Getting to know the team: Anthony Stonefield
Anthony Stonefield is Head of Venture Development at Sun Exchange. In his own words, he works more ON the company than IN the company. He’s been involved with Sun Exchange since April 2016, bringing a profound vision for sustainable development in Africa coupled with strategic capitalisation strategies to make it all possible.
Please describe your role within Sun Exchange?
Venture Development is short for assisting outstanding entrepreneurs to develop their concept or prototype into a "bankable enterprise".
This starts with developing a long-term capitalization strategy and providing ongoing assistance with calibrating team, product, partner, marketing profile and revenue-model development, as well as to whom and how the company engages with the investment community.
I work more ON the company than IN the company. In 2016 and 2017, when Abe was still pulling his team and key partners together, my role was broad. But as the company rolled into an ever more effective and potentiated vehicle, I have started to focus more on the capitalization strategy that is usually combined with strategic business development and partnering.
How did you get involved in Sun Exchange?
I was introduced to Abe during my involvement in an energy efficiency financing startup in Cape Town in early 2016. At the time he was still working for ‘The Man’, and was "moonlighting" his vision of how to resource the farming of sunshine. Abe has a vast and precise vision for what and how the Sun Exchange will make the world a brighter place. When he first dropped his elevator pitch on me, I thought it was crisp and amazing, and I remember telling Abe that I expected it would take at least two years to reach his first development milestones ... but he pulled those off within 6 months, and won my admiration and serious attention.
My formal entry into the management was in April 2016 when Abe asked me to accompany him to New York to present at the Consensus conference as he needed someone who could understand and talk to venture capital companies. In fact, we met our first equity investor and board member at that conference.
Blue sky thinking: where do you see Sun Exchange going?
The Sun Exchange's foundational vision is now largely proven - except to make it very big. The company has entered the phase wherein some large opportunities are in the offing. If they can be made to fit properly, it can blow the company up to 5-10X its current size just in the basic C&I rooftop solar financing domain.
I am confident that the company's culture and integrity can be maintained through this rapid expansion. There are, however, also several additional configurations that the company can branch into - or JV into - if they can be synced with the long-term vision. I believe that, within the next three years, Sun Exchange will consolidate its position as thought-leader and pioneer in decentralized financing of solar power projects in the developing markets (where it matters) and become the most fun and profitable way to connect the next billion to electrical power. I also think it will have spun out a couple of other impact businesses that leverage its decentralized value-sharing platform.
Do you work in a team? If so, what’s the dynamic like?
I occasionally work with the executive management team, where there is an enormous amount of mutual respect, conviction, practicality and humour.
What makes this job different from others you’ve had?
It addresses one of my core career missions: to power Africa ... the only way technology can reach the next billion.
What have some of the proudest moments been?
Over and again, when Abe does another of his epic presentations (many of which you can view online) and each new solar project achieves its financing target.
Like any job, business, or life experience, there are tough times. What have some of those been and how have you/the team overcome these?
The venture development track of Sun Exchange has been unique in that, on the one hand, we had to navigate a train crash in our first seed round of financing. Yet, on the other hand, we have been able to bootstrap ourselves through to maintain our external leadership and internal integrity.
Why do you feel the world needs Sun Exchange?
For a practical reason: to forge an Utopian and egalitarian approach to powering up humanity’s development in a sustainable way.
For an inspirational reason: to show how the natural, beneficent abundance of the sun can be converted into power and transmuted into, and globally disseminated as, value.
What would you do with a billion dollars?
Buy an extension to my life and then forge several Utopian paths to the future.
What item that you own best describes your personality?
Wow, I think I have really transitioned from the notion of ownership. I really only believe I "own" my sanity, my children - at least for a few more years - and life golas.
When you're not busy solar powering the world, how do you like to spend your time?
Introducing ways to connect Africa to the world via the Internet.
Developing ways to foster economic inclusion in the developing world, and bringing to the world natural ways to cure incurable diseases.
I also like movies, chocolate with nuts in it, and learning about reality from my kids.
What is your favorite book and why?
I can't recall.
What is your favorite movie and why?
Avatar - I want to be big and blue and live in Pandora.