Everyone experiences the loss of a loved one at one point in their lives. There is no way around it and it is never easy to deal with. Graciëlla van Vliet and Chantal van der Velde, co-founders of Closure, know what that feels like and have made it their mission to at least soften the pain.
“With Closure, we aim to unburden relatives by finalising all the contracts, accounts and subscriptions of a deceased person,” says Graciëlla. This is the last thing on people’s minds when dealing with loss so Closure takes care of it for them.
The idea for the company came about - perhaps unsurprisingly so - as a result of personal loss. “When my co-founder’s grandmother passed away, she still continued to ‘live on’ on Facebook for many years, leading to painful and unnecessary confrontations for her relatives,” Graciëlla remembers. “We wanted to unburden not only our own relatives, but people that have lost someone all around the world, so we decided to quit our jobs and actually make a change.”
This was about three years ago, in 2017. What started as a two-person business is now a company with a team of 11 and aspirations to expand internationally.
Solving a challenge that will always exist
As much as nobody wants to think about it, death is a part of life and there comes a time when everyone gets to deal with the loss of a relative or a loved one. What most people don’t realize, however, is that the loss itself is not all they need to face. It is also a period of a lot of arrangements and administration, too.
“It is a very confronting period in which a lot comes your way - and not just emotionally,” Graciëlla says. “A household has an average of 130 euros per month in ongoing costs, an amount that has been increasing as a result of the subscription economy.”
A lot of companies need to be informed, from the bank and insurance providers, to the mobile operator and even social media. “We know which data you need for each company. As a surviving relative, you indicate which company you want to inform, you enter your details once and we will do the rest. You can then see the status per company in your own overview. ”
Surely, to be able to operate on such a broad scale and unburden users as much as possible, the team of Closure needs to have many (and the right) partners. Currently, they are working with two main types of clients - corporates such as T-Mobile, UNICEF, OV-Chipkaart and Centraal Beheer, and funeral organizations. As a result, the customers and relatives of these companies get access to their service free of charge.
To add to that, the team of Closure are continuously adding value to their existing proposition by including aftercare services, such as help with inheritance tax or determining heirloom.
Financing, growth and international expansion
Graciëlla and Chantal have gone through the real startup experience. Starting out on their own, without any external financing in their pocket, they have had to build their business from the ground up.
In fact, when their very first piece of outside funding came in, it wasn’t from a bank or an investor. It came from “a lady who had just lost both of her parents and could personally feel the need for a service like Closure,” Graciëlla remembers. “She gave us a loan out of her heritage.”
This gave the two co-founders not only a financial boost, but also the validation that their idea had real business potential. Later on, they received another few loans and secured their first round of investment in 2018.
Among everything else, though, their team is probably the one thing they are most proud of.
“A definite milestone for us is having moved from a founding team of two on Day 1, to a four-member, purely operational team at the end of Year 1, to a team of 11 covering all aspects of the business today,” Graciëlla says.
With that, they have also been able to expand their reach and operations and now work with tens of other companies and organizations that offer their services to customers. “Currently, we cover more than 10% of market share, which means that more than one out of 10 relatives notify organizations via Closure.”
Last year, the company also got certified by the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) to handle the termination and change of ownership of financial products and services at banks and insurance companies.
Closure has achieved a lot in a relatively short amount of time, and while the current COVID-19 situation has had its impact on their business, it did not slow them down too much. “The situation affected our business in both a good and a bad way,” Graciëlla says. “As our target group (corporate providers and funeral organisations) was affected by the outbreak, either because they lost revenue or because they were busy adapting to the new situation, this logically also affected the pace at which we onboarded new partners.”
On a more positive note, though, “we also learned that - even in such a traditional business as the funeral market - you can work remotely just fine, saving a lot of unnecessary travel time, costs and energy. As a result, we are even considering to go fully remote and start working with flex offices in the cities our employees work in. Time will tell if this is in practice the most beneficial way of working, but at least we are striving to figure out how we can learn from this situation and how we can adjust based on those learnings in the most optimal way.”
From this point onwards, the team of Closure will be looking to further expand its reach - and not only in the Netherlands anymore. As the goal has always been to unburden as many grieving relatives as possible, international expansion is the next step in their development.
Written by: Mina Nacheva