All posts by Peter Murray

Interview with John Fowler, President and CEO of Supreme Pharmaceuticals

Earlier this week, Peter Murray of Kiyoi Communications sat down with John Fowler, President and CEO of Supreme Pharmaceuticals (CSE:SL) to discuss his perspective on the commercialization of cannabis, how the landscape has shifted in the past several years and how choosing to list with the Canadian Securities Exchange enabled Supreme Pharmaceuticals to move quickly in this rapidly evolving space. Below is the transcript of the interview.

1.

Ten years ago you were assisting medical cannabis patients with legal issues and now you are President and CEO of a company worth over $250 million helping patients in a more relaxed regulatory setting.  How has the environment changed and when did you realize what a major business opportunity the cannabis sector would present?

It is impossible in this day and age not to have some understanding of the scale of illegal trade in cannabis.  It is something I don’t participate in myself, but the point is that the business opportunity in cannabis, assuming a reasonable environment governing use for medical purposes, and ultimately for recreational purposes, has always been clear.

Regulated medical cannabis use became legal in Canada in 2001, so there was that setting from a patient rights perspective – a patient could legally access cannabis.  But from a business perspective it wasn’t there.  When Prime Minister Harper created what has now become the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) – basically, highly regulated cannabis cultivation – I sensed the perfect business opportunity had arrived.  This was an opportunity few are fortunate enough to have, the chance to create a business doing something you are passionate about.  For me that was the combination of operating in a complex regulatory environment while working with the cannabis plant.

The best way to note the change is that when we founded this business in 2013 we expected it could take even up to 10 years post-licensing to complete the greenhouse project, and now we are looking to get it done in 24 months or less.

2.

How has Supreme been able to develop into one of the industry’s leaders so quickly?

Our biggest advantage is that our team is committed to the cannabis space.  Even though we have only been at this for three or four years, most of the team and executives who work with me have been thinking about this for much longer.  What that has allowed us to do is move quickly to define our business, to recognize where we feel it is best to invest in core competencies, and for us that’s cultivation, and how to market a very transparent story.

When you are really focused and passionate about doing something well, which for Supreme is taking craft cannabis and developing it on a massive scale – in a nutshell, showing that “big pot” doesn’t have to be “bad pot” – that resonates with the market, whether it is the capital market, the general public or the consumer market.  This has been our guiding vision, the goal of being a top cultivator and developing the competency of scaled cultivation that has allowed us to gain a favourable market position.

3.

Supreme has always highlighted its role as a cannabis producer.  Do you expect to extend the brand across different verticals in the future?

A lot depends on how the market unfolds.  We are very clear at Supreme that we don’t have a crystal ball.  Rather, we build competencies in a way that sets the company up for maximum flexibility.

I believe when you have a unique market opportunity like this, where the macro outlook is generally very positive – recreational legalization is coming and new international markets are opening – but the minutia at the planning level is still uncertain, you have to build in flexibility.  We felt that by investing in the building of core competency at scaled cultivation and developing management systems to support that, we were building a business in the most moded part of the industry.  Cultivation has the highest costs in terms of barriers to entry, Health Canada approval is a multi-year process, and it is hard to find transferable skills.

After that we can leverage our success in cultivation into whatever aspect comes next.  In terms of what makes most sense at the time, it could be international, it could be products, it could be extracts – it really depends on what our market data tells us when we are looking to make our next step.

4.

Supreme is based, and has its operations, in Canada but are there opportunities in the United States that the company could be attracted to?

The US is a fantastic market that is moving quickly.  At the end of the day, cannabis remains federally illegal in the United States, so we are not looking at the US actively in terms of making large capital investments.  That said, we take a lot of guidance from markets like California in terms of cultivation best practices, industry trends and product iteration.


5.

How do you see the industry evolving going forward and what should be the main areas of focus from the standpoint of companies and investors?

As the cannabis market matures and grows, we should anticipate many more players coming into the space.  I believe what that is going to mean is that companies have to specialize.  I don’t think there is one aspect of the industry that is right for all companies.  A company should have a core competency where they do something with the ambition of being the best in the world at it.

For us, that is cultivation.  In the future we may expand that, but our goal is to develop a leadership position in cultivation.  Any entrant into the space is going to have to figure out the aspects of the industry that they do better than anyone else in the world and focus their energies on that.  And I think investors should be looking at that type of commitment to excellence from companies they are investing in.

6.

Supreme is one of a handful of companies to successfully navigate the licensing process in Canada, raise the required capital and begin production.  What does it take to get a production operation started and what advice would you have for potential entrants to the sector?

Getting a production license in Canada is quite challenging.  It is a long and detailed process.  We submitted our application to the Federal Government in autumn of 2013 and we were licensed in spring of 2016.  For those looking to do it, I would say to make sure you have a clear plan, that you work with good partners and advisors, and that your project is correct and licensable.  And more importantly that you have a business at the end of it.  Some people think of a license as the finish line, when actually it is the starting line.

More generally, the cannabis industry offers opportunity beyond just cultivation.  Entrepreneurs looking to get into the space need to think about themselves, their team, and think about what core competency they can develop so that they do something better than everybody else.  That is their competitive advantage and that is how they will have a market.

If you look at conglomerates in other industries, they are generally grown in that fashion, where the company started with one great business, generated profitability, and that was leveraged into buying other great businesses or extending to other verticals.  But it always comes down to that premise where you need to find something that you do better than absolutely everybody else that you can make the heart and soul of your business.

7.

How are the evolving regulatory landscapes in Canada and the US presenting challenges and opportunities?

Challenge and opportunity are really two sides of the same coin.  Regulatory requirements shape the business, but finding ways to operate efficiently within those regulations and ways to gain an advantage through those regulations is the opportunity for companies.

As an example, we saw a cannabis bill put to parliament this month.  There are a lot of regulations and challenges in there, but for companies that navigate that well there is a lot of opportunity.  At Supreme, we are spending time digging through that, assessing our business model, assessing what business models we think the future will allow, and finding the opportunity that comes out of those regulatory challenges.

8.

With the experience of being an early license recipient, how important is first-mover advantage in this business?

We believe it is important to be early to market, but you don’t always need to be first.  Many great companies in other sectors were not the first movers in their space.  Business is a marathon, and it’s important not to be a quarter-horse in a mile race.

You need to be in there at the right time.  The best business plan only works at the right point in time and under the right market conditions.  For us, we saw an opportunity to leverage our competitive advantage in cultivation, to leverage the core competencies we were building as a group, and then we brought in team members to cultivation with the singular focus of producing some of the best quality cannabis in Canada.

The best way to market cannabis is not through the fanciest logo or best packaging, although that is important.  At a high level, you have to remember that billions of dollars of cannabis is transacted per year with no brand name, in bags with no branding, based on “who’s got the good stuff.”  At Supreme, we feel we are growing the good product and that is going to be the heart of our brand going forward.

