We recently caught up with Leon Gomez of MyCircles which is set to launch very soon. What is MyCircles about? “MyCircles is an interest based network that allows its users to customize their online experience by joining specific ‘Circles’ that are of interest to them in one of three services; online dating, social networking and professional networking.” – Sounds great!
Startup Catchup: Hi Leon, thanks for joining us! Please tell us a bit more about MyCircles.
Leon: MyCircles separates its services into three distinct products: MyCircles – targeted social networking; DatingCircles – a variety of dating Circles that provides its members the option to join one or many of the DatingCircles that appeal to their lifestyle; and MyCirclesPro – professional networking, B2B & B2C. By separating its services into three product lines; consumers, advertisers and sponsors are easily able to control the content they view, receive and are associated with while helping diversify MyCircles’ revenue streams.
MyCircles is the (free) targeted social networking component that was created with both advertisers and consumers in mind. By creating targeted social networking Circles that focus on consumers’ affinities, MyCircles offers its advertisers very targeted interest groups that appeal to the products and services they are promoting. Some of these Circles include AsianCircles, BikerCircles, CountryCircles, EbonyCircles, FinanceCircles, FoodCircles, GardeningCircles, GayCircles, HispanicCircles, KidsCircles, KosherCircles, MusicalCircles, PartyCircles, PetCircles, SeniorCircles, TattooCircles, TeensCircles, Travel Circles and more.
Our Founders are Leon Gomez, Kenny Kam and Elliot Betancourt
Startup Catchup: Great concept and extremely scalable. How did you come up with the idea?
Leon: In 2003, I (Leon Gomez) was a founding partner at Media 8, an interactive agency based in Miami, Fl. I was putting together a media plan for a presentation we were going to do and was not happy with the sites we were proposing to advertise on. I felt there had to be a better way to reach the desired consumers and started to think of ways to group people into interest based groups where they would share common interest. The idea took on a life of its own and after doing a focus group test with friends and colleagues, I came up with the concept of ‘MyCircles’. Initially I thought it was going to be a better advertising network but as the idea developed it grew into a social network. Back then, the term ‘social network’ did not even exist, MySpace was still in its infancy and Facebook did not exist yet.
Startup Catchup: Identifying a problem and solving it yourself! What made you actually take action and go for it?
Leon: I have always enjoyed new challenges and the more thought I gave to MyCircles, the more the concept grew and I fell in love with it. I saw a need for the product in the online market and felt it could be built and stand out from existing services. Three months after I started developing the concept for MyCircles I told my two partners that I was leaving Media 8 to pursue my dream.
Startup Catchup: So how many people are currently working on the project and who are they?
Leon: We currently have 11 people working on MyCircles. The main employees are:
Leon Gomez – Fearless Leader
Kenny Kam – COO (and main investor)
Elliot Betancourt – CTO
Denise Zubizarreta – Business Development Director
Lucky Romero – Partnerships Director
Barbara Ridolfi – Creative Director
Ruth McCartney – Affiliate Director
Lilieth Betancourt – Project Manager
Startup Catchup: How are you currently funding the project?
Leon: MyCircles began as a bootstrapped project, we then raised $40,000 from a local investor, Jason Perelman and recently secured funding from Kenny Kam, an angel investor from Southern California. After raising the angel round, MyCircles was restructured as a new entity.
Startup Catchup: Well done! So at this stage, what are your plans for the business and what do you hope to accomplish?
Leon: We have very ambitious goals. Within three years of launching we hope to become a top 50 online destination and a household brand. Locally, we plan to become one of the pillars of the South Florida tech scene and employ as many people as possible.
Startup Catchup: What would you say has been the most rewarding experience so far with this?
Leon: The most rewarding experience so far is to look back at all of the things that could have derailed MyCircles and know we have overcome so many obstacles. It is very gratifying to know that most people who would have had to face the adversity that we have would have quit, but we are still standing and only getting stronger.
Startup Catchup: What would you have done differently looking back on the journey?
Leon: There were some people that we worked with in the past that were rather unscrupulous and we would have been much better off without. They cost us time, money and a lot of headaches, but looking back on those experiences, they are nothing more than a bump on the road to success!
Startup Catchup: And after everything you’ve been through, what would you advise others who have an idea but simply don’t know where to begin?
Do not wait until you think you have all of the answers. START NOW! Being an entrepreneur is very challenging and you have to be ready, willing and able to adapt. Start with a clear vision and surround yourself with as many talented people as you can that share your vision. There are some very good books that can offer guidance such as “Startup CEO”, “The Lean Startup”, “Startup Communities”, “Venture Deals”, and “Business Stripped Bare” that offer great insight into some of the challenges you will probably face. If possible, have some savings you can use to provide for your expenses for the first 12 months. But above all else, if you are passionate about your dream, GO FOR IT!!!
Startup Catchup: Well thanks a lot for joining us Leon – Before we let you go, can you give us a quote that motivates and inspires you to keep going?
Leon: Well, there are a few quotes that I love and often refer to:
“Faith makes things possible, not easy”
~ Author Unknown
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”
– T. E. Lawrence (Laurence of Arabia)
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
– Author Unknown
“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you.”
– Zig Ziglar
“An invasion of armies can be restricted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with the big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.”
– Albert Einstein
“The Best way to predict the future is to create it.”
– Alan Kay
“To live your dreams, sometimes you have to survive through a couple of nightmares!”
– (me) Leon Gomez