Messages from the dead – via Youtube.
He doesn’t like the idea of being called a digital undertaker, but Eran Alfonta’s undertaking in the Israeli high-tech scene does have some macabre undertones: The Israeli founder and CEO of Willook has developed a host of time-capsule applications that users can launch at some point in the future. The first one on the market can be activated at the time of your death.
Willook’s new application, “If I Die,” now being launched on Facebook, lets users upload a digital video to be stored in Willook’s virtual vault. When you die, it can be revealed to the world on your Facebook account by three trusted friends. This video can serve as a last will and testament, if you will, or as your last hurrah in the digital hereafter.
The strange idea came about through a friend of Alfonta’s after a near-fatal car crash in Italy. The friend and his wife had left their three children behind in Israel and wondered, if God forbid something should happen to them, what would become of their children.
“They figured out that they had a few things to tell their kids, like how important it is to keep the family together and that they should grow up in Israel. He came to me with this idea, and said, ‘Eran, let’s create something,’” Alfonta tells ISRAEL21c.
Digital dust or bust
“In some ways we are promising eternity — in what you have to say, the beliefs you have and about the things you cherish.”
Since launching the company’s digital will app about two years ago as a boutique service, Willook has helped store thousands of videos for evermore, and during that time, seven or eight users have died. (Alfonta points out that this figure corresponds to the natural death rate.)
When someone dies, it’s time to unlock the video: In one particularly moving example, a young woman who’d died from cystic fibrosis made an appeal to her family and friends about organ donation. She’d died waiting for a lung transplant.
Alfonta gave the video testimonial to her family by hand and it was very emotional to see their reaction, he says. “She told her family that one of her biggest wishes was that people will use such applications like ‘If I Die’ to tell their families how important it is to donate their organs.”
The two-year-old Willook is based in Tel Aviv and currently employs 12 people. An angel investor from the United States and one from Israel have so far funded the company, which seeks an additional investment of about $1 million or $2 million. Alfonta, who holds a master’s in business administration, has a background in industry and management engineering. Previously he worked in medical devices for General Electric, and jokes that he went from the biggest company in the world to the smallest company in the world.
“It’s a lot of fun to create a startup,” he says.
A legacy that lives forever
A bit more history: “We started in the first year with a standalone website not connected to Facebook and we were doing a lot of the testing ourselves,” says Alfonta. “When we had the website, and the application wasn’t on Facebook as it is now, we had a boutique service. We went to people that we thought would have interesting things to say and recorded them.”
Now the main idea of “If I Die” is for anyone to create a legacy for their friends and families through Facebook. And in the next two months, the company will be adding additional features to the application, like one which allows people to prepare individual videos for special people – such as kids and grandkids – to go out to the loved ones after death.
The company charges its subscribers a fee per month to store the video, and another at the moment of truth to launch it.
Alfonta says Willook is working on a pile of exciting time-capsule-like applications that expire, well, when we expire. But they are not all about death, assures Alfonta, who likes to laugh a lot.
Meanwhile, the company is working in a number of directions, including a digital encoding system that could let its videos be accepted as an official last will and testament admissible in a court of law.