Last Updated: By TRUiC Team
Circles is a mental healthcare startup that leverages technology to provide accessible group support to help users overcome life’s hardships.
Interview With Irad Eichler
Describe your product or service:
“Circles is a revolutionary emotional support platform that ensures no one has to overcome life’s challenges alone. Circles enables people to be heard, understood, and supported by others who are going through the same issues in their lives, such as the loss of a loved one, parenting issues, or divorce. By connecting users in safe, intimate, and private groups led by professional facilitators, Circles helps people heal.
Circles matches six to eight users who are going through similar life challenges into emotional group support. Guided by a professional facilitator, Circles is providing everyone with a safe place to share their struggles and develop deep connections with their peers in order to overcome life’s hardships.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Vision: Making emotional support accessible for everyone, everywhere.
Mission: No one should have to face life’s toughest times alone.
Circles is built on the core principle that in order to overcome life’s challenges, you need to be truly heard and understood by people who share the same life experience.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“VCs and angels”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“15 people, two founders, [the] team is gender balanced [and] inclusivity is key (nationality, LGBTQ, disabilities). We work with about five freelancers beyond the core team and few external agencies.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I've been building social businesses for the last 20 years, mostly operational. What I learned is that you can reach a third of the amount of growth and acceleration when you're building an operational organization. For someone whose motivation is to change the way society is structured in a better way, in terms of people that are really struggling every day, in order to reach millions and millions of people, you need to leverage technology. So I think that's why I chose to establish a startup that has a global scale.”
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?
“I lost my mother to cancer, and ... I witnessed her dealing with loneliness while she was battling cancer. Nobody really got what she was going through except a friend battling the same cancer. When I was grieving the loss of my mother, I felt that. We have WhatsApp groups, one with my father and one without my father. The one with my father was kind of like a desert; nobody spoke there. With my siblings, it was busy because the three of us lost our mother. My father lost a spouse. It’s a different kind of grief. I witnessed the loneliness that comes with it. Losing my mother was groundbreaking for each one of us. Our mother died. My father's wife died. That’s why we're building Circles. We can’t save my mother, we can’t save people from dying, but we can save people from suffering from it, or at least give them a way to deal with the pain that comes with it.
It started out as an anonymous chat that I built with my friend. I pushed it out via Facebook to people that are dealing with social anxiety and want to kind of chat. It was amazing because people signed up, joined the group, and started chatting. But within the first 20 minutes, one of them said, ‘Wow, this is a really crappy app, let's move to WhatsApp,’ and everybody wrote their phone number and moved to WhatsApp. A week later, I got a notification, someone logged in and wrote, “Hey, is anybody here?” and then it struck me how meaningful it is that this is the go-to place that people need. So it started like that, with small experiments, and then I met Dan, my partner and co-founder. That was the moment Circles was born as a company. It was just the two of us and this developer, and we set up this small product and pushed it out. There was so much interest in it. That was the start, and more people joined. Fast-forward a year, and we have already provided 100,000 hours of support to people around the world.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“It was called 7Chairs when we started. but once we focused on the actual product and experience - we rebranded it as Circles.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Getting the right team on board. In the early days, it was just Dan and myself, and now we have this amazing team. I feel humbled every time I walk into the office. Stepping into the office in the morning and looking at all the super talented and dedicated people that are passionate about the purpose is the moment that I will always cherish. You know that there is something broken in the world, and there are so many talented people that are working on fixing it.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Circles currently offers groups for grief and loss, daily stress, and separation or divorce. The platform is also exploring expanding into other support categories.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We invest in digital marketing, content, collaborations, and partnerships.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Active paying users, LTV and first-month graduation (to predict LTV/churn), Group belonging score.”
What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast?
“I love ‘The NFX Podcast’ and Andreessen Horowitz ‘Future Blog.’”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
“We can create a massive business and make the world a better place. And it's all about the people that go on this ride with you.”
Who is your support system?
“My family, of course, my wife and four kids. Beyond that, I share and learn a lot from other founders in my network, like Ron Gura from Empathy, Yuval Samet from Raise Up, and Shaul Olmert from PlayBuzz and Piggy. Our supporting investors like Gigi Levy Weiss from NFX, Sir Ronald Cohen, and more. We also have amazing supporter[s] in the tech ecosystem that are always there to advise, such as Hillel Fuld.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Feedback from our members. We really save lives. There are many coming each week, but there is one that was particularly meaningful. We did a holiday campaign where we provided free Circles for three days over Christmas and New Year's for people who lost a loved one. There was one woman from Mississippi who shared that she lost her husband and two sons. She joined the Circle from Hawaii, and she went there because [she] couldn't stand being in her empty home during the holidays. She was so grateful for the opportunity of having people saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and caring about her. She said, ‘I have no one in the world.’ In these moments, I know it is all worth it because she felt connected. She wasn't alone anymore. People really cared about her.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Yes. We run our team meetings as Circles. Giving everyone a place to share and connect to the mission and to the business goals. We obviously have daily scrums, weekly results reviews, but we dedicate time to talk about our feelings, our needs, where we need support, personal goals, etc.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“The team, the feedback, providing 100,000 hours of support this year alone.”
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