Category Archives: CSE Issuer Stories

Developing sustainable projects for the next generation of mining exploration

Participants:

Anne Turner, Executive Director, Yukon Mining Alliance

James Rogers, President and Director, Global UAV Technologies; President and Director, Longford Exploration Services

Angela Johnson, Corporate Social Responsibility, SSR Mining

Shauntese Constantinoff, Senior External Project Relations Advisor, New Gold

To the outside eye, mining is often seen as an ossified industry, with visions of backhoes digging and drills turning.

But that’s not the whole picture. And the picture is evolving quickly thanks to millennials.

There are a host of millennials behind the scenes influencing change: enabling the industry to be more efficient and sustainable, alongside working with local Indigenous communities.

Public Entrepreneur spoke to four millennials who are part of the wave of change.

To register for an exclusive CSE Talks session at PDAC 2019 featuring the new faces of mining, click here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/cse-talks-new-faces-of-mining-tickets-57041685216

How is new technology changing modes of work in both exploration and development?

JR: What we’re seeing is a trend towards safer, more efficient data collection. In particular, new technologies are being fostered by large corporations that have health and safety protocols that are far more robust than, say, a junior miner.  I think that’s driving a lot of the technology and where it’s going. That’s not just about reducing cost but also reducing working hours in the field, such as data collection in inclement environments. Risk management is definitely one of the biggest drivers.

AJ: I think one of the biggest things I’ve seen in exploration is increased efficiency. So, even on our drills, the drill foreman has his iPad, and data that used to be captured on pen and paper in the field is now all streamlined and bluetoothed in real time.

AT: Low-impact technology, like droning, is critical, especially for early stage. If you’re in these areas and you’re not really sure what’s happening, it’s great to use low-impact tech and get that initial assessment. At the more advanced stage, you’re starting to see things like directional gyro-drilling, where you are able to send the gyroscope down the drill and get instant readings. This kind of tech is useful but costly. The tech is there. But it’s not always in the budget.

For people considering getting into the mining industry, what career opportunities are there? What are the best growth sectors from an employment perspective?

AJ: If I was to give anyone advice, I would say data analytics. I think that’s becoming huge in the mining industry as far as re-targeting, or looking at data for exploration projects, compiling data, or looking at data in a new way. That’s a new and exciting field.

JR: I agree that data analytics and data management are huge. Lessening impact is also important.  When you consider coming into the industry, think about how you’re going to reduce the impact of your work. The use of drones is just one example.

AT: I think our industry needs to do a better job of communicating the benefits of working in the industry in our day-to-day lives and in our communities. We’re not communicating all the benefits of this new tech and safety. There’s a lot of room for people in social media, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and relationship-building. Anyone that can build a strong relationship will be able to have a strong hold in this industry.

SC: The opportunities in this industry are many, enabling people to provide for their families and support their communities in a substantial way. Communicating these opportunities and benefits is key.

Further to that, resource exploration and development must take into account local communities, such as First Nations, and any impact it may have. How do we do a better job of communicating the benefits from an employment perspective?

SC: I would say get out into the communities, hold information sessions, etc. so that people not only understand the impacts, but the many benefits as well.

As an example, we helped facilitate an Indigenous-led Training and Employment Strategy with several of the local First Nation communities near the project I work on to get everyone better prepared for future opportunities and start to identify and address any barriers to employment.

AT: I think what you’re doing from a company perspective is incredible. We’re working on an initiative that will launch this spring, to go into communities to host a mining day. We’re also working to get mining-related curriculum into schools as well. Connecting with that age group of 5-18 is really important.

We’re also trying to work really closely with politicians and influencers. When you talk about it to media, about green technology and clean jobs, there’s this sentiment that mining doesn’t have that. The fact is you’re not getting clean tech without mining, as you need these minerals to come from safe, regulated parts of the world to truly have clean industries and products – like electric cars. Lastly, one of the things we forget to communicate is if you want to stay and work in or near your community, mining is going to be an option for high-paying, rewarding, growth careers.

SC: Having a local workforce, at the end of the day, in their own territories, can benefit an entire community. It is crucial to start learning about the communities and what is important to them at an early stage. It’s a good idea to find out where people’s skill levels are, having transferable skills is important too in a finite industry, and the potential to work with and train in local Indigenous communities could be one of the biggest assets for a project.

So where’s the gap?

JR: I feel like the biggest gap is the juniors, because they are jumping on and off of projects and there’s a short period of engagement. Or they go test the water with a 1000-meter drill program and expect to come back the next year with a fully funded drill program but it doesn’t happen.

How can we mitigate that? Sometimes these projects just aren’t feasible. Even if a junior is responsible and tries to engage the community, there is just a general fickle nature of the finance community around resources and the ability to advance a project.

AJ: On that point, that’s the challenge that we face as explorers, is that social chain of custody. We’re all told, engage early, engage often, continue engagement even when you’re not exploring. But it boils down to funds. This is a real challenge and it’s a real debate and topic we have to tackle in the industry.

I do think it’s getting more noticed. We’re talking about it far more.

What haven’t we talked about?

AJ: One thing I find interesting is governance, in terms of what investors are asking us to disclose. That’s a huge part of something that is changing, right as we speak. ESG, or governance scores, are becoming increasingly important for investors. Investors are now calling companies, asking about disclosures: from climate change to human rights policies. They’re asking for that. I had no idea a few years ago that this would become so important and is an evolving piece of the industry.

AT: One of the initiatives we just launched is Virtual Yukon, which is a virtual reality tour of the Yukon. We’re using it both as a CSR and engagement education tool as well as an investor tool. We’re going to be taking drones over most of the major communities and you’ll be able to visit different places. You can see some of the individual mining projects and companies can use it. We will also use it in the communities. Overall, using digital tools will be a huge asset to companies, investors and communities.

The new faces of mining: engaging the millennial investor in mining opportunities

Participants:

Andrew Nelson, CPA, Mining Investment Analyst, Dundee Goodman Merchant Partners

Jamie Keech, Founder & CEO, Ivaldi Venture Capital

Sean Kingsley, Vice President, Corporate Development, Cabral Gold

They’re young. They’re powerful. And that wave of power is growing – quickly.

Meet the millennial investor. Now, the catch: getting them interested in investing in the mining and metals industry. It’s a relatively untapped investor demographic, on the back of a tough half-decade in the space.

But the potential for opportunity is growing, and this group of investors is demanding more of the industry: from more connectivity to increased transparency (and beyond).

Public Entrepreneur spoke to three up-and-coming millennials who are helping push the space forward.

To register for an exclusive CSE Talks session at PDAC 2019 featuring the new faces of mining, click here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/cse-talks-new-faces-of-mining-tickets-57041685216

Tell me a bit about your background. How did you get involved in the mining industry?

AN: I began my professional career as a financial auditor while simultaneously completing the Chartered Professional Accountant designation. Later, I transitioned to investment banking, joining Dundee Securities, which recently became Dundee Goodman Merchant Partners, a mining-focused merchant bank. The clientele and deals I’ve been involved with have always exclusively been mining.

JK: I’m a mining engineer. I’ve worked in a variety of places: Albania, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Baffin Island and have had a lot of different jobs on the technical side. In Vancouver, I worked primarily with a small management team that built a company that is called Equinox Gold. I left about a year ago to start my own venture: it’s called Ivaldi Venture Capital. We also run an investment research service called Resource Insider. We’re focused on deploying capital into mining and metals projects. We’ve done several deals over the last year, ranging between $1 million to $3 million.

SK: My family has lived in Vancouver for over 125 years – we are one of the oldest Chinese families here so being a part of a legacy has always driven my interests into building something long-lasting. There’s nothing more constant than the need for minerals in the world. I’ve been hooked in the industry for over 12 years and plan to be for as long as I live. I currently do corporate communications and development for two Brazilian-focused junior companies.

We’ve moved from a landscape dominated by resource exploration/development companies to one that now includes a major cannabis presence and increasing prominence of tech stories.  How do you look at this new environment and what appear to be the challenges?

JK: When it comes to mining, younger investors haven’t really had the chance to come into the space. I’m a millennial and during the last bull market, I was 24. I didn’t have any money to spend and most 24-year-olds are in that same situation. There hasn’t been much interest in mining since that time because there hasn’t been much opportunity to be interested. That money has gone to the cannabis space, the crypto space: these are industries that millennials are able to relate to very easily because people smoke cannabis and people grew up on the Internet.

AN: What’s going to get millennials interested in mining is a broad commodity bull market in the resource space. Most millennials aren’t familiar with the wealth creation the resource space can offer and have recently been attracted to high flying sectors such as cannabis, cryptocurrency, and blockchain, until the financial hangover set in.

A recent resource example were the parabolic moves in lithium and cobalt which was due to the electric vehicle trend. This was very engaging for millennials who can understand Tesla and lithium-ion batteries in their cellphones. Many of my friends who are not resource professionals would be talking about these commodities as a reaction to the rising share prices and they wanted a piece of the action.

SK: Alternative companies and sectors outside of mining have done well to get their stories and opportunities out to a new wave of investors, millennials. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t see my generation investing in stocks yet now they all have brokerage accounts.

It’s now up to us as an industry to capture their attention through avenues that they could relate to and not just the stories of how the industry titans like mining billionaires Robert Friedland and Ross Beatty got their investors and themselves very rich. We need to teach millennials that mining is the most constant sector and has tremendous upside and applications through avenues such as video, virtual reality, social campaigns, and telling stories that would resonate and engage their curiosity and understanding of the resource sector. It is time for our industry to innovate, rejuvenate and disrupt how it once was.

Gold and silver have long been a primary focus for investors in the mining space but new market segments, such as battery metals, have the potential to attract a different type of investor. What do you think about this?

JK: I think it’s happened. The energy metals sector, be it lithium, cobalt, vanadium, has done a very admirable job of piggybacking on the tech industry. Elon Musk has inadvertently become one of the most successful mining promoters in history. There’s been a demand and companies have done an impressive job of tying their product into something people care about, as compared to mining.

SK: There is money to be made in these new segments. I’ll take us back to 2006-2008 when the craze in the sector was rare earth metals. Unfortunately, China came in and flooded the market with supply and that quickly stopped the demand, but the run-up saw investors making money. Come 2011, it was all about graphite and graphene. Again, the market got flooded but investors made money. Here we are, now comes energy metals: cobalt, lithium, vanadium. Yes, these battery metals are desperately needed as we revolutionize the way we live and do things and investors will make money, but these run-ups are not constant like precious metals gold and silver.

AN: From a market observation, most battery metals such as lithium and cobalt are very small markets, each approximately sub-US$10 billion relative to gold and copper, which are around US$100 billion-plus. It doesn’t take much capital to move these smaller markets and those are trades that you need to get in and get out of within a 12 to 24 month timeframe. A lot of those companies are speculation, rather than investments. The point is, if you want to speculate in these small markets, make sure you have impeccable timing.

What is the entry point to getting a millennial investor to begin researching a mining stock? How do you get them interested in the first place and what feedback have you had from this generation of investors?

JK: I think about this a lot. In other industries there are influencers. It’s not a coincidence that Kylie Jenner’s makeup company is a billion-dollar company. It has nothing to do with the quality of the product, it has to do with her persona. There are not a lot of young influencers within the mining industry. There are a few people my age (30s) and there are a lot of people in their 60s.

There’s a gap and I think we need more public-facing influencers – letter writers, CEOs, leaders in the industry of any type that can generate interest – and that will bring them into the industry. That said, influencers have to get the timing right. If there’s not money to be made, no one is going to care.

When I think about mining, there’s an adventure aspect to it: there’s travel to exotic locations and we know millennials are the best-travelled generation yet. This is an aspect that can engage people and enable them to see the potential in the space. That’s what’s going to bring investors in. It’s a multi-step process. You need an interesting story, you need the potential to make money, and you need public facing personas that people trust.

SK: For me, it’s got to be about the tremendous upside in value creation and I often point to the discovery phase of the Lassonde Curve chart which outlines the life of mining companies beginning at exploration and ending in production, showing value that the market attributes to each stage.

Once millennials really start to understand that everything in the world is only possible with the minerals that we discover and mine and of what opportunities that creates for our generation will they realize the endless possibilities and upside potential of the sector.

AN: There’s a massive opportunity here to shift the way millennials look at investing in mining. Millennials are now the largest generation in Canada, but are the least invested in stocks, but are the most likely to participate in an online financing. Recently, I received a shell opportunity in my inbox.  I passed but another millennial I know subscribed. To partake only required 5 minutes and was a very simple process. The company raised 324% over their targeted funding and brought in 201 investors in a matter of six days. This is one of the major platforms I believe will be used to complete resource financings with millennial investors.