When branding and advertising are restricted, your product must speak for the brand.  We work every day to ensure our product speaks loudly.

9.

It is almost three years to the day that Supreme listed on the CSE and began to focus on the cannabis industry.  During those years, the company has grown its market capitalization to over $250 million.  How would you characterize Supreme’s experience with the CSE?

Our experience on the CSE has been fantastic.  First of all, it is debatable whether Supreme would even exist without the CSE, because the CSE allowed listing based on a clear, bona fide business plan to get into the cannabis space prior to us having a license.  For the bulk of those three years we were an applicant entity.

In addition, the CSE was very entrepreneurial with its ability to work with Supreme so I could meet the objectives of the company and raise capital as we needed and work on growing our market, and that was invaluable.  And doing it while being easy on our bottom line, for an early-stage company that at times was thinly capitalized.

As for where we are today, we have been able to do a lot of things we were told we couldn’t do on the CSE.  We have been able to raise large amounts of capital.  We raised $70 million last year.  We were able to do a $55 million bought deal as a private placement on the CSE.  And we were able to grow our market capitalization to over a quarter of a billion dollars while listed on the CSE.

I’d like to think we will be remembered for breaking through a number of barriers and bringing some investors to the CSE who perhaps had not looked at the exchange before.  We’ll never forget the seminal role that the CSE played for Supreme and the ability it gave us to develop our business and get where we needed to go.

Versus Systems prepares to play matchmaker between major brands, video gamers worldwide

The precise number depends on the source you choose, but multiple surveys indicate that people spend hundreds of millions of hours playing video games every week. And that’s just in North America.

Considered another way, the Super Bowl and its famously expensive commercials attract around 110 million viewers in the United States, yet that occurs just once a year.

Clearly, then, video games are media – and immersive media at that – with millions of people engaged at any given moment. And most players pack enough disposable income that brands want very much to reach them.

The billion-dollar question is how to introduce a level of commercial marketing into the gaming environment such that it makes a positive impression on behalf of a brand, as the last thing you’d want to do is turn gamers off by being intrusive or annoying.

Versus Systems (CSE:VS) is confident it has the answer, and it revolves around encouraging both avid and casual gamers to opt into an environment where products and brands are featured in a way such that players become eager to interact.

Gamers are naturally competitive, so the idea of offering the chance to play for more than just an ephemeral digital points total makes sense. Playing for valuable prizes introduces a new degree of meaning to the activity, and it is this dynamic that is enabling Versus Systems to draw interest from an increasing number of brands searching for new ways to market their products.

“We’ve created a platform that does two things,” explains Versus Systems CEO Matthew Pierce. “First, it allows publishers and developers to offer prizes within their games to drive engagement. It makes them more fun to play and the idea that you can compete for everything from downloadable content to physical goods to energy drinks and concert tickets is an enormously powerful opportunity.

“The second thing it does is allow brands to be part of a promotions engine for in-game advertising and connect those brands to players and spectators. Our belief is that if you make it fun to try to win prizes and make it aspirational, and you find products that players actually want to play for, that is a really rich opportunity.”

The origin of Versus Systems is a fascinating story and helps explain not only where the core idea came from, but why the company is positioned to succeed in a business with immense challenges, both technical and legal.

Pierce is a Stanford graduate who started his own companies and worked for large consulting groups. Versus Systems was founded in a technology incubator Pierce worked in, but it was an incubator with a twist. Not only was it full of programmers and engineers with incredible skills and entrepreneurial zeal, but its main backer was a law firm, and this is the team’s secret sauce, if you will.

“The thesis was to work in areas that took advantage of the partners’ strengths,” says Pierce. “We thus wanted ideas that were technically complex, and we also needed the regulatory landscape to be complicated because we had access to tremendous attorneys. We are versed in the entertainment space and thus wanted to keep things in that sector. The first company we incubated was Versus and it is the best project I have ever worked on.”

Players who want to compete on the Versus platform must first download an app to their phone or computer so they can log into the community. Once in, a player finds that the Versus experience is additive and does not interfere with their fun by adding the conventional overlay of monetization approaches common to many games these days. Rather, Versus enables players to determine the parameters of interaction themselves.

“You log into your game and a new set of menus appears when you go to play,” explains Pierce. “Players can choose to play for money, for physical goods, or for downloadable goods. You can also decide if you want to play one on one, or perhaps one on five where the top three players win a prize. And gamers often like to play people they have invited because it means something if they can beat them.”

The beauty of the business model from the Versus Systems perspective is that the company does not have to make large financial outlays in order to attract users to its platform. As it aligns with popular games, players will naturally find Versus and its competitive options on their own.

For game developers, the appeal is a platform that is a total solution, managing prize and competition details for players, while also addressing administrative challenges they surely would rather have someone else take care of.

“The concept of creating a platform that solves a lot of the legal and regulatory burdens faced by game developers and publishers was an important part of the genesis of the company,” says Pierce. “We call the approach dynamic regulatory compliance, as we make sure that prizes are only available in regions and countries where those prizes are legal. It is a new approach and we have been writing patents to protect the intellectual property since 2014.”

Versus generates a number of revenue streams from its involvement with each game, the most important being revenue-sharing agreements with developers and publishers when brands pay to offer products or gamers choose a pay-to-play option from the platform. Integration fees help the company cover up-front costs.

“It has to be bespoke integration,” says Pierce. “Nobody knows the players better than the developer and we don’t want to take them out of that world. I don’t want this to be something that in any way detracts from the gaming experience, but rather helps to make it more engaging.”

Pierce and his team are currently working to integrate the beta model of the platform into a handful of games, while at the same time adding prize providers and signing up brands, some of which he expects to be very big names. Rapid expansion of the company and its reach is expected to follow.

“The games we are working with early on are really great,” says Pierce. “When we get out into the market and people see how exciting this is as an engagement engine, I think we’ll soon have to scale up to put this in more and bigger titles. All brands want to be where their customers are, and their customers are playing games.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Mar 1, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Versus Systems at http://www.versussystems.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/versus-systems-inc.

Marapharm Ventures diversifies across products, jurisdictions to find medical cannabis sweet spot

Getting in on the ground floor of an exciting new opportunity is one well-acknowledged path to success. Marapharm Ventures (CSE:MDM) CEO Linda Sampson likens it to finding a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and believes that is exactly what her company is moving forward with as it draws closer to operations at multiple facilities focusing on the medical cannabis industry.

Marapharm is taking a different approach than many of the other companies in the space, diversifying its portfolio across geographic regions and business types, and doing so in a way that marries its corporate strengths with the needs of different markets. It is a plan that at once helps manage risk while increasing the degree of success Marapharm and its shareholders can potentially realize.

Marapharm is advancing cannabis production opportunities in British Columbia and Nevada, and will also serve as landlord of a large facility in Washington State. It plans to not only grow cannabis but also process harvested material into products such as oils and edibles in jurisdictions where this is permitted. Production, processing, landowner, future retailer – put a check mark in the vertical integration box.

