Catch Antonio Dixon on the #PirateBroadcast™
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Introduction: [00:00:00] Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast™, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.
Russ Johns: [00:00:10] Hey, what's going on, everyone? Technical difficulties this morning. Antonio is going to be here. He's working on the connection, getting on board. So I just wanted to give a shout out to a few people this morning. First of all, first and foremost, a future pirate, Marcia Reece, got this amazing copper backing, I don't know if you can see that or not. The #PirateSyndicate. Isn't that beautiful? I love that. I love that. And she has Stay Well. Oh, here it is right here. Stay Well copper naturally kills 99.97% of germs on contact. Copper, I used to put it on my barns when I had barns. Back in another lifetime for the moss. Cause in the North West there's lots of rain, there's lots of weather and a lot of things that create moss and copper is a natural anti microbial protector. I don't know the right terms. It keeps you healthy. I'm going to put this on the back of my phone. So when I'm, touching my phone, it always protects me from germs. How cool is that? So she sent that to me. And I just love the fact that we are doing some things. So I just wanted to give her a shout out and let her know that I appreciate that and all of the gifts and also things that people send me, I've received some amazing books, birthday wishes, all of those things. And I just really want to thank the community, the pirate community for all you do and all you do to support each other, hopefully. And I hope that you have met a few people along your journey in the pirate community as we get on board. And I know that somebody sending me a voicemail message right now, but I can't, if you're on here, Warren, I'm on the show. Yeah, on the show Warren. Never a dull moment, never a dull moment. And how are you today? I want to find out how you are doing? How was your week? What's going on and what is taking place in your life that is interesting? Drop it in the comments. Let's get this party started. Because today's guest is a unique individual that's doing really great work in a lot of different ways. And we want to be able to talk about some of the things that he's doing and working to help each other in the community. And that's what it's all about. Happy Friday. There's Antonio. Let's get Antonio in the room. All right. Here's Antonio.
Antonio Dixon: [00:03:10] I didn't have the room.
Russ Johns: [00:03:11] Technical issues. I'm sorry that... I should have... I don't know... Tracie probably sent you a piece of information. It's just one of those things that Friday, I know you're a busy individual, let's get the party started. How are you doing, Antonio?
Antonio Dixon: [00:03:23] I'm doing fantastic. How's everything?
Russ Johns: [00:03:26] I'm doing well. Okay. So we're just rocking and rolling here on a Friday and I just wanted to highlight you cause I saw you on Warren's podcast. I saw you on the show talking about what you're doing. So for those that haven't met you, share a little bit about what you got going on in the world today.
Antonio Dixon: [00:03:45] So we're working on solar powered pods, which are multipurposed right? So for COVID, we've created a pod that's transparent and was able to help restaurants stay open during the pandemic, take advantage of their outdoor dining. Outdoor seating, for example, New York City's made outdoor dining a permanent situation. So we make these transparent solar powered pods that allow you to shield away from the elements, have all of the luxuries of having power and utility inside in a sustainable way. And then we have HEPA air filters in there to provide a nice healthy environment. And then we also have led lighting, which allows you to change the different colors, so you can have your pod blue, purple, red. And then we also put Amazon Alexa in them. So you can actually decide what kind of music that you'd like to play. So it's really creating an environment to where you don't feel like you're dealing in COVID. You're not worrying about the table next to you. What you're doing when they're talking about, we also make a pod that is more as a business in a box. And that pod allows for a more like economic development, pop-up retail festivals and things along those lines.
Russ Johns: [00:04:49] Yeah, it's a fascinating subject and idea. So you woke up one day and you said, hey, this is a great idea. I'm just going to go do this.
Antonio Dixon: [00:04:56] I would have to rewind much further back. I took two years off to do an around the world trip. I did a sabbatical and during that around the world trip, I visited many countries that had problems with power. You go to the majority of African countries, they have problems. Southeast Asia, Brazil, even in the Caribbean. So it didn't make any sense to me that people didn't have power there because I started in the solar energy business at a young age. And like you have sun, therefore you should have power. Energy properties.
Russ Johns: [00:05:23] It goes hand in hand, huh?
Antonio Dixon: [00:05:24] It goes hand in hand. Energy poverty, it was a very big problem. It's not just not having money, but if 25% of your budget goes to things along the lines of power using a generator and you have sun, it doesn't make any sense. So I created a solar business in Africa and it was a solar lantern to help people in some of the rural areas. For kids, they can utilize it to do homework instead of propane lanterns and for woman traders at night, they wouldn't have to breathe in hazardous fumes from using kerosene. Remember a lot of people in developing countries have...