Gabriella’s Kitchen: Healthy foods and cannabis-infused products take wellness to a whole new level

When you first meet Margot Micallef, chief executive officer and co-founder of Gabriella’s Kitchen (CSE:GABY), her authenticity shines through: her firm handshake, her warm smile and her clear words.

It shines through particularly strongly when she talks about her sister: Gabriella, the namesake of Gabriella’s Kitchen. Although Gabriella passed away after a battle with cancer, she remains the company’s inspiration.

The pure-play cannabis wellness company has come a long way since creating its original award-winning skinnypasta, a high-protein, low-calorie and low-carbohydrate fresh pasta. Other product lines have been added to the shelf: noodi, gabbypasta and most recently alto, which includes the company’s cannabis-infused products. Today, the vertically integrated, branded, consumer products company focuses on utilizing cannabis for the lifestyle consumer.

Not to mention the benefit of having Micallef at the helm. Her resume is impressive, to say the least: a lawyer and philanthropist, founder of Oliver Capital Partners and a former Senior VP at Shaw Communications.

Public Entrepreneur spoke to Micallef about Gabriella’s Kitchen’s origins, its new line of cannabis products and global expansion plans, and how the company is seeking to change the conversation around cannabis health and wellness products.

Q. Can you give us some background about how Gabriella’s Kitchen started?
My sister, Gabriella, and I decided to move to a healthier lifestyle and identified a derth of products in the market, primarily around food, that supported a healthy lifestyle. We saw the business opportunity. As we were launching our business, my sister was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

The diagnosis really brought home the need to change our lifestyle and focus on our health and well-being that was within our control. Her doctors couldn’t do anything for her and they told her that. The pasta line was inspired by the dietary restrictions Gabriella faced throughout her cancer journey.

The beauty of what we did was that we were able to prolong her life for five years.  She had great quality of life and really learned to value the foundation of health and wellness through diet and lifestyle.

Q. I don’t think many people realize the effort it takes to get a product on the shelf.  Can you walk us through it?
It’s tough. In order to get your product on the shelf you have to dislodge somebody else’s product.  That’s something most people don’t understand. We knew going in we were going to make amazing products, that there was a demand for these products and we were going to get them to market.  But it’s a lot more work and a lot more money and takes a lot longer than anybody thinks it’s going to.

We started it in a little retail location in Toronto — we moved to Toronto from Calgary because that was the biggest market in Canada.  We’d make the product in the back and sell it out the front. At 3:00 pm each day, Gabriella would close up and go pound the pavement — and slowly and surely, we got more retailers.  We got up to around 200 when she passed away in 2011. I ended up taking over the business in 2015. I’ve invested about $5 million and raised another $19 million to date.

Q. What have you used the funds for and walk us through how you leverage the infrastructure you have in place?
We’ve used that money primarily for product development and to build out our team and infrastructure.

That’s our differentiator.  With our strong infrastructure, we can move into any channel we want to, including the licensed cannabis channel.  We came upon the cannabis space about a year ago when we examined the healthful properties of cannabis.

In many ways, our approach was opposite that of many other companies, which have an idea, raise the money and then build the infrastructure.  We already have the infrastructure and the team with the knowhow to get the product on our shelf. Our existing business line has more than 30 unique products that cater to health-conscious consumers, whether they shop in the mainstream shopping channels or in the licensed cannabis retail channels.

Leveraging our existing infrastructure means we can move product into a channel much more rapidly than anyone else can.

Q: Talk about the cannabis space and what kind of consumers you’re looking for.
Our goal is to serve consumers wherever, however, and whenever they want to consume cannabis wellness products – and that means in the mainstream channel or in the licensed cannabis retail channel.

We’re looking at a diverse range of products as vehicles to assist them in their chosen modality for consumption.  We already know that the mainstream market is going to start carrying CBD-infused products in a big way. I believe that once federal legislation in the US changes, there will start to be a move afoot to get all cannabis infused products into mainstream channels.  We will be ready for that opportunity.

Consumers are changing their perspective on health and are looking for new ways to supplement or replace traditional medicine.

Q. Can you talk about how your team continues to be built out?
We’ve got a whole research and development department.  One to note is Mara Gordon, who is a pioneer in the cannabis space and our chief research officer. She has amassed a database of formulations and health attributes associated with the cannabis plant that she has garnered from her own experience in working with physicians, clinicians, researchers and patients over the last 10 years.