Fortunately, when it comes time to ship product, Marapharm’s boss is an experienced marketer. Sampson, originally from South Africa, enjoyed a career before agreeing to head Marapharm that saw her re-brand struggling companies and help turn their operations successful in relatively short order. Sampson also worked with commercial property developers to conceptualize projects, consult with designers to ensure details were right, and market them afterward.

Sampson’s skillset is being put to good use at Marapharm, which leans on her for real estate, market research, and strategic planning insight to name just a few challenging aspects of the fast-moving, big money industry that is medical cannabis in North America.

Marapharm has an application before Health Canada for a production facility in the picturesque city of Kelowna – also home to Marapharm’s head office – that has passed the Security Clearance phase and is now in the in-depth Review phase.

But moving faster thanks to different local rules are facilities in the US state of Nevada. Here, Marapharm is looking to be a major player in the Las Vegas market for medical, and soon recreational, cannabis and processed cannabis products.

“Marapharm owns a company called EcoNevada which holds a 204,000 square foot cultivation license and a 16,000 square foot processing license,” explains Sampson. “And at another Nevada project we own the land with no debt, have an option to purchase 85% of the production license for $250,000, and then can acquire the remaining 15% for $1,000,000. When you consider the three licenses together it totals about 304,000 square feet, which is the equivalent of six and a quarter football fields.”

The holder of the latter license is businessman Kurt Keating, an award winning organic cannabis grower who will work with Marapharm on its Nevada projects as general manager.

But Keating’s role does not end there. Being a Washington resident, Keating obtained a license in that state and will use it to operate a facility that would be situated on 13 acres of land Marapharm has the option to purchase. It already accommodates a 28,000 square foot building used as a cultivation facility and the plan is to expand that footprint.

Companies from outside of Washington State are not permitted to hold local growing licenses, and with Marapharm hailing from Canada that means it can’t be the licensed grower at the Washington site. The strategy is thus to purchase the land, build and outfit the facility, then lease it to Keating and other growers for their own production use. A departure compared to being the actual grower, but still a use of capital that generates a good return and diversifies both the company’s asset holdings and revenue model.

“Part of Kurt’s Washington license allows for unlimited processing,” says Sampson. “There is a building next to the production facility that we can turn into a processing center. We can equip it so as to maximize processing potential to be operated as a turnkey facility. For people who hold cultivation licenses but not processing licenses, we can allow cultivation on our property and then they can use the processing facility after harvests.”

Sampson says Nevada will be the company’s biggest cultivation center, as well as the one that receives the majority of the marketing budget. “The Nevada medical market is unusual in that it is a reciprocal state – if you are a medical cannabis user from another jurisdiction you can bring your card to Nevada and they will honor it,” explains Sampson. “Las Vegas gets 50 million visitors a year, and on November 9 the state voted to move forward with legalization, so that adds another aspect to the value of what we have there. I think our involvement in Nevada represents a giant step forward for our company.”

Looking out over the next 12 months, Marapharm intends to forge ahead with its application in Canada while completing the build-out at its Washington site.

In Nevada, the company wants to get production up and running sooner and use its processing facility to create edibles and other products suited to the local market. “We anticipate that the Nevada market will be more focused on processed products as opposed to the actual cannabis, as they can be used more discreetly,” says Sampson.

Reflecting the different regulatory atmosphere, the Nevada sites actually face April deadlines to begin operating, so Marapharm is working to have initial 5,000 square foot facilities functional on each within the prescribed time frame. “They are OK with us having a smaller building but with the intent to move ahead with a bigger structure at a later date,” Sampson says.

So, big plans and tight timelines, but how is Marapharm set to manage financially? To begin with, the Nevada land is paid for and the company does not have any debt, plus warrant exercises brought in over $1.5 million as the stock price topped the $2.00 level in November. The stock trades good volume between $1.00 and $2.00, which suggests the company has financing options that would not require it to accept undue dilution if it needed to go to market.

Marapharm also has designs on California, not to mention automated vending machines, that, using proprietary biometrics for identification purposes, would be used where regulations allow. It is a strategy of diversification, integration, but focus on a young, growing cannabis industry – the pieces appear to fit.

“It is not often a chance like this comes along – it is kind of like the gold rush,” Sampson concludes. “We just feel so honored at the opportunity to be in on the ground floor and be working in good jurisdictions with great people. I think the future looks very bright.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Feb 23, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Marapharm Ventures at http://www.marapharm.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/marapharm-ventures-inc.

Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development sees Mongolia as cornerstone of Asian mining strategy

Covering an area larger than Peru yet with a population of just 3 million people, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country on earth.  It is also a beautiful and fascinating nation, with traditions established before Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire in 1206 influencing lifestyles to this day.

While mindful of its rich culture, Mongolia is easing into the modern economy with commercial-scale mining leading the way.  How could it not when minerals comprise some 80% of the country’s exports?

Mongolia’s most famous mine is undeniably Oyu Tolgoi, the copper-gold behemoth operated jointly with the Mongolian government by Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) subsidiary Turquoise Hill Mining since 2013.

But the country is home to other mines as well, such as Centerra Gold (TSX:CG)’s Boroo mine, a historic gold mine whose modern-day output began in March 2004 and continued until September 2012, though with a stoppage of just over a year beginning in November 2010.

Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development (CSE:URG) and its leadership team were attracted to the country for the same reasons as other companies – high-quality projects, proximity to Asia and a favourable permitting environment, to name a few.

The driving force behind the company’s strategy and operations, founder and director Youliang Wang, explains that the concept for Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development dates back some 20 years to when he was a banker at China Construction Bank, where his responsibilities included overseeing loans to Chinese mining companies.

Attracted by the scale and variety of opportunity in Mongolia, Wang first invested in a dairy business, eventually broadening into other agricultural businesses as complements.

Given his background in mining finance, though, it was only a matter of time until he created a plan to move into this sector.  In 2013, Wang and his team immersed themselves in the Mongolian mining community, working with consultants and local exploration teams to examine various properties.  The result was the company’s current land package, prospective for both industrial and precious metals.

Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development’s properties are located in the Bornuur district in the Tӧv Aimag, or Central Province, of Northern Mongolia.  Its package spans roughly 1,050 hectares, comprised mostly of the Kharganii am-1 Molybdenum Property.

“Our licensed area is situated in the North Khentii tectonic belt and we have encountered gold, copper, molybdenum, tungsten and silver on its grounds,” says Wang.  “The projects are located 24km northwest of Centerra Gold’s Boroo deposit and 15km east of their Gatsuurt gold deposit.”

Since acquiring the Mongolian projects, the company has completed extensive trenching and geophysical work, geological mapping, ground magnetic surveys and polarization gradient surveys.

“Our initial phase of exploration drill work has contributed to a database that contains approximately 3,501 drill core samples and 29 trench samples that were assayed for molybdenum,” says Wang. “This includes a current program which encompasses 29 holes for a total of over 11,630m.”

