Balter Steps Down as Mylestone CEO, Shifts to Chairman
[Updated 11/16/17, 10:47 am. See below.] Dave Balter, a serial entrepreneur and startup investor in the Boston area, has stepped down as CEO of one of his latest ventures, Mylestone.
Balter has shifted to the role of chairman, and Mylestone head of product Drew Condon is now the chief executive, Balter announced in a blog post on Wednesday.
“I have to say, after 19 months of building this company, it feels like a bit of a failure,” Balter (pictured) wrote in the post. “But, I know it’s the only way the company will succeed.”
Balter’s original idea for Mylestone was an online service aimed at giving the grieving a more meaningful and interactive method of paying digital tribute to loved ones who have passed away. The company was one of a growing number of “deathtech” startups. Others include SafeBeyond, which enables people to create a “digital time capsule” of messages and videos that can be shared with loved ones after the person is gone; and Cake, which provides software for end-of-life planning and recently raised $1.35 million from investors.
Boston-based Mylestone spent a year or so developing about a dozen versions of its product, and it talked with hundreds of funeral homes, Balter wrote. But it apparently couldn’t figure out a way to make the business work, in part because the funeral home industry is slow to adopt new technology and funeral home directors have “low motivation for change,” he wrote.
Earlier this year, Mylestone changed tack to focus on the living: it created an Amazon Alexa “skill” that acts as a personal memory bank. Users would submit photos and other data, and the company said it used a combination of artificial intelligence software and human workers to create short audio narratives that could be called up at any time with a voice-controlled Amazon device.
Since then, Mylestone has apparently changed its product again, and is now creating custom photo books, according to its website. The company has raised $4.5 million from investors, including True Ventures, Founder Collective, and Boston Seed Capital, where Balter is a venture partner. Mylestone has spent about $2.5 million of its venture funding so far, and it’s not generating revenue yet, Balter says in an e-mail to Xconomy. [Updated with Balter comments.—Eds.]
Balter decided to hand off day-to-day operations to Condon because Mylestone had shifted from a business that sells to other businesses, to a company that sells directly to consumers. Balter is more experienced and skilled in running “B2B” companies, and he “never felt comfortable” running Mylestone after its move toward consumers, he wrote in the blog. His other ventures include Smarterer, an online skills assessment firm acquired by Pluralsight; BzzAgent, a social marketing company bought by Dunnhumby; and leadership development company Intelligent.ly.
Balter says he’ll now spend most of his time on Flipside Crypto, a Boston-based service provider he recently launched to help a select group of wealthy individuals invest in digital currencies. He’s a partner with Flipside. [Updated with Balter comments.—Eds.]