January 9, 2016
Jefferson Graham, USA Today
Jamie Siminoff came to CES in 2011 and bet $2,000 that a card table at the Consumer Electronics Show could make or break his company. 90,000 dealers later, he tells Jefferson Graham that it was the best business decision ever.
LAS VEGAS – The Consumer Electronics Show has long been the domain of huge brands like Sony, Samsung and LG, but it’s also a place that gives birth to new start-ups.
Can a new company actually make a dent and get seen and heard when exhibiting at a convention with some 3,500 other firms?
Yes, says, Jamie Siminoff, if you’re willing to be very aggressive and fight for attention.
In 2011 he bet $2,000 that he might be able to stop traffic in the least visited area of CES, in the back of the Venetian Hotel, with his then new Ring video bell. He got a card table, and put some product on it, and watched as big-time buyers from Wal-Mart and other top retailers walked by.
He didn’t make the sale then–but he says he laid the foundation and helped build word of mouth.
While CES is a show for professionals, it also attracts folks who are just really interested in the latest technology, he says. “At least half of the people who come here are not here to do business, but just to see what’s new,” Siminoff says. “A huge part of our success has been to tell them our story, and when they go back to their hometowns, and people ask them what to buy, they say, `Get the Ring doorbell.”
The Ring doorbell’s pitch: via Wifi and a companion app, folks can see who’s at the door on their phones, and talk to them from inside the house or miles away.
Siminoff won’t reveal sales figures, but does say he went from being stocked in 0 stores to over 9,500 today, including top stores like Lowe’s, Best Buy, Target and Walmart.
He just released his second product, the Ring Stick-up Cam, a $200 portable alarm wifi camera that he says is the first to offer two-way talking. (The idea is that if you see someone suspicious lurking outside your home, via the camera, you can announce, “Hey, get out of there,” and scare him or her to run away. Like the doorbell, the monitoring of the home can be done from within the home or remotely.
Ring is now backed by $39 million in venture capital, including Shea Ventures, American Family Insurance and Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, all of which came after establishing himself at CES, says Siminoff.
This week at the CES, Siminoff built a big house in the form of a booth to show the security camera and doorbell in action. And while he contends that CES is still the best place for a new tech company to be discovered, he admits that few of his colleagues that he exhibited with in 2011 are still around.
“There’s a lot of carnage,” he says. “It’s like the gold rush. Of the people who were around us, maybe only about 10% are still around. Most are probably dead at this point.”
His advice, for staying alive. “You’ve got to be a guerilla when you’re young,” he says. “You’ve got to really fight. Business is about working hard and getting lucky.”
Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham.