*The name Solomon ‘RC’ Ali might seem obscure to you right now, but if you’re at the high end of technology and use your phone as a means to lock or unlock the door to your house, his name should ring a bell. Pun intended. You’ve seen the commercials: A FEDEX, UPS, or Amazon delivery person rings your doorbell. You’re not home, but your phone, and its camera, alerts you that someone is there. “May I help you?” you ask. “I have a delivery,” is the response. At this point you can unlock your door, allow them to place the package inside, and lock the door when they leave.
Thing is: you’re in Tahiti. Something they will never know!What about this scenario: Porch pirates! Someone rolls up on a bike and decides to help themselves to the packages left on your porch. Having the right technology would at least allow you to see who the culprit was.
Revolutionary Concepts, one of Solomon Ali’s two companies, owns the intellectual property as well as the patents to this technology. In fact, Ali, who has been listed multiple times in Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Top 100 Black American Entrepreneurs” currently holds sixteen live and active patents that his company licenses out to retailers including Amazon, Livewatch Security LLC, Alarmforce NC Inc. and SkyBell.
…and that’s just to name a few.
In a telephone interview with EURweb publisher, Lee Bailey, Mr. Ali talks about his journey and his desire to help African American entrepreneurs and business owners bring their ideas and concepts to fruition.
“Revolutionary Concepts is just a company that I manage…I’m the CEO. The Intellectual Properties that it holds is 2-way audio/video locking and unlocking of the doors. That’s the technology. We hold a bunch of different patents for that particular technology. We license that technology out to all types of companies… a bunch of different licensees (and) sub-licensees.”
So that’s one company.
Ali also heads the company Universal Bio Energy, an independent diversified energy company incorporated in August 2004. Reuters states the company’s primary business is the production, marketing, and sales of natural gas, propane, coal, petroleum, (Bonnie Light Crude Oil), liquefied natural gas (LNG), refined petroleum products, including jet fuel (JP-54 and Jet A-1), D2 Gas Oil/Diesel Fuel, and electricity. Through its subsidiary, NDR Energy Group LLC, it has contracts to sell natural gas to around 31 public utilities, electric power producers and local gas distribution companies that serve commercial, industrial, and residential customers throughout the United States.
“I raised and arranged lots of financing for that company to grow its business,” Ali tells Lee Bailey when speaking of UBE. “It’s a $60-70 million dollar energy company. That’s approximately what we did in sales last year.
…and check this:
A panel on the popular investment TV show, Shark Tank, had denied the video-doorbell when it was pitched to them in 2013. You know they are kicking themselves…still.
But I am getting ahead of myself here. Let’s backup a minute, shall we?
Sure Solomon Ali holds major degrees from esteemed universities. But from his conversation with Mr. Bailey, it’s easy to sense his most valuable and appreciated lessons came from The School of Hard Knocks; where one particular hard knock inspired him to make two drastic, personal changes. One: shed his birth name (Richard Carter) like a layer of old skin, and two: change his ways — from a self-titled “dictator” to a more peaceful and compassionate person.
He explains…“Well, I was running a fairly large business. We had just under 500 employees and we were doing quite a bit in revenue. All of a sudden, after many years of being in business, I had some regulatory issues which later they stated, ‘Well, we’re sorry. That was a mistake. And those mistakes are very costly to one in business because they don’t pay you for those mistakes. All they can say is ‘we’re sorry’ and turn around and tell you that you have the right to sue them. Well it’s kind of hard to sue a government agency and it takes a lot to sue one, and it also takes a lot of time….So the apology was enough, since I really didn’t have the resources to go after them.”
Mr. Ali believes the problems came about because, as he puts it, “some people wanted more money and a bigger stake in the company.”
Cut to the chase: He lost the business — a chain of successful nursing homes, with assets valued at $100M dollars, and subsequently spiraled into a spell of depression, which forced him to self-reflect. A man of deep Christian faith he started to entertain thoughts such as, when I was on top running my multi-million-dollar business, how did I treat my employees? What kind of boss was I?
He wasn’t pleased with what he saw. In his eyes it didn’t reflect the Christian way. He realized these people have families. They have their own lives.
“After I lost that I turned around and walked on some barges. I didn’t want anything to do with business whatsoever. At all! Under no circumstances because I felt like, “Wow, I did everything right. I did everything I was supposed to do. I’d worked 7 days a week, 15, 16 hours a day for 8, 9 years only to have that to be the outcome through no fault of my own.”
Fortunately, and thanks to friends who had witnessed his business savvy up close, Ali didn’t have the “luxury” of remaining depressed. Business needed him! Friends started asking for his help to raise money for their ventures. They wanted him to share his expertise on how to go about taking their idea(s) to the monetizing stage.
After a bit of resistance, he agreed to negotiate with lenders on their behalf and share his expertise on building a presentable package, but made sure they knew that they would have to do the heavy lifting.
He tells Lee Bailey:
“So I guess what we’re talking about is how do I help other entrepreneurs or business owners take their idea from where it is and take it through the different stages to developing a true business that’s scalable. How do we take it to a business that they can live on, with employees, and have it benefit our society?”
“I think the best way to go into that is to state that when I look into a business or anything, I look at what service or problem have they solved? Take it from a biblical standpoint,” he adds.
Clearly, Solomon Ali’s vision going in is not only how the business will benefit a particular company, but what does it do to benefit society. This is how he assists minorities in particular and all business owners in general, in upgrading their business models. With his expertise businesses are now able to secure their intellectual properties, raise funding, form strategic alliances, bring their products to market and make them scalable.
At the end of the day, Solomon ‘RC’ Ali wants entrepreneurs and business owners out there to know this: “You would find me when you are looking to grow your business. How do you strategically grow your business within the marketplace? And then second, you would look for me to help you arrange financing through either banks or different investors. Bringing them to the table and sharing with them why they should invest and things of that nature.
Ali states further, something extremely important; and something this writer and many of you have cringe-watched on Shark Tank pitches time and again. “A lot of business owners have no idea of what they should give up. Whether they should do what’s called an Equity deal with investors, whether they should do a Debt deal with banks or investors? Some that think they may know, they realize they have no idea what they should give up.”
Ali lays out an all-too-familiar scenario…
“You go to a venture capital company and what do they do? They want to take controlling interest in everything because it’s their capital. So, I’m kind of that buffer,” he says. “One: You have to respect the money, because they bring great value to the table, and if you respect the money you’ll have access to more money down the road. And two, you have to understand what the money is looking to get in your deal, but also as their exit out of your deal. So, they are looking for a particular return on capital, they’re also looking for that return on investment. Things of that nature. So let’s break it down”: They are looking to the net present value…how long do they have to be ‘in’ before they see a return, and how do they get out? Is this a safe venture for them? How is their money protected?”
It is precisely this kind of expertise that Solomon ‘RC’ Ali uses to bridge the gap. With his assist, the entrepreneur is educated on how to build an all-around package that can be presented to a bank or investor with confidence.