He Failed on ‘Shark Tank’—but So What?
Entrepreneur Jamie Siminoff on How Startups Can Compete for Tech Talent
by Caitlin Huston
Failing to get funding on “Shark Tank,” the entrepreneurship reality TV show, didn’t sink Jamie Siminoff’s most recent startup. On the contrary.
After the show was taped for ABC last September, the company, DoorBot, the maker of a doorbell that allows homeowners to see who is outside by looking at their smartphone, raised $1 million from venture capitalists. And after the episode aired in November, the company sold 10,000 units in a month. Mr. Siminoff now has plans to expand the staff to 50 from 30 and to develop the product further, including adding video recording.
Mr. Siminoff, who has six startups to his credit, launched DoorBot in 2012 on a crowdfunding website he also founded, called Christie Street. The site didn’t attract much traffic and is currently dormant. But DoorBot, based in Santa Monica, Calif., has racked up more than $3 million in sales, and backing from such venture-capital firms as First Round Capital and Upfront Ventures.
The 37-year-old Mr. Siminoff, whose other companies include PhoneTag Inc., a service that converts voice mails into text messages or emails, recently spoke with The Wall Street Journal about crowdfunding, competing for talent against deep-pocketed giants like Google Inc., and his startup management style, which favors few titles or meetings. Edited excerpts of the conversation follow:
WSJ: How do you know which of your ideas will make a sustainable business?
MR. SIMINOFF: I don’t, the business does. The best thing you can do is listen to the market and then let them decide.
I have never met anyone who’s smart enough to pick their winners and losers before they actually happen. Even the best guys have no idea what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. I think it’s impossible to really know.
The one thing we steer away from [is an idea] for a market that feels very, very small—too small to ever grow out of.
WSJ: Did your failed pitch on “Shark Tank” deter other venture capitalists from investing in the startup?
MR. SIMINOFF: There was definitely a snobbery of, “Oh you were on ‘Shark Tank,’ ” almost like, “That’s embarrassing.” Then I showed them the numbers and what the show has done for us in terms of awareness and everything else. If you’re a consumer brand, I don’t think there’s anything else quite like [“Shark Tank”] that can do that for you.
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