Suelin Chen

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Suelin Chen believes that embracing your own mortality can be a force for good. She’s the CEO of Cake, a web-based service that helps users plan for their end-of-life goals and wishes. The 39-year-old says the pandemic has produced feelings of uncertainty and fear—but that addressing death head-on can be empowering and life-affirming. The executive started the company in 2015 with her business partner, Mark Zhang, a palliative-care physician, after meeting at an MIT event on hacking health care. By then, Chen had already spent years in academia, health care and business, but her on-the-spot pitch was to develop an easy, digital service to help people let their family and friends know their wishes if they’re at the end of their life or incapacitated. The service doesn’t include creating a will, but lets users map out everything from how they’d like their social media accounts to be managed after they’re gone, even how they’d like their funeral to feel—including the music—and store documents in one place. It has since been used by major hospitals and banks, including Massachusetts General Hospital and Natwest, and Cake closed a $1.6 million funding round at the start of the year. And there’s evidence that the pandemic has spurred end-of-life planning: By April, user engagement with the service had increased by more than 400%.

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