When Joel Brown’s father passed away, his grieving family went through an ordeal to find the paperwork necessary to close accounts, notify clients and perform other business tasks.
When his father-in-law passed, the family missed an opportunity to claim life insurance because the policy had not been renewed. Had he known the policy was about to lapse, he said, he would’ve paid the renewal.
Learning from those experiences, Brown founded and is the CEO of an end-of-life planning software called DocuVital, a one-stop shop for important documents needed in the event of a death. Brown likens DocuVital to the popular income-tax preparation software TurboTax. He said it guides a consumer through easy-to-use steps to acquire, organize, and safely store paperwork and photos, like a virtual safe.
“We deliver the information to their loved ones or family members when they’re gone so they can wrap up their life more quickly and easily — saving them thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours during their time of grief,” Brown said.
But, despite Brown’s extensive education and experience of owning his law firm for 16 years, he said launching the business was daunting. It was in the concept phase for two years.
He found help in an unlikely place. His business was one of 15 financial technology startups selected to participate in the Miami Fintech Forum. The event, which promoted inclusivity in the financial sector, was organized by a partnership of Citi Community Development, Village Capital and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida International University (FIU).
The event consisted of a day of entrepreneurship training and ended with a pitch contest that Brown won. There, Brown met some of the expert consultants from the Florida SBDC at FIU.
He had not known of all of the resources the SBDC at FIU offered, he said, and was impressed by the consulting team’s expertise. He began working with the SBDC at FIU experts on improving his company website. Now, he is consulting with them on marketing and promotions.
“I meet with them once or twice a month, and it’s been extremely helpful,” Brown said. “It has helped me, on the marketing side, really drill down onto who my ideal customer is, especially since my product, as an end-of-life planning product, has not been in the market before.”
Brown said the Florida SBDC at FIU consultants helped with a strategy to target companies that can provide DocuVital as part of an employee benefits package.
The strategy is paying off. DocuVital recently partnered with the iconic MGM Resorts International, one of the largest hotel and resort companies in the world, which will provide DocuVital’s solution to MGM employees.
“When they decided to provide DocuVital to their 75,000 employees,” Brown said, “it validated our business proposition and gave us credibility as a young startup company.”
Adds Brown: “The people at SBDC and FIU have been tremendously helpful, and I plan on working with them as long as I can imagine,” he said. “I don’t see me stopping any time soon.”