The Inventors: Solomon Wasserman and the actually-keep-you-dry raincoat

By GREGORY ZELLER // If there’s one thing a raincoat should do, it’s keep you dry in the rain.

But they don’t, actually, or at least not from about the knees down. As Solomon Wasserman discovered on his way to the synagogue one rainy Saturday morning, and again on the way home.

“I got wet below my thigh, and my shoes were full of water,” said Wasserman, a Ukrainian immigrant, by way of Moldova, who now lives in Long Beach.

“That’s when it hit me,” he added, and the engineer and longtime inventor set about inventing a better raincoat.

He’s remaining tight-lipped about the specs until he patents the technical design, and that will require some prototypes. Wasserman’s master plan is to produce a few models, hook some investors and distributors and let other manufacturers do the work.

“Everyone in China will want to do this,” the inventor said. “A child can understand the simplicity of this. If you knew how I did it, you would say, ‘Wow, how come people didn’t come up with this simple design before?’”

Inventor Solomon Wasserman: He thinks he'll sell 6 billion coats when they hit the market. And how bad is it if he's half off?

Inventor Solomon Wasserman: He thinks he’ll sell 6 billion coats when they hit the market. And how bad can it be if he’s half off?

Wasserman, who came to the United States in 1976 after earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering from a university near Moscow, has several other inventions under the belt, and already holds one patent, for a unique method of producing application-specific computer chips.

Current chip-production methods require glass “masks” – basically, the chip mold – coated in layers of nickel, and they are expensive, paying off only in mass-production scenarios. When it comes to producing specific chips for specific uses, Wasserman noted, the process is cost-prohibitive.

His method, employing technology similar to projection-television devices, caught the interest of Connecticut manufacturer ASML Holdings, which patented it in 2005 with Wasserman’s name on it.

Other inventions by the retired adjunct instructor at the New York City College of Technology: a device that attaches solar panels to any type of roof, not just traditional shingled or metal roofs, and a “solar distiller” that uses solar power to recycle water, among others.

While only the computer-chip maker has met with commercial success, Wasserman believes he’ll break through with his stay-dray raincoat, if only because the concept can be understood by those of us who don’t boast advanced engineering degrees from former Soviet universities.

“When I talk about most of my inventions, it is beyond most people’s comprehension,” he noted. “But with this invention, I think it will have better appeal.”

That leaves only the two hurdles that derail most inventors: time and money.

“My greatest challenge has been my lack of time, but also, significantly, a lack of financial backing,” Wasserman said, noting he will self-invest to get the prototypes made and may also consider group financing – in fact, no potential funding avenue is closed.

“I’m looking for VC or angel investors – anyone who wants to do business with me, I’m open,” he said.

He’s already talking shop with a retired garment industry professional, a “generous, kind and caring person” with vast distribution experience who’s expressed interest in the raincoat project.

Once those prototypes are made and the patent is secured, the inventor said, the plan is to “give licenses to anyone who wants to use the design … and collect the royalties.”

“I imagine there will be about 6 billion people who will buy this,” Wasserman said. “It’s going to be inexpensive, it’s attractive and you’re not going to get wet. Why not use it?”