Ringer Makes D Series Noise

Ringer Makes D Series Noise
Welcome Sight: Phone app displaying video from a Bot Home camera.

Bot Home Automation Inc., maker of a video camera-rigged doorbell called Ring, last week raised a $109 million Series D round and said it is aiming for an initial public offering before the end of the year.

The Santa Monica firm has come a long way since Chief Executive Jamie Siminoff pitched the product on ABC reality TV contest “Shark Tank” and subsequently rejected a tight-fisted investment deal from one of the show’s investors, Kevin O’Leary. The company has since raised $209 million in venture capital. In the last year alone, Bot Home has grown from about 300 employees to more than 1,000.

The company’s so-called smart doorbell comes with a camera, two-way speaker, and motion detector that live-streams video footage from a user’s front step to a mobile app. Bot Home’s doorbells cost $200 or $250, with the more expensive model featuring a slimmer design and higher-resolution video. Customers are also charged $30 annually per device to recall video footage from a cloud storage service.

In addition, Bot Home has recently launched several different types of security cameras to complement its doorbell products. Its $250 model features a 110-decibel siren alarm and blinding floodlights. Ring products sell online and in more than 15,000 retail locations.

Bot Home was founded in 2012, but sales of its doorbell first spiked after founder Siminoff pitched an early version of the product on “Shark Tank.” The company raised its $109 million round from investors including DFJ Growth, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, American Family Insurance, Shea Ventures, True Ventures, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and other undisclosed firms. Silicon Valley Bank has provided a loan to the manufacturer.

The latest raise will be spent on expanding sales operations around the globe, computer vision research to study the patterns of burglars, and preparation for its forthcoming IPO, said Siminoff, noting the public offering should also help sales thanks to increased news coverage.

“It definitely raises our profile and it raises the credibility of our company,” he said. “Being a security company, that is really important.”

Bot Home aims to assist homeowners coordinate their own security measures, Siminoff added. The company’s cloud service includes a subscribers-only social network that allows device owners to share footage of potential criminal activity with one another. The footage can also be emailed or shared on neighborhood social network Nextdoor.

The company claims that the spread of its cameras has had a measurable impact on security in a number of neighborhoods. For example, Bot Home sponsored a study with the Los Angeles Police Department to install Ring doorbells on 10 percent of homes in Wilshire Park. In six months, home burglaries were reduced by 55 percent in the neighborhood and no burglaries occurred at any of the homes with Ring installed, according to the company.

Fast-Tracking Research

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced plans last week to open a research and development center in Toulouse, France. The Playa Vista company is ramping up its operations after raising $30 million in December from EdgeWater Investments, based in Silicon Valley.

The firm chose the Toulouse region because it is home to the global headquarters of aerospace giant Airbus and a research facility for the European Space Agency. The center will be located on a former military base that was redeveloped into a startup hub for aerospace companies.

Not to be confused with downtown’s Hyperloop One, Hyperloop Transportation has about 30 salaried employees and 800 unsalaried collaborators doing research and development work in exchange for stock.

The company is eyeing a European rail network and has signed an agreement to explore connecting a hyperloop system from Slovakia to the Czech Republic.

“We are really seeing interest in what the technology could do (in Eastern Europe), in an area that doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure development,” said Chief Executive Dirk Ahlborn.

Interest from local governments is critically important for Hyperloop Transportation’s progress, he added.

“The biggest challenge is not the technology but the regulatory framework,” he said.

Grand Prize

WeWork, a New York-based operator of co-working spaces, awarded $600,000 to 14 L.A. startups and nonprofits as part of a pitch contest that took place last week across nine of the company’s local offices.

The event pitted 44 L.A. WeWork tenants against each other in an investor pitch contest that awarded organizations with business plans and initiatives aimed at community organizing and service. The winning organization was WeThrive, a Santa Monica nonprofit that provides mentorship to young people through after-school entrepreneurship programs. The company received $180,000.

The contest was a good way for WeWork employees to engage with local leaders and provided an opportunity for businesses and nonprofits to hone their pitches, said Jen Berrent, WeWork’s chief culture and legal officer.

“We are constantly looking at ways where we can help the community and our members thrive as businesses,” she said. “The core part is helping our members succeed, getting engaged, and providing them with resources.”

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