The passing of a loved one comes with a rollercoaster of emotions, from being hit with grief to becoming overwhelmed with creating funeral plans. The ordeal can be quite strenuous for many families, but what if it didn’t have to be?
Following the tragic loss of her father, Jessica McGlory launched Guaranteed, a tech-enabled hospice-care startup. On the premise that death is the only thing in life that’s guaranteed, the founder and CEO created the company to transform how society handles the ultimate fate. The goal is better preparation when it comes to taking necessary actions and managing the emotional experience.
Guaranteed uses frictionless technology to provide direct, at-home patient care in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY. An additional standout feature is that the company not only looks after its patients but also their families, who receive their own personal plan of care.
Investors have gravitated to the mission behind Guaranteed as it has raised nearly $10 million to date. In 2022, the company closed a seed round of $6.5 million — making it one of the largest seed rounds ever raised by a Black female solo founder — according to a press release. What’s more, McGlory is an out, queer Black woman.
AfroTech spoke with McGlory about how she went about securing funding, how she hopes to dispel fear about death in the Black community, and what the near future holds for Guaranteed.
AfroTech: The passing of your father is what led you to create your company, but what was your own perspective on the idea of preparing for death before the final moment?
Jessica McGlory: Preparing for death, like it is for so many of us — especially those of us who grew up in America — was not even on my radar. I was not actively avoiding the topic, but it also was not something I talked about. I did have a will, which is unusual, but that was more due to an exercise in fiscal responsibility; I did not even really think about it in a way that related to death or dying.
AT: What does the process look like for how Guaranteed chooses which care workers are a part of its platform?
JM: At Guaranteed, we look for empathetic problem-solvers who are also creative. There is often no playbook when it comes to dying, and our care team members must think on their feet for how to best go beyond traditional clinical care and be a support to the family.
AT: The platform not only gives dying patients a plan of care but also family members. What does that plan of care for them entail?
JM: The plan of care for family members takes into consideration the unique experiences faced by loved ones who are not themselves dying but are watching someone they love die in front of them. The outcomes we are striving for are different from our patients as the main goal is a healthy relationship with grief. This means time with our integrated care team, which includes a social worker, a spiritual coordinator, and nurses—all of whom are dedicated to providing support.
AT: As someone from not just one or two underrepresented communities in the VC funding space but three, initially what were you expecting when it came to securing funding? What are the main factors that helped you along the way?
JM: Going into fundraising I had to believe I had a real chance of receiving capital for Guaranteed. I knew that there would be investors who would meet me but not give me a real chance or who were only meeting with me just to say that they did, but I couldn’t let that be top of mind. I had to remind myself just how much I believe in what we’re building at Guaranteed, how much it is needed, and how big of a business it truly could become. This mindset has allowed me to say no to investors that are not a good fit and say yes to the investors that truly believe in what we’re doing. This approach, paired with making sure to tell the story and sell the vision, was key to successfully raising capital, particularly the seed round that was during when the market had begun taking a turn.
AT: What is a misconception about hospice care that Guaranteed works to dispel, as well as how does the company hope to combat fear revolving around death, especially in the Black community?
JM: At Guaranteed, we definitely focus on building trust so that we can break down the many misconceptions that exist in hospice. Due to the mistreatment Black people have faced in the healthcare industry, we see resistance around the medications that can be incredibly helpful during end of life. We can tell any community that it’s safe just trust us, but that won’t work. Instead, we work within the communities we serve and address the root cause of the fear. We recommend other options and talk with the loved ones to make sure we’re taking into account any and all fears. This approach takes longer, but over time it’s a powerful way to help address the hospice gap particularly faced by the Black community today.
AT: You’re a believer in that everyone should have a good death plan. From your perspective, what are a few key bullet points for that list?
JM: In order to have a good death plan there are practical considerations to make such as ensuring all paperwork is in order, having an advanced care plan, and preparing housing options. Above all else, it is important to visualize and write down what is most important to you. Think about who you would want around you. Make sure that your wants and wishes are written down; otherwise, it will be everyone else’s wishes instead of your own.
AT: Last year, it was shared that the company plans to expand into more markets. Has that expansion been in motion yet?
JM: Yes, we are excited about the opportunity to bring incredible end-of-life care to additional markets. Our current focus is growing the greater Los Angeles market as we build trust and rapport.