Wang explains that many of the holes have multiple intersections of molybdenum mineralization above 0.05%, with several intervals of between 1m and 2m exceeding 0.5% Mo. The best hole yielded a 3m length averaging 2.413% Mo.

Wang notes that the Mongolian permitting environment is very reasonable, with the various licenses Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development holds typically being extendable for up to 30 years.

P&E Mining Consultants of Toronto was recently chosen to complete a NI 43-101 report for the company’s Kharganii am-1 Project, which will reflect results from the current drill program and associated metallurgical test work.  A concurrent evaluation of the preliminary economics of the molybdenum deposit is also planned.

The properties being situated within a recognized gold belt, Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development is also gearing up to initiate a property-wide evaluation of potential gold targets.  The work will include mapping, prospecting and IP geophysics.  Expansion of the property is also under consideration.

“The North Khentii gold belt has an extensive history of mining both alluvial placer and bedrock gold deposits,” says Wang.  “After discussions with geologists from P&E, we are looking to evaluate high-potential targets within the property for gold mineralization.”

Wang says Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development is also evaluating both merger and acquisition opportunities and possible project procurements, the longer-term objective being to develop a portfolio of Asia-based projects diversified across various mineral types and regions.

Time will tell where these expansion efforts lead, but for the time being there is plenty to be excited about in Mongolia.  The country has only been an internationally accessible mining jurisdiction since the mid-1990s, and if one considers what the industry has been able to accomplish in the last decade between new discoveries and active operators, Mongolia holds its own vis-à-vis many more mature mining jurisdictions in other parts of the world.

“We have long believed in the viability of mining projects in Mongolia, and when the projects in our current portfolio came to our attention, we thought what better way to get involved in the space than to make investments in some of these great projects, and then look to take them public,” Wang concludes.  “Mongolia has a rich mining tradition, and we hope Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development will in time be able to play a lasting role.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Feb 28, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/oriental-non-ferrous-resources-development-incc.

Irving Resources unearths exceptional gold, silver exploration opportunities in Japan

When one thinks of Japan, sushi, Shinkansen bullet trains and onsen hot spring resorts come to mind more readily for 99.9% of the population than precious metals exploration. But those famous hot springs are plentiful because of geothermal activity, and this special geological phenomenon in Japan has given rise to some rich gold mines in years past.

The most impressive example in modern times is the Hishikari mine located on the southern island of Kyushu. Operated by Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. (Tokyo Stock Exchange:5713), Hishikari is very high-grade in nature, averaging some 40 grams per ton of gold in its ore.

Quinton Hennigh and Akiko Levinson knew about the potential for exploration in Japan as they were building up ounces at the Springpole deposit in Ontario while running Gold Canyon Resources. Springpole developed into a resource of over 5 million ounces of gold before the company was acquired by First Mining Finance in 2015.

As part of the deal, Gold Canyon spun out a new company with Levinson at the helm. She and Hennigh had for years agreed that if they ever started a new company, it would focus on Japan. The new vehicle was their chance and Irving Resources (CSE:IRV) had its direction laid out from the get go.

As 2017 kicks off, Irving has a project portfolio with all the hallmarks investors like to see – multiple projects with high-grade gold and silver showings, sound infrastructure, and a friendly jurisdiction to work in. Combine these attributes with good share structure and a healthy treasury and the Irving story has become an investor favourite, its stock price rising over 600% in the past 12 months to around $0.90.

In November 2016, Irving raised just short of $6 million, with famed precious metals investor Eric Sprott personally providing the lead order. That leaves the company with over $7 million in the treasury, or to put it another way, all the financial runway it needs for well over a year to begin showing the world how rewarding precious metals exploration in Japan can be.

“We are one of very few exploration companies operating in Japan,” explains Hennigh. “We are building relationships in the country and it is a very pleasant place to work.”

Irving, though a local subsidiary, has thus far acquired three projects, all located on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. Each of the projects holds great promise from an exploration standpoint, but Omui is the one that excites Hennigh most at this early stage, and with good reason.

Chip sampling off float boulders on the property returned assay numbers the company termed “exceptional”. The assays included samples of 480 grams per tonne (g/t) gold and 9,660 g/t silver, 143.5 g/t gold and 2,090 g/t silver, and others of similar quality. Even the newcomer to investing in precious metals will recognize those grades as being virtually off the charts.

“Omui is a very high-grade epithermal vein system exposed at surface and there was limited mining there in the 1920s,” explains Hennigh. “We expanded our land position by filing for applications for additional tenements, and have also started to prospect beyond the historic Omui mining area.”

Importantly, the exploration team has also found Omui’s rock to contain silica, a common element accompanying veined precious metal deposits, and critical to ore processing in Japan. The early results indicate rock at Omui being very low in toxic elements such as arsenic and antimony as well, suggesting any deposit outlined at the project could yield ideal smelter feed for domestic refineries.

While Hennigh and Levinson will be spending quite a bit of time in Japan going forward, when not there they have teammates to rely on in the country who are second to none.

Hidetoshi Takaoka enjoyed a long career at Sumitomo Metal Mining, helping to explore the Hishikari deposit and sharing credit for finding and developing Alaska’s world class Pogo gold deposit. “I’d say Mr. Takaoka is Japan’s best known geologist,” says Hennigh.

Irving also considers itself fortunate to be working with Haruo Harada and Mitsui Mineral Development Engineering Co., Ltd. (MINDECO) for assistance with permitting applications and other work with specific engineering requirements.

Dr. Kuang Ine Lu, an Irving Resources director who earned a Ph. D in Economic Geology from the University of Tokyo, brings yet another experienced hand to evaluate projects and strategy based on years of local experience.

Longer term, the plan at Irving is to prove up deposits from which to sell smelter feed to domestic smelters.

Hennigh is quick to point out, though, that the company intends to move ahead in a methodical manner, so as to make the most of its financial resources and ensure the highest possible likelihood of ultimate success.

“We are looking to shore up our land positions in the next few months and then starting in May begin field work on the various projects,” says Hennigh. “Omui will be first, as it is our most advanced project and is giving us the best numbers. But we will explore Utanobori, Rubeshibe and possibly other projects we are considering with chip sampling, mapping, soil sampling and maybe some geophysics. This year will focus on refining targets and it will probably be 2018 when we are ready to get drills turning.”

Interestingly, Hennigh says that experienced drill teams are available in Japan not only owing to mineral exploration but also because resorts and energy projects drill to tap hot springs throughout the country. They use core drills primarily, which is exactly what Irving wants so that it can preserve layers of rock and assess veining at various depths in detail.

Shareholders will be happy to learn that the depths Irving envisions its targets at are not that daunting, with Hishikari’s deepest levels of 350m serving us a good indicator for a Japanese precious metals deposit.

And because of Japan’s size and advanced development, project accessibility is not an issue. “Most areas in Japan are accessible by road and we don’t have to walk more than half a kilometer to any of the sites,” says Hennigh.

