Richard Branson investing in IoT? That has a nice Ring to it

20 Aug 2015

Smart doorbell company Ring received US$28m in its latest funding round, attracting the support of Richard Branson after a random, chance event.

Originally the Doorbot, Ring is a really clever gadget. Mounted where your doorbell usually goes, it has a camera that syncs up to your smartphone via an app.

So, when someone knocks at your door you can video chat with them, making it handy for package deliveries and, according to the company, as a means to prevent home burglaries.

It also has motion detectors, so you can set the device to alert you when people enter certain parts of your front door’s field of view.

Ring Motion Detector - smart doorbell

Choosing zones to monitor on Ring

In the promo video, it shows how handy this can be if you want to catch your neighbour letting his dog go to the toilet in your front garden.

But it’s probably equally handy to keep an eye on a car in your driveway.

The Virgin creator’s interest in the device is the result of perfect opportunism. A holidaymaker on Branson’s Necker Island was chatting with him when his phone made a noise.

The person took out the smartphone, chatted with a delivery person thousands of miles away, and handled the package delivery in a matter of seconds.

Hooked, Branson made some calls and got on board, joining a funding round of US$28m that brings the total raised by the company to US$37.5m and an overall valuation of US$600m.

“What excites me about Ring is its efficient, convenient approach to crime prevention and home monitoring and also its entrepreneurial leadership team,” said Branson. “I’m speaking as both an investor and a very happy customer.”

Branson’s involvement came very near the end of the funding round, with owner Jamie Siminoff shocked that the magnate got involved.

“I didn’t even figure he’d invest,” said Siminoff to Business Insider. “But then he was like, ‘What if I send someone right now?’ And then I got on with a couple of his guys from his team of investment the next day.”

Ring - how it works - smart doorbell

Answering the door on Ring

It’s a far cry from the company’s original product, the Doorbot, which crashed out of Shark Tank – a US show that sees entrepreneurs seek investment from ‘shark’ investors – with no backing.

“I don’t know how we survived to get to where we are today,” said Siminoff in Fortune, referring to the failed attempt to turn Doorbot into a major success.

But now, with the likes of Branson, Shea Ventures, American Family Insurance and True Ventures backing a product that really does look like a clever inclusion into the IoT marketplace, Ring might make it to the mainstream.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic