Celebrating life and curating grief is what Eterneva offers customers when dealing with a death in their life. The Austin-based startup is focused on how we experience grief and wellness, and the production of memorial diamonds. More recently, the company is making headlines for funding digital support and expansion during a difficult time.
COVID-19 has brought uncertainty and caused massive changes to the typical procedures in place. Even funerals have been disrupted. Grieving people have been asked to avoid large gatherings and either not hold a funeral or keep the numbers very low. From drive-in funerals to virtual services, the options are welcomed, but not ideal for those struggling with loss. Grief hits hard, especially when the goodbye services don’t meet expectations. As a company that believes in curating the grief journey, this is a very sobering problem that has been exacerbated by the limitations put in place due to the global pandemic.
Though Eterneva doesn’t typically work in digitization of records and documents, they found online support was one way they could help grieving families. They realized they could provide a digital arrangement tool to help digitize the materials and contracts typically used in person. In May, the company offered a free service to funeral homes to digitize their arrangement materials in less than 72 hours.
Co-Founders Adelle Archer (CEO) and Garrett Ozar presented this company plan to SharkTank in 2019 where they received backing by Mark Cuban. Initially, the company worked strictly through a direct-to-consumer model. However, with COVID changes, Eterneva began partnering with funeral homes directly as they helped them go digital. Last month, Eterneva signed its second funeral home partnership, offering services through funeral homes in New Hampshire, Ohio, and Vermont.
Memorial diamonds are created through a special lab process to turn ashes of loved ones into diamonds. The customer can choose the size, cut, color, and inscription of the diamond. Eterneva provides digital grief wellness support including blog posts, social tributes, newsletters, and more.
With the support of Springdale Ventures, Eterneva raised $3 million in an oversubscribed seed round. This impressive $3 million in funding included a total of 28 individuals and venture firms. This brings Eterneva’s total funding to $4.8 million through seed and angel rounds since it was first founded in 2016.
The new funds will go towards expanding the Eterneva Austin laboratory and further invest in the digital grief wellness experience that supports the memorial diamonds.
Speaking to CrunchBase, co-founder and CEO Adelle Archer remarked regarding plans for the company, “A big part of our strategy is vertically integrating into other areas as well as building a much larger diamond lab facility in Austin so we can bring more and more growth in-house. We are also evaluating our customer experience and want to allow more customers to meet our team, as well as be a part of putting their loved ones’ ashes into the machine.”
The growing startup has now served over 500 customers and has an ongoing study in place through Baylor University to measure the impact of their program. The much-needed research on grief processes and aftercare for the living is just one more way Eterneva can improve the grief industry to better help those struggling with loss.
Full Crunchbase Interview with Eterneva CEO Adelle Archer:
CrunchBase: I’ve done some research on the company and I see that you previously landed $1.8 million in a seed funding round back in 2019. And that your total raise today is 4.8 million?
Adelle Archer: Yes!
CB: You and Garrett appeared on Shark Tank last year and I saw that Eterneva was serving more than 500 customers. Is that correct?
AA: Yes, I’ll give you an updated count. We’re approaching seven hundred at this point.
CB: That’s awesome. I also read that you have several funeral home partnerships. One in the New Hampshire area and the other one in Columbus, Ohio. Is this like digital arrangement materials? Can you go into what that actually is?
AA: Yeah, sure. So, to give you a little bit of context we were primarily a direct to consumer company through 2019. And then this year, in 2020, we launched this venture, partnering with funeral homes, to just be able to reach people at a time that they’re looking for what are some of the different options that are available.
Our focus this year was really partnering with the most progressive and the absolute top, privately held funeral homes in the country. It has been a pretty remarkable impact on our state. We saw a huge uptick in families needing to be served, especially in hotspot areas around the country. And a lot of funeral homes were not ready for just how COVID-19 impacted them. Many funeral homes haven’t really moved to a more digital format with how they serve customers. So that was a huge change that they had to make overnight, while experiencing volumes that they’ve never handled before. That was just something that we kind of looked at, and we’re like, “Gosh. How can we add value to our industry right now?” They are in a state of crisis. And so, there were two things that we did.
First, we launched a free digital arrangement tool. That’s basically just helping us take all of the materials that they usually take someone through in an in person meeting and digitize it so that it’s easy to go over an online media kit and talk them through it, and it’s really beautiful and presentation ready. It’s not kind of a natural future direction of our business getting into funeral home schools. It’s more just we’re young millennials from tech backgrounds, so we’re like this is something easy for us to set up and to help.
Then the other one was realizing that in a lot of states, funeral homes are not being classified as frontline workers, essential workers. So they weren’t getting the funding or the support for PPE gear. So we actually launched a fundraiser, a GoFundMe, in partnership with a few different major funeral home organizations to raise money for funeral homes for masks. And so we sent thousands of masks to funeral homes all over the country. And that was just incredibly, incredibly well-received. We had Mark Cuban actually film a video thanking Funeral Directors for their frontline service and that went viral within their communities. So, certainly just a lot to help this industry during this time. People aren’t really thinking about funeral homes being frontline workers just as much as hospitals are.
CB: For the actual funding, I have that it’s a $3 million seed extension round.
CB: Is there anyone who actually led the round?
AA: Yeah, so it was led by our inside institutions from Springdale Ventures. They’re based here in Austin. They’re a consumer focused fund, the principle is Dan Graham.
CB: So what are you planning to do with the new funds?
AA: A big part of our strategy over the next couple of years is vertically integrating our supply chain. So we have an existing diamond lab here in Austin that’s operational, and we grow diamonds in house and so really, it’s expanding that facility out. We currently have diamond growth facilities in Austin, in Germany and in Switzerland. But over the next couple years, we’re going to be building a much larger facility here in Austin and bringing more, more and more of our diamond growth in house. And with that, really just elevating the experience that we can provide our customers as kind of a millennial first company.
We’re just very.. We’re huge on transparency and openness and allowing our customers to come down and meet our team and to be a part of putting their loved one in the machine if they’d like to. So there’s a lot of kind of experienced design that we aim to do with this new facility. And then with that, we always say that the journey that we’ve designed around the diamonds is actually as special and important as the diamond itself.
This is a very intricate, very scientific process and there’s a lot of cool miniature milestones within that process. And what we’ve realized is that we’re really parallel processing with someone’s grief. So, basically, what we’ve done is we’ve always looked to how can we be elevating that journey and making it more of a storytelling journey. We’ve now just launched a new experience called ‘Dedication Pages’, where we’ve got our customer’s loved one and all of the diamond updates, starting to get posted to that page. And there’s a whole roadmap of capabilities that we’re going to be building out there. Kind of a very technology-enabled consumer experience. Because, we’re really about experience innovation through technology, as much as we are delivering a beautiful diamond in home.