May 7, 2024

The future of ‘death’...

Author image

Sarah Giblin, UK

Inventor. Serial Entrepreneur. Founder of ‘Whenn’ and ‘Riut’. Music producer& singer.

“You don't have to be ready to die, but you have to be ready for the admin to die.”

Photo by Christoph voy


Hi, Sarah! Tell us a bit about yourself!

Sure. I’m Sarah. I see myself as an inventor, an entrepreneur. I have ideas and I start companies to make them happen! These days I’m working on launching my new business idea, a death tech called ‘Whenn’.

But before this, I’ve been doing a few completely different things. I started my career as a classical singer, and then worked as a journalist in Berlin. When my dad reminded me that I should get a ‘proper’ job, I went to study law and worked as a law consultant in a finance company for a few years. Until I came up with the idea to design a backwards backpack and started my backpack business!


What are you passionate about?

I’m always very passionate about ideas. When I'm on my own, I spend a lot of time thinking about things in the world that I don't think need to be the way that they currently are. When I walk down the street, I’m constantly looking for inspiration. I look at every object, every person, and I try to see what is happening in the world and if there is anything that I can't quite understand. Then I think a little bit further into that and then keep following these ideas until I get to the bottom of some of them. Some of my ideas might sounds crazy and ridiculous to others!


That’s really interesting! Can you tell us a bit more about how you come up with new ideas? Especially when it comes to new ideas for your business?

For me, it’s all about problems.

You have to fall in love with problems. It’s like a Rubik’s cube in your mind and you’re like, how can I solve that problem? Moving it around until you can fix it. You don't have to really fix it but it’s like fixit in your mind. You might come across problems in your daily life, you might hear from other’s everyday conversation. There is a never-ending flow of complaints and problems. Every single problem has the potential to be a massive business idea. It's about training your mind to realize that you can fix any problem. And your brain will enjoy thinking about some problems more than others.


In that case, have you come up with any business ideas in the past through any problems?

Yes, and that’s how I came up with the idea for ‘Riut’!

I left my law job in 2014 and created the first ever secure "backwards" backpack. And the idea all came from a time when I was in airport, the person before me was constantly checking about his backpack. I was thinking in my mind ‘hey, I’m not going to steal your stuff’, whereas a minute later, I felt some movement on my back and then I was doing the same to check my backpack! Then the idea struck me that all backpacks in this world are the wrong way round, why can’t we open our backpack from the front and make sure it’s secured for traveling?  

From that small problem identified, I designed the first ever "backwards" backpack and built many new designs for the past few years. Nowadays the secure backwards backpack, has gone from a prototype to being used by over 20,000 travelers.


That’s a great example to turn a problem into a successful idea! Can you tell us about the idea that you are currently working on? What exactly is ‘Whenn’?  

‘Whenn’ is an app that I’m building at the moment and it's a platform to help people prepare better for death in the digital age. When someone dies, they might leave behind lots of contracts. For example, Wi-Fi contract, car insurance, house insurance. There are just too many of these relationships that people leave behind and your executor or your legal representative has to close all of those accounts after someone dies. Andin the old days, people would leave a lovely stack of paper with all of the documents. So that after their death someone could find it. Whereas now we live in a paperless world where it’s difficult to find these things.

So ‘Whenn’ is an app to map your digital life, a tool to help us prepare for the practicalities of death in the digital age. So it is not the emotional side that it is dealing with. You can share the information with the people who may have to shut down those accounts for you after your death.


That’s quite an ‘unconventional’ app to be honest, where did the idea about ‘Whenn’ come from?

Around 10 years ago I was studying law and we did the wills as part of the course. And that’s the first time I realized that I would be the executor for my parents after their death! However, when I tried to talk to my parents about it, neither of them responded to this topic. Maybe they didn't know how to talk about death back then. However, after five years, I don't know what changed, each of them respectively started answering my questions about death. But they were like ‘oh yeah well so by the way this is where my will is’. And I was like taking notes separately for them. But because they're divorced and always lived in different places, the wills are in different places. And I was like, OK, I need to write this down. And then I just started writing it my notes. But through years the notes keep getting lost. And then one day, my mom was like, by the way, for my funeral, I want this song. And I couldn't find the old notes! So every time I would just write everything that I remembered. And then when my parent started telling me more detail, I wish I had one place that was just for everything. And that's when the problem identified. So that's how it started.

After a year or so, a friend of mine, his father died, and I saw all the pain that he went through trying to undo his father's life and close everything. And that is really when I was like, let’s make a place to put all of these details.

When it comes to death tech, I don't want to take away from anyone's grief. Actually, good grief is a really important thing to feel. So at no point am I’m trying to make it easier, like not to feel something. I see the death tech dealing the physical side. I want to make sure that on top of one’s grief, there is no extra frustration. Because the pieces of information that you could easily prepare before death, can cause your loved ones real stress afterwards.

So ‘Whenn’ is not only about death, it’s about love. The love for our cared ones after we die.    


 If I’m a new user of ‘Whenn’, what am I supposed to do?

All you need to do is set yourself up an account and put in all the details, all the companies you have contracts with, like Wi-Fi provider, car insurance, utilities companies. Just answer the questions and you fill in your app.

Then you can have a think about who are the people in your life that you have a strong relationship with, so that in the event of your death they might be the right person to share this with.  

Death can be an uncomfortable topic for some people. But I really want the app to bein people’s hand, in their phone, and you and your loved one can sit down and talk about this topic together. That's my ideal scenario.


What’s your hope for the future of ‘Whenn’?

I want it to become a part of everyone's life. Ideally I hope people to have a good relationship with the notion of death. Would like us all to understand that one day we will die. You don't have to be ready to die, but then you have to be ready for the admin to die.


It’s really interesting to know your ideas and your business stories! I wonder is there anything that you think or do that others might find a bit weird or abnormal?

Apart from the ‘death tech’ I’m working on, I’m actually also working on an album of music that I wrote in response to my father’sdeath. All the songs are around the topic of death. Some people find it weird, but there are others find it quite nice thing to do.

But I do have a ‘weird’ project which is to create a system of ethics and law for a civilization on Mars. People respond to it really differently. Some don't care about it at all, others think it's great. I'm preparing a Youtube channel for this, which I can share more in a later stage.

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