When Jamie Siminoff ’99 first pitched the idea of reinventing the doorbell, friends laughed at him and Sharks snubbed him.
So when the famous CEO, founder and chief inventor of Ring suggests that entrepreneurs can help change the world, maybe we should heed his words.
“I think the doctors who go to Babson could cure the cancer,” Siminoff said, “and I really think so, because stepping back and thinking differently about it has caused incredible things.
Siminoff – who started his start-up on “Shark Tank” and didn’t get a deal, but then sold Ring to Amazon for $ 1 billion and returned to the ABC TV show as Shark himself – knows the impact that entrepreneurial thinking can have on society. In Ring’s case, Siminoff’s invention makes neighborhoods safer. And, in the medical breakthroughs he has personally helped support, work literally saves lives.
Siminoff spoke about the convergence of entrepreneurial thinking and medicine on day one of Babson Connect: Worldwide, the premier entrepreneurial summit. He will also return to Babson (virtually) in May to deliver the kick-off speech to the undergraduate class of 2021 and receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
When his father was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer, Siminoff approached it like any entrepreneurial challenge: seek information, seek medical experts, and seek a solution.
This journey has led him to the intersection of healthcare and entrepreneurial leadership. This led him to Dr Santosh Kesari at Harvard Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. There, Siminoff had found a doctor – one of America’s top neuro-oncologists and neurologists, in fact – who shared a like mind in solving big problems.
Since that reunion ten years ago, Siminoff and Kesari – now at Saint John Cancer Institute (formerly the John Wayne Cancer Institute) in Santa Monica, Calif. – have formed a sort of partnership in the search for a cure. Working together, Siminoff has helped fund some of Kesari’s innovative ideas for treating patients with immunotherapy. Now, says Siminoff, people are living with glioblastoma, without the need for chemotherapy or radiation therapy; they are not only alive, but leading healthy lives.
The difference isn’t the money – cancer institutes have billions of dollars in funding, after all. The difference is the approach, bringing entrepreneurial thinking to the field of medicine.
“As an entrepreneur, how do you build the next business when you have billion dollar competitors? You think them, you go horizontally, you use the pieces that are there, ”said Siminoff. “We take a very similar approach to this and have incredible success.”
The pandemic has also accelerated new ways of thinking. Siminoff cites the record COVID-19 vaccines as an example, which could prove to have far-reaching effects. We could be on the brink of more medical wonders. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” says Siminoff, “if in the next 10 years we see more medical breakthroughs than we have seen in the last 50 or 100 years.”
Siminoff’s success, of course, started at Babson College.
It was there that he ran a business – Gadget Tronics – selling televisions and stereos. This is where he and his friends did odd jobs and “all kinds of money making stuff”. It was also there that he had problems with his business Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME), when a guerrilla marketing stunt got too aggressive. “Babson wasn’t very happy with this,” Siminoff said.
What Babson instilled in him, however, fueled his career. “It really teaches you that entrepreneurship is not about starting a real business,” he said. “It’s kind of a way of thinking, that can infect and be effective in a lot of ways.”
“When I invent and correct a problem, then see other people benefit from it, that’s what excites me.”
Jamie Siminoff ’99, CEO, Founder and Chief Inventor of Ring
By the time he graduated in 1999, he was on the right track, but still a long way from finding the calling of his life.
“I really had a burning desire to feel that I could do something,” he said. “Babson was a great place to help foster some of this, but it still took me 10 years to realize that my burning desire wasn’t to have a business or to be successful. It was about inventing things and seeing people use them in their daily lives. When I invent and fix a problem, then see other people taking advantage of it, that’s what turns me on. “
‘It’s a little crazy’
Now, in addition to leading Ring and working with Kesari to try and cure cancer, Siminoff is excited to return to his alma mater as a seasoned voice of wisdom.
He knows there is a fine line between success and failure, even with a revolutionary company like Ring. He notes how many times he almost failed. “Even until the end, I mean, we almost went bankrupt with Ring at the end of 2017, and we sold in early 2018,” Siminoff said. “So the difference between being a graduation lecturer and maybe someone looking for a job was very close.”
For Siminoff, the idea of being a debut speaker at his alma mater is, well, laughable. “It’s crazy,” he said.
It’s also incredibly special, especially because President Babson Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD was one of Siminoff’s teachers and early supporters. “He was a mentor to me and gave me great love very early on when I graduated and invested in the lab that became Ring,” he says. “When you put it all together, it’s kinda crazy.”
As crazy as reinventing the doorbell or trying to cure cancer. The key, he says, is entrepreneurial thinking, which he attributes to his Babson training.
“Babson shows you in many ways that the world is kind of unlocked,” Siminoff said, “it’s up to you to find out.”
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