April 2012

The Day I Escaped Death

I’m rounded up with 12 others and we’re being escorted to a church. The others are quite. They don’t know why they were just abducted from their daily routine and I don’t know either. It looked like some were only on their way to the market and some were on their way to school, like me. I’m only 15. What could they possible want from me? The soldiers are bringing us to a church on the other side of town, but what for? It wasn’t too long ago that they occupied our town and disrupted our lives. I don’t understand. Why are we going to a church? Something is off. This doesn’t seem right. I need to get out of here. I need to run. I must run. I have to run NOW.

I take off in a sprint and I know the soldiers are running after me. Chasing me. Hoping they can round me up and bring me back with the others.  I don’t look back though because I’m afraid it will slow me down. I keep running. I make my way back to the center of town and look for a place to hide but I’m not really sure where to go. I need to get off of the streets. I need to be inside. Houses!

I start knocking on the doors of the locals. The first house is white with a red door. I hear people inside but they won’t let me in. I move on to the next house. They open the door at least but also won’t let me in. House after house I’m rejected. Is it because of my age? My clothes? There is still nowhere to hide until finally someone welcomes me into their home. I can see the fear on their face though. Their mild reluctance to let me in. Their hesitation. How could they not be afraid? I’m out of breath and desperate for a place to hide. I would fight them right now if they won’t let me in, but they do. They finally let me in and I sit on the floor to catch my breath.

Hours go by. I haven’t returned home from school and my family must be worried. They don’t know where I am but I can’t go home. I can’t leave yet because it’s too dangerous. I must stay here for the night at least until the soldiers have given up on my search. If they are even searching for me at all. Yes, I need to stay here and I’ll go home in the morning.

When the sun rises I know its safe to make my way back home but I’m compelled to go back to the church first. I need to see what they wanted from us and what awaited for us at the church.


The earth is bright red and there is a giant, fresh mound of dirt. I have never seen anything like this before. A mass grave.  I was just with these people. I was one of these people.

I feel sick. Confused. Lucky.

I run again, but this time I run home and when I get there I know my life will never be the same.

It’s 1940. Germany has invaded our small town in Poland I’m terrified of what will be next….

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance day and this story is one of many my grandfather has from the Holocaust. There is one saying that all holocaust survivors and family members have engrained in their DNA and that saying is “never forget.”  I know I will never, ever forget.

The Last Jew of Vinnytsia
The Last Jew of Vinnytsia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Acquisition Breathes Life Into Emerging Digital Death Industry

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Nathan Lustig and Jesse Davis are the cofounders of Entrustet, a company that helps you access, transfer and delete your digital assets when you die. The company was acquired by SecureSafe, a the market leader in secure online storage and digital inheritance. Entrustet is Lustig and Davis’ second company that has been acquired.

I caught up with them today to ask them a few questions about the deal and about their experiences starting a company.

Q. Where did the idea of Entrustet come from?

A. Jesse was reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman which explains the story of Justin Ellsworth, a US Marine who was killed in Iraq. His parents wanted more to remember him by, so they asked Yahoo for the contents of his email. Yahoo said no way, it’s against our terms of service.

A few months later, a Michigan judge ruled that Yahoo must turn over the contents of Justin’s account to his parents. We thought three things: 1) digital assets are real things that have economic and sentimental value, 2) you shouldn’t have to go to court to gain access to them, and 3) what if you have digital assets you don’t want anyone see?

We looked around and there weren’t any services to help solve the problem and decided to start. Our vision was to build a product that easily and painlessly let people decide what would become of their valuable online accounts and computer files after they pass away.

Q. You built the business in a place other than silicon valley and NYC? Please explain.

A. Entrustet has taken a long and winding path. We started the company in Madison, WI, which in our humble opinion is an up and coming startup hub in the Midwest. Our initial plan was to stay in Madison to save money during the bootstrap phase and build a great team, then move to NYC or Silicon Valley after we started to build some traction. Madison’s ridiculously cheap cost of living is one of its greatest attributes. Add that to a creative and helpful community of smart people and you’ve got a nice place to try to start something.

After a year, we had a product built, users and press, but not the massive scale traction we wanted. We saw an article in Forbes about a program called Startup Chile that was inviting startups to Chile and giving them $40,000 of free money. We wanted to extend our runway and we thought exchanging the brutal Wisconsin winter for Santiago summer.

After our 6 months in Chile, we came back tom Madison and continued to work until the acquisition.

Q. Did you raise money? How did you do that?

A. We raised a round of angel money from angels in the Midwest and East coast, plus a grant from Startup Chile. We built our prototype, launched it and then took it to potential future investors. Our biggest step towards fundraising was showing angels that we were serious. We had a prototype built, a full business plan, and showed tremendous support from the local business community.

Q. What is Startup Chile and how did it help?

A. Startup Chile is a program from the Chilean government to foster entrepreneurship in Chile. They give startups $40,000 of free money if you move to Chile for 6 months. It gave us a longer runway to help us perfect our business model and continue pivoting without having to give up equity. We met entrepreneurs from all over the world, including startups we ended up working with.

Q. How did you get clients?

A. Our main sources were via our blog and the press we generated, via attorneys recommending Entrustet to their clients. We also worked with websites to refer their users to Entrustet so that they could have a standardized policy for user deaths.

Q. How did the acquisition come about?

A. We’d been working in the market for three years and got to know the SecureSafe team very well. We strongly believe that the future successes in of digital estate planning are companies that help users equally while they are living and when they pass away.

SecureSafe passes both of these tests and we were very interested in figuring out how to work together. We also have most of our users in North and South America, while SecureSafe is concentrated in Europe. As our relationship developed, we realized that our visions were very well aligned and we decided it would be a classic win-win if we joined forces.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. Nathan is returning to Chile to work on a Chilean startup company called Welcu that was funded by 500 Startups and Tomorrow Ventures. Founded by Sebastian Gamboa and Nicolas Orellana, Nathan is helping them expand in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. Jesse accepted a job with Buddy Media, a fast-growing late stage startup in its own right, based in NYC.

Connect with Dan Reich on Twitter – @danreich. (Disclosure: Dan is also a current employee at Buddy Media)

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