Facing death, entrepreneur builds software to let people speak from the grave

by Anthony Sodd
November 17, 2016

Death can be a powerful motivator, and tech founder and CEO of KeepTree Jon Loew knows this better than anyone. 

“In 2010 I took a commonly prescribed antibiotic. I had a severe adverse reaction to it and my life as I knew it ended,” Loew said. “The drug damaged just about every part of my body and brain. There was a period of time where I was unsure what my future would be or if doctors could stop my downward spiral.”

But, doctors did, and Loew slowly recovered. 

“Six years later, I’m 95 percent recovered,” he said. “It was during that time that I started to think beyond my own life, and how I could leave messages of advice and care to my children and loved ones after I was gone.”

Throughout history, humans have tried to defy the silencing effect of death in order to leave a legacy and speak to future generations. Early humans may have drawn on cave walls, but Loew turned to the medium of his generation — digital video. 

“I started to have this tool built — just for the fun of it, it wasn’t supposed to be a business,” Loew said. “But, with the help of my longtime business partner in Japan, the core technology we were building, FutureSend became a business.”

FutureSend powers KeepTree, a website that allows users to record videos and have them automatically sent to someone at a later date. Those videos are then backed up and stored in a secure bunker, located in a secret location somewhere in the United States.

"Even if humans are gone, those videos will still be here," Loew said. "We use the same technology that many institutions of the United States government use to back up their sensitive data."

KeepTree's technology lets people speak from beyond the grave. If, for example, you don't think you'll be around for your child's graduation, you can make a video congratulating them while you're here. That video sits safely in a vault and is sent when the time comes.

Some people aren't coming back

Not too long ago, wars raged in the Middle East and large numbers of U.S. soldiers were being deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. 

“At the time, there were millions of people deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Loew said. “And most of them, if they have kids, were worried about not coming back to see them again. So, it was right then that we decided to create TroopTree.”

TroopTree is a military-branded version of the civilian KeepTree that people deployed overseas can use to communicate with their loved ones back home. The service is completely free, and there are no options for users to be upsold.

“It’s free, and it’s free forever,” Loew said. “It seems to have helped a good number of people who are deployed. Unfortunately, there are some people who aren’t coming back, and we hope that these videos help, in some small way, with the grief their loved ones are experiencing.”

A civilian application for the living

While KeepTree and TroopTree are the two main applications of the FutureSend technology thus far, Loew is working on some light-hearted spinoffs as well. 

Vift, the latest application of the technology, allows users to send GIFs that accompany a package. If you’re sending someone a gift, Vift lets you record a GIF to go along with it. When the package is delivered, your GIF will be sent. 

"We're very excited to launch with some of the biggest retailers in the country," Loew said. 

So far, that technology has gone through a successful pilot with Bloomingdales.com. The company hopes to permanently integrate the technology into Bloomingdale's online orders, as well as other online retailers.


Know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

NYC startup guides

Best Companies to Work for in NYC
Best Software Engineer Jobs in NYC
Coolest Tech Offices in NYC
Best Sales Jobs in NYC
Best Benefits at NYC Tech Companies
Best Data Analyst & Data Science Jobs in NYC
Best Design Jobs in NYC
Best Marketing Jobs in NYC
Developer Jobs
View 662 jobs
Design + UX Jobs
View 140 jobs
Marketing Jobs
View 251 jobs
Product Jobs
View 139 jobs
Sales Jobs
View 350 jobs
Data Jobs
View 197 jobs