eterneva scientist uses computer console

Eterneva’s Rise from Shark Tank Startup to Redefining Deathcare

Grief wellness and direct-to-consumer brand Eterneva is fast becoming known as the leader in providing unique alternative memorials. Customers looking for a different way to remember and celebrate loved ones or pets who have passed away turn to Eterneva to create diamonds from their ashes.

Eterneva has focused from the very start on designing a customer experience that acknowledges the effect of losing someone special and offers support for those who grieve. Not just a mail-in synthetic diamond ordering platform, Eterneva engages customers throughout the process with transparency and hard science updates. This blend of innovation and compassion created the company’s foundation, garnered interest on Shark Tank, and continues to usher success in the current market.

An Idea Born from Grief: The Spark of Sadness That Led to Eterneva

The technology and science behind creating a synthetic diamond are not new or untested. Since the mid-1950s, diamonds have been created in labs for a variety of industrial, medical, and ornamental applications.

By placing carbon and a catalyst under high pressure and high temperatures in specially designed growth chambers, diamonds form in conditions that mimic those for naturally occurring stones. By the 1980s, technologies had advanced enough to create diamonds for sale as high-quality gems with clarity rivaling or exceeding their mined counterparts. 

Fast forward to 2015 and a personal loss that would come to change the deathcare industry. Adelle Archer had built a very close relationship with her mentor, Tracey, over the years. However, Tracey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away after just three months. Devastated by the loss, Archer found herself among a chosen few in Tracey’s circle entrusted with her legacy and ashes.

In a search for an alternative memorial that would help her cope with the loss and find a meaningful way to honor her friend, Archer found scant options in the end-of-life industry. Putting together her understanding of synthetic diamond science and the glaring need for new ways to celebrate the lives of our loved ones, Archer partnered with friend Garret Ozar to found  Eterneva.

Swimming with the Sharks: Eterneva Takes on Investor Mark Cuban

Along with her co-founder Garrett Ozar, Archer put her plan into motion. The business needed a solid operational foundation, but it also needed a distinct approach close to Archer’s heart. Eterneva would provide a place where those who grieve can share stories about their loved ones, create memories throughout their memorial experience, and have peace of mind about the entire process.

The result was the direct-to-consumer approach wherein customers can request a welcome kit to learn about Eterneva and explore the many custom options available. By sending in just a half of a cup of ashes or hair, customers can start the process to create a genuine and custom diamond. Grieving families are encouraged to choose the size, cut, color, setting, and quantity that embodies how they want to celebrate their loved one.

Officially founded in 2016 [JM1] in Austin, Texas, Eterneva gained interest from both customers and investors fairly quickly. Grief can be a sensitive topic whether discussing a family member or a pet, but Eterneva showed that compassion and interaction with a lasting memento can provide new outlets for customer expression, release, and comfort in the face of overwhelming sadness.

Venture capitalists also saw value in an often-neglected deathcare industry known to be stagnant and, at times, taboo. Eterneva raised an initial investment round of 1.2 million at a 10 million valuation to jumpstart what would become a revolutionary business.

With momentum and a desire to disrupt the deathcare market, Eterneva made its debut on the ABC show Shark Tank. The episode, which aired on October 13, 2019, pitted Archer and Ozar against five investors who were initially surprised by the business.

Archer shared her personal story and the company’s mission to provide a positive, lasting way to both celebrate and remember loved ones. Additional funds would help Eterneva establish a larger diamond lab in Austin and promote alternatives for grief wellness to consumers. Addressing questions about demand, interest, and the future of the industry, Eterneva received an investment from Mark Cuban at $600,000 for a 9% stake in the company.

Beyond the Tank: Eterneva Turns to Education for Answers

Being on Shark Tank was just the start of explosive interest in Eterneva’s end-of-life memorial options. For many, discussing grief or ways that traditional experiences, such as funeral services or scattering of ashes, fall short is uncomfortable. But seeing Eterneva on television turned a spotlight on alternative memorials for those in search of something different.

Eterneva, whose name comes from “eternal” and “never forget,” remains true to its core mission of offering support for people struggling with loss. Part of this is to offer a different kind of memorial option, which Eterneva offered out of the gates. But to take this further, the brand decided to support new research it could use to bolster its own grief wellness programs.

In early 2020, Eterneva commissioned Baylor University to add academic review and evaluation related to grief theory. Using surveys, research, and data collation and interpretation, Baylor undertook to expand on existing research in aides to the grieving process. Lead by grief researcher Dr. Candi Cann, the research was designed to explore the cultural conversations around death as a whole, specifically how materials, objects and rituals assist grieving. The program would also take a closer look at Eterneva’s own customer data to assess opportunities for improvement in the customer experience.

