Founder Finds Money in the Grave

Dennis Faas's picture

People are not only organizing their lives online these days, but also their deaths and founder Jeff Taylor wants a piece of the action. With partial backing from The Dow Jones Co., Taylor is banking on the idea that the funeral market needs a centralized location for people across the country and other parts of the globe to come together to share their grief.

Called, the new site functions like a social network; users can create profiles and then post tributes via text, photos and video, receive customized email alerts, make a donation in someone's name, send flowers or cards via sponsored links, and even participate in support forums (Tributes calls them support groups). (Source:

However, users have to wait for Tributes to create the actual death record of their loved one, which the company does through partnerships with funeral homes and by accessing the U.S. Social Security Administration's Index of Deaths (dating back to 1936). The record creation process is done this way presumably to avoid duplicates, but the downside is that it could take a few days or longer before a deceased person is added to the database; as an alternative, users can email the company with some basic information to speed up the process.

Unlike the online job classifieds market, Taylor is going to have some stiff competition this time around. Newspapers have learned from their past mistakes, and many have already moved online with obituary notices either under their own brand or as part of, a consortium of over 650 newspapers. Partly owned by Sam Zell's Tribune Co., Legacy holds a mix of death notices from participating dailies as well as information from the Social Security Index. Legacy has aspects of a social network as well, allowing users to decorate profile pages, host a blog, and connect with 'friends' a la MySpace or Facebook. (

There are other sites in the bereavement game as well, like,, and However, a simple search on Google for "death notices" shows you that this market is still well within the grasp of the local newspaper. Taylor hopes to overturn this, but as Legacy CEO Hayes Ferguson points out, there are over 22, 000 independent funeral parlors in the U.S., and making deals with all of them may prove an impossible task.

Tributes is currently in pubic beta and plans to be fully functional this September.

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