WHO WE ARE
VIA is led by a group of experienced professionals
with the wide range of skills required to manage
micro infrastructure projects in some of the
remotest places in the world.
Come and meet the team.
Stewart has been involved in rural electrification since 1998, when he was the project manager for the construction of several microhydro minigrids in Nepal. This experience of seeing how engineering could improve living conditions for rural villagers developed into a desire to do more of the same, but at a bigger scale that would make more impact than the traditional aid, charity and volunteer driven models could achieve. During 2000-2004, he gained commercial project development experience building large wind farms in Australia with Hydro Tasmania and undertaken a range of renewable energy consulting jobs for internal and external clients, whilst also assisting Light Up the World Foundation to continue
bringing solar-powered white LED lighting systems to villages. In 2005, he co-founded Barefoot Power as a commercial for-profit social enterprise to raise larger quantities of investment for villages, which became a recognized market leader in offgrid solar lighting, winning many awards and reaching its goal of providing 1 million people with basic access to energy by 2011. This included raising more than $10 million in debt, equity and grants from over 50 different angel and impact investors. To continue further innovation, he founded VIA in 2012 with two co-founders and some angel investors to move beyond the cash-sale model into 3-5 year leasing projects, and to develop a wider range of more powerful uses of solar, such as the concept of solar powered agro-processing mills to help farmers use daytime solar power for productive income-generating uses. Bringing as much joy as energizing villages is his wonderful family, who patiently tolerate these obsessions until they run their course. Stewart is the Managing Director of VIA.
‘Stana’ has been the Financial Controller of VIA since 2014, and has held accounting positions in companies of various sizes across a range of sectors. A balanced understanding of the business is possible from degrees in both engineering and a Masters in accounting. Originally from Slovakia, she has called Australia home for the past 16 years, and now is in Vanuatu helping to roll out the VIA operations. With a keen eye watching that VIA is earns as much as it spends, she is excited to help build up the portfolio of assets under management to the scale where they can be a healthy business benefiting a great number of rural villages. Her two daughters also keep her tremendously busy and happy.
The quiet genius of VIA with a PhD in Chaos Mathematics, Monty has taken on the intense challenge of organizing and processing the vast sets of data that are a necessary part of helping achieve universal access to energy 2030, and assessing other micro infrastructure opportunities. Part of these achievements have been to create a free online mapping tool – the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Developers’ Atlas – which has gathered in one location over 500 layers of data and 2 million points of data in a visual feast for the eyes of energy planners globally. He also leads VIA’s innovative service of mapping unmapped households in rural areas of developing countries as described further at www.developmentmaps.org, and processes such data to give useful analytical results to the VIA team and external clients such as rapid low cost algorithms that generate least-length rural electrification networks for detailed masterplanning in any country. Monty enjoys cycling, playing in orchestras and a good drop of wine, but usually no more than two of these activities at once.
Manuel has helped VIA develop and offer a world-class infrastructure design and planning software platform to help with energy and international development projects in emerging markets. Manuel combines years of experience building cutting edge solutions for enterprise with a deep and varied IT expertise, including infrastructure, SQL, Java, Python, Node.js, statistics and machine learning. He occupies a rare intersection between programmer and GIS expert. (see www.developmentmaps.org for more information).
PRODUCTIVE SOLAR SOLUTIONS - GREG DENN
VIA has partnered with some a long-term friend at http://www.productionsolarsolutions.com/ to help widen the supply options of productive solar powered equipment for small-scale farmers. Greg has lived and worked in one of the world’s toughest markets, Papua New Guinea, for over 15 years, as well as in Thailand and China in more recent years. He has now formed PSS in Kenya to serve the African market. Building on experience of fabricating manual, diesel and electrical agricultural machinery for small-scale farmers in the Pacific and selling solar lighting systems to more than 50,000 people, he has now merged these two interests to engineer an impressive range of new and innovative solar agro-machinery.
As an angel investor group, VIA has a very wide range of experts within its network of supporters and investors who can complement the core teams’ skills with their own expertise. While the full range of experience is too long to list here, two such Advisors are excellent examples.
Cyrille Arnould is the Founder and CEO Annycent Capital Partners, which focuses on low carbon infrastructure investments in emerging markets. He was previously the Head of the Front Office team at the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF) at the European Investment Bank, following previous work in private equity and microfinance. Prior to joining the EIB in 2003, Cyrille was a Senior Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation’s SME Department, and has been an Investment Officer based in Russia for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Cyrille has a passion for financing energy access, and is an astute guide to the large financial institutions of Europe.
Mohua Mukherjee is an energy economist and project finance specialist, currently working as a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies. Mohua was a Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank, working on issues related to energy access, distribution utility reform, energy policy, renewable energy, water, sanitation, health, education, private sector development, micro-finance, trade policy and export-led development in over 30 countries. Mohua has also worked in the private sector for five years as an investment banker. Never short on a new idea, Mohua is a robust sparring partner for the team when discussing what the next product or service is that VIA should bring to the market.
ADDITIONAL TEAM MEMBERS
Further support is lent to VIA from a number of other specialists, including IT, legal, book-keeping, data processing, logistical, fund raising, import/export and other activities. VIA also counts it valued investors, donors, customers and clients as part of the team, without whom it would not exist today.
VIA was co-founded in the UK by Stewart Craine, Kim Chen and Lucy Symons in June 2012.
Due to financial challenges in the first couple of years, Kim and Lucy are now working elsewhere.