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INDUETIME: How a "Death App" won Rochester's Startup Weekend

Zack Seward

It started out as “The Death App.”

“I called it that because I couldn’t think of anything else,” says Tony Di Pietro.

Di Pietro’s “Death App” was the kernel of what became the winner of Rochester’s first Startup Weekend.

From pitch to product

Startup Weekend works like this:

Would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas for a company built around a web or mobile app.

The dozens of participants choose which of those pitches are worth pursuing before splitting up into teams and embarking on a 54-hour sprint to make it happen.

Di Pietro (who works in web design for the University of Rochester) pitched his idea - and it stirred up a lot of buzz.

“Everyone was talking about this death app thing,” Di Pietro says. “I think it really shocked people, the idea of someone talking about death.”

The original idea was to connect people with nearby services that were alternative to typical funerals.

Yet despite the buzz, Di Pietro says it took a while for Startup Weekend attendees to vote with their feet.

But two MBA students from the U of R’s Simon School of Business saw potential.

“We need to talk about this,” says international student Tohir Tillyaev, recalling his decision to sign on. “Like, ‘Are we joining this? Can we do this?’ And we’re like, ‘Hey, why not?’ ”

Tillyaev and classmate Sophia Mitchell soon joined Di Pietro and set off to work.

That’s when “The Death App” started changing into something else.


For more on this story, and others from the Innovation Trail, visit their website.

The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between five upstate New York public media outlets. The initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), helps the public gain a better understanding of the connection between technological breakthroughs and the revitalization of upstate New York's economy.