A fond farewell from LifeFolder

Today, we are announcing that LifeFolder is closing down, and that our chatbot Emily is getting a well-deserved rest.

Haje Jan Kamps
Dec 12, 2017 · 6 min read
It’s unclear why we thought stenciling a message on the side of a highway was an appropriate way of saying farewell.
Our chatbot Emily. She’s awesome. She’s now had hundreds of conversations. While chatbots don’t really get tired, we do feel that she deserves a break.

Lots of smoke, not enough fire.

We had some incredible press, including television appearances on Sacramento ABC10 and the BBC. We were covered in Men’s Health, Cnet, Motherboard, VentureBeat, LifeHacker, the East Bay Times, Mercury News, the Ledger-Enquirer, the Daily Democrat, Kampfire, and BotCube. We even had some international coverage, in Brazil’s Tecmundo, and the Dutch Customer First blog.

Lots of press coverage was incredibly flattering, but largely failed to attract people who were ready to start having these conversations (Facsimile: SiliconValley.com)

It doesn’t help to have the best solution in the world if the problem isn’t one that people are prepared to solve.

Throughout, however, we continued to be worried that the press and publicity din wasn’t really having the intended effect. Yes; hundreds of thousands of people were finding out about LifeFolder and Emily. They were reminded that planning for end-of-life is crucial. But ultimately, press coverage isn’t really a metric that matters all that much to businesses. To LifeFolder, the most important metric was whether people were starting — and finishing — conversations. And there, we fell short.

Without traction, no funds.

In the world of startups, you need ‘traction’ in order to show that what you are doing is working. Traction can mean a lot of things, but revenue or strong user growth are the two main ways you show progress. Given that our product was free (the idea was to monetize it later by offering additional services), that leaves growth. We did see a huge spike of conversations early on — largely due to the LifeHacker article — but we have struggled to find a way into people’s minds and hearts since.

Which left us with three choices…

  1. Change the business model, re-tool the company, and start showing revenue coming in.
  2. Change the go-to-market strategy, figure out ways of getting huge numbers of people to start talking to Emily.
  3. Give up, go home, try something else

The end of the road.

End-of-life is an incredible space to be in. Never have we met people as welcoming, friendly, and eager to help. More importantly: In the US alone, there’re 150m people who still need to plan for end-of-life. It’s a huge, unsolved problem, and there will be some real technology innovation in this space before long.


Exploring conversations about hard conversations.