Via Analytics is proud to be a California Benefit Corporation.
When we started Via Analytics a couple of years ago, we followed conventional thinking (and that of our attorneys) and incorporated in Delaware as a standard “C Corporation.” Several months later we became aware of a new type of corporation – one that could pursue not only profits and increased shareholder value, but a social benefit as well. Benefit Corporations (BCs) were catching on state-by-state, with California joining the movement in 2012. Since we formed Via with a strong social benefit component, i.e., improving transportation efficiency for operators and passengers, this really resonated with our team. That same year, we reincorporated in California as a California Benefit Corporation – one of the first companies in our state’s “inaugural class.” As of this date, we’re not aware of any other transit tech companies that have chosen this form of doing business.
So – what does this mean to our investors and customers?
For the most part, BCs operate in much the same way as traditional corporations. We are “for profit,” we can (and do) have normal investors, we can pay dividends, we pay federal and state taxes, and, when we’re much bigger, we can go public. The main difference is that our executives and directors are empowered to consider social benefits along with profit in making decisions. Each BC chooses how to define this social benefit. Ours is to make transit better. Our mission statement gives this idea a bit more structure:
VIA Analytics is dedicated to improving transit through the research and deployment of innovative solutions. We believe that effective transit:
- Saves time for travelers
- Lowers costs for operators
- Enhances jobs for drivers
- Promotes a healthier environment for all
Existing and prospective customers tell us that they feel better about doing business with us because it means that we’re responsible for looking out for their interests as well as our own, (something they do not feel to be the case in working with some of the largest vendors in transit IT). This might be best seen in our open APIs and philosophy that our clients own their data and should not be blocked or charged extra to get to it.
Just because Via is serving a social goal in addition to profit, does not mean that our board and executives are unaccountable to shareholders. Lobster dinners and private jets would still need to be justified by a combination of investor’s returns and social benefits. Of course, we’d rather take the bus.