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September 23, 2021


Fast Growing Chicago Startup Founder Art Shaikh Interviewed by Steve Bertrand on WGN 720

Check Out The Full Interview

Bertrand: I want to introduce you to Art Shaikh. He’s got a great story about his dad when his dad was dying, he said, Art, I’ve collected these gifts that I want you to give to your family members and my family members throughout history. So when my niece gets married, whenever that will be, here’s her wedding gift – isn’t that kind of wild? And he’s turned it into a business that you can be part of. That’s coming up.

Bertrand: You’re listening to Chicago’s Afternoon News here on 720 WGN. All right, imagine getting a Christmas card from your father who’d passed 10 years ago, or maybe a birthday gift from your mom who recently passed away. It could be possible under a new business startup. Art Shaikh is the founder and CEO of CircleIt and he joins us now. Art, welcome.

Shaikh: Thank you so much for having me.

Bertrand: It’s interesting to me that this started in a way because your dad had you deliver gifts after his death, correct?

Shaikh: Absolutely. My dad passed away in 2012, and before he passed away, he left a series of things, letters and a shoebox of memories, things that I need to do for my family members in the future on his behalf.

Bertrand: So it wasn’t just give them to your family members right away. It was, what, to wait for a birthday or anniversary or things like that?

Shaikh: Absolutely. My mom’s 75th birthday. My niece’s wedding in the future. All the important milestones that happen in the life of a loved one – when they want you to be there, and that’s what he wanted to do.

Bertrand: Were you… what was your reaction when he asked you to do this?

Shaikh: I’ve devoted my life mission now to building CircleIt, so that’s was my reaction. It was very powerful. It was emotionally very strong. And I realized at that point how important this kind of tool – if it can be built – for other people to be able to use. If my dad was able to use the technology. So the idea of starting CircleIt was to build a technology that my mom can use. And and as I started talking to other friends, I understood how big the problem is because I started finding out how my friends are writing notes every single night to their kids.

A father is building a document of all the advice in life that he wants to pass on to his kids. So everyone’s trying to do this in many different ways. And we wanted to kind of build trust with the technology – where people can confidently be able to give the technology the things they wanted to be delivered to their loved ones in the future on their behalf.

Bertrand: You know, whether or not I want to – I want to – get to CircleIt and how it works. But in a way, it’s a … I mean, it’s certainly a gift to those who receive it, but it’s a gift to those who give it to. Like I would imagine your father took great joy in writing these notes and knowing that he would be part of his niece’s life on her wedding day and things like that.

Shaikh: Amazing joy, because one of the biggest concerns of people that are passing away is what happens to my family members. So this is a great coping mechanism that works on both sides.

Bertrand: It’s called CircleIt. How does it work?

Shaikh: So it works in a very simple, traditional manner – how we have always done so. What I did is when we started building CircleIt, we imagined building cards, doing exactly what my father did.

So he created cards for his kids. He wrote in – and he attached pictures too in certain ones.

He put money in there and in certain ones, he asked for me to add flowers to that on his behalf, exactly how it works. You come in and you pick a card for your loved one for any holiday or any occasion, and you decide when this thing unlocks to them. Five years from now, 10 years from now, or 50 years from now, the technology will do this.

Bertrand: And is it all done digitally? Or you can send physical flowers as well as a physical card?

Shaikh: Absolutely. It’s, again, replicating every aspect of my dad. So it’s now going it’s going to allow delivering flowers, handwritten letters from from the grandfather. There is an amazing opportunity in that – or what the world is asking for for us to do for them.

Bertrand: Yeah, it’s – it’s a sweet you know, I mean, Art have people… the first reaction that I had was it’s not that I laughed at it, but I thought, wow, who wants to hear from someone from beyond the grave? But then when you hear your story and think of the possibilities, it’s kind of an amazing thing. Have people laughed it off at first?

Shaikh: No, I, I, I tell you this, that we’ve been building this thing for three years now and through the years with everyone that understood what we were doing, they, they, they are evangelists of CircleIt. We have very passionate folks because they know the problem we are solving for them. So it’s with those people’s support. We can’t fail.

Bertrand: So the gifts. Part of it is going to be up and running next month, correct?

Shaikh: You’re right.

Bertrand: OK, and so what do people do now if they want to be part of this? They go to App Store?

Shaikh: So, we are listed in the App Store and Google Play. They are able to download the technology and be able to activate that in a very easy to use manner guided way in two minutes.

Bertrand: And how does it feel to have created, in a way, something that was a dream of your dad’s?

Shaikh: Ah, it’s it’s it’s a really emotional mission. Great that we have taken on. I never grew up thinking I’m going to start a company and build something that millions of people will have on their phone. And so that’s very powerful. But it has been really humbling, just learning every other person who is trying to solve this problem for their own loved ones. So I just feel very grateful that the world is understanding what my dad was doing back in 2012.

Bertrand: Well, good for you, Art Shaikh. The name of the app and the company is called CircleIt. It’s one word, C-I-R-C-L-E-I-T. Thank you for joining us today.

Shaikh: Thank you so much.

Bertrand: You’re listening to Chicago’s Afternoon News. Here’s Mary.