Meet the Irish startup that is disrupting graveyards..


Given that this week is Halloween and the week of kids dressing up as ghosts and ghouls however for most of us graveyards would not be our favourite place to hang out but for husband-and-wife duo Sean and Leona McAllister cemeteries and graveyards have become rich grounds for innovation.

While most people don’t like to discuss death – it’s a scary, uncertain aspect of life we will all face – the death business is a huge industry. The U.S. market alone is worth $20 billion.

The Northern Ireland-based McAllisters hit upon the idea for their cemetery and crematory software after doing some routine land surveying work for their local parish in 2009.

Sean and Leona Mcallister from Plotbox
Sean and Leona Mcallister from Plotbox


Concerned that the graveyard was running out of space, the parish had asked Sean, who has a background in quantity surveying, to take a check of what room they had left.

While doing the job, he also took photos of all the headstones in the graveyard and Leona, who was at the time on maternity leave, logged the inscriptions.

After handing over a fairly rudimentary spreadsheet and being greeted with amazement from the parish, Sean and Leona wondered whether other cemeteries were similarly stuck in the past and relying on old-fashioned pen and paper. Not that it’s been easy to convince them to upgrade.

Many cemeteries still rely on old paper records of funerals and available burial plots to map out the property. These outdated systems can lead to errors when graves are dug in the wrong place.

That’s where PlotBox comes in. Based in Northern Ireland, the startup created cloud-based software that uses drones to map the grounds and help cemeteries make sure they’re not burying anyone in the wrong plot, which is a costly mistake and is something that apparently happens and causes expensive lawsuits.

McAllister is a licensed commercial drone pilot, which is how the company accurately maps out cemeteries for its software. Drones have been used for mapping in other industries, including agriculture, but clearly their scope is expanding.

PlotBox recently completed a $1.2 million seed funding round. That money is being used to hire more staff and launch new products like 360-degree maps.

In the coming years cemeteries and crematoriums are only going to get busier as the baby boomers are all starting to die off.

This may not strike anyone else as a reason to be cheerful, but for the McAllistairs it certainly is.