Ask the expert: How grounding your business in a mission makes all the difference

Jamie Siminoff started Ring in 2011 after making the world’s first wi-fi video doorbell in his garage. Despite receiving no investment offers when he appeared on Shark Tank in 2013, Jamie remained dedicated to Ring’s mission to make neighborhoods safer. Within a few years, his persistence paid off: Ring had captured 97% of the video doorbell market.

The company was acquired by Amazon in 2018 for $1 billion, making it the most successful company to ever appear on Shark Tank to date. Though Jamie didn’t receive any offers when he pitched the sharks, he has since returned to the show as an investor, encouraging other founders of mission-driven companies.

Here are his insights on what business success really means, what he wishes he knew before starting Ring, and the importance of having a mission to drive your business forward.

How do you generate great ideas in business?

I always start with a problem that I see, and then try to think of ways to solve it. Some people are focused on trying to build a “billion-dollar idea;” I just like creating things that can make people’s lives better. From there, I think with some luck you can build a real business and make an impact.

It’s important to be grounded in a mission. Almost every business that has stood the test of time has had a strong, core mission. At Ring, our mission is to make neighborhoods safer, and that has driven us from our very beginning.

What’s one thing you wish you would have known before starting your business?

I like to joke and say I wish someone had told me it would be so hard! Before Ring I had created a few businesses that were somewhat successful, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but these businesses weren’t driven by a mission. With Ring, being focused on making neighborhoods safer, we knew we could have a real impact on society.

People always say do what you have a passion for; I would go one step further and say do something that you have a passion for and that makes peoples’ lives better.

What’s the best resource to have when running and growing a successful business?

I realized early on that success comes from knowing what you’re good at and surrounding yourself with people who are great at what you’re not. I’m surrounded by amazing business leaders at Ring—people who handle everything from payroll, managing our books, paying suppliers, remaining compliant and staying cash flow positive. This allows me to do what I’m good at and spend more time focusing on invention, building products for our neighbors (what we call our customers) and driving what’s next. Those are the areas I enjoy most, and I’m grateful to be able to spend time doing that.

Secondly, a fast-growing business needs to be able to scale. It is important to use systems and services that are manageable when you are small but will grow with you over time and not detract from your focus on your customers and your products. Hyper-growth can’t happen when you are always having to retool your internal business systems just to keep up.

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up or moving on to the “next” thing?

This is a hard question and one that really does not have a clear answer. I have seen people stick to bad ideas for too long and cut out of good ideas too soon. With past businesses, my error was hesitating in making decisions, and not being “all in” because I was worried the idea was no longer good but still continuing forward “just in case.”

With Ring, I decided that I was “all in” no matter what. I would always tell my team, “If we’re going to fail, I want there to be a crater so big where our office was that you could never fill the hole—because we really went for it.”

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur now?

It is always a great time to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are constantly assessing the world around them, looking for problems, and thinking about what they can invent to solve those problems. As the world changes, it only opens up more opportunities for entrepreneurs to solve emerging needs and make an impact.

What do you believe to be the number one success driver for any entrepreneur?

I think it’s a combination of finding something you’re truly passionate about and rooting your business in a mission. That mission is what will keep you going. There will always be roadblocks along the journey. When you encounter these obstacles, you’ll think there’s no way to get around it, but as an entrepreneur you must keep trying until you fail or figure it out. When you have a mission, you’ll be more inspired to keep going despite the challenges that pop up along the way.

What do you look for when investing in a new venture / business?

I look for businesses with a mission to make people’s lives better—even if it’s something as small as serving a good cup of coffee. The other thing I look for are businesses with people at the helm who truly have a passion for whatever the mission is. In my experience, a passionate team that is executing on a clear and beneficial mission is unstoppable and almost always successful.

What keeps you up at night about your business?

I worry about everything, and I think it is rational to do that. We exist in a highly competitive world, and as someone who likes to see their inventions making an impact, it makes me want to invent faster, deliver more and execute harder for our customers.

I have met entrepreneurs that act as if they have it all figured out. Having had the luxury of watching those people over a long time, I can tell you they would frequently overlook the thing that was going to hurt their business. Because they were not up at night worrying about it when they should have been, many times it was too late by the time they recognized the problem.

Best piece of business advice you have ever received and given?

Oddly enough, it would be to not take advice. All of our journeys are vastly different. I think learning from seeing and hearing about others’ experiences is important, but everyone needs to create their own path to what they consider to be success.

The road to Ring’s success was certainly not a straight one. When I look back at how we were able to build Ring and overcome obstacles, three things stand out as being our keys to success:

  1. Having a Mission: A mission defines what a company stands for and why it exists. For the team, it is a reason to work hard, to sacrifice, and something to keep you focused. For me, our mission helped to keep me going and pushing forward, no matter what. For our customers, it creates a true bond that is more meaningful than just a transaction.
  2. Hard Work: Something my upbringing taught me was hard work and it certainly was needed to build Ring from both myself and the team.
  3. Luck: Finally, there’s luck. I’ve always said luck is like the lottery—the harder you work, the more “tickets” you get—but there’s always an element of luck to it. We worked hard, had a lot of tickets and thankfully, a little bit of luck on our side too.

What advice would you give someone looking to launch a category disruptor / new product innovation that they probably haven’t heard of before?

Don’t be discouraged by those who initially doubt your concept or product. When I first created Doorbot, some people laughed at the invention. But I knew it would solve a real-life need—a need that no one had previously created a solution for. Today, that first Video Doorbell has evolved into an entire line of home security devices and services helping to bring peace of mind to millions of neighbors around the world.

What is your definition of business success?

This is an interesting one that I have been thinking about a lot lately. Defining success subconsciously sets a ceiling on what you can achieve. Success is not a box you can check—it is something where you constantly aim to do more, to learn more, to improve more.

At Ring, we purposefully have an unachievable, infinite mission to allow us to keep growing and to keep reaching further. There’s always more we can do to deliver more security and peace of mind to every neighbor, everywhere.

Personally, I have not been able to yet define success as I don’t believe I have (or will ever!) achieve it.

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