NEW YORK – His company’s name may not be as recognizable as other smartphone leaders, but one CEO says, given the advances it is bringing to the table, it’s only a matter of time.
Harold Rounds took over as Interim CEO of New York-based Aerius International, Inc. in May and hit the ground running. Tasked with restructuring the company, which trades as AERS, Rounds set his top priorities as getting the company’s “green technology smartphone” to market and getting investors to see a benefit in what the company is doing. In the five months since he was hired, Rounds has secured a manufacturer for its phone, overseen the creation of its App store, landed a deal with Sprint and T-Mobile and increased trading activity and the value of Aerius’ stock.
“I tend to be busy. I’m a deal maker. I believe in getting people face to face and striking deals,” he shared. A large part of Rounds’ work has centered around positioning the company to control the manufacturing, distribution and content of its phones.
That, and championing the phone– as well as the technology behind it– and why they stand apart from others on the market. Aerius has created a low power, high performance antenna that reduces the amount of radiation absorbed (SAR) into users by 97 percent.
“We have antenna technology that is so far advanced that what’s out there. We call it the SAR buster,” Rounds said.
Rounds says the benefits to consumers are tenfold and include making phones safer for pregnant women and their unborn children, increasing talk time by up to four hours, extending the range of the phone and having 60 percent less dropped calls than “any phone on the market.”
Rounds says the opportunity to decrease cancer risk should be enough to have customers lining up like they do for the latest IPhone, but admits, it likely won’t.
“Do people say, ‘I just gotta have this phone that reduces SAR’? No, but they should.”
Price, he admits, is a bigger motivator to the average person. He’s confident, however, that with education and time, perceptions can change. Rounds says SAR is more of a “hot button issue” in Europe, where there has been much research on the danger from cell phone radiation, but believes the U.S. will catch up.
Aerius’ smartphone will be available through the T-Mobile and Sprint networks in 2015. It’s appropriately named Lazarus, Rounds said, given that Aerius has “risen from the ashes.”
Aerius’ innovative antenna technology was developed in 2009. According to the company history, a Chinese manufacturer created two phone prototypes for Aerius, but when the company finished the samples, Aerius had run out of money and could not secure their delivery.
Shareholders raised enough funds to get one of the two prototypes. In March 2013, Aerius’ CEO, Bill Luxon resigned. A new Board of Directors decided to resurrect the company earlier this year.
“Before I came in, a lot of promises were made but there were little results. The company was the laughing stock of the investment blogs,” Rounds said.
Rounds brings to the table more than 30 years experience as a business owner and business consultant to small and midsized companies in the United States and abroad, Africa particularly.
“The Board of Directors is delighted that Harold will lead Aerius as we navigate through the evolving and expanding landscape of wireless technology and media,” Board President Brian Sims said in May.
Rounds created Principal Protected Securities as credit enhancement instruments to enable non-traditional buyers to purchase commodities and commercial real estate. He also has an extensive knowledge of manufacturing from his ownership of Advanced Metals Technology, a specialized welding sub contractor that produced parts for the U.S Department of Defense. During the tech boom Rounds owned a software company that produced one of the first list management programs, that was compatible with Word Perfect, for use by enterprise companies such as Pac Bell, Metropolitan Life and Manufacturers Hanover.
In addition, he has provided finance, marketing and operating consulting services to foreign based companies in the agriculture, telecommunications, oil and gas and construction sectors.
Rounds would like to see more African Americans involved with all aspects of the tech industry.
“There’s an advantage to our people having access. This is what’s going to get us to the next level,” he shared.
While working to set up the deal with Sprint, Rounds attended a summit hosted by the phone giant. Outside of vendors, he was the only African American in attendance.
“It reinforced my thoughts about African Americans being in this sector.”
In his efforts to make Aerius a leader in the sector, Rounds says his team is making daily strides. The company recently remodeled its business plan and is now listed on the OTC QB Exchange, which increases visibility and availability of its stock.
Aerius is also integrating Software as a Service (SaaS) into its business model. SaaS, Rounds says, is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is provided on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. Sometimes referred to as “on-demand software,” SaaS, will allow Aerius to license or lease their software to customers over the Internet, rather than selling it to them.
“This widening of our business scope will increase shareholder value and expand our customer base,” Rounds said.
The company, he says, is also offering software that will be put to use in the education, transportation and healthcare fields, in an effort to “expand our footprint.”
Rounds is particularly proud of the education software Aerius is producing for Lazarus, which includes digital learning applications for grades K-12 that are aligned with Common Core standards, which aim to prepare students for success in college and beyond.
Aerius aims to be a leader in education technology and is giving tablets to schools, who will pay them for the management of the software they use on those tablets. A number of charter schools in Sacramento, he says, will be the first to benefit.
Rounds lived and operated a business in Sacramento before moving to New York. He plans to move Aerius to the capital city this month to take advantage of its proximity to the Silicon Valley and investment possibilities in the region.
“It’s going to expand the growth of the company.”
Rounds calls the work he’s been putting in “tiring, but invigorating.” The 16-17 hour days are worth it, he says.
If all goes as planned, Lazarus will be available for purchase by the start of the new year. Consumers will find it online and in big box stores like Walmart and Target. The shelves, he says, are big enough for a little competition.
“We definitely want to be a household name. Apple… Samsung…Aerius,
we can definitely see that.”
By Genoa Barrow
OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer