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- Founders - Aaron Zelman, Dave Kaplan & Tim Glasson
- Based in Melbourne
- Started in 2020
- 3 founders, 15 employees
Aaron, what's your backstory?
Most of my working life has been in financial services, and before starting in the grad program of a big four bank, I had trained to become a psychologist. I’m Melbourne born and bred.
Tell us what your company does?
Most Australian adults are well aware that they need to write a will, and yet they just haven’t made it happen. Even aside from the emotional side of things, death brings many legal, financial and even logistical challenges, and Willed is here to help make things much easier and more affordable.
How did you come up with the idea?
Each of the co-founders has lost an immediate member of their family and knows first-hand how horrible it can be when someone close dies, especially when no will was written, which was true for one of my co-founders.
In my prior professional roles, I would constantly urge my clients to see a lawyer to write their wills, and they would rarely ever make that happen. In this context, we could see that some well-designed technology and an educational approach could make all the difference. We came up with the name Willed as that’s exactly what we want millions of Australians to become. I love that the word speaks to having ticked something off a list like ‘finished’ as that’s exactly what millions of Australians want to do - tick getting their will off their to-do list finally.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
Willed required a very collaborative approach between legal documentation and procedure, platform creation and creating a user experience that made something quite complex feel super simple.
We were confident that we’d find high demand given the number of people who have the need but have not found the way to make it happen, but perhaps the biggest hurdle was with people unsure about how legit it is to write a will online.
Thankfully we seem to have overcome that major hurdle, having helped tens of thousands of Australians write their wills since.
How have you grown the business?
We pushed very hard to promote the offering online, and that has been very rewarding for the most part. Coverage on 7News gave us a great shot in the arm early on, and more recently, our TV ad was favourably reviewed by the panel on Gruen, which is a big relief as they don’t mind smashing into an ad they don’t like.
What's your biggest selling product/service?
While we also offer cremation services and other legal services such as probate, our online will offering is our flagship product. This can be found on our website.
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
I know we have made mistakes, but it is also difficult to know what we would change if we could go back in time. Perhaps we could have launched into a new product area earlier, but we may have then found doing something half-cooked would have come with risks or some very real problems down the road. I really try to take a forward-looking approach.
What's next for you and your business?
Willed may have started in the legal-tech space around will writing, but the next chapter is making the broader area of end-of-life planning and services front and centre. We’ll continue to make technology integral to making solutions more accessible and more affordable to the Australian public and, in time, beyond our shores.
What digital tools do you use regularly?
Our business gets great value out of an array of products from a company called Zoho, and I’d really encourage people to look into their offerings.
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
I’m a very big fan of Seth Godin. One of my favourites of his is called Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? His insights are highly valuable to founders and employees alike.
Any podcast/websites that help you run your business?
A couple of podcasts I can recommend are How I Work by Amantha Imber and The Startup Podcast by Yaniv Bernstein and Chris Saad.
Any quotes you live by?
““What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”” - Brené Brown
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
There is tremendous joy in creating something that was once only a vision and crafting it into an awesome reality with a huge impact on those we serve and our other stakeholders. It is a bit like giving birth to a child whom you raise to become a wonderful, contributing member of society and of whom you are most proud. Thankfully I wouldn’t say I’ve hit a lot of hateful moments but sure, there can be a lot of frustration of how long things can take, how difficult controlling expenditure can be and how quickly each day flies.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
The support I get from my wife is invaluable. After more than 20 years together, she seems to know me better than I know myself, and she has a great ability to help me psychologically.
In a few words, sum up what it means to be the founder of a business
For me, it is a big responsibility and an amazing opportunity.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
It may seem contradictory, but you have no choice but to wear lots of hats and stretch yourself in ways you can hardly anticipate. At the same time, success comes from harnessing the strengths of others, so collaboration is key.