Interview With Art Shaikh
Describe your product or service:
“CircleIt is a generational platform that enables the secure creation and storage of digital memories, customizable cards, and physical gifts to be delivered years – even decades – in the future.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We believe that family is everything. It brings us much joy to play a part in preserving the family traditions and memories for the future generations of our members' families. From legacy preservation to delivering gifts to the future, and everything in between, our mission is to become the global go-to platform for end-of-life services.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“Private Investors, Venture Capital (Series A funded)”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We have a team of 21 dedicated team members that are experts in their field. We are in the process of hiring a handful of new individuals in our UX/UI design, marketing, and product management teams.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Since I was a young boy, I've always had an entrepreneurial drive. When I was young, I would sell rides around the block on my motorized bike to friends and classmates. The neighborhood parents eventually sidelined my budding business – but it definitely lit a spark. Over the years, I've grown my endeavours to bigger and better things. The concept of CircleIt is my most prized development and one that I hold close to my heart.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“Growing up, my father always had his camera around his neck shooting pictures and video at every family gathering. Photos would be developed and videos copied – and gifted to family members near and far. He always felt a tremendous amount of joy watching people’s reactions to these special gifts.
Over time, he began writing notes, documenting memories and creating handmade cards that he would stash safely away in a large box alongside his treasured family photos and beloved old home movies.
My father left behind this box overflowing with photos, stories, cards and gifts for future life events with specific instructions on how and when to share these treasures with his beloved family. He wanted his legacy to live on – and for his family to continue experiencing his love long after he was gone.
CircleIt was built to replicate this unique gift. Built for my mother to help carry on his legacy. Built so that others can experience the joy it has given all of us. Built in memory of my father, Arif Shaikh.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“It was simple, really. The concept of family and friends being part of your inner circle was what really drove the name. You love your whole family, so CircleIt. The only other names were slight variations of the theme CircleIt.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“[The] toughest decision I had to make so far was quitting my dream job at Salesforce.com in the middle of a pandemic to launch my company. It’s always an incredibly tough decision to dive into something unknown, especially when it’s headfirst. Despite dreaming about the thrill of charting our own paths, not many of us are thrilled about the uncertainty, volatile cash flow, or paying for our own health insurance. But if you know in your gut that you want to get your business off the ground, then it’s time to push through the challenges ahead and make it happen.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“We have a few segments of target markets. While the most obvious target is families, it really goes much deeper than that. We target first-time parents and new grandparents that would value a platform like CircleIt with their children and grandchildren in mind – to ensure that their legacy lives on through them. Above that, we target first responders and military personnel who put their lives in danger every day to protect other families. CircleIt gives them [the] means to ensure they can remain present in their families’ lives should the unthinkable happen. And finally, we have a target market of terminally ill individuals. Everybody knows life is precious, and it can be taken away at any moment. CircleIt can help these individuals prepare for the future and send reminders of their love to their family for generations.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Since CircleIt is a mobile platform, our primary marketing efforts are centered around paid display and social ads. Since the concept surrounding CircleIt can be a challenge to convey, we rely heavily on video ads to showcase our generational platform's numerous features in an easy-to-digest and understandable manner. We also create oodles of helpful and unique blog content aimed at educating, uplifting, and empowering our members to easily communicate with their family across time while preserving their legacy.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Our first 100 customers came via word of mouth. Once members download and activate CircleIt, they're prompted to add their family and friends to begin preserving those special memories. All it took was for one member of a family to truly understand and appreciate the concept behind our platform that they became true [supporters] urging their inner circle to experience the power of CircleIt for themselves.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We track quite a bit of metrics. We keep a close eye on traffic patterns within the app as well as what features members use the most, what digital cards are our most popular, and of course, the revenue generated from the sale of our physical gifts. It's always invigorating to see the number of active members within our platform at any given moment, too.”
What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast?
“‘Blitzscaling’ by Reid Hoffman”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
“If you build it, they will come. Persistence is key and don't give up. Keep driving toward success.”
Who is your support system?
“Family is everything to me. I have a large family – with everyone spread around the world, and they have supported me in every way through the process of developing CircleIt. I also have a close-knit group of friends here in Chicago that I often turn to for advice and frequently use to bounce ideas off of.”
How do you stay motivated?
“I am motivated by a sense of purpose. It's an immense reward knowing that CircleIt can impact the lives of countless people and bring families together across generations by helping to preserve their legacies.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“I became super organized – I had to. I started developing CircleIt while I was still working a full-time job, so I had to be sure that I used my time wisely and documented everything.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“I am most proud of being able to memorialize my father in this most unique way with the development of CircleIt. Taking the idea sparked by my father's actions and transforming it into a modern-day generational platform that is in the hands of millions of families around the world is simply mind-blowing.”
More on CircleIt
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Art Shaikh of tech startup CircleIt that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
CircleIt, a generational communication startup company, said it recently raised $5.1 million in a Series A business funding round.