What happens when innovation is stifled by established players

Innovation drives change. Entrepreneurial spirit and creative ideas are transforming everything we do - from accessing news and music, to connecting with friends and family, to travelling the world.

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At times of great change, it is not unusual for established industry players to feel threatened and resort to bully tactics to stifle competition. I have experienced this kind of behaviour in business. Nearly 25 years ago, the British Airways ‘Dirty Tricks’ campaign against Virgin Atlantic resulted in us receiving the largest libel payout in British history (it became known as the BA Christmas bonus, since we distributed it to all our staff). We won the case but, more importantly, we challenged the status quo and the way consumers view the airline industry. 

Richard Branson Virgin Atlantic plane

I’ve heard about another battle that Jamie Siminoff, CEO and founder of Ring, is having with ADT. Ring is a company I really believe in, which is revolutionising home security systems. We have invested in the company, which has grown to more than 1000 team members serving one million users already.
 
When I back businesses, I also invest in the entrepreneurs behind them. Jamie started Ring in his garage and has built a company committed to reducing crime in communities and empowering consumers through its security products. Essentially neighbourhood watch for the digital age, their Video Doorbells – connected to your smartphone – allow you to answer your door from anywhere in the world. They are useful for seeing who is at your door when you are out by filming them, but even more so for preventing burglaries, who commonly ring the doorbell to ensure nobody is home before breaking in.

Ring, Jamie Siminoff, 2

ADT, the largest security company in the world, appears to fear the competition of the newcomer and is hitting out.  According to Jamie, Ring signed a contract with a company called Zonoff to help them develop their app but when Zonoff sadly went out of business before finishing the job, the code reverted to Ring – a standard procedure.
 
Jamie and his team tried to save some jobs and offered to make some former Zonoff employees part of their team. It turns out ADT has an ownership interest in Zonoff and discovered that Ring could potentially become a competitor – and they decided to file a lawsuit.
 
I know Jamie is going to keep fighting for Ring’s right to innovate. As I have learned time and time again, when you give consumers the ability to choose, they always choose the most innovative, purposeful, useful product. As Jamie wrote: “ADT can try to distract us, but they will not succeed. Our focus is and will remain on changing the way our neighbors think about home security…we are not going to let anyone distract us from carrying out our mission to reduce crime in neighborhoods.” 

Ring, Jamie Siminoff

We cannot permit big established players from using money and power to stifle innovation, which in my opinion is what is happening here. Think about it. Where would air travel be today if Virgin  Atlantic hadn’t fought back 25 years ago? Where will home security be in 25 years if Ring doesn’t fight back today?

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