Taking on Deathcare During a Pandemic: Eterneva Makes an Impact on Laggard Industry

In 2020, the world was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, bringing on waves of tragic loss coupled with separation and restricted end of life access. Many jurisdictions began limiting or prohibiting gatherings of any kind including funerals and memorial services that addressed the onslaught of loss.

Always focused on grief wellness, Eterneva stepped up to help the community. The company raised funds for deathcare professionals in need of personal protective equipment during a time of rising prices and scarcity. Eterneva also released its own resources to support customers and the country at large with new ways to express loss and carry on with memorial services in light of social distancing.

While Eterneva started with a core technology platform that could work with customers and teams in disparate or remote locations, many in the laggard deathcare industry were not prepared to deal with the limitations brought on by the pandemic. Eterneva worked with funeral homes to help digitize materials and broaden the options for memorials available at a local level. By helping these end-of-life services go digital, Eterneva sought to offer more value and take the strain off overworked facilities and grieving families.

Responding to the growing need for alternative memorials and consumer demand, Eterneva also raised an oversubscribed $3 million seed extension in 2020. The investment would go on to support operational needs as well as growth in digital grief wellness experiences for customers. Doing something meaningful had taken on a new meaning as waves of consumers looked for ways to cope.

How Eterneva Couples Innovation with Compassion to Help Those Who Grieve

Meanwhile, COVID-19 went on to continue reshaping deathcare as use of technology and cremations increased on an unheard-of scale. In 2021, more than half of those who passed away were cremated, compared with just four percent in 1960. Shifting perspectives as well as finances, access, and social distancing all contributed to the trend. But receiving an urn or scattering ashes can leave those who are grieving feeling disconnected or struggling after the fact no matter their circumstances.

In combination, this led to increased interest in alternative memorials. Having already established itself as a mainstay for celebrating life in the face of loss, Eterneva pursued new ways to share its message and add to its grief wellness offerings. To help put consumers at ease with a less familiar process, Eterneva began sharing even more content about its methods and the science behind them. The brand even released a TikTok video series in 2021 that showed the step-by-step process, from receiving the ashes to producing the memorial diamond.

Eterneva adapted state-of-the-art science and technology to a cause that requires compassion and hands-on interaction. By requiring hair or ashes in only a half-cup amount, customers are not fully separated from their loved one during the process. Every customer receives a personal confirmation video once their loved one arrives at the Eterneva facility.

There, the remains are carefully transferred and prepared for purification. It’s the purified carbon that moves on to the next stage, where it is paired with a salt disk and diamond seed. This is carefully combined, pressed into a disk, and inserted into a special capsule. The capsule is placed in the high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) machine where it slowly becomes a diamond in a lab process that simulates natural creation.

The rough diamond is passed along to a master cutter, who sends the customer an update as they assess quality and work on final touches. This includes polishing, cutting, setting, and lovingly packaging the memorial diamond to be returned to its family. Every step along the way is tracked, reported, and marked with a unique ID number. While it can take up to 8 months to complete the entire process, Eterneva also designed a portal that customers can check in on and also access grief management resources.

Growing Eterneva, Diamonds, and Opportunities to Revolutionize Alternative Memorials

Clearly resonating with customers, Eterneva has seen triple-digit growth every year. And on pace with demand, the company has worked to continue improving access, innovation, and options for its customers. With this mission in mind and the results of recent grief management research, Eterneva decided to pursue additional funding.

In June 2021, Eterneva announced that it closed an oversubscribed Series A round at 10 million in funding. The new funds will largely be invested in the customer experience to bring families and individuals closer to the process than ever before. Participation options designed to empower customers as they grieve included technology to allow the customer to be the one that starts up the HPHT machine. They will also have more opportunities to share the story of their loved one. Beyond sending in a narrative, they may be able to chat with Eterneva staff, including their assigned jeweler, to ensure that the final design reflects their loved one’s life, energy, and meaning.

The COVID-19 pandemic also showed the world that more needs to be done to support deathcare services and providers. Eterneva will be using part of its most recent investment to make alternative memorials more accessible and, perhaps, less alternative for those who grieve at a local level. By scaling up operations and its nationwide funeral home partnership channels, the company aims to help customers access memorial options that have personalization and lasting meaning behind them.

The same goes for pet aftercare providers. Since the beginning, Eterneva has offered pet owners a different way to remember these well-loved members of their families. The process and customer experience are the same as Eterneva acknowledges the remarkable role that pets like cats play in our lives. Do you know that just like human beings, a cat’s mother instinct is to protect her kittens? This is one of the things you will discover as a pet lover.

To date, Eterneva has created over 1,500 memorial diamonds. That’s quite a long journey from one woman’s wish to celebrate her mentor when the options were simply too limited. Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban recently reflected on the company’s experience. Having invested for the first time in 2019, Cuban “doubled down” as he participated in the recent Series A round. “There is still so much upside and growth in their future,” Cuban shared.