Russ Johns: [00:05:54] They use kerosene.
Antonio Dixon: [00:05:55] Yeah, they work with kerosene. They work with their kids around them. So you always breathing in these hazardous toxic fumes. So I started working with companies like shell, MTN, Save the Children where we branded their logos on it. We gave them out. So that's how I started getting the name of the concierge of social good, because people couldn't really afford solo lanterns. They could afford the 25, 50 cents a day for kerosene, but they couldn't afford a $10 solar lantern. So I went through large companies and alsowent to politicians and I came up with a campaign strategy and I told politicians, I said, if you have your face on a solar lantern and you're giving it out, you're already solving the problem. So do you vote for the person that leaves you in a dark, or do you vote for the politician that gives you light. I'm going to vote for the politicianthat gives you light. So came up with that slogan, really help people with solar. And then we realized there's a bigger issue with internet connectivity, for billing, according to Microsoft, we have 7 billion people in the world and 4 billion don't have access to high-speed internet. We got a problem with solar, we have a problem of internet connectivity, like you can't do tele education.
Russ Johns: [00:06:54] It's really a distribution problem, Isn't it?
Antonio Dixon: [00:06:56] It's a distribution problem. Absolutely. It's a distribution problem, but like in Africa, for example, they leapfrogged landlines. They went right to cell phones. And that's the same thing you're starting to see there with power, they're forgetting the grid, they're going right to solar grids and mini grids. So fast forward a bit, I want SolarFi to have this business in a box to help. Women entrepreneurs be able to sell their goods and not have to run a generator every single day, which was probably their biggest expense. And they actually, the fuel, the generator was even a bigger problem. You actually had to commute hour to two hours to the nearest gas station in a rural area in Africa just to get gas for a bloody generator right in your backyard. So we wanted it to create like this seven by seven pod that can be utilized for education. It can be used for economic development and can be utilized for health, all kinds of different issues. So when the pandemic happened I had to leave Africa and I wanted to come back to the States where I felt like I had the necessary healthcare and stuff. I started going to a place called the mountains and Edith Wharton's home and the Berkshires lovely place. Beautiful. When I like to be in nature. And I always had to leave nature for three reasons, power, internet, rain. Power, internet, rain. So you're out there, I'm on a zoom call, talking with you or anyone else and my laptop is going to die in three hours and I got to leave after I drove an hour and a half to nature. So I started asking myself, how could I be outside, enjoy beautiful elements and not have to worry about power and internet? So I was like this SolarFi thing, why don't we just create Privé? So it's a private experience. You can pop these up in a park. You can pop these up at any botanical gardens. Imagine going into a botanical garden and said, hey, you can rent your own office that's transparent and to have all the power and everything needed and you pay a fee for the day. People would do that. So as I started reaching out to friends in the restaurant business, like, why don't you see people in there. And then I reached out to my favorite restaurants. I reached out to Eatily, Mario Batali's former restaurant, and I reached out to Rosa Mexicano and I started talking to the customers like that. And then we had Privé. That's how Privé was born.
Russ Johns: [00:09:05] Wow. Wow. What a story? What a story. And it's interesting. So do you flat pack this? Does it fold up and is convertible to travel friendly kit or how does it... I saw the picture of it when you were working with Warren and I was just fascinated by it and I thought I gotta talk to this gentlemen.
Antonio Dixon: [00:09:25] Thank you. Yes, you can do that. Most of the time when we set it up, we leave it set up and then if you have to go to another location, we just put it all in a big U-Haul truck. And it's easier to just transport that way, but they're completely portable. We're coming up with another version right now. We're working with University of Massachusetts on a pod that just will be in a backpack and you'll be able to fold it up and be able to pop up anywhere. And really what we're providing is having a temporary structure, a shelter without sacrificing all of the luxuries of having utilities like we're all accustomed to. But doing it in a sustainable way without carrying around a generator.
Russ Johns: [00:10:04] Yeah. Or having to carry a Jerry can around with fuel in it.
Antonio Dixon: [00:10:08] And as we move forward, we're working on a pod that we're going to call it the ganja pot, and it's going to allow people to actually be able to grow marijuana safely. And a lot of people don't know how to grow plants. A lot of people kill plants. I killed a bunch of plants myself.
Russ Johns: [00:10:22] Oh yeah. My plastic plants wilt, I'm bad.
Antonio Dixon: [00:10:25] I think the pods create an opportunity for restaurants to stay open. It creates an opportunity for you to pop up to a farmer's market and be able to sell your goods. So it's really, it's about opportunity.
