In early 2018, Eterneva co-founders Adelle Archer and Garrett Ozar set out to raise a seed round from strategic investors. The goal was to begin to bring the memorial diamond growth process in house –– build out a lab, hire aerospace engineers to accomplish the level of precision necessary, and begin to invite customers in so they could see the process in person.
It’s a level of transparency never before seen in the decade old memorial diamond industry, but one both Archer and Ozar felt passionate about.
After all, it’s the exact experience Archer received when she caught a flight to Europe and stood by as her friend Tracey’s ashes were transformed into a diamond.
It’s why Etenerva films every single part of the process –– to give as close as an in-person experience as possible to loved ones.
This gives so many people peace of mind, but beyond that, it helps those who are deeply grieving as well as their friends and family.
Over the last three years, Archer and Ozar have watched Eterneva customers completely shift and add meaning to the experience of loss, often by launching legacy projects and participating in grief rituals.
But, to bring diamond machines in house, specifically those that grow diamonds one at a time –– well, that was going to be both a financial and engineering marvel.
And Archer and Ozar needed investors who understand both technology and the consumer market.
Enter Brant Barton, co-founder of Bazaarvoice and, most recently, board chair of 1% for the Planet and one of several early Eterneva investors. His background in technology mixed with a consumer understanding of empathy, action, and sustainability made him a key strategic partner for Archer and Ozar.
We got the opportunity to sit down for a quick interview with the busy Austinite to discuss his own experiences around loss, why he chose to invest, and what he sees for Eterneva in 2020 and beyond.
What has been your personal experience with loss and memorialization?
The way our society deals with death has never really made much sense to me.
Like many others, I've been to a fair number of memorial services and funerals, and the experience has always struck me as very strange and discomforting.
The formality and ceremony and morbidity of it all.
I was very close to my grandparents, and when I lost them and went to their services and saw them buried, it just felt so sterile to me. In that setting, I wasn’t very moved –– and I was extremely close to them.
That memory has always stuck with me, that intuitive feeling that something is off, that something isn’t right, that there is a better way to do this, has always been in the back of my mind.
How did you hear about Eterneva?
My former business partner and co-founder of Bazaarvoice, Brett Hurt, sent me a message last year suggesting that I check out Eterneva. I took one look at the company’s home page and was immediately intrigued.
A few days later, I spoke with Adelle for almost an hour and was inspired by her personal connection to the idea and her focus on disrupting the “death industry” in a positive way.
For me, the passion that Adelle and Garrett had for the difference they were making in the space was contagious. I’d never heard of anything like making diamonds from ashes, and loved the idea of someone honoring a loved one’s life in this way.
What makes now the right time for Eterneva?
Great ideas can succeed or fail based on timing, and I think memorial diamonds are just now entering their window of opportunity.
There is a generational shift happening, a different attitude toward death that is taking root in our culture.
Whether it’s better helping those who are grieving, or better planning for your own death so that those you love aren’t left high and dry –– things are changing.
Environmental concerns are a major factor as well.
Memorial diamonds like the ones Eterneva makes are lab-grown diamonds, and I love the idea that people will further accept and even come to prefer lab-grown diamonds over mined ones by bringing memorial diamonds to market.
I bought my wife a wedding ring just like most every guy does, but I've never been a fan of jewelry because of the conditions that are involved in harvesting precious stones from the earth.
It's not a pretty industry, both environmentally and from a human rights standpoint.
I love being a small part of turning that industry upside down with an approach that's more environmentally friendly, more humanistic, easier to manage, less costly to all these different stakeholders, as well as less costly to the earth. Investing in Eterneva is a way of supporting the perfection and mainstreaming of that technology.
What do you think is Eterneva’s biggest challenge looking ahead?
The challenge for Eterneva and their team is in creating and popularizing a new category.
Sure, there are competitors out there, but none approaching the market the way Eterneva is, none doing the legwork to prove the sincerity behind the grief coaching and grief wellness movement, none that have the personal story behind why they got started.
Eventually, I believe Eterneva will be a household name and memorial diamonds will be a default option for memorialization. Right now, of course, when you tell people about turning human or pet ashes to diamonds, you get a double-take. It’s often the first time someone has heard of such a thing.
That's because it hasn’t been presented to consumers broadly and effectively, yet. But in spite of this lack of awareness, no one I’ve shared Eterneva with has thought it was weird or wrong or something you shouldn’t do with a loved one’s ashes.
My wife, for instance, lost her father eight years ago and he was cremated. Her grandmother passed away in the last year, and she was cremated.
In talking about their lives, their legacies, and honoring them, she and I have talked about what she will want to do. For her, because she knows that ashes to diamonds is an option, she wants to combine their ashes to create a wearable reminder of them.
What makes you so excited about Eterneva?
At the end of the day, Eterneva sits on so many amazing, beautiful stories of remarkable lives and the way people honor those lives after they have passed.
So few people want to talk about death, and even fewer about what life looks like in grief. But those two topics are incredibly important. They are part of a larger mental health conversation.
When you combine that conversation with a process and product that helps flip the script on a market that damages the earth, I think you have a real, winning idea.
Eterneva helps people. Eterneva helps the planet. And I’m incredibly proud to be an Eterneva investor.