Walking into the offices of Circle Media Inc. is a little like stepping through a portal into another, more fantastic world. The hot teal walls cozily square a lobby filled with multiple variations of plastic and wooden Eames chairs and a grey, mid-century modern sofa. Minimalist shelves and coffee tables are filled with Disney products, including large animation books, a Captain Phasma Stormtrooper mask and two lightsabers. Conglomerates of partially disassembled Circle devices are strewn about, revealing the technological guts of the otherwise clean, roughly baseball-sized, white cubes. This product, Circle with Disney, is a technology that allows parents to manage content and time online across a family’s collection of Internet devices. It can pause the Internet, filter content, set time limits and add bedtimes to devices. The simple interface is managed with an easy-to-use smartphone app.
“Circle was started with a belief that each child’s experience (with media) is different, and a parent should be able to parent in that space,” says MU alum and co-founder, Jelani Memory. His own daughter was able to unlock his iPhone at two years old. “At that point, there’s really no going back,” he says. Memory co-founded Circle a few years ago, after Lance, a good friend and fellow MU alum, brought up an idea to create something to help families manage Internet devices. “We sat around his kitchen island, as we often did,” Memory recalls. “Then we discussed how there are so many devices that connect to the Internet, and they can be hard to manage as a parent.” In 2013, The Walt Disney Company called Circle to partner with them after an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, a partnership that officially began last year.
There are many facets of Memory’s career success that he can trace back to MU. “I credit a lot of my entrepreneur bug to my time at Multnomah,” says Memory. It was at the university that he began using his free time to do a variety of entrepreneurial activities, including private basketball lessons. He even started an improv-comedy group and worked for student government. “What do I have to lose?” was his personal career philosophy, and that courageousness served him well.
When Memory left MU, he held successful careers in photography, videography and creative consulting. During this time, he also studied technology by adding blogs to his Google Reader until he eventually became an expert. “What I realize now is those 10 years were my incubation period,” says Memory. “Now I’m able to walk into meetings and understand the history of where technology has come from and where it’s going.” This knowledge of the industry ultimately proved to be his greatest strength and the reason he was invited to be a founding member of Circle.
Memory even notices that some of Circle’s current business practices come from his time at Multnomah. “We don’t hire people who just look good on paper; we hire people who are talented, smart and have a lot of integrity — all things I learned at Multnomah,” he says. The lessons gained at Multnomah are even a huge reason he decided not to give up on the company in its earlier stages. “A lot of this is being able to walk by faith into the next steps,” says Memory.
Now Circle is thriving. It’s sold in every Target and Best Buy, and there are 50 employees between the three offices in Portland, LA, and Shenzhen, China. Memory is extremely grateful for the way Multnomah affected him personally and for how it led him to where he is now. “I went to MU for a life education,” he says. “I wanted to become a certain type of person, and what I’m doing now and the way we run the company, I can completely credit to my time there.”