Today UK-based startup Farewill, who was recently awarded ‘best social innovation’ at the 2020 Europas, is today announcing it has raised €22.1 million, led by growth-stage experts Highland Europe.
Founded in 2015, Farewill is transforming the outdated death industry and its expensive, complex processes – many of which haven’t changed for more than 150 years – using technology and design.
Inspired by experiences at the Royal College of Art, CEO Dan Garrett set out to make death – a topic that’s long been taboo – easier for people to tackle. Alongside Co-founder Tom Rogers, previously of Boomf, the pair have overhauled the way people write a will, deal with probate and arrange a funeral.
The platform simplifies complex processes, avoids legal jargon, and does away with hidden fees – removing unnecessary friction at a time when people feel at their most vulnerable. Users are guided through a series of questions, all navigated online at their convenience, and a team of in-house specialists are available seven days a week when customers need to speak directly.
When combined with other fees, the total cost of dying typically soars above €11,000 in the UK, forcing 1 in 8 families into funeral poverty. The cost and time benefits of Farewill are clear, taking just 15 minutes to write a will and 24 hours to get a document checked. On the probate side, an application takes seven days, compared to the UK average of three weeks, and there is a single fixed fee. Farewill’s direct cremations start from around €1080, whereas the average UK cremation costs around €3590.
As a result of these benefits, Farewill is now the highest-rated death expert in the UK with a five-star, Excellent TrustPilot rating of 4.9, taken from more than 6,000 reviews. The organisation is the largest will writer in the UK, responsible for 1 in 10 wills, and became National Will Writer of the Year at the 2019 British Wills and Probate Awards. After launching its direct cremation service last year, it helped more families within two months than the average funeral home serves in a year, becoming the UK’s fastest-growing funeral provider. More recently it won ‘best social innovation’ at the 2020 Europas, joining the ranks of previous award winners including Spotify, Babylon Health, TransferWise and Soundcloud.
The existing issues around the cost and complex, outdated processes surrounding death have been thrown into sharp relief in the wake of COVID-19. Farewill data shows 94% of people who have lost a loved one to coronavirus found administrative tasks negatively affected during recent times. 40% found it difficult to register the event due to lockdown restrictions, and 39% said that dealing with pensions, tax and probate was almost impossible. Almost a third (27%) reported that the companies they needed to speak to were closed, and 24% were told services were ‘on hold’.
This latest round of funding sees Highland Europe, alongside Keen Venture Partners, Rich Pierson of Headspace, Broadhaven Ventures, and Venture Founders join previous investors – among them Augmentum Fintech, Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise) and Kindred Capital. It takes the total raised so far to around €33.1 million.
CEO Dan said, “Dealing with death is one of the hardest parts of life, and we started Farewill to take some of the pain out of the process. The latest investment from Highland Europe shows their conviction in our vision for fairer, more transparent services in this space. It means we can build on what we’ve started, growing our world-class team and designing easy-to-use tools that help people during incredibly tough times. We’ll also carry on raising millions in pledged legacy income for the third sector, and we’re aiming to get to £1 billion by 2023. There’s a real need for change in this industry and we’re really proud to be leading it.”
“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,” said Stan Laurent, Partner at Highland Europe and previous Chief Executive of PhotoBox, the photo-printing consumer company that also owned Moonpig.
The investment will be used to fund expansion in the UK, as well as ongoing service improvement and product innovation.