So Long! I Will Take Care of the Rest
Dealing with death digitally
In a few weeks it’s been seven years since I stopped smoking. No, I don’t call it “gave up” because it was not a sacrifice. I was what some call a “social smoker,” which just means, well, a smoker; just not the type who reaches for the packet of life-giving smoke as soon as he opens his eyes in the morning, but rather waits until he has taken the first sip of wine as early as possible in the evening. So yes, it still counts.
Having got rid of the habit after many years of feeling embarrassed, I thought I really deserved to drink more. Alas, drinking without smoking is kind of meaningless. So I decided to become very responsible instead; cleaning, tidying, working hard, that sort of thing. And then I thought I should do something super responsible and make a will. I contacted the will people, they sent me a bunch of questions…. and that’s eight months ago. Because the questions brought it home to me: I’m going to die. And I don’t want to.
“Well, it’s an inevitability,” shrugs Vincent Hoonings who has nipped around my place for a quick interview before jetting off to LA for his next entrepreneurial adventure.
“We all have to die, so it’s better to deal with it.” Well, that’s easy for him to say, being only 30. When I was his age I never thought about death, reasoning it was something that happened to others.
But Hoonings has not only come to terms with his own (alleged) mortality, he has also asked himself a few questions that many of us, I suspect, don’t want to think about, don’t care about or are otherwise brushing under the carpet: How can we make our death easier to deal with for those left behind?
“I remember exactly when I started thinking about these things,” Hoonings recalls.
“It was February 26th 2016 while I was out for a run. I had lost my father about two years earlier, and he had left us without a will, no testament. This created a lot of headaches for us in an already difficult and emotional time. There was so much to organise and no road map. And I thought: Why not have an online platform to take care of everything? I put the idea in Evernote, but only in the idea pile.”
He laughs: “I knew it was a good idea, but just a good idea without action is worthless.”
a good idea without action is worthless
Don’t I know it! I probably have 53 notebooks full of ideas that haven’t been followed up; writing my will being a case in point.
“Then in mid-2018 I started reading up on block-chain technology, you know, technology to store encrypted data, and the idea about an online will, especially for your digital assets, came back to me.”
This time Hoonings didn’t let the idea fester away on Evernotes, but started setting up a business plan.
“ I talked to anyone who would listen, reaching out to people who knew about it.”
Hoonings discovered that it’s easy to set up a normal will online or together with a lawyer. But how about the non-tangible stuff? Our assets are no longer just houses, cars and a guitar autographed by someone who may or may not have been the real Eric Clapton.
“People have more and more digital assets,” Hoonings points out. “They store stuff in clouds like Dropbox; there’s YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well various subscriptions that need to be accounted for. And how about your followers on YouTube for example – they are also a kind of currency.”
How true. Most if not all of my intellectual property is online now. And although I (probably) won’t be around to revel in the glory after I’m dead – I say ‘probably’ because who knows what technology will come up with next – it would be sad to think it would all disappear. Think about your digital photos of your family, a beautiful scenery, the old neighbourhood – 100 years from now they could be very interesting to some historian or descendant.
No one who came to Olive Valley’s first mega event, Dragon’s Den, will forget the moment Hoonings gatecrashed the stage as it were, nonchalantly taking the microphone and making an improvised pitch about his company So Long! (www.solong.io) without having signed up.
It was evident that this was not his first public speech.
“Yes, I have been performing live since I was 18. I was travelling around Europe selling fruit juicers at trade shows together with the German inventor of the juicer. I was doing live demonstrations in German and these soon turned into a kind of comedy act with lots of useful information about health thrown in. That’s how I learnt how to sell.”
Hoonings stayed on the road for seven years, and sold a hell of a lot of juicers. His last performance was in Australia, after which he decided to pack it in, seeing the writing of online shopping on the wall. But there was no resting on his laurels for the self-confessed “born” entrepreneur.
Returning to Mallorca where he had lived by himself since he was 16, he started an art deco shop in Port de Andratx which his mother now runs.
“Entrepreneurship is in my DNA!” he says simply.
Entrepreneurship is in my DNA!”
“But I don’t think people should romanticise it. It can be emotionally crippling to fail and fail again, and it means you have to work harder and longer – and often for less money – than people with regular jobs. But my father was an entrepreneur, one of my brothers is an entrepreneur, and my mother, who has always been super supportive of everything I did, is of course an entrepreneur. So I don’t think I could be anything else,” Hoonings, who became a skipper and bought his first boat at the age of 16, smiles.
Now he’s off to the USA to further develop So Long! and his grand vision that the whole last will and testament thing including your house, car, budgie, Facebook account and socks will be “fully automated to the extent where all can be done with the click of a button.”
Why the USA? To be diplomatic, let’s just say that the environment for entrepreneurism is slightly better there than in Mallorca.
“The mindset here is rather antique. It’s not easy for people who want to achieve something. I love Mallorca to bits but… is it my home? I’m Dutch but last week I was in the Netherlands and felt out of place. Where is my home? Well, we’ll find out!”
And off he goes to pack, with a sixth month US visa, a plan and a lot of get up and go.
I think I will sign up for So Long! to make sure that my nephew gets to own my films on YouTube, which I’m sure he’ll be thrilled about. And my niece will just be riveted by the prospect of owning my old blogposts from the heady days of the coronavirus, 2020. But oh, why do I have to be DEAD to enjoy this service?