Would Jamie Siminoff Be Your Ideal ‘Shark Tank’ Investor?

I don’t argue there is something remarkable about the story of Jamie Siminoff and Ring. As the gods at Shark Tank like to spin it, Siminoff pitched the sharks in 2013. He was asking $700,000 for 10 percent, which the panel deemed too expensive — save Kevin O’Leary, who offered to give him a loan, in exchange for (interest on the loan and) a royalty and some equity. Siminoff said no.

Five years later, Siminoff’s security product company Ring was sold to Amazon for $1 billion. Later that same year, Shark Tank started off Season 10 with the once-jilted entrepreneur as guest shark. It’s a fitting demonstration of coming full circle, even if it only tells part of the story. (And it feels a bit like a stunt, but then, all guest sharks are the result of stunt casting in one way or another).

Ring had a long road to get to Shark Tank and, it seemed, an even longer (and more complicated one) to get from its Doorbot days to the Amazon acquisition. At the time of the $1 billion sale, Siminoff had been diluted to a modest 10 percent ownership after multiple funding rounds (and another pending that was cancelled as the result of the Amazon deal). Not to mention, Ring was also facing competition from multitudes of similar products made by large, dominant brands, who claimed they could offer the same value to customers. Those five years were not without dramatic shifts and turns.

Indeed, the details about the investments in Ring post-Shark Tank are super messy. (My qualification here is to say, well, don’t quote me on these details because I’m going strictly off the articles I link to. I mean, I spend a lot of my time thinking about old televisions shows and whether or not reality television is an accurate reflection of real life.)

It seems in the spring of 2017, ADT sued Ring for theft of intellectual property. But it’s not as cloak-and-dagger, Watergate break-in, as it may sound: the lawsuit actually revolved around quite a bit of technical legalese. Apparently ADT was a secured lender to Zonoff. Zonoff was in financial trouble and defaulted on an interest payment to ADT. Shortly thereafter, Zonoff was acquired by Ring. ADT argued it had first rights to the Z1 platform developed by Zonoff as the result of Zonoff’s insolvency. So, ADT argued, the Z1 platform was actually theirs and did not transfer to Ring at the time of the acquisition.

With the lawsuit ongoing, Ring started another financing round in the summer. Valor, a private equity firm that had invested in SpaceX and Tesla, was set to lead that round. But in November, a judge issued an injunction as part of the ADT lawsuit that forced Ring to stop selling its Ring Protect system. Valor pulled out and the funding round collapsed.

Ring and ADT settled the lawsuit in January 2018 for $25 million. But then things got complicated — I’m looking for an appropriate word here, and all I can come up with is “complicated” — yet again. After Valor’s exit, Ring still needed financing. According to Recode, existing investors set up a new funding round for $200 million at a $1 billion valuation. About half of the $200 million was sent to Ring in advance of the first close, but the round was cancelled before the second close because Amazon got interested again. That meant that those who were early in the funding round got greater interest in the company than those who were late to the game — and therefore (presumably) benefitted from the sale to Amazon.

(If Kevin O’Leary had gotten an equity stake way back when, who knows the size it would have been at the time of the Amazon sale — or whether that royalty would not have dissipated into thin air.)

So, I am a young entrepreneur pitching Shark Tank on my successful line of hand-sewn, organic-catnip infused cat toys that I sell through a network of associates at local farmers’ markets throughout the northeast. Is Jamie Siminoff my ideal investor?

Maybe not. But if I’m looking to market a new app, maybe. If anything, the television appeal of seeing Siminoff on Shark Tank will be the transition from penniless-and-all-hustle entrepreneur asking for money to shark deciding whether or not to give it away. It’s an uneasy transition, because it’s hard to envision this entrepreneur on his own, and apart from his Ring grind.

Siminoff wrote a short piece in Entrepreneur this week (to presumably promote his Shark Tank appearance) and identified the factors that led to his — and Ring’s — success. They are, in order: Hard Work, (Product) Mission, and Luck.

“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.”

It’s an honest assessment. He’s still a young man, so maybe he’ll decide he likes this whole t.v. venture capital thing. There’s always a rotating panel of guest sharks, and maybe the gig will continue.

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You heard him! #SharkTank is back Sunday at 10|9c.

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