Aurelie is the Founder and CEO of Memoria – the end-to-end bereavement platform for families. With personalized guidance, on-demand planning, and curated marketplace, families can arrange a unique farewell that saves time, costs and headspace.
Prior to starting her company earlier this year, Aurelie didn’t follow a traditional career path. Originally from Switzerland, her first job out of undergrad was as the Head of Growth for a tech travel startup. She then moved over to IBM where she was a Senior Consultant for Watson Health helping Fortune 500 companies implement Artificial Intelligence strategies from drug discovery to member-centric care experiences. In 2018, she moved to the US to pursue her MBA and shortly after moved to New York City to join Morgan Stanley in their Tech Investment Banking division.
Aurelie holds an undergraduate degree from HEC and a MBA from Chicago Booth where she was a finalist of the New Venture Challenge. Aurelie is a Founder Fellow at Primary Ventures. Outside of work, she loves to ski, kitesurf and play tennis although she’ll admit those are pretty hard to do in New York City.
Where did the idea for Memoria come from?
Memoria was born out of personal experience when I suddenly lost a relative and my family scrambled trying to figure out where to start and what to do next. While the Funeral Home was helpful, the entire process felt very generic, extremely expensive and handled completely offline. After doing some in-depth market research and spending 50+ hours with bereaved families, I found that 95% of them were sharing the same struggles – so I set out to build Memoria for them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
For years I was sure that I wasn’t made for structured environments but when you’re building a company you need as much structure as you can get. I used to be someone that would work from anywhere, at any hours of the day but I’ve come to learn that I need to set boundaries. Setting specific work hours and getting an office has been instrumental in my productivity. I have pretty consistent energy levels throughout the day apart from the 4-7pm slump during which my brain refuses to work so I know not to schedule anything important then. More recently, I’ve come to realize that taking calls throughout the day doesn’t work for me as I get distracted so I’m now setting specific days or specific hours of the day where I take calls and then can focus on getting stuff done the rest of the day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Many may see interviewing as a waste of time but spending time with your customers, prospective partners, etc. is the best way to find out if you’re onto something, what they expect, and how to sell it. I also think while it’s important to collect as much data as you can, experimenting is a great way to quickly validate or dump an idea.
What’s one trend that excites you?
How much technology is emerging in Healthcare. Everyone should be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones from the comfort of their homes, whether that’s in the form of telehealth or shipping anything they need to their door.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Assigning weekly goals. The team will set milestones we want to hit in any given month, but it’s also important to break those down and determine what needs to be done each week to achieve those milestones.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep going, life will work out.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The Last Samurai is the best movie ever – inspired by French soldier Brunet who in 1866 was sent to Japan to train military forces and ultimately fought alongside the Samurai after refusing orders to return home. A healthy mix of self-sacrifice, honor, traditional values clashing against modern ones and romanticism.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Don’t forget about your body and your personal relationships. Working out 2-3x times a week is essential for my mental health and so is going to dinner with friends. I also encourage everyone to speak with someone new every day – you learn from different points of view.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Surrounding yourself with industry advisors. They will teach you about the industry, identify your most promising channels, keep you on track, make introductions, and help brainstorm ideas.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the very beginning, I was super excited about building the platform and hired a development agency right away without doing too much background research. After a $9K deposit, weeks of back and forth, and zero progress, it was obvious I had been totally screwed. I of course never saw the deposit again – an expensive lesson to always do your due diligence. But the silver lining is that a couple weeks later I met our current CTO and never looked back since.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Every single time I shop for clothes in physical stores, I find myself in the dressing room, contorting myself capturing different angles trying to send pictures to my friends and sisters for advice – if only there was an integration between the mirror and my phone so I could easily FaceTime them from the dressing room for live advice.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A one hour back massage – I love deep tissue which borderline hurts but releases all your stress.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Trello – Helps me define milestones and keep track of tasks. I use the board feature for all aspects of the business whether it’s monthly goals, product development sprints or our customer acquisition pipeline. You can easily move those tickets as you go along (To Do, In Progress, Done, Paused, etc) – a great way to see where you stand. I also love that you can easily add images to each task making your boards super visual.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Red Notice by Bill Browder. This is a story about an accidental activist. Bill Browder started out his adult life as the Wall Street maverick whose instincts led him to Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he made his fortune. Along the way he exposed corruption, and when he did, he barely escaped with his life.
What is your favorite quote?
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” – Lincoln (allegedly)
- Break down monthly milestones in concrete weekly goals
- Have as many conversations as you can with current customers, prospective customers, vendors, … whoever may be in your circle – you will learn from different perspectives and ultimately craft your own
- Surround yourself with Advisors that actually care about you and what you’re building
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.