From Entrepreneur to Shark: How 'Shark Tank' Helped Shape My American Dream
I owe a lot of my American dream to Shark Tank.
Five years ago, my company, Ring, was called DoorBot, and we were just a few people working in my garage, teetering on failure. We had built and were about to ship a revolutionary invention -- the world’s first wi-fi-video doorbell that enables people to see and speak to visitors at their door from anywhere; but the costs and complexities to get it to market were far greater than I had anticipated.
Even with strong pre-sales, we did not have enough money to cover the massive costs we were going to face in creating the product and company we have today. We had a good product and a great mission -- “to reduce crime in neighborhoods” -- but that alone was not getting us where we needed to be.
Then we got a lucky break: Shark Tank. I appeared on season 5, in 2013, pitching my heart out to the Sharks. Although I didn't get a deal at the time, the exposure gave us immediate, much-needed credibility and awareness. This critical boost came at a time when it was hard for us to see the light.
The show enabled us to break through and build something meaningful. And, since then, Ring has seen incredible success and growth: We’ve proven our devices’ (there are now more than one) ability to reduce crime in neighborhoods across the world; as proof, we received a major investment from Sir Richard Branson, as part of a $28 million Series B round, in 2015.
And this year we were acquired by Amazon [Ed. note: The price tag was reported (by Reuters) as being $1 billion -- the largest valuation ever for any company on Shark Tank.]
Now, the newest development: This Sunday (Oct. 7), I have the honor of opening up season 10 -- as a Shark myself. I’m the first entrepreneur to have gone from pitching the Sharks to sitting in a Guest Shark’s chair -- something I couldn't have imagined even in my wildest dreams.
Of course, things weren't always this rosy: The road to Ring's success was certainly not a straight one. Many times, I thought we were not going to make it through the challenges we faced. When I look back now at how we were able to build Ring against all of these obstacles, three things stand out as being our keys to success (okay, there are many, many others, but these are a few of the bigger ones).
It cannot be understated just how hard it is to build a business. Take what you think is hard and multiply that by four. I’m not talking about those romantic late nights in the office. I’m talking about an unending schedule made more difficult by the fact that what you are doing has probably never been done before.
Then there’s the travel, and certainly not the fun kind. Instead, it's the kind where you take a red-eye so you can save money on a hotel room. The kind where yours is a schedule that could take down an Olympic athlete and one during which you face the constant threat of running out of money. We put the hard work in, though, and no one complained. It was understood that if we were going to create a global impact, we were going to put in the sacrifice and the grit.
At Ring, our mission is “to reduce crime in neighborhoods.” A mission is a critical part of what a company is and why it is here. For the team, it is a reason to work hard, to sacrifice. Money alone is a terrible motivation. Even without it, humans are motivated to accomplish, and Ring’s mission aligned everyone on the same page of what we were trying to accomplish.
For our neighbors (how we refer to our customers), that same mission provided the “why” for buying our products. People want products that make their lives better, and technology in and of itself is not the interesting story entrepreneurs should seek.
Personally, Ring’s mission gave me the reason to keep pushing, no matter how bad things looked. We were not just trying to build a business; we were trying to change how people live in their communities.
Finally, there's luck. This key to success was, and is, the one that is out of our control. We had so many great breaks at Ring -- like that appearance on Shark Tank -- that it would be disingenuous not to mention luck.
In fact, the show gave Ring the public exposure we needed to build an organization that today employs thousands of people, has made neighborhoods safer and is now a part of Amazon. We started with one product and have expanded to a full suite of home security products and services, including a whole home alarm system, at prices that make home security more accessible to every neighbor.
We've also created the first digital neighborhood watch, with the launch of our free Neighbors app, which brings together communities to prevent crime in a way that’s never been possible before.
I feel it's a duty and an honor to come back as a Shark, to assist others in achieving their dreams and furthering their missions to hopefully make an impact on the world. So tune in this Sunday to see the next phase of my journey.