Surviving The Startup Shark Tank

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After writing about the dynamic of positive and negative feedback in business presentations recently, here’s another interesting example.

Entrepreneur Jamie Siminoff didn’t let his moment of rejection on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality TV show Shark Tank get in the way of the success of his home security startup, DoorBot. Instead of letting the VC sharks get inside his head and dissuade him from pursuing his dream, he just kept on swimming:

“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.”

37-year-old Siminoff was right to shake off the critics and the Sharks’ negative feedback. To date, DoorBot has taken in more than $3 million in sales, and backing from venture capital firms such as First Round Capital and Upfront Ventures. When asked how he knew which of his ideas would make for a sustainable business, he responded, “I don’t, the business does. The best thing you can do is listen to the market and then let them decide.” He also emphasized the importance of being able to pivot your company in a different direction in order to grow and innovate, or even reinvent itself entirely: “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.”

And his sagacity doesn’t stop there. In a conversation with the Wall Street Journal, he also offered some useful advice for founders about competing for top-tier talent against better-resourced industry veterans like Google:

WSJ: Is your company facing problems attracting engineers and designers?

MR. SIMINOFF: I think the only people who aren’t facing problems getting engineers are liars. Every single engineer that’s even decent has multiple opportunities to go other places. One of the keys to being a CEO right now in any startup that’s anywhere in the tech space is being able to sell to an engineer to join your company, and that involves creating a mission with a higher cause.

Because it’s not just about money; they can get money. It’s how do you make them want to come to you.

WSJ: But is a great mission really enough to overcome the salary difference between you and the big names?

MR. SIMINOFF: If Google offers an engineer $200,000 and you say, “I’ll offer you $50,000 but here’s this amazing mission we have,” they’re not going to join your startup. But you might have a chance if Google’s offering them $140,000 and you’re doing $130,000, and maybe you do a little bit of equity and it’s a cool place.

The one thing a startup has over a Google or a Facebook is that an engineer going to a big company can never say to their mom or dad or brother or girlfriend, “That’s what I did.” They can’t show their work. And an engineer is kind of like an artist.

At a small company like ours, they can say, “I built this recording feature for this, and this is how it affected the company.” I think that can make up for a 10% or 15% gap in salary.

About Charley Moore

Charley is the Publisher of Article 3, as well as Founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer Incorporated. Prior to founding Rocket Lawyer, Charley advised early stage companies, large enterprises and their investors on strategic partnering and corporate development strategy. Charley has been at the forefront of Internet corporate development since beginning his career as an attorney at Venture Law Group in Menlo Park, California in 1996. He represented Yahoo! (IPO), WebTV Networks (acquired by Microsoft) and Cerent Corporation (acquired by Cisco Systems) at critical early stages of their success and was the founder of Onstation Corporation. Charley graduated from the United States Naval Academy (BS), San Francisco State University (MS) and the University of California at Berkeley (Juris Doctorate). He served as a U.S. Naval officer and is a Gulf War veteran.
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