How Jamie Siminoff reinvented the doorbell.
It’s fair to say that every seasoned entrepreneur can bemoan the phone call or email that never came, the connection that never materialized, the stroke of luck that never happened. Not Jamie Siminoff. He got them all: a call from Shark Tank, an email from billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the million-dollar domain name that became a game-changer and the blessing of good timing. Throw into that a lot of hard work and a noble company mission, and that is how Siminoff, chief inventor and founder of the Ring Video Doorbell, controlled his own destiny.
The Ring is a device the size of a small TV remote that replaces the standard doorbell and allows the homeowner to respond remotely from a smartphone anywhere in the world. Wide-angled HD video and smart motion detection records and stores video and sends alerts to signal activity on the property. From 2014 to 2015, Ring grew 1,333% percent in year-over-year sales, is in 14,000 stores nationwide, and, according to Pitchbook Data, Inc., has a valuation of more than $200 million.
Siminoff looks every bit the L.A.-based borderline Millennial who has built a million- dollar company from the ground up. If there is a business suit in his closet, it shares the space with t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops. He is super smart and dynamic and speaks with passion about his company and its mission: to reduce crime in neighborhoods and, eventually, secure entire communities. And his passion is bolstered by solid stats. As part of a pilot program, “Ring Neighborhoods,” the LAPD reported a 55 percent reduction in burglaries over a six-month period in one community after many residents installed the Ring.
A kid from New Jersey and graduate of Babson with a degree in entrepreneurship, Siminoff launched an early version of the Ring as DoorBot, (for “Door Robot,”) in 2011. He was looking to raise $700,000 when he was invited to appear on Shark Tank. “We were lucky because the show had started to bring in some later stage businesses,” he says.
Siminoff went all out for his presentation and, based on his company’s promising earnings, was confident he would walk away with a good deal. He spent $10,000 on a set complete with a front door and a DoorBot device. But one by one, the investors fell out, until only one remained, leaving on the table an offer so bad that Siminoff didn’t consider accepting it. Looking back, Siminoff laughs at what he calls the irony in it all. “I was really hoping Mark Cuban would invest, but he went out pretty early. He said, ‘If I invest in something like this, I need it to be worth $50, $60 or $70 million at some point.’ It’s funny because now we are worth so much more than that.”
Siminoff’s first lucky break came when he got the call that the segment was going to air in late November, just in time for the Christmas shopping season. It was a game changer. “Being on that show was so impactful for our business,” he says. “It opened the doors to everything as we suddenly had credibility.”
With the influx in capital, Siminoff decided the time was right to take his product to the next level. “We had a bigger vision of where we wanted our product to go,” he says, “and that involved building a different product and adding features like motion detection. At the same time, we felt like we needed a name and a brand that fit the home better, something less techy sounding. We believed people would welcome ‘Ring’ on their home, plus it fit the concept of a ring of security around the home. Then we got ring.com — for $1 million. It was a tough thing to buy and was more money than we could afford at the time. It almost bankrupted us. But looking back, another thing that has made us a success is this domain name.” The newly re-branded device was unveiled as Ring in October 2014.
And then one day last summer, Siminoff got an email from Richard Branson. The billionaire founder of Virgin Group had seen Ring when a houseguest showed him the UPS man at his front door thousands of miles away. Branson was intrigued. Over the course of several hours, about twenty emails were exchanged between the two. “It was surreal,” says Siminoff, “it still is to this day.” The founder of a start-up getting an email from Richard Branson asking if he can invest in the company is like an aspiring actor getting a call from Stephen Spielberg asking if he is available to play the lead in the new Indiana Jones movie. By the end of the day, Branson was an investor, ultimately raising $28 million for the company.
Branson sees lots of good ideas, so what hooked him? “Our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods,” Siminoff answers with absolute assurance. “He loves stuff that has meaning, stuff that makes a social impact. Plenty of companies have missions, put them on their wall and forget about them. For our company, every decision we make is around our mission; it is in the DNA. We can say, ‘Here is our mission, here is how we are rolling it out, here is the back up.’ Branson could feel that this wasn’t just your average company trying to have some nice-sounding PR thing.”
Siminoff’s trajectory has never been better, and he is using the momentum to research and develop new software and new products that will enhance his mission. Of course, there is always the push to break into new markets — Nantucket being one of them. “Nantucket is a really good place for Ring,” he says from the back deck of his island summer home that has Ring devices installed at each door. “It is a very transient community and there are a lot of break-ins, with so many houses sitting empty for so much of the year. I think this will be a great market for us.”