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Wednesday, 29 July 2009 11:00

Ex Challenger CIO sets up social network for dead people

Challenger Financial Services’ CIO Derek Goh left the role last November as the sector went into meltdown. But proving a global financial crisis can’t keep a CIO down for long, Goh has resurfaced – this time as an internet entrepreneur with a Web 2.0 obituary site.

Heavenaddress.com allows funeral notices to be posted and permanent memorials established. Visitors to the non denominational site are encouraged to add tributes, light virtual candles or send virtual bouquets.

Goh started working on Heavenaddress.com two years ago when his father died, and he was unable to find a suitably respectful online site where he and family members could remember lost loved ones in words, photos or videos. He has now created what he thinks may be the world’s first social network for the dead.

Initially developed as a site for family and friends to load up information about loved ones, Heavenaddress has according to Goh “started gaining traction” in the funeral services market with a number of high profile companies starting to post funeral notices onto the site and market their services online.

Goh believes that the timing of the venture is perfect given Australia’s ageing demographic, with people who use Facebook or MySpace with their living network now keen to establish permanent online tributes to family members or friends who have died.

“People who are 40 and older today are very accustomed to computers and familiar with social networks. We are confident that by October we will be the largest obituary site in Australia and New Zealand,” according to Goh.

He said he was currently negotiating a transaction which should ensure the rapid growth of the site. Goh declined to name the company, or even the sector he was in negotiation with, but said he has already had very positive responses to the Heavenaddress.com initiative from “forward thinking funeral services companies” including Invocare – a $250 million funeral business operating multiple different brand names such as Allan Drew, Hansen & Cole and Guardian Funerals.

While funeral services companies underpin the site’s main monetising strategy, individuals are also able to apply to Heavenaddress.com to become curators and set up memorial tributes for what the web site describes as “a modest contribution”.  While tributes using up to 25 Mbytes can be loaded for free, a donation of $100 will provide 50 Mbytes of space said Goh.

Visitors to the site are also being encouraged to use PayPal to make a donation to support the development of the site.

While funeral directors may be flocking to the online site to post funeral notices and market their services it seems the general public still remains largely oblivious. Despite the very public outpouring of grief since Michael Jackson died in June his heavenaddress.com memorial has so far attracted just 15 virtual candles and four bouquets.

Seems the dead don’t attract posts like they used to.

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