Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, aka “Mr. Wonderful,” was blown away when he saw Amazon’s agreement to acquire video doorbell maker Ring for a reported price of more than $1 billion. “I couldn’t believe the price tag,” he said on CNBC this week. “Unbelievable.”
Ring was known as DoorBot in 2013, when founder Jamie Siminoff pitched the product to O’Leary and other investors on the popular ABC show. Siminoff was seeking to raise $700,000 from the sharks at a $7 million valuation for the company, which had $1 million in annual sales at the time.
After the other sharks dropped out, O’Leary attempted one of his classic royalty deals, in combination with an initial $700,000 loan and a 5 percent equity stake. Siminoff, who had poked fun at O’Leary’s love of royalties in his opening pitch, rejected the deal and left without an investment.
O’Leary defended himself this week: “I think giving anybody $700,000 is a full offer, and there’s a reason they call me Mr. Wonderful,” he said. “I was the only shark to make any kind of an offer. We didn’t see eye-to-eye, and of course like everybody else, when I saw the deal cross the tape last night, I said, ay, chihuahua, caramba.”
O’Leary then shifted into sales mode: “It just shows you how big the Shark Tank platform is becoming. Every year the deals get bigger, and the exits get bigger. Shark Tank, I’d argue, is the No. 1 venture capital platform on Earth today. Just look at what it does to small companies.”
To be sure, the publicity was a big help, and Siminoff was able to build Ring from there into a significant player in the smart home market, attracting investors including Sir Richard Branson. In an update for the show last November, Siminoff said the company was valued at more than $1 billion, employed more than 1,300 people and offered 10 core products, sold in more than 16,000 stores.
GeekWire broke the news of Amazon acquisition agreement with Ring this week. The companies haven’t disclosed financial terms, but at a reported valuation of $1.1 billion, it would be the second-largest acquisition in Amazon’s history, behind only last year’s purchase of Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion.
Amazon is expected to treat the Ring deal similar to past acquisitions such as Zappos, Twitch and Audible, pursuing product and feature integrations where appropriate but maintaining the Ring brand and largely allowing the company to continue operating as is.
The acquisition of Ring by Amazon will set up a showdown in the home security market with Google, which acquired smart thermostat maker Nest in 2014 for $3.2 billion. Nest offers its own security/alarm system, Nest Secure, and at CES in early January, Ring announced plans to come out with a comprehensive home security system later this year, expanding beyond its existing security camera and video doorbells.
Ring is not Amazon’s first smart home acquisition. The tech giant last year acquired Blink, a startup based in Andover, Mass., that makes wire-free smart security cameras and video doorbells. Before the Ring deal came together, Amazon made an offer to buy smart locker maker August Home for $100 million, according to The Information, but August balked before later selling to Swedish lock manufacturer Assa Abloy for $150 million.