Earlier today, Amazon completed its purchase of Ring. While these two companies are distinctive in many ways, they could not be more closely aligned in their customer-focus and expansive long-term vision. Together, Amazon and Ring will create revolutionary products and experiences to make us safer, happier, and better connected.
Our journey with Ring began in the Spring of 2014, when Kleiner Perkins first met Jamie Siminoff, Founder, Chief Inventor and CEO. We were impressed with his passion, vision, and desire to help make homes and neighborhoods safer. We began formally working with Jamie in the Fall of 2015, leading Ring’s Series B fundraising. Both Mary Meeker and I joined the company’s board.
Today, Ring’s products are sold in over 17,000 retail stores and installed in over 100 countries. Even as it established itself as a leader in home security, Ring retained the same scrappy approach that defined the company as an innovative and tenacious startup. Its relentless and entrepreneurial culture has been one of Ring’s most valuable assets and will no doubt remain core to its identity.
There are many inspiring storylines about Ring’s journey to success. Three of them, in particular, serve as great lessons for founders:
1. Necessity is the Mother of Invention
It was a miracle of entrepreneurship that in 2012, while tinkering with his two buddies on new product ideas in a garage, Jamie invented the predecessor to Ring’s current flagship product. The initial prototype was designed to allow Jamie and his friends to view people approaching the front door of their workspace, and quickly proved to provide Jamie’s wife with peace of mind while he was traveling for work. That idea launched commercially in 2013 as DoorBot – a “caller ID for your front door.”
Jamie drained his personal bank account to develop the first version of DoorBot, producing 5,000 units. The product had some issues and was universally panned by online reviewers. That kind of early failure often breaks the will of entrepreneurs, especially in capital-intensive hardware businesses. However, Jamie remained a believer – failure only strengthened his resolve. He immersed himself in online forums and answered virtually every consumer post. He obsessed about consumer feedback as he worked to refine and improve his invention.
In November 2013, Jamie appeared on CNBC’s “Shark Tank,” seeking to raise $700,000 for a 10% stake in DoorBot. His pitch failed, with the exception of a perpetual royalty offer made by one of the Sharks which, according to Jamie, “no real entrepreneur would ever accept.” In spite of that rejection, the publicity generated by his pitch made DoorBot a cult-favorite – sales spiked. Jamie again dipped into personal savings to keep the company afloat as he developed and launched an improved version of his product, which he re-branded “Ring.” The success of the Ring Video Doorbell allowed Jamie to stop self-funding and raise venture financing. Ring was off to the races.
Jamie’s early challenges are a reminder that success often emerges from hardship and necessity. In the early days, Jamie did not distinguish between himself and the business. Strapping himself and his savings to the company made Jamie abnormally fierce and committed to fighting through early adversity. The company would have never made it without that relentless dedication and courage.
2. Mainstream Lives Outside of Silicon Valley
Ring has greatly benefited from not being based in Silicon Valley. Its products are mainstream, thriving on genuine neighborhood-level connections found in diverse forms throughout America. The media produced by Ring’s cameras are viewed, discussed, and shared within neighborhood communities and then used to help make those communities safer. Video doorbell owners connect through the media their doorbells create, and content that “goes viral” in a neighborhood often becomes a powerful tool for local police departments and news media. This neighborhood flywheel has helped drive widespread adoption in Los Angeles, the company’s home market.
Early on, Jamie understood the value of loyal customers. It’s rare to see a tech startup CEO personally answer every customer email. To this day, Jamie’s email address is on the package of every Ring unit sold. Conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley would consider that unwise, a strategy that “does not scale.” But this direct connection and intimacy with users is part of what differentiated Ring from rivals.
3. A Movement > A Product
Ring made a bold move in 2014 when it stopped describing itself as a “caller ID for your front door” and began promoting its mission “to reduce crime in neighborhoods.” Every great company needs a North Star to bring clarity to its vision and roadmap. For Ring, this new mission transformed the company from making single-household hardware to becoming a platform for capturing and sharing surveillance footage at the neighborhood level.
Since expanding its mission, Ring has seen that neighborhoods with a critical mass of its installed products have lower crime rates than neighborhoods without. Crime monitoring and reporting have also increased, supported by Ring’s Neighborhoods app, which allows community members to post incidents and engage in crime monitoring collectively. This type of solidarity at the community level is a high-tech version of the Neighborhood Crime Watch programs that began in American suburbs in the 1970’s.
Today, many people are familiar with the content Ring captures in front of homes: it can be frightening (e.g., a potential burglar), anger-inducing (e.g., a thief stealing packages), humorous (e.g., puppies chasing cats), or endearing (e.g., kids leaving for school and waving goodbye). But always, these moments reflect events that strike an emotional chord for families. It is this human connection and community network effect, rather than the hardware, that makes Ring so special and difficult to replicate.
The Ring story inspires because it is so easily accessible and understood. This isn’t a product that was developed deep in a Computer Science research lab, nor is it the type of futuristic invention that is difficult to explain to a technology skeptic. Instead, Ring demonstrates that landmark innovation can happen with friends in a suburban garage trying to solve ordinary problems. It proves that intimacy and engagement with end users can be just as important as the technology or product itself. And ultimately, it reminds founders that hardship and rejection can be overcome by fierce dedication and the relentless will to succeed.