Russ Johns: [00:10:35] It is about opportunity. And the funny thing about it, Antonio is that right now, there are a lot of challenges for a lot of people, and I don't want to diminish that whatsoever. And with challenges, there's always opportunities, right? There's ways to do things differently, a different perspective. Like you're out in the wilderness and you have to shut down and drive another hour and a half just to plug your computer in. That's an opportunity. You just have to see it in a different way. It's a new perspective, right?
Antonio Dixon: [00:11:07] Yup. Yup. And I think, my world travels really helped me with that. I'll always tell people, traveling is one of the best things you can do for your self development. Cause you learn more about yourself, but you also get the different perspectives. Like I, would've never known that people would travel two hours just to get gas. And sometimes you travel two hours to that gas station. Guess what? The gas station was out of gas. They gotta go to another gas station.
Russ Johns: [00:11:29] Yeah. Here in the US, we are so fortunate and so blessed to not experience that type of thing on a regular basis, where a lot of places in the world, that's a regular occurrence. It's like normal life.
Antonio Dixon: [00:11:43] Most of the world. So 7 billion people in the world, 1.5 billion don't have access to internet, untapped to power. In another 1 billion to 1.1 billion have intermittent access, which means power goes out for about four hours every day. You can't do tele education, kids can't do remote learning without consistent access to power. You can't power the internet without energy. And solar allows us to be consistent and allows us to be sustainable. And it provides an opportunity for us to do things that we couldn't do before. We're talking about the new normal. People working remotely... this conversation right here that we're having right now is not possible without power and internet.
And Texas had a massive issue. So one of the things that we were talking with the government about is we have this pod called Bliss and it has more power. All the walls are actually solar panels and they fold up and I'm just like, why don't you guys have a bunch of these ready, because you never know when a natural disaster happens. And we're always surprised when it happens. Oh my gosh, we had a hurricane or we had an earthquake or this tsunami came.
Russ Johns: [00:12:47] Well, give them emergency housing with FEMA and all of the people that have been displaced from natural disasters.
Antonio Dixon: [00:12:54] Yup. Then what do we do? We go out and put all these generators and we cause even more problems.
Russ Johns: [00:12:59] Yeah. Yeah. When you could just unpack a solar home, solar pod and put it up and get people at least covered and get some space on so they can actually start thinking about recovery.
Antonio Dixon: [00:13:14] Absolutely. No question. So those are the kinds of things that, we're excited about at Solar Fi. And then some of my other things that, you know, that I work on is I'm an entrepreneurial residence at Columbia university. I'm really passionate about helping entrepreneurs start their clean tech business and helping them raise money, helping them with a go to market strategy. And then also work with MIT as an advisor to the entrepreneurship center. And really working with students to understand entrepreneurship. There's a lot of kids out there that are really smart, especially IT technical students, but they don't understand the business aspect of a business. They understand how to create a good app, how do you have a conversation with an investor? How do you do product market fit. How do you get good feedback from people? A lot of kids that go to schools like MIT and Carnegie Mellon, they don't know how to have basic communication. They don't have basic communication skills sometimes. When you have conflict, they're just used to being behind a computer, not talking to anyone, just zoning out. It's really important for people to understand sales, marketing, people management and how to see opportunities. If you're always building, but if you don't take some time to look at what's going on in the world and how to solve that problem, like why is this person have this problem? Why does that person have the problem? Why is the other person not have that problem? And then holistically figuring out how to solve solutions. I'm passionate about like mentorship.
Russ Johns: [00:14:35] What was the seed? What seed planted you in your life that allowed you to take this path, to think about deep thoughts and communication and business and investigating the world and looking at things in a different way, because everybody has an origin story that somebody influenced you or, you woke up one day and you said, hey, I want to do something different with my life. What was it that prompted this journey early on?
Antonio Dixon: [00:15:01] I think it was a myriad of different things. The first thing that comes to my mind is we had foreign exchange students, sometimes living with us as a kid, or we would have two ladies from either Brazil, Spain. Korea in China. So understanding like even how they even came to our home and brought a gift and them telling us about their culture. I think that was something that was eye opening. And then I would also go to Toronto, Canada a lot as a kid to visit my father. And my father just always had a diverse group of friends and he always had a nickname for friends with his friends like this one's the captain. And this one is the general. And this one is Bill Gates because he's a software engineer. And he just had a different... like all his friends weren't black and all his friends weren't just engineers. He just had friends from every different angle. And then, in school I think, I grew up in an inner city where I was the majority and then I moved to the suburbs where I was a minority. And I think that also helped me see different opportunities and just okay, this is done this way. This is done that way. These people think this way. How do I converge that? And, I think also I watched the travel channel a lot as a kid, I watched the discovery channel which is always, I think part of me was just like naturally curious about always and even improving myself. My mother always had, books out there for me to read, like Stephen Curry books. So I think as you start looking at self-improvement, you start looking further and I always tell people go as far as you can. And then you're able to, when you get there, you'll be able to see further. Like when I first got a passport, I never saw myself traveling the world. I was thinking about, hey, I want to go to Europe. And I want to go to maybe Hong Kong, but then once you get to Hong Kong, you're like Japan and Korea are not too far away. And then Bali's not too far away. So you start to see different opportunities and as you travel and meet other people, then they open up another part of your brain. Oh, I never thought about doing this that way. And then it's like the travel, but it's just like this continuous thing. It's just oh, I guess I should go here next. Or I guess look at that. It's just the evolvement just never changes. I remember they didn't grow in Brazil and her parents had been to over a hundred countries and they had this big map and, just hearing their stories.
Russ Johns: [00:17:10] Yeah. It's fascinating. I was inspired by Chris Guillebeau, who's I think traveled to every country in the world now, maybe even more than once. And just listening to his stories and watching his blog and everything else that it's just inspiring to think that this is possible. Just like you said, this conversation we're having right now wasn't necessarily possible 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, it was challenging. And this morning, I guess it's still challenging, but the reality is we're living in an amazing time where we can actually connect with individuals all around the world. And relationships with my friends all over the world. Not that I've met them face to face yet, however it's possible. It's possible. And I know that if we dig deep enough and we're curious, there's always a thread that connects.
Antonio Dixon: [00:18:06] You just have to have a curious mindset. And I think if you work in science and technology, generally speaking, you're a curious person.
Russ Johns: [00:18:14] Yeah. I've been in tech for so many years and it just always amazes me what is evolving what is taking place. So as a business person now, what do you see in the evolution of solar power? I know there's a lot of people that are in this space, Elan's had the roof tiles and he's got the, the battery back packs and some things like that. And some large scale rollouts. And I know there's a lot of solar... I have solar here on the house right here where I am in Arizona and it's always evolving and improving. So what do you see in the roadmap, in the future from your experience so far?
Antonio Dixon: [00:18:56] Yeah, that's a very good question. I wouldn't say I have a crystal ball there, but I would definitely say it's I think you're gonna start seeing solar built into things, like I've seen people have clothing designer, I think Tommy Hilfiger did something with the solar company in Brooklyn where they actually had solar in some clothes. So like just on the shoulders and then you've got a place to be able to power your devices. I think you're going to start seeing solar combined into building structures. Like why can't the solar panel be the actual structure of the building and just making a stronger solar panel. I think you also going to see lighter solar panels. That are out there that can just be placed on things. We certainly use flexible solar panels. I think those are going to continue to evolve. At MIT they've been working on these solar powered race cars and that's been interesting. They keep evolving that. It's interesting to see what's going to happen. I think you're gonna start seeing solar incorporated into more things, like how we're doing it with mobility and for the pods, I think you're gonna start seeing it built into like E scooters and things along... I think you can start seeing built into golf carts and it's just there's going to be different ways in different shapes and different ways to incorporate solar into things.
Russ Johns: [00:20:02] I have a neighbor right here in the neighborhood. He and his buddy are engineers on solar golf carts. So no motor required. It's just all solar. It's very cool. And I want to give a shout out to a few people in the room. Howard Kaufman joins in happy Friday. It's been a roller coaster. I'm glad that it's going, keep continuing to go. Yo Antonio on his way. Warren's in there by me a few minutes.
That's okay. It's all good. Tracie the fabulous Producer of the show here. Thank you so much. Terry Oscar's saying, hey, Howard Kaufman. Thank you so much. Wendy is here solar fi on the pirate ship. Awesome. Welcome aboard Antonio. This is so cool.
Antonio Dixon: [00:20:45] Great to be here. What made you come up with this podcast and video, I would love to hear a bit about your story.
Russ Johns: [00:20:51] I started podcasting and started broadcasting back in 2013, 2014, and I was live streaming audio. I was working managing radio stations and I created this station that livestreamed high school varsity sports in Texas to the am radio. So some of that technology I was using to actually live stream back to the towers and it evolved into live streaming. And I've always been interested in how you can push the boundaries and how you can use tools, audio, video. Because I believe that everyone has a gift and everyone has a message, Antonio, that they just need a way to share it. So now we have words, we have images, we have audio, we have video and you just have to pick a lane and go travel because we all have something to share. And you mentioned it, mentorship, going back and giving back. And so what I wanted to do is create an opportunity where I could actually highlight individuals that are doing amazing things like yourself. And then teach people how to produce shows for other things. And so the #PirateSyndicate is one of my companies that I produce shows for other people. So just goes full circle. So I help people produce their shows if they just want a show or I teach people how to produce shows for other people. I always want to highlight other people.
