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Art Sheikh is the founder and CEO of CircleIt, a company dedicated to inventing how families connect, celebrate and preserve precious memories for future generations.
CircleIt was founded in 2018 and has developed the first technology of its kind to create and securely store digital souvenirs, customizable cards and physical gifts that will be delivered years – even decades – later. CircleIt’s patented intelligent technology enables users to plan their future communications to share their love and ensure the continuation of their past lives.
Art has previously held management positions in sales and at Dun & Bradstreet, where he worked in e-commerce and FinTech. Connection help and customer service in a whole new way.
After graduating from the University of Southern Illinois in Finance and Management, people became enthusiastic about the arts. His unique leadership style, coupled with his ability to deliver results, has made him a mentor and colleague for many.
Art believes that family comes first and keeps the extended family in its heart. His personal experience of his father’s death was a catalyst for the creation of the Circle.
Since 2010 Art has been a member of the board of directors of the Midwest Cricket Conference, a non-profit organization where he shares his love for cricket with the general public.
In an exclusive interview, Art
If you want to create a great company, find a big problem that the whole world is excited about and solve it for the whole world.
We started with a problem that is dear to many people’s hearts. A problem that people have solved in their own way with shoeboxes full of family photos, Google documents containing the family tree or VHS tapes of family reunions. We tackled the problem of old age and proposed a safe and modern technological solution. The solution we are passionately committed to. It’s a passion for the circle that permeates every ounce of the marketing we produce.
Read on to learn more about Art Sheikh and his journey.
Tell me about your personal experiences and what motivated you to work for your company.
Art Sheikh: As a child, my father always wore a camera around his neck and took photos and videos at every family reunion. Photos are developed and videos are copied and given to parents and distant relatives. He has always felt great joy when he observed people’s reactions to these special gifts. Over time, he began writing notes, documenting memories and making handmade cards, which he kept safe in a large drawer with precious family photos and old popular home movies.
Father left this box full of photos, stories, postcards and gifts for future life events with concrete instructions on how and when to share this treasure with his beloved family. He wanted his inheritance to survive – and that his family would live his love long after he was gone. CircleIt is built to multiply this unique gift. It was built so that my mother could continue his legacy, built so that others could experience the joy he gave us all. It was built in memory of my father, Arif Shaikh.
What is your current main product and can you give a product sales history?
Art Sheikh: We make CircleIt a platform for the creation and preservation of family heritage. From sending digital maps years in advance to creating and maintaining your family tree, CircleIt helps users stay connected even after they’re gone. The great thing is that we are constantly developing new features and services that enable users to participate and truly integrate in all possible directions for all future generations.
How much money have you raised so far? When was the last financing cycle?
Art Sheikh: So far, we’ve raised $2 million. Our last increase was $1 million in June 2020.
What are the internal decision-making processes that determined the start of fundraising and what logistics are involved? And how many investors did you meet, how did you get to know these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Art Sheikh: Since the introduction of the beta in May, we have seen a huge increase in the number of participants and a strong interest from the VC. So far, we have had several initial discussions with the Pritzker Venture Group, Hyde Park Venture Partners and others. Crunchbase has been a very useful tool for investigating and obtaining information about high-risk companies in the initial phase of a technical start-up.
What are the main challenges and obstacles in the fundraising process? If you had to start over, what else would you do?
Art Sheikh: We got lucky. We have a great product that everyone loves. So the vice presidents are after us. My advice to anyone who goes down this road is to believe in yourself, to make your product, and smart money will find you. Don’t give up 20-30% of your business for a few million by raising it too early.
What are the milestones for the next cycle? And what are your goals for the future?
Art Sheikh: We plan to raise $15 million for Series A. We close the year with more than 5 million participants. We are confident that we will reach 25 members by 2021.
How did you attract users and what strategy did you use to grow your business from start to finish?
Art Sheikh: Fortunately, the Circle sells itself. Once people understand and recognize what the platform does and what it really means for their whole family and future generations, they will buy it. We have seen excellent results, received encouraging feedback and continue to make noise about what CircleIt has to offer.
Which software was the best marketing tool to help your start-up grow, and why?
Art Sheikh: Google is a very powerful platform. Youtube has been an incredible success for us, our videos have been watched millions of times.
That most starters are usually wrong about marketing?
Art Sheikh: We started with a problem that is dear to many people’s hearts. A problem that people have solved in their own way with shoeboxes full of family photos, Google documents containing the family tree or VHS tapes of family reunions. We tackled the problem of old age and proposed a safe and modern technological solution. The solution we are passionately committed to. It’s a passion for the circle that permeates every ounce of the marketing we produce. And the consumer can feel it. I highly recommend reading Growth Hacking a Silicon Valley Best Keept Secrets by Ray Fong and Chad Riddersen.
How would you like to develop your activities worldwide?
Art Sheikh: We have been active worldwide since day one. Families are global – our solution is global. We are currently present in 165 countries and are working on a multilingual version.
What are the most common mistakes companies make in their global expansion?
Art Sheikh: Don’t be afraid to expand all over the world. I think a lot of people make the mistake of starting the household. It is much cheaper to buy from users around the world than to choose a handful of countries.
How do you manage the Kovid 19 flash situation to ensure the survival of your company?
Art Sheikh: We believe in social detachment, masks and appropriate safety measures. We’re working remotely at the moment. In the next phase we want to create a small bubble around our team members so that we can work safely and collaborate personally.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when starting a business?
Art Sheikh: The founder must be willing to make difficult decisions and have confidence in himself. It starts with you and the team you put together. Good teams will accept your personality, and that’s how the culture is built – not an expert, you’re the expert.
What is the best advice you have ever received? And what advice can you give to someone who wants to do similar things with you or go in a similar direction?
Art Sheikh: If you want to create a great company, find a big problem that the whole world is excited about and solve it for the whole world.
What are the three most popular books or movies (series) that changed your life and why?
Art Sheikh: I highly recommend these two books. This has helped to change my thinking and approach to circle formation.
- Reed Hoffman’s Lightning
- Growth Piracy by Ray Fong and Chad Knights
How do you maintain your motivation on a daily basis?
Art Sheikh: If you build something you like, it doesn’t look like a job. It’s my passion.
Which lessons do you want to teach your (future) sons and daughters three times in life?
- The value of education
- The value of hard work
- Family is everything.
Why do you want to be remembered?
Art Sheikh: She will bring joy to others through the circle. Just like our family.
You can follow Art Sheikh here.
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