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3 years Ago
When Adelle Archer appeared on “Shark Tank” in October 2019, she had company. Among the living, she had her business partner Garrett Ozar and the sharks, including Mark Cuban, who wound up investing $600,000 for a 9% stake in the company.
Her grandmother and her mentor, however, took a different form. The Eterneva founder and CEO wore a black diamond ring created in a lab using carbon from her mentor’s ashes, and a yellow diamond necklace created from the ashes of her grandmother.
Eterneva, a cremation-diamond company founded in 2016 by Archer and Ozar, has taken the direct-to-consumer ethos and aesthetic and applied it to the death care industry. This year, the company is focusing on expansion, pursuing Series A funding and partnering with funeral homes to bring a technology-driven company to a slow-to-adapt funeral landscape.
The brand, Archer told Insider in an interview, does not just offer a product but a service — a “grief journey.” Customers receive a welcome kit in the mail and place about a half-cup of ashes or a piece of hair or, for cremated pets, some fur. The company recently partnered with FedEx to ensure best practices for chain of custody when mailing remains.
The remains make their way to Eterneva’s headquarters in Austin, where carbon is extracted and rendered into what Archer calls a “diamond seed.” Once the carbon is purified, the lab-growth process is similar to other synthetic diamonds on the market, and can include colorizing the diamond and setting it in a ring, necklace, or other piece of jewelry.
Over the seven-to-nine month process, Eterneva employees provide video and photo updates for the families. And once the diamond is finished, they plan what they call a homecoming celebration and the “loved one” — a standard funeral industry term — is thus memorialized.
Archer said internal market research shows that about 80% of the people-turned-diamonds did not know about their postmortem journey. Like much of the death industry, it’s centered around those close to the person or pet.
Eterneva has a staff of 30 and has had around 700 customers to date, Archer said. The breakdown is about 60% human and 40% pets. Prices start at $2,999 and can go up to as high as $50,000 for a 3-carat stone.
When the founders went on “Shark Tank,” the company had already raised $1.2 million in a funding round that valued it at $10 million. On the show, they secured an investment from Mark Cuban, who took a 9% stake.
In an email to Insider, Cuban characterized his current role in the company as an advisor and confirmed he still owns 9% of Eterneva. “I agree with [Archer] that the grief industry is very much old school and Eternova can have a significant impact on it,” he said.
In 2020, Crunchbase data shows that Eterneva has had four seed-funding rounds that totaled $4.8 million.
The concept of a cremation diamond is not new. Diamond industry analyst Paul Zimnisky says that he first started hearing about the technology circa 2010. Other competitors in the space include EverDear Co., Lonité, and LifeGem.
But Eterneva is probably the only cremation diamond company that’s actively advertising on TikTok.
“We were really the first modern direct-to-consumer brand that’s ever been built in the death-care space,” Archer said. And now the startups wants to bring that DTC ethos to funeral homes.
Archer noted that the coronavirus pandemic has hit funeral homes hard. Without in-person funerals, revenues are down. Eterneva has partnered with 17 funeral homes across the country, Archer said, so that funeral directors can pitch the diamond service among or in addition to cremations or burials.
“It’s a really powerful time for us to be partnering together,” she said, “and allowing more people to even know that this is something that they can do and honor their loved one.”
“What’s very tragic about the pandemic is that we don’t have a lot of rituals, and rituals are really important to a grieving process. And oftentimes, the funeral is the only ritual we really have,” she added.
Dr. Candi Cann, an associate professor of religion at Baylor University, is currently working with Eterneva on a study about “attachment objects,” like cremation diamonds, and their impact on grief. Eterneva’s diamond-making workflow “mirrors the process going from the initial grieving process to what we call integrated grieving, where you learned to live with your grief,” Cann said.
Looking forward, Archer said that Eterneva will be pursuing a Series A funding round this year and focusing on institutional investments. The funding will go to “a large expansion of our facility and our production capabilities here in Austin,” she said.
After Eterneva’s “Shark Tank” stint, gemologist Robert James released a report and spoke to media alleging that the company’s scientific process was not as sound as it made it out to be. James’ “Cremation Diamond Report” states that cremation temperatures leave little to no carbon behind, and warns against purchasing these diamonds.
Archer said that Eterneva’s process has been authenticated by multiple independent scientists to make sure that the diamond seed is actually from ashes, hair, or fur. In 2019, Eterneva announced that it sent samples of ashes for carbon analysis to TDI-Brooks / B&B Laboratories and that the samples had passed muster.
Diamond expert Zimnisky said the question of carbon percentages is “more representative than anything else.”
Cann, the professor who studies grief, said that creating, wearing, and treasuring a cremation diamond is a “way where you can help process this really difficult death that society doesn’t allow you to talk about.”
“It’s a very hard journey to be grieving the loss of a loved one right now,” Archer says. More than anything, Eterneva gives families something to hold on to.