tribute gifts with families. I also believe with these questions came the though of changing their marketing strategy. ES didn?t seem to have a plan B ready in the event that the product didn?t immediately start to show returns on the tons of cash that was dumped into it. All of this seemed to lead to the investors cutting there loses and forcing the company to shut down. The following quote comes from the LinkedIn profile of ES President and GM, Jay Goss ?Company was abruptly shut down by the principal owner as it was transitioning from R&D phase to commercial enterprise.?

Many think that the product was to advanced for the industry. I don?t. I think the product was a year or two ahead of its time but I think now was the right time to introduce it. If they would have ran the company like a small startup, not burned through tons of cash and kept costs low, I believe they would have been able to stick around for awhile and hold the hands of funeral directors to walk them through such an amazing product.

I am sad to see the company faultier so quickly. I believe a product like this could have helped the funeral industry embrace virtual technology and open the doors for a new kind of grieving.