[Black Star News Exclusive]
CEO Solomon Ali: “It’s such a slanted market because our awareness and knowledge is not where everyone else is. You have 5 million companies in the United States of America, approximately, you have less than a hundred thousand Black-owned businesses throughout the United States.”
Photo: Allison Kugel\Full Scale Media
This is the first of a multi-part interview with Mr. Solomon Ali a successful Black tech CEO and Venture Capitalist.
Recently, the Black Star News interviewed successful Black businessman Solomon Ali, an expert in the technology, energy, and investment banking fields. His business portfolio includes an “$80 million energy company, a smart home automation company, and a holdings company that licenses out 16 live and active technology patents.”
Mr. Ali is the CEO of several companies. These include Vectra Energy, NDR Energy Group, Revolutionary Concepts, Inc., and Universal Bioenergy.
Ali’s Revolutionary Concepts company has been listed numerous times in Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Top 100 Black American Entrepreneurs.” Ali’s “tech patents are currently sub-licensed by Amazon, Livewatch Security LLC, Alarmforce NC Inc., Alarmforce LP, SkyBell Technologies, In August Home Inc., Bird Home Automation LLC and Bird Home Automation GmbH. And his North Carolina energy company, NDR Energy Group (stock symbol: UBRG) is one of the largest minority-owned companies in the United States.”
The Black Star News spoke at lenght to this insightful businessman about how he became successful and the life lessons he has learned. During our extensive interview, Mr. Ali’s voiced that one of his primary concerns now is helping other African-Americans achieve their business goals. He spoke at length about tactics and strategies that Black America needs to implement to be successful in their business life.
The Black Star News first asked Mr. Ali how he would define the term venture capitalist.
“An individual, or group of individuals, who collectively pool their money together and want to invest in an opportunity in its early stages,” said Ali. “Their money is what normally takes the risk on someone’s dream.”
We next queried the Black businessman about a statement he made that minority businesses face “a slanted financial system” and asked him to define the term “scaling.”
“Let me attempt to articulate that in reverse order,” said Ali. “Let’s take Amazon. We all know of Amazon because it’s a publicly-traded company and they are everywhere now. Well, what we don’t know is Amazon was losing money for over 14 years, 13, 14 and a half years, somewhere in there. So how did they sustain themselves? Because we know they go to the bank to borrow money. To go to the bank, you have to show what? Historical numbers. Historical numbers consist of three years of historical numbers showing that you can service your existing debt—plus the new debt load. Well, if you are not making money, of course, you can’t service the debt load borrowing money.
“Now, that being said, the advantage was they were a public company and they kept selling off a little bit of equity, and things of that nature or they would go to a guy, like myself, and we would loan them some money. And then we would convert that loan over to equity and sell it to the marketplace. So, that’s how they sustained themselves.
“Now, you as a person of color, you have your own private company and you are losing money, you can’t go to a BFA [Behavioral Financial Advisor], Wells Fargo, to get any money. You can’t even go to your family or friends to get any money because you probably have already exhausted them. And you probably exhausted your retirement, any equity that you may have had in your home already. So, now, you’re forced into one decision: to shut the business down because you can’t maintain. Unless you’re lucky to get another investor. So, that’s what I’m talking about.
“It’s such a slanted market because our awareness and knowledge is not where everyone else is. You have 5 million companies in the United States of America, approximately, you have less than a hundred thousand Black-owned businesses throughout the United States. Now, if you really take a moment to think about it, that’s nothing when we got fifty states. Let’s take it a step further. We have 4,000 publicly-traded companies in the United States. We have less than 15 that are Black. At this point, we should be saying wow because trillions of dollars are exchanging hands, keeping companies such as Amazon alive to get to the point where they are today.
“It’s not that one of my Black brothers and sisters who have a company didn’t have something of equal stature, or, standing that deserved to be alive and running and could’ve been the next Amazon, in their particular industry. It’s just that they didn’t know all the rules. Here I am, I’ve been one of the only, that I’m aware of, people of color who have been on the Board of Directors of three publicly-traded companies at the same time, and also been an officer of three publicly-traded companies at the exact same time, where I have been challenged to handle their investor relations as well as their financial piece.
“So, I speak with first-hand knowledge, when a company, such as the technology company, that we kept alive, investing over three-and-a-half million dollars into didn’t have any revenue coming in. It was an idea. It was a concept. But now we’re dealing with some of the biggest companies in the United States licensing from us our technology. So that’s what needs to get out to our community.
“If a guy like myself, who has no graduate degrees, can do this then I can teach you to do this as well to be successful and have your dreams come to fruition so that now you’re able to hire more people that look like us. Which strengthens our community, which helps the dollar continue to circulate. The dollar in our community only circulates six hours. That’s crazy. Every other community it is a lot longer. We’re the ones spending 4.5 percent of the GDP. That’s a huge number. Think of it simply this way Whites make up a lot larger amount of the wealth in this economy. Yet, they are not spending that much towards the GDP.
“So, why is it so unbalanced and uneven?
“We have been traditionally taught to be consumers. And I understand it. I get it. You have been always on the outside looking at something, desiring something and then you get an opportunity, then, of course, you are going to go buy it because you’ve always been looking and looking, and you didn’t get a chance to buy it before. Now you have the opportunity to get it. So, of course, you are going to be a consumer. Never had an opportunity to buy those clothes that normally you would have to save and put on layaway. You have a chance to buy that Mercedes normally that you wouldn’t have been able to save up the down-payment to go get it. So, I get it. I understand it. But we must condition ourselves to defer gratification—instant gratification. I get government agencies after me all the time. I’m in a battle with one now. I always win…”
Mr. Ali last comment here referenced something I had planned to ask him later: about some of his legal battles with government agencies–like the (SEC) Securities and Exchange Commission.
In April 2008, the SEC filed a complaint against Mr. Ali, his company Revolutionary Concepts, and another company named Rainco Inc, and a few of Ali’s business partners “in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud investors.” The SEC complaint was filed in federal court in Georgia.
In part two of this Black Star News exclusive interview with Mr. Solomon Ali, he talks about this SEC complaint and the challenges facing Black businesses.