The stars seem aligned to make 2017 an exciting year for Hennigh, Levinson and the rest of the Irving Resources team. With field work starting in a few months and early project showings nothing short of outstanding, the company is set to draw attention to a country whose potential for precious metals exploration has largely been overlooked.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Feb 27, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Irving Resources Inc. at https://www.irvresources.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/irving-resources-inc.

Mining for Movies: Virtual Reality booms for Imagination Park and its low-risk approach to Hollywood

In a world where corporations with big budgets toil night and day to eke out what often are mere single-digit profit margins, the idea of a company making modest, low-risk investments and generating swift returns of 1,000% or more seems fanciful. Such a company would have to operate in an innovative industry facing serious capacity constraints, and be one of the few groups holding the keys that unlock the potential to address them.

Well, meet Imagination Park (CSE:IP), a young company that actually is on such a path, working in a realm that over time is likely to touch each and every one of our lives…virtual reality (VR).

Imagination Park is home to a multi-talented team whose members have sold feature films, concepts, scripts and intellectual property to some of the largest entertainment studios in the world. It is a company that seems to have the business side of the industry figured out, pursuing a model that provides multiple chances to make exceptional returns while limiting financial risk to a minimum.

How do they do it? They follow the money.

“I am a film producer by trade and learned early on that the best money in film is not made in production or finance, but in intellectual property,” says Gabriel Napora, Imagination Park’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our mission is to create, option or purchase the most compelling intellectual property in the fields of film and VR.”

More on virtual reality in a moment, but to illustrate the power of ideas in the entertainment industry, consider a story Napora tells about one of his many successful projects. “Early in my career, I produced a project called Tetravaal with a young director on a budget of about $4,000. Tetravaal won the attention of the right people and ended up being the precursor to Chappie, which had a budget of around $70 million. But it all grew from an idea that originally cost only a few thousand dollars to produce.”

Imagination Park brings substantial heft to its projects thanks to a team whose members include two highly successful producers — Napora, plus Imagination Park President Tim Marlowe who was the Executive Producer for The Lady in Number 6, which won an Academy Award. Colin Wiebe, a creative entrepreneur, digital marketing expert and musician who toured with the likes of rock legend Randy Bachman chairs the board of directors, which also includes producer and ace talent scout Yas Taalat. The top execs oversee a technical group on the special effects and virtual reality fronts that is second to none. This is a company ready to leverage technical and cost advantages to compete in a large and rapidly growing market for the products and services in which it specializes with an emphasis on 360 degree, 3D virtual reality content.

“Netflix had a budget of around $6 billion last year, you can expect Amazon to match that or be higher, and HBO will have to do the same,” explains Wiebe. “With more and more people binge-watching on Netflix content gets consumed very quickly, so studios have to both be shooting around the clock plus looking outside their walls. But the fact is that there are only so many quality content producers around and only so many production facilities.”

Imagination Park takes advantage of this growing supply/demand imbalance not only by producing films and other content, but also with virtual reality services and more conventional production support.

It does this in a clever way from a financial perspective, structuring agreements so they pay on both the front and back ends. “In film, and to some degree virtual reality, the riskiest thing is financing. No matter how smart you are, nobody can guarantee that a film is going to make money,” says Napora.

“When we create, option or license intellectual property to present to major studios there is always an upfront fee paid by the studio before we go into production. In most cases, we also earn producer fees to move things forward. By the time the film goes into the world we have already made an exponential return, and if the film is successful we’ll make even more. So, our model is significantly less risky than one involved in actually financing films.”

In the next few months the world will get to see a series of Imagination Park projects, including a full-length feature film starring Danny Trejo, several virtual reality pieces, and a full-length documentary. “We are close to having around 18 projects either created, optioned or acquired on our basic slate for 2017,” says Wiebe.

A proof of concept is like a mini-trailer, but the intended audience is a studio or other entity who would purchase or financially support the idea. Imagination Park creates proof of concept packages for third-party filmmakers as well as for itself to market its own concepts developed internally. Napora’s Tetravaal production was a proof of concept.

“Looking back, I have been able to sell about 50% of the projects I have been involved in to major studios,” says Napora. “I am not saying we will sell half of everything we are involved in going forward, but even if we were to sell three or four we would be a very well-to-do company. If we are right on two or three projects and they turn into hits, we become a major Hollywood player.”

On the virtual reality side, Imagination Park has created content soon to be for sale in virtual reality stores. It will also work with advertising agencies, and with film studios that have a new title ready to go but need virtual reality content online to help excite potential moviegoers.

“Sales of virtual reality equipment have exceeded $1 billion and this is not even the beginning of the curve,” says Wiebe. “We are currently in discussions with some major corporations focused strictly on advertising. We have detailed proposals going out to major companies and see this as being the very start of something that will spark a huge wave of virtual reality service work for us.”

The modest investment philosophy extends to all corners of the company, with the chairman saying it is important to stay lean and mean. “Nobody is getting big salaries. Everything is performance-based and we have specific budgets for travel and projects.”

Virtual reality, proofs of concept, feature films and production work are enough to keep the Imagination Park team busy on its North American home turf, but China beckons as well. The Asian country is a huge and rapidly expanding market for feature films, and Napora happens to have both experience and connections there, plus an understanding of the types of concepts that sell to its unique audience.

“There are opportunities now that never existed in the past and they are there for the taking if you know the right people, have the right product, and have a team that can execute,” says Wiebe. “It is like mining for movies. But ours is a mining project where you know in advance that the value is there. All you have to do is go and get it. The skyrocketing virtual reality trend has been an added surprise discovery that luckily we’ve been way ahead of. ”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Nov 24, 2016 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Imagination Park Entertainment Inc. at http://imaginationpark.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/imagination-park-entertainment-inc.

True Leaf twins medical marijuana ambitions with growing line of hemp supplements for pets

Canadian marijuana stocks have been some of the best performing investments of 2016, as the Liberal Government that came to power toward the end of last year made legalization of the drug one of its planks during the federal election.

It is unclear, however, precisely what form legalization will take from the perspective of producers, as there is sure to be regulation and oversight when it comes to growing and distribution. Investment in a would-be producer is somewhat of a binary play — if a company obtains approval to produce under the current or any new regulatory regime, it has the potential to generate revenue and show investors that its management team can run a profitable business. If for whatever reason it does not get a green light to produce, then it’s back to the drawing board.

True Leaf Medicine International (CSE:MJ) was an early entrant in the space, being the 48th company to submit a production application to Health Canada. But while highly confident that its application will eventually receive the government’s endorsement, the company has aggressively developed a related business whose early success has caught the attention of investors and removes some of the concern about ongoing sustainability. If Health Canada grants True Leaf approval to produce marijuana within the next year or so, it will essentially come as a very large bonus.

