The Garage recently met with Tucker Risman, Kellogg ’22 and founder of Talaria, a company which provides end-of-life planning tools and services to make it easier for people to manage the tasks that follow a death, so that the bereaved can focus on what they need most.
How is the summer going so far?
It has been going great, I feel like we have made a lot of progress this summer. As a student founder it is really nice to have all of a university’s resources at your fingertips but during the school year it can be difficult to carve out time for your business. Working on Talaria full time this summer has really allowed us to drive forward and get to a point where I think it’ll be easier to keep the company moving forward while balancing class.
What’s been the best part of Jumpstart?
Truly, just the connections and the network. Our summer has focused around developing our MVP and building partnerships with various channel partners. Heather Aranyi, Jumpstart program manager, and Mike Raab, associate director of The Garage, have been incredible for introducing us to individuals within their own networks which have led to some of our first partnerships.
We currently have three different funeral homes with eight different locations providing our information to individuals and families following a loss. These partnerships have been great to get our materials in front of some of our first beta customers. We have also been introduced to various hospice care, active senior, nursing homes - and who have been able to help spread the word, right as we are launching our MVP.
What is Talaria?
Talaria is an end of life planning and services company. Our goal is to aid families in planning for an eventual loss, as well as handling the burden that follows a death so that families can focus on what they need to during the grieving process.
When I was a senior in high school, my family lost my dad to a one-car car accident. He was in his 40’s, and it was completely unexpected. Even though he was incredibly organized, I saw how challenging it was for my mom - dealing with all of the administration tasks following his passing.
As I’ve thought about it, it’s something I didn’t appreciate fully at the time, but now looking back I can only imagine how difficult it must be for anyone dealing with a full time job, a family, or anything else - and there needs to be a simpler solution.
What does Talaria look like in its current iteration?
We recently launched our planning MVP, and have been offering our after-death services for over two month now. We are really just working to help share our message with more people and collect feedback both on the quality of the service as well as other planning needs that people may have. As we look toward the fall, we hope to utilize the feedback we are collecting in developing the next version of our planning tool, an online portal.
Tell us more about yourself.
Prior to Kellogg, I spent the last four years in San Francisco working in both operations and product roles at Uber and Lime. I worked across a variety of projects but mainly focused on how to build sustainable, scalable operations - finding manual processes and automating them, and finding the best ways to collect user feedback to improve the experience.
As an undergraduate, I studied civil engineering and I also have a Master’s in engineering management. After that, I worked in product management for Toll Brothers in the Virginia area. While I’m fascinated by civil engineering and real estate, it wasn’t the right place for me long term. I wanted a faster paced environment and the opportunity for creative problem solving to really drive change in different areas. Even though there’s opportunities to work on really amazing construction projects and building, it wasn’t the type of thing that motivated me the same way a tech-enabled, fast-paced environment did.
Did you always imagine yourself becoming a founder?
There were always a number of ideas I kicked around. When it comes to starting my own company, I have been somewhat conservative and cautious because I have never been too sure where to start. After spending more time at startups - I joined late enough that it wasn’t as startup-y - I became more familiar with the landscape and realized it wasn’t as scary as I had made it out to be in my head.
What challenges have you faced while building Talaria?
I think one of the biggest is going to be finding those first customers. When starting a company you can conduct countless customer interviews, have people describe their dream product exactly as you are building it, but for us at the end of the day people don’t like to plan.
That’s one of the reasons we’re focused on building out channel partners and having most of our services come from people who already help with one or another form of planning. If you’ve already spoken with an estate lawyer, looked at retirement homes, written a will - those are all forms of planning and pivotal points, so it’s not too difficult for those potential partners to add Talaria as a recommended service. Our belief is that it will be easier to be the additional recommendation from someone the customer already trusts, rather than trying to introduce ourselves to them as something completely new.
What do you hope for Talaria’s future?
Today, only one third of Americans have any kind of end of life plan - less than one third have a will, trust, or anything else set up. I hope Talaria can be a tool that people hear about which eventually helps to grow that percentage of people who plan for the future. There’s a saying that there’s only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. You plan for your taxes every year - why don’t we think about death? I want to destigmatize death planning and shift the focus on legacy, and making sure loved ones are taken care of and not burdened following a loss.
How can someone learn more about Talaria?
They can visit us at trytalaria.co, the site already includes our planning to which is available for sale, our blog with a variety of educational posts about end of life, and a way to request our services. We’re also excited to share that we are offering our services free of charge during our beta period, running through the end of October 2021 and welcome anyone who is suffering from a loss to get in touch should they need help in any way. If anyone would like to learn more though they can also fill out the contact page on our site or just reach out to me directly at Tucker@trytalaria.co.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the startup teams admitted to Jumpstart, The Garage’s pre-accelerator Program. For more information about Jumpstart, click here.