The project’s commitment to society, “Building Together,” will offer legal services, tax advice and training to social organizations free of charge.
Danilo Abraini: "The funeral industry has undergone rapid evolution."
Funeral Manager, a leading Belgian software company, is revolutionizing the European funeral industry with its cutting-edge solutions. The company’s founder, Danilo Abraini, shares how connectivity and AI-powered software are reshaping this age-old activity.
Funeral Manager x Leaders League
Danilo Abraini & n François Ducobu, Founders
LEADERS LEAGUE: What is the story behind your company, and how have you managed to balance technology and funeral services to meet the needs of funeral directors?
Danilo Abraini: Our adventure began with Funeral Manager, a project initiated around 2011-2012. The idea arose from my experience working at a funeral home between 2010 and 2018. I discovered the profession and realized that we could really help people, which was much more valuable to me than simply selling computers, which is what I had been doing.
I was drawn to the profession and sought to combine my computer skills with what I had learned from working with funeral directors. I quickly noticed that many processes were redundant and time-consuming, yet there were no suitable software solutions available. What third-party services existed, were outdated and not tailored to the needs of funeral companies. That’s when I decided to bring in François Ducobu, a childhood friend and talented programmer, to create software that would revolutionize this industry. Together, we found the necessary funding to launch our project in 2015.
Many companies have tried to create modular ERPs that could be used for any profession, but these do not work for the funeral industry.
What specific niche does your company focus on in the funeral market, and who are your main competitors?
Funeral Manager focuses on a B2B solution for funeral homes, which represents a specific niche in the funeral market. Our main competitors are software publishers, but very few of them have adapted to the specific demands of the funeral industry.
Many companies have tried to create modular ERPs that could be used for any profession, but these do not work for the funeral industry. It is a very specific profession that requires custom designed tools in order to manage the activity of a funeral home efficiently.
Although the funeral sector is fairly similar throughout Europe, there are some notable cultural differences between countries.
What potential exists for the expansion of digital services in the funeral industry in Europe?
In Belgium, the digitalization of funeral homes is less advanced than in France due to complex regional and linguistic regulations, unlike France, which has established a mandatory standardized quote imposed by the government, Belgium has never had suitable software for funeral homes. Companies still use pen and paper. However, the difficulties faced by Belgian funeral homes in complying with regional requirements ultimately led to the arrival of this powerful funeral software, which now facilitates their work. Our position in Belgium is solid, thanks in part to the recent acquisition of a competitor.
Switzerland also presents similar challenges, with three languages and different governments. We secured our first client there in April.
Our presence in the French market goes back about three years. This November, we will exhibit at the Funéraire Paris 2023 trade show, where we will showcase our new technology and the latest version of our software, currently in the testing and fine-tuning phase. We will target other European countries in 2024, such as the Netherlands and Spain.
Our approach is to adapt to the local needs and specificities of each country, in order to preserve the customization and relevance of our software. Although the funeral sector is fairly similar throughout Europe, there are some notable cultural differences between countries.
the demand for digital services such as electronic signatures and online administrative management increased because of Covid.
What impact did the pandemic have on the funeral industry?
The pandemic had a disastrous economic impact on funeral homes. On the one hand, Covid led to an increase in deaths, but unlike other businesses where customers could delay a purchase, for funeral homes, once a death has occurred, there is no second chance, and the absence of ceremonies, such as wakes, led to a drastic decrease in revenue. Because of sanitary restrictions, flowers and other products sold for such ceremonies could no longer be offered. In addition, the situation was complicated in terms of safety, as funeral homes did not know how to handle the funerals of people who died from Covid-19.
On the other hand, the demand for digital services such as electronic signatures and online administrative management increased because of Covid, which helped companies maintain their activity.
Our mission, therefore, has been to reconcile the funeral industry with technology, by providing them with simple and fast tools.
Is Funeral Manager dragging the funeral industry into the 21st century?
The funeral industry has undergone rapid evolution but had accumulated a certain technological shortfall and a lack of services in the 2000s and 2010s. Today, the new generation is looking for internet and video tributes, as well as many other services are not possible if one sticks to the traditional version of the profession.
Professionals in the sector, such as funeral-home operators, must now manage multiple new aspects. Our mission, therefore, has been to reconcile the funeral industry with technology, by providing them with simple and fast tools allowing them to carry out some formalities in a few clicks, export data to their partners, manage ceremonies, video tributes or make administrative assistance after death more fluid. The aim is to simplify their job so that they can dedicate more time to bereaved families.
We constantly improve integration and centralize everything to make the process easier for our clients. Thus, we have integrated various solutions to make our clients’ lives easier and save time. Among these are Enaos (administrative assistance after death) Fragment (online obituaries & tribute videos), FuneUp (a digital marketplace platform), Sorenir (administrative assistance after death), Cybille and Haeven (generation of announcements).
What new innovations and trends are coming in the funeral industry?
Initially, innovation for us meant proposing a full cloud solution, which was a scary concept, as it was new at the time. Just like artificial intelligence today, the cloud caused fear of change. However, over time, it became commonplace. With artificial intelligence, many other possibilities can open up for us, such as analytics, which will allow for faster development through code correction and security flaw detection tools. We are already integrating AI into our system, for example, to retouch pixelated photos or write reviews and announcements. We are also working on its application to facilitate billing and writing reminder letters, among other things. Additionally, AI tools can also help optimize servers and reduce the environmental impact of computing. Environmentally friendly funerals are also a new trend. With increasing urbanization, space for burial is limited and cremation has a negative environmental impact. More sustainable and environmentally friendly options such as the emergence of electric hearses. Looking further ahead new solutions for human remains, such as aquamation or humusation that offer a more eco-friendly way of returning the body to the earth.
In the next five to ten years, there will likely be many exciting innovations in the funeral industry.
French lithium-ion-battery startup Verkor had an electric autumn. In September, it announced the raising of €2 billion worth of investments, and a few weeks later broke ground on i...
In September, Irish packaging company Smurfit Kappa made the $11 billion purchase of US counterpart WestRock, creating the world’s largest packaging company by revenue, one with $3...
Visiva, a Peruvian conglomerate that provides education services through well-known and reputable brands such as Certus, Toulouse Lautrec and UCAL, has secured a syndicated credit ...