“Shark Tank” aficionados got a special treat during ITEXPO 2014’s ninth annual StartupCamp when former contestant Jamie Siminoff, founder of DoorBot, kicked off the night with a keynote address about the importance of persistence and niche product marketing when it comes to entrepreneurialism.
And for those who missed Siminoff’s episode on “Shark Tank,” attendees also got a chance to see firsthand how the professional addressed a discerning—and oftentimes extremely tough—judging panel.
“Getting on ‘Shark Tank’ was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and one of the luckiest things I’ve been able to be a part of,” Siminoff told a packed room via a video conferencing session, proving just how far technology has revolutionized the conferencing business. “Over 40,000 applications are examined and 80 slots are given. The chance of getting on is like getting struck by lightning.”
But when Siminoff did get his chance, he ran with it. DoorBot, creators of a wireless, camera-enabled doorbell that allows dwelling owners to see who is at their door via smart devices, demoed its product by asking “Shark Tank” judges how helpful it would be to know who was behind your door before you let them in. Moreover, Siminoff posited how helpful it would be to know who was at your door by checking your camera via your smart device, no matter your location.
Siminoff asked the judges for $700,000 in funding for a 10 percent stake in the company. As he explained in the clip, “Consumers are spending billions of dollars outfitting their homes with products that work with smartphones but one of the most ubiquitous technologies—the doorbell—hasn’t changed since it was invented in 1980.”
As Siminoff explained to conference attendees, for DoorBot, it wasn’t about being on a TV show or getting a great clip. Rather, it was about giving its startup a real chance for immediate success. As such, the company trained for “Shark Tank”—building a set in a backyard, rehearsing eight hours a day and practicing answers for 300-plus mock questions. Moreover, the six team members invited neighbors to come over and judge them.
“We viewed ‘Shark Tank’ as a company project,” Siminoff explained. “It was something we really took seriously.”
“Because of the training, I was able to support the company and product—and have a little tit for tat with Mark Cuban, which was fun,” he added with a laugh. “If it wasn’t for ‘Shark Tank’ we wouldn’t be where we are as a company.”
Today, DoorBot has sold over 20,000 units and enjoyed a $5 million-plus sales run rate. And it’s continually upping its level of expertise, focusing on delivering a stellar customer experience by developing skill sets around electrical, firmware, software and hardware deployments.
So what advice did Siminoff have for budding entrepreneurs and fledgling companies? One of his core messages, especially for those in the burgeoning IoT and connected devices markets, is to focus on a specific problem in the market to solve. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
“One of our biggest learnings so far would be to focus on a vertical, focus on a problem, focus on something that is easy for the user to understand,” he concluded. “It’s easy to look at the market and say I wish there was ‘X’ but that can be expensive.”
“We would love to do more than just a doorbell,” he added, “but at the same time the doorbell business is a multi-billion dollar business so we have to focus on just that and making the best doorbell in the world.”