Harnessing the spending habits of millennials when it comes to both their own health and that of their animal friends, True Leaf established a new division in autumn of 2015 to develop and market nutritional supplements for pets that contain hemp and other ingredients targeting specific health conditions. According to Chief Executive Officer Darcy Bomford, True Leaf sees annual sales in the True Leaf Pet division potentially reaching close to $30 million in five years’ time.

“We know we can sell pet products today and there are no legal issues. We have a great product line and that is our focus,” explains Bomford. “We count zero revenue on the True Leaf Medicine side in our model, so any value attributed as we move through the various stages of Health Canada’s approvals process just improves our prospects.”

Bomford knows of what he speaks when it comes to pet products, having spent some 25 years of his career to date in the manufacture and marketing of natural products for the industry. His previous company was purchased in 2012, which freed him up to work with True Leaf, and further to consider the pet food space once the non-compete clause in the transaction agreement had expired.

“A lot of people don’t realize how big the pet food industry is until they get a dog – once you go to the pet food aisle or a specialty retailer, that is when you sense its massive size,” says Bomford. “Our product line is geared toward the millennial and baby boomer generations, which tend to appreciate natural ingredients and the value of nutritional balance.”

Being in a big industry is great, but it typically means there is lots of competition. Fortunately for True Leaf, their products have clear points of differentiation.

True Hemp Chews come in three different formulations: Hip + Joint, Calming and Health.

“Hip + Joint is for inflammation in older dogs, Calming is for anxious dogs, and Health incorporates antioxidants for general wellness support,” says Bomford. “Each formula has a hemp seed or hemp seed oil base, and then we add other ingredients. Hip + Joint has natural sources of glucosamine from green lip mussel, and it also contains turmeric root, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. With Calming we use an amino acid from green tea call L-theanine, plus calming herbs such as chamomile and lemon balm. Health support has DHA, a form of Omega-3 from algae, and pomegranate.”

True Leaf has gotten True Hemp Chews onto the shelves of approximately 500 retail outlets in North America so far. Next steps involve building out the line with new products and increasing the store count. Bomford sees the line extensions leading to larger order sizes from both distributors and individual stores. “We have an oil product that you pour on your pet’s food every day, and a stick format that covers the chewing function,” says Bomford. “Down the road we are looking at launching a veterinary line with higher inclusions of the active ingredients and a functional chew for cats that addresses joint health.”

Moving quickly to make the most of its early-mover advantage, True Leaf introduced True Hemp Chews to the European market in May of this year and is now featured in the well-established Pets Corner chain of stores in the UK. Expansion into continental Europe is on tap for 2017.

True Leaf developed its products with assistance from a graduate student at Cornell University, and given his background Bomford knows how to take the formulations, brand them properly and build the business. “We use the co-pack model to avoid becoming capital intensive,” explain Bomford. “With my previous contacts I know basically all of the manufacturers worldwide, so we leverage other companies’ manufacturing capacity and focus our efforts on the brand. This is a necessary model for international expansion because we can have products made to order locally. We just provide the packaging and then are able to warehouse nearby and serve that geographic market.”

Balance in nutrition and balance in business. It is a combination that investors so far seem to be liking, and the philosophy has enabled Bomford to attract a balanced management team as well, with deep experience in everything from marketing to finance and quality control. Even former British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt is on board – quite literally, as Chairman.

“I think in general, the marijuana producers that have legs at this stage of the industry’s development are those with alternative revenue streams. That is what our pet supplement division provides us and we are happy with our progress there so far,” Bomford concludes. “True Leaf has a very good chance to develop its Medicine division as a supplier of medical marijuana, but you have to put yourself in a position to weather the storm that is the approvals process. I believe we have set our company up well to do that.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Nov 21, 2016 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about True Leaf Medicine International Ltd. at https://trueleafpet.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/true-leaf-medicine-international-ltd.

Fantasy 6 Sports blends top technology trends to create own momentum in Big Data

Fantasy 6 Sports (CSE:FYS) is a challenge to figure out at first because it is so cutting-edge you can’t think of any obvious comparisons to help put its business into context. A fascinating array of concepts to be sure, but how do you wrap your head around it?

Best start with the broader theme and work your way down to the individual businesses, then consider how they fit together. By the way, we are talking about a company simultaneously shaping fields such as Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Blockchain and Big Data – only 5 of the 10 technology trends forecast to define the world’s digital landscape in 2017.

At its most basic, Fantasy 6 leverages its capabilities in these technology segments to help brands take their consumer engagement to the next level. “It doesn’t matter what type of industry you look at, data is driving decisions,” explains Ray Walia, Fantasy 6’s Chief Operating Officer and a 20-year veteran of the technology scene. “We are collecting data, we can anonymize it and it can drive decisions for other brands and corporations.”

Sounds like any number of Big Data companies who passively collect data and try to re-sell it with some analytical bells and whistles to entities who need insight into their target customers, right?

Here is where Fantasy 6 is different – this company generates its own data by interacting with a specific consumer base valuable to existing and potential clients. Because it collects data this way, its database is unique and proprietary. And it focuses on a very large and multi-faceted business sector that provides new opportunities for data collection and analysis every day – sports.

A good starting point in exploring the product side is FansUnite, a platform Fantasy 6 acquired earlier this year and is in the process of turbocharging from both the user appeal and business potential perspectives.

True to its name, FansUnite is a place where sports fans who like to bet on games come together to discuss strategies and try to develop an edge, or simply just learn more. “The idea is we are building a community around sports betting and sports predictions that adds a layer of direct fan engagement,” says Walia.

FansUnite gives members a free virtual currency so that they can place bets without putting actual money on the line. It’s the perfect risk-free way to keep score and it gives you bragging rights if you’re good. More importantly for the platform, it separates the skilled from the newcomers and inspires serious discussions around strategy and upcoming opportunities. And for those who operate in the real-money betting world, FansUnite is a universe rich in sports and odds aficionados who can help give them an edge. Think you know better than everyone else what is going to happen in tonight’s game? Well, put your virtual money where your mouth is.

The proprietary data side is well illustrated by shifting popularity among sports, and even the emergence of new competitive pastimes. “The most popular sport in North America for betting is the NFL, worldwide by far it is soccer, but the fastest growing one is e-sports,” says Walia. “The emergence of e-sports has caught a lot of people off guard. Having a site like FansUnite collecting all this data, you cut through the noise and the hype and people are actually seeing that there is active engagement worldwide.” By the way, e-sports is video gamers competing in organized competitions with games such as Counterstrike, League of Legends and other titles you may know. And don’t harrumph – these competitions fill stadiums with spectators.

Mobile games and Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) games are additional arrows in the Fantasy 6 quiver, the first commercial release being Football Fantasy Coach. As you might have already guessed, Football Fantasy Coach requires the player to analyze a virtual game scenario and call plays. As with fantasy sports, your choices are based on real players, with the game providing performance statistics that change in real time as actual games are being played. “It is a bridge of technology into the real world that directly engages the fan,” explains Walia. And it is one more way for Fantasy 6 to collect data for analysis alongside other sources to draw conclusions for client brands.

