CircleBuilder nails down $500K in VC, looks to hire

CircleBuilder didn’t have to necessarily pray to continue its steady growth streak, but one can’t help but think that a higher power is watching out for the Franklin-based start-up these days.

The 3-year-old firm just locked up $500,000 in venture capital, half of which came from Automation Alley, while the rest was from angel investors. The $500,000 is on top of $1.3 million CircleBuilder has already raised in seed money.

That’s after the company added an employee, thereby expanding its staff to four people. It is working on hiring a few interns. CircleBuilder plans to use its newly found start-up funding to improve its software product, marketing, and even hiring a few more people.

“It will probably be just a couple to start,” says Howard Brown, co-founder and CEO of CircleBuilder. “One support staffer and one salesperson to start.”

CircleBuilder offers Yahoo Groups-like services to churches and faith-based organizations. Brown points out that most of these organizations lack any type of comprehensive online presence. It’s a deficiency that plays against a church, making it harder for members to interact, share ideas, and even raise money in the 21st Century.

Brown, who was a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur before moving to Michigan, has already done this successfully with PlanitJewish, an organizational website for Jewish communities. A number of Christian leaders, including Rick Warren of “The Purpose Driven Life” fame, asked him to do something similar for Christians.

Brown launched CircleBuilder as a free service last fall, and about 500 faith-based organizations are using it. The subscription version started in March and already has a handful of users signed up. Those include Metro Detroit-based St. Hugo of the Hills. CircleBuilder is doing everything from designing websites to creating software so users can link to popular sites like Facebook but still control what type of material comes in.

“We create what is called walled gardens for the church and monasteries and whatnot,” Brown says.

Source: Howard Brown, co-founder and CEO of CircleBuilder
Writer: Jon Zemke

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