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From sharks to Shaq: Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff’s unusual road to success

When Jamie Siminoff was a kid, he always knew he would someday invent something incredible. He didn’t know what it would be, but felt — really felt, deep inside of him — that it would be something that changes the world.

What Siminoff couldn’t have known then is that the journey to success would involve a doorbell, a reality TV show, an NBA basketball legend, an online bookstore-turned-tech colossus, and a whole lot of grit and passion.

Looking back at his journey, Siminoff, the baby-faced CEO and founder of Ring, credits both hard work and being in the right place, at the right time.

“We did amazing at Ring from all angles,” Siminoff told Digital Trends. “But you can’t understate how much luck was involved.”

Now, his do-it-yourself home security business, which started with a video doorbell, is thriving, and Siminoff has hit his stride. He’s coming off of a more than $1 billion Amazon acquisition of his company and is sitting pretty atop the home security market.

Perhaps the best example of Siminoff coming full circle is that he’ll be making another appearance on the TV show Shark Tank on October 7 — this time as a guest judge. It’ll be very different from the first time he appeared on the show in 2013, when he was famously shot down by the Sharks after seeking funding for his video doorbell.

Siminoff’s story is an interesting one, and like many startup-turned-tech-mogul tales, it all started in his garage.

The early years

Jamie SiminoffJamie Siminoff at a young age. Ring

Siminoff grew up in Chester, New Jersey, which is about an hour west of New York City. A self-proclaimed class clown, he and his school principals saw a lot of each other.

“I think I just had too much energy,” Siminoff told us. “I’m just lucky they didn’t try to diagnose kids back then.”

Most afternoons after school, the hyper Siminoff could be found in the garage, where he was constantly building things he shouldn’t have, like explosives. He still bears the scars from some of those antics. Once, he built a model airplane, and it broke, slicing his hand “almost in half.” Another time he made a homemade knife, and accidentally stuck it through his arm. His parents were horrified.

“Any kind of explosive device, I was building,” Siminoff said. “I learned a lot of chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineering by doing stuff.”

School was a struggle for Siminoff, until the day he laid eyes on the Land Rover Defender 90. He fell in love with the vehicle, and his dad, hoping to light a fire under his son, told him that he’d buy Siminoff the SUV if he got straight A’s.

“I thought the car was the coolest thing ever,” Siminoff said. “At the time, I was a C student. I didn’t do that well in school until I wanted to. It wasn’t my thing.”

“ I just had too much energy. I’m just lucky they didn’t try to diagnose kids back then.”

But the Land Rover changed things. Siminoff earned straight As from the moment his dad promised him the car, and his dad kept up his end of the deal, buying him the vehicle. He used the experience as material for his college application essays — an example of what he could accomplish when he put his mind to it. He eventually landed at Babson College, where he studied entrepreneurship and found the classes to be much more engaging than high school.

Siminoff landed on the honor roll, but his real interest was in selling: he hustled electronics on campus, and he won a business planning competition. From there, he earned cash by writing business plans for others, even though he claims that he “sucked at it.”

Jamie Siminoff Land RoverSiminoff’s Land Rover Defender 90 made an appearance at Ring’s CES booth. Ring

“Someone offered me $10,000 to create a business plan, which at the time for me, that was like $100 million,” Siminoff said. “They were happy with it and I did another one. One thing kept leading to another and then another.”

Can you answer the door?

After college, Siminoff went back to the place where he felt most alive: the garage. Now living in Southern California, he hired a couple of assistants, and together the three of them “just started building stuff” with varying success. One early idea Siminoff had was “PhoneTag,” the first company devoted to converting voicemails to text messages.

Concept sketches show early design stages of the DoorBot. Ring

While spending long hours in his work space, he became frustrated that he was unable to answer the doorbell without being interrupted. Siminoff began looking for a doorbell that rang to his phone and was surprised to find that there was nothing like it on the market.

“I was like, how the fuck can there not be a doorbell that goes to your phone?” Siminoff told Digital Trends. And that’s how the idea for the DoorBot, which would later become the Ring video doorbell, was born.

“I was like, how can there not be a doorbell that goes to your phone?”

His wife, Erin, who’d put up with all the stuff lying around the garage while he worked on various ideas, encouraged him to pursue it.

“When he started to talk about the doorbell, I thought, ‘that’s a good idea,’” she said. “That would definitely make me feel safer.”

