Turn Your Blog or Website into an Online Store

Cirqle is an Amsterdam-based startup founded in early 2014 by Steven Lammertink & Daan Nederlof.

The concept of Cirqle was born from a very practical and simple thought. We've all seen something posted online which immediately inspired a shopping urge, but then you need to find out what the product you want is, where to find it, locate the correct retailer and hope they can cater to your needs. If you are posting content yourself, you want to provide your readers with a way to act on your inspiration, and you should of course also be rewarded for it. It all boils down to the simple sequence of "This looks great! Why can't I buy this immediately?". The guys from Cirqle saw that there was no solution for combining content and commerce in a way that would live up to the standards of both online consumers and content creators, so they chose to create one themselves.

Steven is the driving force behind Cirqle - a passionate entrepreneur who started his first company, Republish, at the age of 19 during his during his studies at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Shortly thereafter he was awarded the prestigious Kauffman Scholarship which brought him to Harvard, MIT and Stanford after an extensive entrepreneurial training at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. An internship at the Advanced Technology Lab at the Adobe headquarters in California encouraged Steven to start his second company, Fray - an online marketplace for people to easily request help with running tasks and errands. In addition to running Cirqle, Steven is also active as a columnist for Emerce and as an advisor to a number of startups.

Daan has provided both financial and hands-on management support for numerous startups in the Netherlands. Through Brevoli Investments, which doubles as a consultancy and venture capital firm, he has guided many inspired entrepreneurs to (business) success.

Daan and Steve accidentally met in the Tate Modern Art Museum in London and ended up eating lunch in the restaurant looking over the city. This is also the spot where the two conceptually started working on Cirqle and forming a team around the idea. The two founders still visit and dine in the fine art museum during their frequent visits to London.

Publishers use Cirqle through their dashboard - a simple and effective platform of tools and insights designed with a focus on being easy-to-use. Bloggers can load the posts from their content platforms into a structured flow presented in their dashboard, search for relevant products through a database of over 44 million items and connect them to the photos from their posts. The second you tag a product in a picture it becomes available for purchase through your site. Alternatively, publiushers can search for monetizable links and find new campaigns from brands with the likes of Calvin Klein, Adidas or A.P.C..

Retailers have their own Cirqle accounts, through which they can approach individual bloggers, launch targeted campaigns or broadcast single campaigns through their network of over 2600 influencers, sites and blogs. Rather than spending money on traditional PR (campaigns), without seeing any ROI on sales, Cirqle effectively measures the revenue-generating effectiveness of anyone working with the technology.

"We release and kill new features each and every day. Our day is planned around making this happen and helping our publishers scale their business and setup newly onboarded retailers with our platform."

Since Cirqle acts as the Google Analytics of the influencer’s site, retailers receive an effective treasure chest of valuable information of the influencers efforts to help promote their latest products, press release or sponsored post. The startup’s influencers are individuals—often bloggers—who have been able to cultivate large followings on their sites or social networks and are familiar with what resonates with their online visitors.

The startup is actively creating the largest product database in the world, and to make online shopping at the point of inspiration smooth and profitable for everyone. The company also offers third party developers such as www.outfitdaily.com the opportunity to license the Cirqle Core, the API which enables third parties to access their product database and build custom applications on top of the system.

"There's a better understanding now of what influencers contribute. At first influencers were viewed as journalists, providing unpaid editorial coverage. Now, many influencers position themselves as professionals with expertise or a service to offer. Brands benefit from working with influencers because they each have an audience. You have the built-in distribution", Steve said.

The biggest challenge for the company was in the early stages when the first version of Cirqle was completed and they needed to put everything into practice. "There was something of an chicken-or-the-egg dilemma: we needed to present an extensive product database and connections to the most popular brands and retailers to persuade content creators to use Cirqle, but to get the major retailers on board you normally need to have a substantial publisher base to start with", Steve explained.

"The most important thing when you’re launching a startup will always be your product."

"The most important thing when you’re launching a startup will always be your product. Everything on the path to a successful venture, regardless of if it’s a physical product, an online service or something more abstract, hinges on having a product you believe in. You might have come up with a never-before-seen invention or a new approach to something, which has been used for decades, but unless you yourself have faith in your product and can recognize the need for it you will never be able to carry the project all the way", concludes Mr. Lammertink.

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