Mark Alhermizi first found startup success with Gas Station TV, a Birmingham, MI-based company that broadcasted from gas station pumps and was sold to Dan Gilbert’s Rockbridge Growth Equity in 2014 for a reported $100 to $200 million.
In 2017, Alhermizi started a new “social platform” venture called Everdays, which was born as a result of his father’s death three years prior. Alhermizi said it was an exciting time in his life—he had just sold his business to Rockbridge and his wife was pregnant with twins. He was looking forward to celebrating these milestones with his dad, whom he considered a mentor and best friend.
“But I didn’t really have a chance to celebrate with him,” Alhermizi recalls. “Within a few months, I went from taking Dad to the hospital with a headache to pulling the plug. I was devastated.”
It fell to Alhermizi to make funeral arrangements, a task made more overwhelming by the suddenness of his father’s passing. “I was so devastated that I just wanted it to be a huge celebration, so we used Facebook [to post the announcement] and spent $6,000 on obituaries,” he says.
Despite the cost, Alhermizi felt in hindsight that he didn’t get the word out as effectively as he would have liked. He also didn’t like how fleeting his interactions were with funerary service providers; he had hoped for more ongoing support.
“A year later, I’d be walking down the street and people would ask me how my dad was doing, and I would have to tell them that he had passed away,” he adds. “The whole system seemed outdated, analog, and unsupportive of the family’s needs.”
The funeral industry, he also noticed, was mostly devoid of modern technology. With his background in media, he saw an opportunity, so he gathered a small team of software developers from the mobile side of GSTV, which he had retained after the sale to Rockbridge, and asked them to join him in starting something that he felt would be totally new to the market: an app for generating and communicating content around end-of-life events that could also function as a family’s private milestone-related social network. What he envisioned was a digital helping hand that grieving families could reach for long after their loved one’s passing.
When the young team of software developers found out what he had in mind, “they looked at me like I was crazy,” Alhermizi says. “There was no interest in building apps for death.” Then one of his team members was called away to deal with his grandmother’s passing. “When he came back, he said, ‘I get it now. Let’s build this thing.’ It was exciting; I realized we really had an opportunity to destigmatize death and make it more approachable for younger demographics.”
The free Everdays app allows users—whether they’re family or a funeral home—to create, edit, and share memorial announcements. Users can build a social network by sending personalized links from the app to their contact list. They can use this network to send direct messages, post photos and videos, and share memorial event information. Users can also send a link to the decedent’s cell phone so announcements can be sent to the decedent’s contacts, as long as someone knows the phone’s password, if applicable.
Alhermizi says so far, Everdays’ user numbers have been “through the roof.” He considers newspaper obituaries and Facebook as his main competition, but he says Facebook is shunned by old-school members of the funeral industry.
“It’s because of the inappropriateness of stuff on Facebook,” he explains. “Nobody wants to see their death announcement surrounded by dancing cats or politics. People post there because they get responses, but it’s not private or special. Everdays is like Facebook just for you and the decedent. Ours is much more robust and controlled by family.”
Of course, death tech is not a new concept. One example of a company in the sector is Cake, a Boston startup whose app helps guide users through end-of-life planning, including giving them a checklist of recommended steps like designating a healthcare proxy and buying life insurance, and allowing them to create an online handbook of posthumous preferences and wishes for loved ones, doctors, and lawyers to carry out.
Everdays is a little different, but the company plans to keep expanding its offerings. Everdays expects to broaden its outreach to people in hospice or palliative care, who can build their death announcements ahead of time and get connected to end-of-life insurance policies—a $5 billion annual business that Alhermizi says only covers 3 percent of the addressable market—and other funerary commerce.
Alhermizi also sees an opportunity in people dealing with the death of a loved one, who might be more inclined to consider their own mortality and need for advanced planning. “Behind the scenes, we’re a pre-planning machine,” he says, and that planning is one way the app already makes money from funeral homes and other businesses.
Everdays closed a $12 million Series A funding round at the end of January, bringing its total investment since inception to $17 million. The round was led by Houston-based Gordy Companies, the family investment fund run by Russell Gordy, an oilman and one of the largest land owners in Texas. A second, undisclosed Houston-based family office also invested in the Series A, and Alhermizi says support from the Lone Star State is crucial because Houston is the headquarters of many companies in the funeral industry, including SCI, the largest funeral home business in North America. “The companies there are more interested in our mission,” he says.
In 2019, Alhermizi plans to double Everdays’ headcount to 60 people. Today, he says Everdays serves one-half of one percent of daily deaths in the United States . He would like to see the company serve four to five percent of that population within three years.
“Someday, we’d like to also do wedding and birth announcements,” Alhermizi says. “We want to be the brand associated with milestone events.”