It was a feeding frenzy on the May 18 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” after Phil Dumas, a UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science ’05 alum, presented his business concept to five investors on the season finale of the nationally televised show.
“Shark Tank” features entrepreneurs in need of capital who pitch their concepts to a panel of wealthy, business-savvy investors (the sharks) in hopes they offer investment cash.
All five investors offered deals to Dumas after he skillfully pitched his invention of a keyless door lock that works using a Smartphone application. After negotiating, Dumas ultimately struck a deal with sharks Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, landing $500,000 up-front cash in exchange for 40 percent of Dumas’ company plus two seats on the board of directors.
The company is Unikey Technologies, makers of a high-tech lock that allows a resident to simply touch their door to enter their home – no key is required – as long as they have their Smartphone with the Unikey application in their pocket or purse. The product experience is based on today’s keyless entry systems on automobiles, where one can access their car without using a key or pushing a button. As long as the key fob is on them, they simply touch the handle and the car unlocks.
Dumas, who beat out more than 24,000 applicants for the opportunity to compete on “Shark Tank,” was thrilled with the outcome, even after turning down a $1 million offer from technology business magnate Robert Herjavec, who asked for 75 percent equity in Dumas’ company in exchange.
“It was unbelievable to get an offer from all the sharks and get them fighting,” Dumas said in the show’s closing seconds, “but I feel like I got the best – I’ve got the two billionaires backing me.”
Dumas holds a UCF bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He credits his college experience in CECS for the foundation and inspiration that led to his business idea.
“My senior design project at UCF was a system that opened a car door using a cell phone,” Dumas said. “You called your car, entered in your password and the doors unlocked.”
After college, Dumas worked for a small consumer biometrics company that specialized in fingerprint recognition technology. There he worked on a fingerprint door lock system, the SmartScan, which was the first biometric product to get into major home improvement stores.
After leaving the biometrics company, Dumas learned how to run a business while working in the private equity field. All the while, he said, he continued thinking of ways to revolutionize the access-control market.
“I’m an engineer at my core,” Dumas said. “I kept asking, ‘why does the mass market use such an antiquated access system for the home and most other access-control points?'”
Using Smartphone and Bluetooth technology, Dumas developed the Unikey idea and launched Unikey Technologies, which joined UCF’s business incubator in 2010. Because of its rapid growth and success, the company ‘graduated’ from the incubator later that year.