Siminoff thought he was onto something, too. He was determined to make the idea become a reality.

Begging for cash

Having the idea was the easy part. Getting the product built and investors to back it was considerably harder. Video doorbells existed at the time, but they were nothing like Siminoff’s, so there was skepticism on whether it could be done. HD video in a doorbell that goes to an app on your phone? Siminoff remembers one meeting with an investor — a major adviser in the tech scene — who told him it was impossible.

It only strengthened Siminoff’s resolve.

Jamie SiminoffJamie Siminoff

“I’m so goddamn stubborn, I’m going to figure out how do it,” Siminoff remembered thinking at the time.

With the help of his assistants, he put together a first version of the device. It was riddled with issues, but it was a start.

“Looking back at what we launched, it is kind of amazing how good it was with three guys in a garage building it,” Siminoff said.

He found that the challenges lay not just in building a successful product, but also in being a no-name competitor in a game dominated by the Apples and Sonys of the world. He quickly learned that he needed to find a way to get past that.

Siminoff began to think about branding and packaging, and cast a wider funding net. He got a break when a DoorBot owner visited billionaire Richard Branson’s private island. Branson watched, with fascination, when the guest remotely talked to a delivery person standing at his doorstep at home through the DoorBot.

Branson immediately reached out to Siminoff to invest.

“Ring rang all the right bells for me,” Branson told Forbes in February 2018. “Here was a product that was going to save your house from being burgled.”

It seemed that Siminoff had a lot going for him: a great idea, a steadfast belief in the success of the product, a working version of the product, and investors. Still, he was barely keeping afloat financially.

Then, he got an email from a Shark Tank producer.

Jamie Siminoff Shark TankABC

Swimming with the Sharks

In 2013, Siminoff agreed to meet an acquaintance in Los Angeles, who was trying to get a startup off the ground and wanted to pick Siminoff’s brain for advice. Siminoff remembers feeling like he didn’t feel like he had much to give.

“Here I am, almost going out of business myself, giving him tips,” Siminoff said.

“Only my entire life depended on it, why would I be nervous?”

But it was what the acquaintance gave him during that meeting that changed everything for Siminoff: an email address for a producer at Shark Tank. Siminoff cold-emailed the contact, and to his surprise, received an immediate reply. Then the long process of getting the DoorBot on Shark Tank began.

Siminoff and the DoorBot went through a legal review, then were vetted thoroughly by producers. Then they went to filming, but Siminoff was told not to get his hopes up — only a small percentage of the products actually make it on the air. DoorBot, however, made the cut.

Siminoff appears stiff on the episode, not his usual high-energy, outgoing self. Siminoff attributes his missing personality to nerves, as well as not wanting to come off as a “jackass.”

“Only my entire life depended on it,” Siminoff joked. “Why would I be nervous?”

“Sharks. Wouldn’t it be nice to know who was at the door before you let me in?” began Siminoff’s pitch. “Now you can. Think of it as caller ID for your front door.”

In the end, all but one Shark passed on the device. Kevin O’Leary offered a loan, coupled with a royalty deal and a small amount of equity. Siminoff passed on the deal because there was too much weight on it.

From Sharks to Shaq

Jamie Siminoff ShaqRing

But while Siminoff left Shark Tank empty-handed, his appearance on the show changed everything. The episode, which aired in mid-November — when people were looking for gift ideas — gave the DoorBot a serious boost in sales. It also attracted more investors.

“Man, not only being on Shark Tank, but the month we were on Shark Tank, when we have inventory to ship, it’s like, wow, that’s like lottery ticket stuff,” Siminoff told us.

The company rebranded and earned $5 million in sales. It was an investor Siminoff met with after the episode who suggested they change the DoorBot name to Ring, who said to Siminoff after his pitch, “You said ‘ring’ about 1,000 times, just call it Ring.” So Siminoff did.

Siminoff and his fledgling video doorbell company all of a sudden wasn’t so little anymore, and soon the company began to expand its portfolio of do-it-yourself home security. Ring launched a line of outdoor video cameras, then more doorbell models. They referred to customers as “neighbors.”

While all of this was happening, Ring got a 7 feet, 1 inch-tall boost when former NBA basketball player Shaquille O’Neal approached Siminoff out of the blue and offered to be Ring’s spokesperson.

