Phil Dumas, inventor of Kwikset’s Kevo, is not one to let setbacks or obstacles stand in the way of success. For any true innovator there’s going to be obstacles, critics, and those that just don’t believe in your dreams.
The Unikey smartlock was first pitched to the Shark Tank panel during Season 3, which is an accomplishment in itself. Phil was probably pretty confident that the sharks would bite, and why wouldn’t they? The Unikey is a clever device that makes shuffling for your keys in the rain, snow, or with a bag of groceries in hand, obsolete. Working with your smartphone, the device automatically takes you within one easy touch of a finger or elbow to opening your front door. Not only is this convenient, but also completely secure. So, what could go wrong?
Kwikset’s Kevo and Shark Tank
Valuing his device at $1.5 million, Phil was seeking a $500k investment. In exchange, he was willing to offer one third share of his company. His demonstration before the sharks was technologically flawless. Having the ability to send and receive digital keys makes sense. Especially for those of us who have given out our keys to individuals we wish didn’t have them later on. Getting a key back from an ex, or a family member is awkward at best. With Kevo you no longer have to deal with that. Keys can be given for blocks of time, days, or weeks, and then revoked as needed. This makes granting spur of the moment access to the plumber or the furniture delivery company a snap. The sharks were intrigued.
Phil went on during his presentation to inform the sharks that he had several deals pending, one with Black and Decker. Of course, the further along an inventor is in the process, the sweeter the deal is to the investors. As expected, the sharks began making the offers. In fact, all five of them had made sizable offers before it was all said and done. This is an accomplishment only a few products had been able to manage. Convenience, security, and with a possible big time backer that could handle production, Phil was positioned for certain success.
What was the final offer? Phil Dumas and the UniKey Technologies wer offered$1 million by Robert Herjevic. Impressive? Yes. But at what price? Herjevic wanted 75% of the company. No deal. Instead, Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary bought a 40% stake in the business for half a million and controlling seats on the board.
Kwikset’s Kevo Beyond Shark Tank
In actuality, Dumas needed closer to $1.1 million to bring this smartlock to market and although some news media reported that Shark Tank investors continued on with Phil Dumas, that deal actually never happened. In subsequent negotiations after the show, Dumas couldn’t come to terms with the duo. Being so close and yet so far has to be frustrating, but one thing Phil Dumas did receive from the Shark Tank show was exposure, and that’s often priceless.
The details, would take too long to go into, but the bottom line on the investment story is pretty simple. Shark Tank’s exposure caused one of John Frankel’s limited partners to give him a cal. He had just seen ABC’s Shark Tank and thought John should take a look at this Kevo. John Frankel, a real VC, made a contact attempt to Dumas, and the rest was history. It took quite a few negotiations back and forth, but Phil and John hit it off and as John would later state, “You never know where a good deal will come from.”
Kevo, for Phil, was all about his technology. The product involved hardware, but that wasn’t Phil’s expertise. Enter Kwikset, the biggest name in locks, who had the production end of it taken care of it. You really can’t ask for a better marriage than this, and it is for this reason why we’ve bet on Kevo from the very beginning.
Today, November 23, 2013, Kevo is available on Best Buy shelves. That’s not all, of course. It recently hit Apple.com and is on Amazon and NewEgg, just to name a few. And what are the customer’s saying? Just check out #ShowUsYourKevo and you’ll see happy users from Australia to New York. We think this is a pretty inspiring story. So many technologies fizzle out before they reach production. Still others can’t take the pressure or run out of funds during the production stage. All it takes is a few errors and hundreds of thousands of dollars can be lost. We’re excited to see what Phil and the Unikey team will be doing next.