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Morbid investment of the day: eFuneral nabs $250K to be a Yelp for funeral homes

End-of-life planning startup eFuneral has received a $250,000 investment to help people find resources online for funeral planning including funeral home reviews, estate planning, and cemetery information.

Cleveland-based eFuneral was launched in February 2012 by cofounders Mike Belsito and Bryan Chaikin with the intention to help professional funeral planners, people who have just lost a loved one, and those interested in long-term planning.

“This industry is completely antiquated,” Belsito told VentureBeat. “We saw a big gap and decided to make a better solution.”

While one could look at the service as potentially taking advantage of grieving folks, it doesn’t charge families for most of its features. The site makes much of its revenue from partnerships with end-of-life organizations such as cemeteries, estate planners, and life insurance agents. It also charges funeral homes $200 a month for premium memberships and better placement in search results.

mike-efuneralBelsito appears to be quite sincere when it comes to helping people with his business. He spends some of his time each day on the site answering questions in a chat bubble for families about how the site works and what resources they might need at that moment. (I can confirm this because he popped up in a bubble when I visited the site for the first time.)

One of the reasons Belsito is so sincere about helping people is because the company’s genesis comes from an incident two years ago when Belsito’s cousin passed away. Belsito’s cousin was in his 40s with some health problems, but the family was not ready for when he passed away suddenly.

“We didn’t expect to come home and find him dead, but that’s what happened,” Belsito said. “There were six funeral homes in two-mile radius from where we were. We thought there would be more information online to figure out where to go, but there wasn’t. … It was frustrating that were more reviews online on Yelp about where to eat dinner then there were about places to go for end-of-life help, which is much more consequential.”

Today’s investment came from nonprofit venture organization JumpStart, which has made investments in 72 early-stage Northeast Ohio companies. Prior to today, eFuneral had raised $260,000 in seed funding and loans from 10Xelerator, Innovation Fund of Northeast Ohio, and others, as well as an undisclosed investment from Flywheel Ventures, Hatch Partners, and others.

“Prior to the existence of eFuneral, the end-of-life marketplace lacked an organized single source of relevant, easy-to-understand information,” JumpStart partner Mark Smith said in a statement. “However, the company’s offerings are flexible to an individual’s specific needs, comprehensive enough to cover all aspects of the planning process, and clearly organized on a well-designed website.”

The new investment will be used to increase the sales and marketing of the service and to develop the site further.

Coffin with flower arrangement via Robert Hoetink/Shutterstock

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