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stacked-circlesOnce upon a time, families had one, maybe two Internet-connected devices in the home. The “family computer” made it easy to monitor children’s activity online.

That’s obviously changed now with smartphones in every pocket and social media seemingly everywhere. Elameno, a Portland-based startup founded in April, wants to make it easier for parents to manage their children’s online usage with a product called Circle.

Circle is a hardware device managed by an iOS app that connects to a home WiFi network. It can control what content can be accessed and for how long, depending on specific devices around the house.

We caught up with Elameno CEO Jelani Memory to find out more about Circle for the latest edition of Startup Spotlight. The company is currently trying to raise $250,000 with a Kickstarter campaign.

circle3Explain what you do so our parents can understand it (in a Tweet-sized statement): Circle allows people to filter online content, set time limits, and stay in-the-know for all their connected devices in the home or office.

Inspiration hit us when … We realized that the pace we’re becoming connected isn’t slowing down. The days of the “Family Computer” are over, with at least one or two devices for everyone – from baby on up.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap (And Why): All of the above! We’ve been in Bootstrap mode for our entire existence up to this point, as we had all the right skills and assets on our team already to keep spending low. We’ve recently moved into the Angel phase and have launched a Kickstarter campaign as we encounter more hard costs in terms of development and hardware. After that, we’ll decide whether the VC route is for us or whether we can go to market on our own.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: We Care. Sounds simple, and it is. Parenting is hard stuff, and we want to help by empowering families with the choice of how and when they spend time online. The Internet is a powerful tool. Our goal was to create an equally powerful tool to help navigate life in the screen-driven world by allowing people to choose how online time is spent, ultimately providing more time to reconnect with each other. As design and tech enthusiasts, we also care about the look, feel, design, and user experience. We created Circle with the home and business in mind, giving it a clean, understated design and an intuitive iOS app to provide easy filtering, notifications and access even when away.

Jelani Memory, CEO of Elameno.
Jelani Memory, CEO of Elameno.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: Not taking on early investment. This may seem counterintuitive, but the reality is with our interests, backgrounds and passions, we haven’t needed to spend much money yet. Believe me, your problem solving becomes incredibly creative when you don’t have good ol’ Ben Franklin as an easy way out!

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: On the flipside of not taking on early investment, a potential mistake we’ve realized after talking with others is not realizing the benefit of who we could potentially partner with right from the beginning. We were so focused on creating something valuable to meet the needs of today’s families and small businesses (and doing it right the first time), that we forgot there are some other creative ways to see our idea to fruition.

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Let’s see… with Gates in our corner, we’d quickly go commercial and sell a ton of units. Zuckerberg would give us the most reach and possibly monetize us through ads. Jobs would make us the heart’s desire of everyone and sell us at a premium, and Bezos would be the best distributing partner a company could ask for. If I have to choose, I’m going with Jobs, although Bezos is a very close second.

Our world domination strategy starts when: We’re in enough homes that Facebook and YouTube beg us to discontinue the ability to manage time on their sites. A bit tongue in cheek, but the reality of software services that are ad supported is they don’t want you to use them less or just for what you need. They always want more. We want better.

circle2Rivals should fear us because: We will essentially be the gateway to ninety percent of the content that makes it into the home. We’re not competing with router makers, but with content makers. Go big or go home!

We are truly unique because: We are not asking the question “Can We?”, but rather “Should We?” Our product resonates because we’ve been asking that question a lot. It comes down to fulfilling a need with a robust solution that hasn’t been met – until now. This is the future of connectivity.

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: The technology. Make no mistake, while we’ve got a simple and beautiful shell, there’s a lot going on under the hood that’s taken us years to get to.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Stop waiting for permission to do something. Don’t wait for investors to validate what you’re doing, for friends to say you should pursue it, or for that right string of events to spur you on. Get to work and be so good you can’t be ignored.

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