Art Shaikh is the Founder and CEO of CircleIt – a company dedicated to reinventing how families connect, celebrate, and preserve precious memories for future generations.
Established in 2018, CircleIt has developed a first-of-its-kind technology enabling the secure creation and storage of digital memories, customizable cards, and physical gifts to be delivered years – even decades – in the future. CircleIt’s Patented smart technology allows users to schedule future communications so they can share their love and ensure their legacy lives on.
Art previously held senior roles at Salesforce and Dun & Bradstreet, where he has worked with eCommerce and FinTech companies. Helping them connect and service their customers in a whole new way.
Graduating from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Management, Art is passionate about people. His unique leadership style, paired with his ability to get results, has made him a memorable mentor and colleague to many.
Art believes that family comes first and keeps his extended family close to his heart. His personal experience with his father’s passing has been the catalyst for founding CircleIt.
Since 2010, Art has been serving as an Executive Board Member of the Midwest Cricket Conference, a non-profit organization where he shares his love for Cricket with the masses.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Art says:
If you want to build an amazing company, find a big problem for the world that you are passionate about and solve it for the world.
We started with a problem close to the hearts of many. A problem that people were solving in their own ways with shoeboxes full of family photos, google docs that house the family tree, or VHS tapes of family gatherings. We took an old-age problem and proposed a secure, modern, technology-driven solution. A solution that we’re passionate about. It’s the passion behind CircleIt that bleeds through every ounce of marketing we put out.
Read on to know more about Art Shaikh and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Art Shaikh: Growing up, my father always had his camera around his neck, shooting pictures and videos 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. It was built for my mother to help carry on his legacy, built so that others can experience the joy it has given all of us. It was built in the memory of my father, Arif Shaikh.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Art Shaikh: We’re building CircleIt to be the go-to platform for building and preserving the family legacy. From sending digital cards years into the future to building and nurturing your family tree – CircleIt lets users continue to be there for it all, even after they’re gone. The beautiful thing is that we’re continually developing new features and services that will allow users to truly be involved in and integrated throughout future generations in every way imaginable.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Art Shaikh: So far, we have raised $2 Million. Our last raise was in June 2020 for $1 Million.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fund-raising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
Art Shaikh: Since our beta launch in May, we have seen massive member growth and strong VC interest. So far, we have had some initial calls with Pritzker Venture Group, and Hyde Park Venture Partners, etc. Crunchbase has been a very helpful tool for us to research VCs and gain visibility as an early stage tech startup.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Art Shaikh: We have been lucky. We have an amazing product that everyone loves. So VC’s are chasing us. My advice to anyone going down this path is to believe in yourself, bootstrap, build your product, and smart money will find you. Don’t give up 20%-30% of your company for a few million by raising too soon.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Art Shaikh: We are anticipating raising $15M for Series A. We will end our year with 5M+ members. By 2021 we are confident that we can reach 25M members.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Art Shaikh: Luckily, CircleIt sells itself. Once people understand and realize what the platform does and what it truly means for their entire family and future generations, they buy in. We’ve seen great results, had inspiring feedback, and continue to create a buzz around what CircleIt has to offer.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Art Shaikh: Google is a very powerful platform. Youtube has been unbelievably successful for us, with our videos getting millions of views.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Art Shaikh: We started with a problem close to the hearts of many. A problem that people were solving in their own ways with shoeboxes full of family photos, google docs that house the family tree, or VHS tapes of family gatherings. We took an old-age problem and proposed a secure, modern, technology-driven solution. A solution that we’re passionate about. It’s the passion behind CircleIt that bleeds through every ounce of marketing we put out. And consumers can feel it. I highly recommend reading Growth Hacking a Silicon Valley Best Kept Secrets by Ray Fong & Chad Riddersen.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Art Shaikh: We’ve been global from day 1. Families are global – our solution is global. We are currently in 165 countries and working on rolling out a multilingual version.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Art Shaikh: Don’t be afraid to expand globally. I think a lot of people make the mistake of starting domestically. It’s a lot cheaper to acquire users globally than cherry-picking a handful of countries.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Art Shaikh: We believe in proper social distancing, masks, and safety measures. Currently, we are operating remotely. In our next phase, we want to create a small bubble around our team members so we can work and collaborate in person safely.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Art Shaikh: The founder has to be willing to make hard decisions and trust himself. It all starts with you and the team you put in place. Good teams will adopt your personality, and that’s how the culture is built – there is no expert, you’re the expert.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Art Shaikh: If you want to build an amazing company, find a big problem for the world that you are passionate about and solve it for the world.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Art Shaikh: I highly recommend these 2 books. It helped transform my thinking and approach to building CircleIt.
- Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman
- Growth Hacking by Ray Fong and Chad Riddersen
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Art Shaikh: When you are building something you are passionate about, it won’t seem like work. It’s my passion.
What are the top-three life Lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
- The Value of Education
- The Value of Hard Work
- Family is Everything
What would you like to be remembered for?
Art Shaikh: It would be bringing joy to others through CircleIt. Like how it brought to our family.
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