Andrew Dierks: Husband, Father of Four, Founder of RingPatrol
I press the doorbell at Andrew Dierks’s house but don’t hear the chime sound. Should I knock? Maybe try pressing the button again? Before I can deliberate further, the Omaha entrepreneur comes bounding up the stairs from his basement office.
What kind of wizardry alerted him to my presence? That would be RingPatrol, the self-funded startup that Andrew, an electrical engineer and father of four, has been working on since 2015 and full-time since September 2017. Call it a modern-day “Do not disturb” for your home.
Tell us about RingPatrol. How does it work?
“RingPatrol lets you set a regular schedule of quiet times when you don’t want the doorbell to ring. For those times when you don’t want the house disturbed – but you want to know when someone is at the door – RingPatrol can send you notifications. It gives you the power to make your doorbell ring on your own terms.
“RingPatrol wires in with your existing doorbell. Probably the hardest part of the installation is finding the transformer. (Complete installation instructions are available online and through the RingPatrol app.) You’re essentially inserting RingPatrol as a ‘middle man’ so it can not only determine when to ring the chime and when not to, but it can also monitor the button.”
How did the idea come to be?
“About two years ago, my wife was really unhappy with the number of disturbances that were waking the kids (a toddler, an infant and a newborn) from their naps. It happened often enough that she really needed a solution. We tried the Post-it note by the doorbell. That didn’t seem to work. So, I started scouring the internet and found there really wasn’t a practical or effective solution. I thought, ‘I have an electrical engineering degree. Let me develop something.’
“My original intent was to just solve this problem for us. But when we would tell friends about the idea, they would say, ‘Can you build me one too?’ It sparked in my mind – if other people want this, maybe there’s a greater market value out there. I did a little market research and found there is a need here. That’s when I started going into technical development. That was a really long road. You do it in your free time and when you now have four kids (ages 1, 3, 5 and 7) – there isn’t a lot of free time.
“For about 18 months straight, I was working on this in my spare time – between 8 p.m. and whenever my eyelids said no more. That was really challenging. I was at that point where I was struggling to keep my motivation, which brings me to my relationship with The Startup Collaborative. I felt like if I immersed myself in an environment that was full of energy and people who were innovative that it would help give me energy as well.”
Since joining, how has The Startup Collaborative helped you move your concept forward?
“By far, the biggest benefit of joining is that they help you focus on the long-term game rather than the short-term game. They’ve developed a process that helps you understand very early on what you’re developing to and how to spend your energy. That process may seem a little challenging in the beginning, but it pays such dividends on the back-end.”
“The Startup Collaborative has also helped me immensely from the motivation and encouragement side. (Co-founders Nathan Preheim and Erica Wassinger) help facilitate weekly meetings of the fellows where you can bounce ideas off of each other. It’s an environment that encourages collaboration. Every single week, I come home with a renewed amount of energy.”
Where are you in the development process?
“RingPatrol is available for pre-order right now on the website (www.ringpatrol.com). Right now, I’m about 99 percent done with feature development in the app. The hardware is complete, and I’ve ordered my first production run of hardware. I’m working on packaging, user manuals and testing of the app. I’m looking at doing an official launch just after Christmas.”
What excites you most about this endeavor?
“I seriously have not set an alarm clock since I left my full-time job, and I have not slept past 6:00 a.m. The most incredible thing – the thing that’s given me the most energy since switching from working on this part-time to working on it full-time – is the amount of progress you see in a specific timespan. That’s so energizing. If you take a dedicated chunk of time, you see a lot of progress, and that makes you want to work on it more and more.”
Conversely, what has been most challenging?
“When you work for a company, you kind of take for granted all the support you had that you didn’t realize – from an accounting standpoint, legal, technical writing, website development, customer service… There are literally a trillion things to do.
“For example, I knew how to do hardware development, but I’d never developed an app like this before. So, I had to teach myself to write the app. Luckily, there are a ton of resources out there to make that possible. The Omaha Public Library has a relationship with Linda.com, an online training resources that’s owned by LinkedIn. I was able to get high-level training courses for free.”
Why is Greater Omaha the right place to develop and launch RingPatrol?
“I haven’t done a lot of entrepreneurship in other parts of the country, but I have worked in other parts of the country. That midwestern mentality of people going out of their way to be helpful is apparent in a neighborly way but also in the entrepreneurial community.
“I can’t count the number of times where I’ve brought up a problem and people either offer very helpful advice or just jump in and say, ‘Let me help you’ without any expectation for compensation. They just want to see you succeed. It’s so collaborative here. It encourages entrepreneurship. It encourages people to bring out their ideas.”
Want to learn more about RingPatrol? Check out the company website: www.ringpatrol.com.