Evaheld, a platform for people to create content to be shared after their death, has won the Sydney Genesis Startup competition – the University of Sydney Business School's flagship startup accelerator program.
Founders Michelle Gomes and Michelle Costa were "shocked" to claim the $25,000 prize from among seven teams in Genesis' 29th cohort.
This was an incredibly talented cohort with such innovative ideas. They were all so brilliant and we have no doubt they will all end up being successful, so we’re humbled to have won.
"The win is huge for us. The money will go directly toward accelerating product development. The sooner we have more features available for our customers, the better," Ms Gomes said.
The pair – family friends whose parents hail from the same village in Portugal – started offering their service years ago by personally filming and delivering memorial content for people with a terminal illness.
Ms Gomes, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Sydney, was running a production company when the disruption of COVID-19 provided the impetus for change. She realised the need to make their offering more accessible and has made Evaheld her full-time commitment for the past 12 months.
On Tuesday 24 May the pair launched the first version of the Evaheld web platform that allows people to record, store and share memorial content. Planned upgrades include the ability for clients to create their own memorial page and a growing suite of content options such as storybooks.
Evaheld includes several features that set it apart from competitors in ensuring people’s independence and privacy after death, including:
Ms Costa, who works in finance as a principal business analyst, explained Evaheld was a labour of passion.
"This project is very personal to me as my dad had dementia and was non-verbal for the last seven years of his life. I find it hard to remember his voice now and I would give anything to have a personal message to remember him by," she said.
"I want to create a world where people leave more than just assets after they die, and give people autonomy over how they are remembered and memorialised."
The pair said they benefited immensely not only from the formal Genesis program, which included access to mentors and masterclasses, but also from being part of the startup network.
The top seven pitches from their cohort included runners-up Xylo Systems, a cloud-based platform using artificial intelligence analytics to assist with managing and collaborating on threatened species management.
Open to University of Sydney staff, students and alumni, Genesis accepts the best startups twice a year to accelerate their commercial and social enterprises.
Manager of the Genesis program, James Crowther, said he was impressed by the broad range of forward-thinking projects that made the cut for the final pitch night.
"Genesis members over the years have secured $52 million in funding, created nearly 1,000 jobs, and our current community has over 500 startups involving 1,500 individuals," he said.
"It's brilliant to hear how this community continues to encourage and support entrepreneurship and pass on the collective wisdom to the next generation of problem-solvers."