Farewill, a UK technology start-up building a suite of services designed to lower the significant costs around someone dying, has closed a £20 million investment round. The Farewill platform offers services such as the writing of legally binding online wills, probate services such as death duties and inheritance tax and funerals.
The large investment round has been led by venture capital firm Highland Europe and also involved Transfer Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, as well as a number of other VCs. The round brings the total investment attracted by Farewill to £30 million, with just under $10 million secured in January 2019.
Farewill CEO Dan Garrett says his company’s goal is to destigmatise death and make practical planning for it both convenient and better value than is currently the case:
“We all have to face death. It lives inside everyone. But for most of us, we are psychologically hardwired not to think about it, and as a process people have been largely at the behest of an industry that doesn’t think about its customers.”
Farewill has been operational for five years now and in that time the digital platform has become the biggest will writer in the UK, with around 10% of will written now done so through the service. Cremation, funeral and probate services were launched in December 2019 and the company is already the third or fourth largest cremation provider in the UK.
A Farewill cremation costs around 20% the cost of the average UK funeral. The model is that the cremation itself is functional, with families then choosing how to best memorialise the passing of their loved one. Farewill recorded 800% revenue growth last year, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic that has increased death rates over 2020.
As an engineering student at Oxford University Garrett spent 6 months in Japan as part of a group set the task of designing products to help the elderly. His dissertation was based on the field trip but he ended up focusing on cutlery designs. He left feeling they had wasted their time focusing on superficial aspects of ageing and dying rather than ‘the nub of the matter’.
On reflection, he decided if there was something that needed ‘disrupting’ for those coming towards the end of their lives it was the logistics of dying. On his return to the UK Garrett began to research the death sector by visiting funeral parlours and other services. He qualified as a will writer and started helping friends through the probate process. He felt that gave him the experience to then delve deeper.
“There is this profound human aversion to dealing with death, and that is a brilliant design challenge,” he said.
Death care services, everything after death, is big business and projected to be worth around $102 billion globally this year. Those kind of numbers, and the fact that it is clearly an industry that could be more efficient when it comes to expenses, has attracted investors to what Farewill is doing.
Stan Laurent, partner at Highland Europe, said in a statement announcing his company’s investment in Farewill:
“How about entirely removing the administrative pain for those grieving for their loved ones? How about providing an affordable, effortless and considerate service? That’s what the Farewill team is doing – with an extraordinary blend of compassion and tech-fueled efficiency”.
“For too long, the wills and funeral industry has been largely geared towards profit over purpose. Since our first meeting with Dan, we knew that Farewill had the ingredients to radically disrupt the industry. We’re excited to back them as they broaden their ambition.”