It is not all just about online experiences, mind you. Some of the “immersive” work that Fantasy 6 does requires actual fan participation, such as when the team built a “dynamic 360 virtual arena” for one of the largest companies in Canada recently that enabled visitors to have their pictures taken and receive an image on their mobile phones that looked as if they were standing at centre ice in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Not quite the same as lining up to the right of Auston Matthews, but still pretty cool.

“We maintain the right focus by keeping balance among these three verticals,” says Walia. “Each has synergies with the others but they all have different skills required to execute. The games division is going on its own with good partners and intellectual property, the data division is collecting data and it is a different audience that they appeal to. And then the immersive side is more corporate relationships.”

And who does Walia think would be willing to pay the big dollars for high-quality sports data? “In context, our data is all around sports odds and so those who can benefit include any entity in gaming, casinos or sports books for a start. They will value the data one way, and then a sportswear company would have its own different use.”

Fantasy 6 is well-funded to move forward with its plan, having received a convertible note facility in the amount of $10 million from fund Victory Square, which Walia, with partner and Fantasy 6 Chief Executive Officer Shafin Tejani, oversee.

And unlike a lot of technology companies for which revenue always seems to be a “tomorrow” concept, Walia has made sure that sustainability is part of the corporate ethos. “The convertible note is designed to show that we have the wherewithal to execute, but a lot of the ideas we pursue are intended to generate revenue and be self-sustaining. That is one of the reasons why we are able to tackle all three of our verticals at the same time. They leverage each other but drive revenue on their own and the teams sustain themselves.”

The next six to nine months will see data continue to build, the games division debut new titles in different genres, and a big push on the immersive experiences side, with the lead role in a $1.5 million fan experience project for the BC Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver a part of the effort.

“We are putting ourselves in position to be a strong player in VR/AR and mobile games as well as sports data driven by artificial intelligence, which will be the long tail,” says Walia. “There will be huge value and opportunity around that. And we know that Virtual Reality is attracting attention and we can connect brands with this and other technologies to help them reach important objectives.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Nov 30, 2016 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Fantasy 6 Sports Inc. at http://fantasy6.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/fantasy-6-sports-inc.

FanDom Sports Media prepares to turn online sports chat into a whole new ballgame

It all started with a lighthearted debate between husband and wife that ended in a draw, both sides claiming their friends would agree that they were right. “Of course they would,” each thought, recognizing friends could hardly be relied upon to render an impartial judgement. But from this stalemate emerged an idea: in our increasingly digital age, wouldn’t it be something if there were a virtual space to go where groups of people could provide a ruling?

The next step was to figure out how to apply this inspiration to the business world. Blair Naughty, the husband side of that fortuitous quarrel, took the idea to friend and seasoned technology entrepreneur Bill McGraw, whose advice was to run with the concept but focus it on a particular set of consumers prone to taking sides.

Long story short, the two now run FanDom Sports Media Corp. (CSE:FDM), Naughty as CEO and McGraw as president.

FanDom’s business revolves around an app and supporting network that aims to function as the global center for sports chat. “You won’t come to FanDom to find out the score,” explains McGraw. “You’ll come to FanDom to find out what people are saying about the score.”

The FanDom concept goes well beyond conventional comment streams, its basic framework designed to supply the one element all high-traffic mobile apps need – a compulsion loop. In layman’s terms, the compulsion loop is the particular thing about an app that keeps people coming back. It’s what prevents you from putting down the game you are playing, even though you know that there are more productive things you could be doing with your time.

Compulsion loops are pretty complex things, based on a deep understanding of the sociology of your core user base. For FanDom, the compulsion loop is an environment in which users essentially become players who compete in multiple ways to determine a result important to them as sports fans.

FanDom users will vote on arguments, taking one side or the other and betting on the outcome with virtual currency. But don’t mistake this for a gambling app, because that’s definitely not what it is.

All FanDom users will initially receive virtual currency to use for betting on debates. The more you contribute to discussions and the better you are at choosing winners, the more currency you will stockpile and the higher your standing will be on the platform.

There are many personality profiles to whom this could appeal, but imagine the sports enthusiast who thinks he knows just as much, if not more, about his favorite teams as the pundits…or even the coaches. On FanDom, you’ll not only get to offer your opinion in the comment streams but also wager on and influence the outcomes of debates on a variety of topics. Think you’re right? Prove it.

“Our initial challenge will be to ensure we have enough content,” says McGraw. “If I vote on eight or nine topics during my morning commute and then look again at lunchtime, there had better be some different opinions in there, because if it is the same ones I’ll conclude that this isn’t much fun.”

Getting off to a strong start will surely be important, and while the app itself is only just heading into beta phase, the game plan for quickly establishing a committed user base is ready to go.

Part of the plan is to dovetail the initial app launch with primetime on the sports calendar.

“Football is starting soon, as well as hockey and then basketball, and of course we have the Major League Baseball playoffs,” explains McGraw. “We have a pre-launch plan that will integrate with events at some major universities. We’d look to do a regional launch in Southern California, then move to the top 15 to 20 population centers in the United States. From there it should begin to generate its own momentum.”

Once critical mass is reached, McGraw says that FanDom has multiple monetization levers it can pull, some conventional, such as online advertising, and others reflecting the unique dynamics of the FanDom app. Examples in the latter category could include sponsorships when FanDom builds discussions around a major sports figure who participates actively on the platform.

Merchandising is another opportunity. “With some things you end up making more money by tying what goes on in the app to what is going on offline,” says McGraw. “I have been doing this for many years and can tell you that there is no magic bullet. You just have to go back in day after day and look for a new place to generate traffic and monetize. You have to let the content people do what they do, and another side of the team has to become the monetization engine.”

Scores of apps are put on the Apple and Android stores every day, but a miniscule percentage have the quality of team behind them that FanDom enjoys. McGraw has stickhandled the launches of over 30 games and mobile apps. Other team members bring decades of game development, online marketing, athlete management and branding experience. The athletes McGraw says the company is lining up participation agreements with are almost all household names. The potential for creating buzz is enormous.

The trick will be to take that buzz and shape it in such a way as to leverage it optimally for FanDom, its users, as well as its athlete participants and their sponsors, a process that will require observation plus more than a little trial and error. “My experience tells me that whatever we end up building, the consumer will use it in different ways than we anticipate. Or the areas we did not think would be that popular will be, or vice versa. Having the team in place that we do gives us the best cut at it to begin with and then we can iterate on that as we go.”

An important aspect of the platform McGraw is confident predicting the course of, however, is that FanDom automatically roots out users who behave inappropriately, which will be welcome news to anyone who has noticed that sports comment streams often devolve into personal bicker-fests. “We will have some moderation of comments, but the testing we have done shows that the whole point of coming to FanDom is to vote ideas up or down,” says McGraw. “Selfish, misogynistic or threatening comments simply fall down the stream and get no attention, because there is no reason to vote on them.”

