CircleMe is a new social network which allows users to collect and discover things they love.
I've been asking CEO Giuseppe D'Antonio about CircleMe, the team behind it, the business model and plans for the future...
In one sentence, what is CircleMe?
CircleMe is an innovative social way to collect all the things you love and discover new ones.
What problems does CircleMe solve?
CircleMe gives people the opportunity to focus on the things that they are really interested about: their real passions in life.
Through a unique and acclaimed user-experience, people can focus again on what matters to them the most; they can collect in one single place all the passions they have, organize all their interests by category, and then access content related to these passions.
Furthermore, CircleMe fosters discovery of new passions to users, based on the current ones that they have expressed.
When and why did you launch it?
The idea of CircleMe was born while brainstorming with my business partner Erik Lumer, in January 2011.
As we were very excited about the vision, and after getting the support of VC Innogest Capital, we quickly developed a minimum viable product and launched it in the market during the summer of 2011.
We still have quite a way to go, but signs are promising.
Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is broad, but we seem to appeal especially to people who are seeking innovative and less superficial ways to live the social web.
We have many users in the 25-40 year old range, with strong passions and views on design, music, art, fashion, travelling, etc.
The extremely interesting aspect is that now, since users are starting to engage more with the system and proactively associating their profile to one or more brands, products and businesses, we are also seeing interest from companies creating and managing their presence on CircleMe.
What are your immediate goals?
The key goal now is to grow a very happy user-base, so each day we focus on making the user-experience more pleasant, and the content more interesting. The happier the current users (who we call "Circlers") are, the more people they will invite and the faster the community will grow.
This month alone we are releasing a very interesting feature for our iPhone app, "Plant Guides", and quite a substantial improvement to our content pagination for each one of our million item-pages available.
Product enhancements and partnerships with content providers will remain our focus for the next weeks.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building CircleMe?
The biggest challenge was, and remains, understanding as best as possible the key needs and desires of our users (the explicit as well as the subconscious ones).
Furthermore, our project also involves a good deal of technology to develop and continuously improve, both for the semantic analysis of all the content managed by CircleMe (which we automatically categorize, filter, and recommend) and for the analysis of how users potentially influence each other on different topics of interest.
How will the company make money?
The business model is straightforward. CircleMe users explicitly express their preferences in order to get tangible benefits from this expression of interest.
For this reason, we will provide service and content that closely relates to their specific "likes" and some of these offers might be commercial in nature (e.g., a discount on a book by an author liked by the user; the possibility to purchase concert tickets for his/her favorite musician's concert in town, etc.).
The interesting aspect in this case is that, contrary to the majority of the solutions currently present on the web, the expression of a "like" here is transparent and the CircleMe user appreciates any offer that is related to something they truly care for.
Of course we will do this with extreme sensitivity to privacy and to maintaining the pleasant user-experience that so far we have been appreciated for.
Who is in the team and what does it look like?
Our team has grown to a group of 10 very talented individuals based in London (UK) and Milan (Italy), who bring to the table a set of complementary skills and many years of relevant experience.
My business partner Erik is a researcher (Stanford & Xerox PARC) turned serial entrepreneur. I have more than 13 years experience in the technology field, with a background in Engineering (Purdue University) and then some relevant experience in management in Google, Dada and Manhattan Associates.
The rest of the team is well balanced between product engineers, marketing staff, content and community management roles.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?
We want CircleMe to be used by hundred of thousands of (happy) users in the next year or so; this would be a great achievement for us.
As a more mid-term goal, certainly reaching a very broad and worldwide customer base will also be important, as it will allow us to trigger the monetization plans.
Following this, and being able to grow, in the long term we want CircleMe to be considered the reference point on the web for a clear and trustworthy representation of what people like in life.