Art Shaikh is the Founder and CEO at CircleIt, which was inspired by his late father. Art’s father left a box filled with handmade cards and some instructions for Art to carry out when he passed away. At the time, his father was healthy, but he suddenly passed on a year later. CircleIt is a generational platform that enables members to send cards and gifts to their loved ones for any future date or milestone.
Art has over 20 years of experience working for leading technology companies like Salesforce and Dun & Bradstreet. He’s always had an entrepreneurial drive and his mission to bring CircleIt to the masses was made a reality in early 2018. Since then, he’s put together a diverse team of dedicated individuals that share his passion and drive. He’s CircleIt’s fearless leader and the man behind the idea.
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Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Art Shaikh: My name is Art Shaikh, and I am the Founder & CEO of CircleIt. I was inspired to create CircleIt after my father passed away in 2012. A year prior, he had given me a box filled with handmade cards and a list of instructions. These were things I was to deliver for him upon his passing. I also had to ensure that my mother received flowers every year on their anniversary, and other important days.
When he did this, he was healthy, and simply planning ahead. When he passed in 2012, it was a shock, and it taught me that everyone wants to be there for their loved ones, even after they’re gone. The problem was that there wasn’t a technology that could guarantee these items would be delivered. If something had happened to me, then these items would not have been delivered.
CircleIt is the world’s first and only generational platform. It enables members to send cards and gifts to their loved ones for any future date or milestone. Members can also chat with their loved ones, and we built the chat platform to be end-to-end encrypted, to keep conversations between families private and secure, the way they are supposed to be. In addition, we do not sell data to advertisers or data brokers, so it is a 100% ad-free platform for families.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are at today?
Art Shaikh: I have actually always had an entrepreneurial mindset, even as a child. I had the only motorized bike in my neighborhood growing up, and I would charge other kids to take them where they wanted to go.
The parents in the neighborhood weren’t super happy with me, but I have been in sales ever since. I wanted to work in the tech space, because it is exciting and innovative. Whether it was Dun & Bradstreet or Salesforce, technology has always been a passion of mine. So when I had the inspiration to create CircleIt, it was a perfect synergy of my love of technology and honoring my father’s legacy.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Art Shaikh: We’re like a family at CircleIt. I know most founders will say something like that, but to me, these people are family. So we’re very open and honest with each other. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that they don’t know about me. I feel that the best leaders are those that are 100% authentically themselves.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Art Shaikh: An entrepreneur isn’t just someone that starts a company. There is a certain mentality of wanting to take on the world’s biggest problems and create solutions for them. When you think of the greatest innovations in history, they were all born out of a passion to solve a problem for the world.
A founder of a company is almost always synonymous with the company. You can’t think of Bill Gates without thinking of Microsoft or Steve Jobs and Apple. There is something at the core of an entrepreneur that isn’t in everyone, which is what makes them unique.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Art Shaikh: It means everything. One of the principles I had in founding CircleIt was inclusion. To that end, we have over 50% of our leadership roles filled by women and minorities.
In addition, we have a hybrid work environment, which gives the team the flexibility to take care of their families and spend time with them. I am so fortunate to have the dedicated people that I do, I never have to worry that the work isn’t getting done, which seems to be more of a luxury these days.
How can a leader be dusruptive in the post covid world?
Art Shaikh: What we learned from COVID was that people want to be connected. When we all lost that ability to just go out and be with people, it did significant damage to the collective psyche. We also learned a lot about grief and loss. We have lost 6.5 million people globally.
That is a humongous loss. CircleIt is being disruptive by keeping memories of loved ones alive, helping families stay connected to their past, in the present, and with their future generations and giving them their privacy back.
If a 5 year old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Art Shaikh: Interesting question. I would tell them that I lead a team of incredible people who are trying to keep memories alive. So one day, when they grow up, they can have messages and memories from their loved ones.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Art Shaikh: To me, if a decision I am making is going to benefit my team or our customers, then that isn’t a difficult decision to make.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Art Shaikh: That is certainly a different question. I honestly have no idea…maybe whistling? I can whistle well, but I don’t think is has any application to my success.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life untill today, what would the title be?
Art Shaikh: “My Father’s Gift to the World” I think would be an apt title. Because of his actions, I wanted to build something that the world needed. So in a way, CircleIt is truly a gift from my dad to everyone.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Art Shaikh for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Art Shaikh or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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