“I just moved to a big house in Atlanta,” O’Neal told Digital Trends during an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. “I called a big security company, and they tried to overcharge me. So I go to Best Buy, I see the Ring doorbell, I get it, and it works perfectly.”

Jamie Siminoff ShaqRing

A few years later, O’Neal was walking through CES and saw the Ring booth. He decided to introduce himself to the CEO and let him know that he liked the products.

“I’m sitting here waiting,” O’Neal told us. “I’m expecting a nice, distinguished 60-year-old with a gray beard and glasses, and Jamie comes in. He says, ‘Hi, I’m Jamie’, and I said, ‘Hi Jamie, nice to meet you, I’m waiting for the CEO’. And he says, ‘I am the CEO.’ And I was like, a kid is the CEO?”

Together, the unlikely pair bring a dose of high-energy silliness that shows in Ring’s TV commercials featuring the NBA legend. They’ve also made quite a splash around Los Angeles by personally installing home security devices for inner-city residents, for free.

Kim Wetzel sits down with Shaq and Ring's CEO, Jamie Siminoff, to discuss Ring's Home Security system products at CES 2018.

“I love partnering up with Jamie, because one, he’s a brilliant mind,” O’Neal said. “Two, he really cares about the customer, and three, he gave me a million dollars worth of product last year to give away to people in the inner cities.”

Amazon puts a Ring on it

By all accounts, Siminoff and Ring were doing well, with the doorbell market cornered. That’s why news of Amazon’s purchase of the company (Amazon’s second largest acquisition ever, behind Whole Foods) in February 2018 was a shock to many, including the Shark Tank judges who famously shot him down.

The tech and entertainment industries were buzzing about the news, with many media outlets contacting Shark judges to ask if they regretted not investing in Siminoff’s DoorBot.

O’Leary told TMZ he had no regrets and was happy for Siminoff, whose work ethic and passion impressed O’Leary during taping of the show in 2013.

“You can tell when you’re in the presence of a great salesman, and he is one.”

“The kid (Siminoff) was a fantastic sales guy,” O’Leary told TMZ in March 2018. “You could tell the greatness when he was standing on the Shark Tank carpet. I said, I got to get a piece of this deal because I want to bet in this case on the jockey, not the horse. If he doesn’t make this thing work, this guy will figure out something else. You can tell when you’re in the presence of a great salesman, and he is one.”

Siminoff said he sold to Amazon because it was a good fit for all involved, as backing by the tech giant means that Ring can further its mission of creating safer neighborhoods.

“I had this mission we were going reduce crime in the neighborhood,” Siminoff told Digital Trends. “As part of being a mission-focused company, you want to get out to as many people as possible.”

Jordan Stead/Amazon

Despite Amazon now owning the company, Siminoff has continued to steer Ring. Earlier this year, Ring partnered with the National Night Out campaign by creating a Neighbors App, which allows customers of Ring products to share details and video footage of crimes. Siminoff also remains passionate about his customers: His email address can be found on every Ring device box, and he says he still reads all the emails he receives.

“It’s the fastest way to get non-filtered information about your product,” Siminoff said.

When you ask Siminoff about his success, he’ll redirect you to the products themselves, which in some cases have actually saved lives. He points to the time a video doorbell caught footage of a house fire erupting across the street. The Ring owner got an alert on her phone and then notified the neighbors, who got out of their burning home safely.

“He’s very passionate about neighborhood safety,” his wife, Erin, told Digital Trends. “Nothing makes him happier [than] when friends say, ‘I need more cameras.’ He’ll be over at their house in a few hours to install it himself. He loves what he’s done and loves the mission of it.”

The Ring is complete

It’s fair to say that Siminoff has come a long way from his days in the garage. Now with more than 1,500 employees working at Ring’s Santa Monica, California headquarters, Ring is one of the premiere DIY home security companies. It has four different doorbell offerings, four floodlight cameras, a home monitoring system, and more products on the way. Its biggest competition include heavy hitters like Nest, owned by Google.

The Ring CEO’s appearance as a guest judge on the season premiere of Shark Tank is a fitting next stop for Siminoff.  He’s one of several guest judges slated for the show this season — others include former NBA basketball player Charles Barkley and Bethenny Frankel, reality star and founder and CEO of Skinnygirl.

“Overall, this is a full-circle moment,” Siminoff said. “I now get the opportunity to give back to the very platform that allowed me to achieve my American dream.”

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