Ring modernized the doorbell, then its inventor, Jamie Siminoff, went to war against crime
If booming sales, expanding offices and a parade of TV commercials hadn’t put Jamie Siminoff on the radar of the home security industry, an early March incident certainly did.
Four hours after the rumored collapse of a merger between a software start-up and security giant Honeywell, Siminoff took a cross-country red-eye, ready to swoop in with an offer of his own.
Avoiding a drawn-out acquisition process, Siminoff in a single day hired all 75 of the beleaguered start-up’s employees to work for Ring, his Santa Monica video doorbell company. Caught flat-footed, global giants that were weighing a purchase howled at Siminoff by phone.
“They sat back, futzed around and let these people lose their jobs and now they want to harass” me, he said. “It’s unbelievable. It would have been a rounding error for them.”
From his parent’s basement to his own garage, Siminoff, 40, has long found opportunity in hacking his own path and transforming undervalued assets into novel products, no matter the burns and bruises accumulated along the way.
He’s twice sold companies. But as Ring’s chief executive, he wants to build for decades a global technology company that reimagines home security and eradicates crime.
Ring’s journey started with a $200 doorbell that streams video to residents’ smartphones and enables them to talk back to guests. It promises peace of mind with a tinge of satisfaction, helping homeowners feel safe when someone knocks on the door or seek retribution when the neighbor’s dog leaves a mess on the lawn. Footage of burglars and package thieves from the doorbells has become a fixture of Facebook and local TV news, while Ring ads featuring Siminoff are mainstays on HGTV and Fox News.
Siminoff’s interest in nuts and bolts came from his father, who co-owned a plant forging steel pipes for oil refineries. Siminoff whacked weeds and drove forklifts during summers. But after school, he tinkered in the basement of their rural New Jersey home. Using his father’s spare tools, Siminoff manufactured humane mouse traps, heated blankets and remote-controlled cars.
“People would drop by, and it became a joke for them: ‘We got a new TV. I know Jamie wants to take it apart,’” Siminoff said.
He had access to epoxies, firecrackers and gunpowder. His parents never stopped him, even when they probably should have. Scars on his arm show the results of homemade knives and toy airplanes. A pyrite burn on his thumb came from an Anarchist Cookbook recipe downloaded on dial-up Internet.
The target of bullies in public high school, he pleaded his way to a ritzy private academy after freshman year. The surrounding wealth inspired Siminoff to apply to Babson College, a private business school.
The C-student lucked his way in by earning A’s his final semesters. But the studying binge had more to do with proving to his parents he deserved the convertible Land Rover Defender 90 coupe that he’d plastered pictures of in his room.
Siminoff won Babson’s business planning contest and then made money drafting real briefs. He took one further, starting an online calling service in Bulgaria with a tech-savvy partner.
When the partner quit, Siminoff pored over a technical manual at Barnes & Noble to resurrect the service. He not only succeeded, but also found the right time to merge with a bigger firm amid rising competition in 2001. He later sold his stake for more than $1 million.
His second start-up, which outsourced voice mail transcription, sold in 2009 for $17 million. But Siminoff was unsatisfied; he had bigger ambitions.
The next venture wasn’t just started out of a garage. It was formed because of the garage. As he and two buddies plotted new business ideas in what he calls the “two-car office” of his woodsy Pacific Palisades home, Siminoff realized he couldn’t hear the doorbell. So he modernized it to get summons over Wi-Fi and live video from the porch. Adding Internet connectivity to appliances was a growing trend, but in 2011 the introduction of live video represented a major breakthrough.
Ring’s supply chain
Taiwanese companies Chicony Electronics and Ennoconn manufacture Ring products in southeast China.
Ambarella supplies video processing technology.
Amazon Web Services stores videos online, though Ring is considering developing its own storage system.
Ring relies on retailers to monitor supplier labor and environmental practices.
What Siminoff originally called DoorBot also offered his wife convenience and security. She encouraged Siminoff to market it, though he jokes she may have just wanted the garage crew to stop stinking up the bathroom.
The team became among the first to pack a high-definition camera into a battery-operated device. The group also introduced a first-of-its-kind motion detector to enable users to control the sensor’s direction.
Consumers trashed the first version because of glitches, which would have doomed Siminoff if not for free publicity.
Siminoff turned to ABC’s start-up investment show “Shark Tank” for redemption funds. The sharks rejected him. But his TV appearance in November 2013 drove $5 million in sales, giving the company new life.
“Nothing ever will supersede ‘Shark Tank.’ We’d have been gone,” Siminoff said.
Mike Jones, chief executive of Santa Monica business incubator Science Inc., met Siminoff around then and recalled someone who thrived on the rejection.
“Many entrepreneurs have something to prove, but it sounded like he had something to prove on a really big level,” Jones said. “He had so much fire in him to prove he had what was going to be … a mega-company.”