Chandler Hatton: Young CTO 2013
She is not exactly showing off her status as elected Young CTO of the Year. “I am over the moon, that is for sure. However, I rather see it as an acknowledgement of what we, as a team, have pulled off and still wish to accomplish.” Chandler Hatton is CTO at SimGas. The company combines idealistic goals with business. “Making useful technology accessible to the masses: that is what I believe in, that is what energizes me.”
At the beginning of June, the event “Connecting CTOs – Masters in High-Tech” took place. Technology service provider TMC herewith introduced a platform for managers who are responsible for (the development of) technology, so they can meet each other on a regular basis. During the “Young CTO of the Year” election, starring three finalists, Chandler Hatton’s pitch made the best impression: she raised 70% of the votes.
Since February 2011, Chandler has worked as a technical officer at SimGas. The company was founded in 2009 by brothers Sanne and Mirik Castro, and develops and delivers affordable, small-scale biogas and bio sanitary solutions for families in (sub) tropical areas. “Now in Tanzania and Kenia, but we won’t stop there”, says CEO Sanne Castro. “We are going to expand to more countries in East-Africa. Furthermore, people in India have shown interest. Soon we are going to do a pilot with a milk-cooperation. They may end up as one of our buyers. They serve three million farmers. If we could make this deal, this would mean big business to us.”
Much lower costs
So far SimGas’ product portfolio comprises two patented biogas installations. The one meant for the countryside works on (animal) waste and agricultural rest material, the other works on household and market disposal in urban regions. The modular systems are easy to install and to scale. Made of recycled plastic (polyethylene), they are much lighter and more compact than the usual ones made out of concrete and bricks. It saves product - and transportation costs.
Both products are built in factories in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) and very recently in Nairobi (Kenia). Both sites are a joint venture with Silafrica, Africa’s biggest producer of plastics. In East-Africa, SimGas has some 55 employees. Mirik Castro, CEO of the East-Africa branch, lives in Tanzania and manages the joint venture there.
A thousand users
The SimGas installations function well and the users – about 1,000 families nowadays – are very happy with them, says Sanne Castro. The development of the products is far from completed. The R&D team of some 10 people, based in The Hague, is constantly improving and extending the portfolio. Chandler Hatton: “Think of bio sanitary solutions and specific uses for biogas, like cooking and lighting.” Product strategy and road mapping – including the management of R&D/ Engineering and Design, and the technical coordination of both intern and extern parties, are her responsibilities. She also does the field-testing and the up-scaling to mass production. “Very diverse, but that makes it fun and challenging.”
Technology makes SimGas prosper. That is technology relevant to and affordable for a target group of mainly poor (cattle) farmers and city dwellers. Chandler: “It is our passion to make useful technology available to a target group that has not had access to it before, in order to contribute to a better life and some extra income. On top of that, our solutions save the environment: less deforestation, less CO2. This makes our mission ever more relevant.” With the help of a local bank, micro credit organization, or cooperation, SimGas offers candidate buyers affordable payment conditions. That really closed the circle.
SimGas combines idealistic goals with business. Sanne Castro: “It is our mission to prove that we can both offer social and environmental advantages to a target group with a low income, and be profitable at the same time. Not a bottomless pit, as one sees so often when a project approach is chosen, but a new way of entrepreneurship that changes things in the world for the better. More and more people realize this is a favorable strategy.”