That will be significant because part of the plan calls for extending beyond the mobile screens of individual users to the televisions in venues where broadcasts are viewed by the public. Think fans at a bar in Boston debating with their counterparts in Los Angeles ahead of a big game between teams from the two cities.

On a bus, on a train, in the airport lounge or sitting at home with your pals, FanDom aims to give everyday people a chance to be part of the action. Perhaps not to the point of donning a uniform and stepping on the field, but to have a voice in an arena with rules, time limits and participants of varying skill is in some ways like an actual game. Real sports fans care passionately about their teams. McGraw is betting that many of them will care enough to carry that passion into FanDom.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Sep 7, 2016 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about FanDom Sports Media at http://www.fandomsportsmedia.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/fandom-sports-media-corp

ParcelPal sees stars aligning as it readies same-day and one-hour delivery services for full launch

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Sep 6, 2016 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

“I want it and I want it now.” So the pundits say is the mindset of millennials, a generation that has grown up amid instant access to information and unprecedented awareness of other peoples’ lifestyles. Businesses, for their part, have long been this way, as some processes simply cannot move forward without the availability of certain items or documents.

Vancouver-based ParcelPal Technology Inc. (CSE:PKG) is counting on these dynamics, looking to provide on-demand (within 1 hour) and same-day delivery in local markets that beats the likes of Canada Post, FedEx and local carriers hands down. The prize is a portion of what the company claims is a market in which billions of dollars are spent each year getting items from one location to another.

The ParcelPal platform is a user-friendly marriage of software and logistics. When a customer wants something delivered they enter the details via computer or mobile device and a courier registered with ParcelPal is alerted to the request. Much like the famed Uber system for local transportation, couriers are rated by customers, and the higher your rank the more likely you are to receive the initial alert.

ParcelPal has aimed its sights on the B2B and B2C markets to begin, focusing on both e-commerce websites and storefronts. “Currently, the delivery process is full of paperwork, phone calls and waybills,” says Jason Moreau, ParcelPal’s Chief Executive Officer. “It is ripe for automation, and by utilizing smartphone and GPS technology we have been able to automate the courier request and engineer a standard of delivery I think people will be very impressed with. Our software is scalable and we can launch in new cities quite quickly.”

Once a courier accepts a delivery request, wheels are set in motion both literally and figuratively. The courier travels immediately to the pickup point and takes possession of the package. As the courier makes his way to the destination, GPS technology is used to monitor progress. No more sitting at home all afternoon waiting for something to arrive – the customers on each end of the transaction can see precisely what is happening so they can make any related decisions accordingly.

The cost is reasonable, at $3.99 within a 4km radius for same-day delivery and $6.99 within that same radius for 1-hour service. Charges on top of the base rate are added for deliveries of more than 4km or for packages weighing more than 25kg.

Of the fee, 80% goes to the courier and 20% to ParcelPal. ParcelPal has also implemented an insurance program whereby customers can select to insure their items for up to $1,000. The company gets 100% of the insurance revenue.

Vice President of Operations Kelly Abbott explains that ParcelPal currently has some 1,600 couriers registered to deliver its packages, each of whom has undergone a screening process and training session to ensure they represent the company professionally.

“Potential couriers come in and meet us and we do a background check and an in-depth training session,” says Abbott. “We have them do a single delivery, then we show them how the application works and how to handle various delivery scenarios. Delivery standards are our main concern, so if anything goes wrong, such as if a courier is on time for pickup but takes forever to drop the parcel off, his rating will turn negative and he will automatically be removed from the system.”

Also reflecting the Uber model, couriers have the opportunity to rate customers. In this way, automation introduces efficiency but accountability is maintained through detailed monitoring of operations and real-time rating of the system’s various human components.

In the first quarter of this year, ParcelPal conducted a six-week beta launch during which it delivered over 200 packages in Vancouver and the surrounding area, its couriers traveling over 5,000km in total. The launch went “very well” according to Moreau.

In the near term, the team is continuing with its soft launch in Vancouver, slowly building the local user base and working out any kinks in the system before heading nationwide, likely in the first half of 2017. “We are receiving inquiries from Toronto and Calgary saying ‘when are you going to be here,’ but we have to make sure it is perfect first,” says Moreau. “Right now Canada is pretty much a land-grab, as anyone with a similar model is focusing on big hubs in the United States.”

Moreau says that one of the verticals envisioned is integration of the ParcelPal platform with online e-commerce websites. “What that means is a company selling shoes, or virtually any product, in a given city can integrate with ParcelPal and during the online check-out process ask how the buyer wants their goods delivered. Do you want it on-demand, same-day, or do you want it through a traditional courier that might take days? ParcelPal would handle the same day and on-demand scenarios.”

Moreau and Abbott realize that ParcelPal will have to cement its reputation before big retailers agree to feature it as a delivery option on their websites. But for smaller retailers for whom such a service could be an immediate boon to business, the API (coder lingo for the ParcelPal computer program a retailer would hook up to its system) and Shopify plug-in are available for download.

Lest anyone conclude that ParcelPal can establish itself as a household name overnight, Moreau is quick to point to the growth curve experienced by Postmates, a local delivery service based in San Francisco that was established in 2011. “It took them about five months to do their first 1,000 deliveries,” explains Moreau. A graph distributed by Postmates founder Bastian Lehmann showed it taking 116 weeks to reach 500,000 deliveries, but then only another 20 weeks to reach 1 million.

All things considered, ParcelPal seems off to a good start, with business in the first half of 2016 having moved forward according to schedule. The company recently ran an online advertising campaign which further convinced management that demand for speedy delivery is out there waiting to be met, particularly among consumers.

“We did an online ad campaign as an experiment of sorts, comparing business shipping versus consumer,” explains Abbott. “We got a little traction on the business side, but on the consumer side we got over 8,500 visits over the course of a month. It was basically an ad asking if the viewer was interested in having food, shoes or clothing delivered right to them.”

Consumer scenarios are limited in number only by one’s imagination, but a busy person needing a particular article of clothing for a function or a group wanting to order food from a restaurant are ones to which ParcelPal is perfectly suited. ParcelPal is planning to launch its consumer app early in the fall.

“Consumers will have the ability to order whatever they wish,” says Abbott. “We’ve created an on-demand marketplace right in your pocket, whether you want your lunch delivered, or you want our drivers to pick up your dry cleaning, it will be possible to have it at your door within an hour.”

For the second half of the year “we anticipate full launch of our consumer app and doing a large campaign in Vancouver,” says Moreau. “Once we are sure it is perfect then we’re going across Canada. We are a nimble young company building out some spectacular technology, and when the consumer app comes out in the fall that is where it begins to get really exciting.”

Learn more about ParcelPal Technology Inc. at https://www.parcelpal.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/parcelpal-technology-inc