Antonio Dixon: [00:22:16] I love journalism. I'd love to, create movies and again, share stories of different entrepreneurs that especially come from developing countries that haven't had an opportunity. Imagine being in a rural area in Southeast Asia or Latin America or Africa, and be able to just tell your idea about what you want to do. There was a great movie I came up with. The child that harnessed the wind, but, he was fortunate enough to have somebody hear his story. I think there's just so many brilliant people that are facing a lot of problems. When you come from that type of adversity, it sharpens, you. I remember being in Brazil and I broke my shoe. I broke the what do you call it? This part of the sandal between your, I don't know.
Russ Johns: [00:22:58] You broke your shoe.
Antonio Dixon: [00:22:59] He found a rock. He found this, he found a piece of... and he just fixed it. And me, I was like, no one in America would do that.
Russ Johns: [00:23:06] They would just throw it away and go buy another one.
Antonio Dixon: [00:23:09] He's like, why would you ever throw it? You just problem solved it right away.
Russ Johns: [00:23:13] And there's so many stories like that are yet to be told. And as we hone our craft and our ability to tell these stories, because we're all connected. We're all connected and flying through space on the same rock, let's do what we can to share those stories and find a common thread that we can all work together with. That's the whole point.
Antonio Dixon: [00:23:35] Absolutely.
Russ Johns: [00:23:36] So Antonio, what's the next step for you going to continue to grow and build this platform and expand on the business and I would love to have you come back on occasion and give us updates if that's ok.
Antonio Dixon: [00:23:47] Yeah. We're trying to create this village right now. I'm calling it Hakuna Matata right now. I talked about being out in nature and having all of the luxuries of utility. Creating a village.
(Antonio tried to share his screen to show this, but it didn't work)
Russ Johns: [00:24:00] Let's do it. Let's do this. Let's schedule a future event and we'll do the share screen and cover the whole episode and all the activities and updates that you have going for us. Cause that sounds good. I don't think this story is over. I think you got a long way to go,
Antonio Dixon: [00:24:17] Yeah, we're trying to create a village where there are outdoor co-working spaces and outdoor yoga mats, and also in areas like in New York and Massachusetts, where it's legal now to smoke, creating an area where people can actually hotbox. They're pods and rent it per hour. So we're calling it all you can breathe. And then we're also looking to partner with cultural centers and Botanical gardens that... you ever go to a Botanical Garden and say, wow, this is so beautiful and you're happy. I'm like, why don't we work from that? Why don't we just have a pod there that we just rent and just work in luscious gardens? That's what we're looking to do. We're looking to create a cluster of these pods inside of places where people can take the inside of the office and bring it outside.
Russ Johns: [00:24:55] I need my my son to see this episode because he was raised up in Washington, in the Northwest, out on the peninsula and next to the Olympic forest on 30 acres. And so he has access to the property up there and he's going to be expanding that, and what he would like to do is do Airbnb. But this would be an awesome opportunity for people just to get away.
Antonio Dixon: [00:25:20] I'd love to work with him on that.
Russ Johns: [00:25:23] Let's get an introduction going on that. So that'd be fantastic. So a couple of good causes, a good common goal and get some something out of it. Out of the ground.
Antonio Dixon: [00:25:34] Yeah. Give people a unique place to work, socialize in, collaborate. People go to a cigar, the people can smoke a cigar at home, right? What a cigar lounge is because they want to socialize. So I think it's going to be the same thing with smoking marijuana in States, like people want it to be outside and create a nice environment to do that. Like you had a stressful meeting. Let me go to the side over here and do my thing. But then I have my coworking space in the Hakuna matata land. Hakuna Matata just means no worries. Like the workplace should not be so stressful.
Russ Johns: [00:26:06] I love it. Antonio, thank you so much for joining in and jumping on, going through the hoops to get here.
Antonio Dixon: [00:26:12] Thank you, Russ. I appreciate it.
Russ Johns: [00:26:13] I know it was a journey and thanks Warren for jumping in and for the introduction as well. So I appreciate that. I appreciate you and thank you so much for being here, everyone. I appreciate you. Thank you so much. And as #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree and you #enjoytheday. Thanks
Antonio Dixon: [00:26:32] Thanks, Russ.
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