The High Holidays always evoke thoughts of spirituality – and some may wonder what happens after death. Is there a life beyond this one? So far, no one has died has come back to tell us (not in a scientifically verifiable manner, at least), so the question remains a matter of faith.
But a new Israeli app will give everyone an opportunity to communicate with loved ones from the great beyond – and it’s no joke, according to Moran Zur, CEO of SafeBeyond.
“Our app is part of a new type of software called digital inheritance. Already there are apps that let you store digital versions of documents like insurance policies, wills, and other essential information that heirs are going to need, but may have a hard time locating. We take the concept to the next step, allowing individuals to achieve closure with their loved ones not just on a financial level, but an emotional one as well.”
With SafeBeyond, users can record messages – audio and video – and have them played back to their children, spouses, or anyone else at anytime in the future.
“For example, you would record a message to be delivered to your child on the day they graduate from college, or the day they get married, encouraging them as they take their next important step in life,” said Zur. “For the sender, it’s a way to posthumously send a message to their loved ones – while for the recipient, it gives them a way to include the sender in their celebration, even if they are no longer with us.”
It sounds a bit morbid but Zur promises that it is not.
“First of all, we do not surprise a recipient with ‘a message from the grave,’ something that I agree could be seen as a bit spooky. After a loved one passes away, the ‘digital heirs’ of the messages are told about SafeBeyond’s services, and that they can expect messages from the departed at some point in the future. Those messages are delivered at the appropriate time, either on a date selected by the sender – such as a recipient’s birthday, or the anniversary of the sender’s death – or on a date selected by a trustee who is appointed by the sender.”
The trustee informs SafeBeyond about significant events that could not be foreseen, such as weddings, the birth of a child, etc.
“There are other systems that let users store digital versions of documents, such as wills – but we are the first ones to bring this concept to the emotional sphere,” said Zur. “Many people who lose loved ones never get a chance to have the kind of emotional closure they need – sometimes people die suddenly, or, in the effort to save their loved ones’ lives, they avoid thinking about how they will handle the death they are working so hard to help prevent. SafeBeyond is a form of emotional insurance that we believe will benefit many people, and even change our perception of death.”
Far from an attempt to avoid the reality of death, SafeBeyond is really an acknowledgement of the inevitable, said Zur. “It’s not about a youth culture looking to keep itself going forever, at least digitally – it’s more about enabling both recipients and senders to close the circle, and enable the living to go on with life.”
SafeBeyond is free, but the app has a clear monetization model, said Moran – whose last position was regional manager at ViewTrade Securities. “There are a few ways to monetize this, such as providing extra storage space to users beyond the free 1 GB of space we allocate them. In addition, we could develop arrangements with user communities and even insurance companies,” providing them with versions of the app they can brand themselves to provide policyholders with an extra digital service, said Moran.
It was a personal tragedy – actually two – that prompted Moran to leave the world of banking and finance and develop SafeBeyond.
“I lost my father to cancer in 2002, when I was only 25, and I never had a chance to ask him the big questions – what kind of girl to marry, how to raise kids, and other major issues. The irony of life is that you don’t think about those things when you have the opportunity, but that advice becomes very important when you can no longer access it.”
In the wake of that tragedy, the idea for SafeBeyond sort of formed in his mind, said Moran – but it was a second tragedy that prompted him to act. “A few years ago my wife was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we were both very scared that the family would lose her – either to death, or to brain complications that would prevent her from being able to communicate with us. I thought about what she was going through and what it would mean to my son if he lost his mother.”
It was then that the penny dropped, and SafeBeyond became real.
His wife eventually beat the cancer, “but we had a real scare. I’ve had two major death and near-death related tragedies in my life,” said Moran. “It’s as if they up there were trying to get me to develop this app.”