Are there things your family needs to know if you’re no longer there?

From small project to big end-of-life planning solution AfterVault
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Our next interview is with Ric Parks. He is a founder of AfterVault. The company, which helps you organize, safely store and deliver your crucial information to your family, after you die.

1. What is your idea/ business about? How the idea was born?

Are there things your family needs to know if you’re no longer there?

Life insurance, your will, health directives, location of accounts: AfterVault securely organizes and stores this information and automatically delivers it if something happens to you. We provide highly secure cloud-based vaults that help you organize your information so that everything is clear if the time comes when your family needs it.

AfterVault started a couple of years ago as a simple idea. I was paying my bills with my online bill pay service, when it struck me that my wife wouldn’t even be able to find the bills, let alone pay them, if something happened to me. I wanted her to receive a simple email to remind her how to find and access our online bills if I suddenly wasn’t there.

Of course the challenge was how I could determine if I wasn’t there. I thought about this issue for a while and I don’t really recall what clicked for me, but I realized that a series of automated pings, using email or text messaging, could do a pretty good job of determining if I was still able to deal with our affairs. For me, it was exactly what I wanted. The solution was lightweight and easy to set up but it still would solve the bulk of my issues without a lot of fuss or bureaucracy. My problem was only how to tell my wife how to locate all this information that was spread around in different places.

I researched and found, to my surprise, that there was no service to do this.

I started a small project to solve just that problem. As I worked on this project, I realized that there was a pretty large class of information she needed to know about which, for me, was poorly organized. So the little project started to grow. As it grew and I talked to friends and, later, business people about my side project so many of them became so interested in the idea that I decided to open it up in to a more comprehensive solution that would solve a wider set of problems for more people.

2. Tell me about yourself and your team?

The core team is Ioanna Atanossova, who spearheads all marketing, Nadeem who leads the engineering effort, myself, and a small group of part-time professionals. Ioanna has revolutionized and turbocharged our marketing efforts. She has an excellent background in entrepreneurship and helping small to medium-sized businesses take their marketing efforts to the next level. Nadeem is a terrific engineer with a powerful array of technologies under his belt who has been with me from the beginning. Initially I intended to program the whole thing myself but pretty soon after I started with Nadeem I found that he could do it all quicker and faster than I could so he pretty much took over the programming. Because I have extensive experience in security from my years in banking and payments I focus a lot on security and working with security testers and advisors but I also try to spend as much time as I can on marketing and programming.

I was a C++ and Java programmer and architect for about twenty years prior to transitioning to director of engineering for two different companies during the past five years of my career. I’ve led the creation and delivery of more than ten major projects including three hit learning games featuring Reader Rabbit and a character series I helped create, The Cluefinders, as well as projects in banking, payments, pharmaceutical testing and reports, computer networking, and public utilities.

3. What are the main struggles that you have experienced?

I found it was nearly impossible to give AfterVault the focus it needed while keeping my day job so I made the difficult, and perhaps imprudent, decision to dedicate myself to AfterVault full-time.

Wins and discouragements come in waves. It’s been a struggle to stay even-keeled throughout.

The path to creating a company was a new one for me and much of my early learning came through mistakes rather than guidance.

4. How did you solve your problems?

I found more advisors to give me perspective on issues, decisions, and roadblocks. Ultimately every decision is my decision, but I try to keep my mind completely open until I hear and understand the perspectives of the many smart and kind people who advise me.

5. If you had a chance what would you do in differently?

At the start I thought that building an MVP first was the way to go. But I was wrong. If I had it to do over again, I would start with marketing and outreach to build some buzz and some presence online before writing a single line of code. Time is limited, especially if you want to keep your day job, and if you focus on just ‘making’, you’ll find that you have no time for actually finding and knowing your customer, your market, and your team first.

6. What was the best advice you got and what was the worst?

  • Best: Let your creativity guide but your metrics decide.
  • Worst: Any advice to change anything without metrics to support the change.

7. What will be your advice to the other entrepreneurs

The lean startup method is the standard nowadays and I am a huge fan of that approach but it leaves out one very important preliminary step. Study your market and craft your message before you make your MVP. By using tools such as Unbounce and Google Analytics in combination with Facebook, BetaList, and others you can create an MVP that is much less likely to require an early pivot or die an early death.

Also, understand your marketing funnel and build according to the metrics you gather from the funnel. Don’t build anything unless your metrics support it. For instance, I started the creation of a mobile app because of casual observations when I should have deferred that development until our metrics clearly showed that an application would actually be appealing to our potential customers.

If you want to learn more about AfterVault, you are more than welcome to contact them at info@aftervault.com

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