We also continue to build out our expertise in the cannabis channel, having just hired a VP sales-licensed channel and acquired Sonoma Pacific, a licensed cannabis distribution company in California.

We also have a business development team that is scouring North America for brands that we want to bring under our umbrella. We want to grow through acquisition as well as through innovation.

Q. What does your next year or two look like?
We want to be the category leader in the cannabis wellness space. Not “one of” the leaders, rather, “the” leader. We know that the category leader takes 70% of the economics off the table. We want to be the one that everybody else wants to chase.

We want to do that for two reasons. One is that we believe that when the federal landscape changes in the US and the big players move into the market, we think that they will look for acquisitions that will move the dial for them.

We believe that if we can build a significant platform in North America that we can then partner with a global player and benefit consumers in a much broader way and, of course, benefit our investors.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on December 4, 2018 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Gabriella’s Kitchen at https://gabriellas-kitchen.com/ and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/gabriellas-kitchen-inc.

The CSE Year In Review

It is clear from speaking with people both inside the Canadian Securities Exchange and around the broader financial community that 2018 is going to be remembered as perhaps the most transformational year in the CSE’s history.

Huge financings, billion-dollar market caps, a steady stream of international listings, and financial institutions investing in CSE issuers like never before are only some of the talking points. Fast-growing, well-capitalized companies and strong investor interest in them have elevated the exchange to a new level.

Total capital raised by CSE issuers looks set to increase by over 500% compared to 2017, with a chance at topping the $5 billion mark.  Curaleaf Holdings certainly played its part, raising $520 million during its listing transaction in October. The company stated in a related news release that over 100 financial institutions had supported its financing.

Rapid expansion of market capitalization
“Clearly, standout events have been taking place over the last few months, with the number of very large US-based cannabis issuers that have joined the exchange,” remarks Richard Carleton, CSE Chief Executive Officer, during a discussion in late November. “We are seeing the most rapid expansion of market capitalization and impact on the exchange since our inception.”

Climbing 13.25% year-to-date, the total market capitalization of CSE listed is growing appreciably thanks to the contributions of several larger entrants to the marketplace. And while Curaleaf leads the way with its $2+ billion valuation, there are plenty of other issuers that qualify as solid mid-caps in the Canadian market. Microcaps still constitute the majority of listings, but bigger companies are finding the exchange to be a suitable home as well.

It’s no secret that the CSE is the go-to exchange for listing cannabis companies with operations in the United States. The CSE never shied away from the cannabis industry in Canada, and when considering how to manage prospective issuers from south of the border, exchange officials spent time with regulators and professional services providers to confirm there was a high degree of comfort with the industry’s risk profile. One of the advantages of investing in public companies, after all, is strict disclosure standards designed to ensure that investment risk can be accurately assessed.

The next development in the cannabis sector at the CSE, beyond more large listings almost ready to debut, is the development of cannabis index products in 2019. “The CSE is the only location globally where you see as heavy a concentration of US cannabis issuers, so we are the logical place for such an index to be calculated and disseminated,” notes Carleton. Could related ETFs be far behind?

Whilst cannabis stocks may be dominating the headlines, the CSE has also welcomed a strong contingent of new mining companies in 2018, a total of 57 through the end of November.

“We have in fact seen a significant number – and in absolute numbers almost a record – of mining companies get onto the exchange and receive funding this year,” says Carleton. “My sense is that some of the profits from trading in the cannabis space over the last couple of years are being applied to the mining sector.”

Tech listings have been increasing as well, even though appetite for everything blockchain has slowed compared to the enthusiasm of late 2017. Interestingly, the industry enthusiasm for cannabis might just dovetail with ongoing international outreach initiatives by the CSE to put new funding alternatives on the table in the tech space.

Canadian public equity markets a viable alternative for
US companies

Smaller companies in the US and other international markets are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain private funding as private equity funds increase in size and need to make larger investments in portfolio components. A primary Canadian listing on the CSE would be worth considering for many young growth companies.

“We are being exposed to advisors in the United States who are beginning to understand that the Canadian public equity markets are in fact a viable alternative for US companies looking for growth capital,” says Carleton. “We’ve had conversations with a number of these professionals about taking what we have learned from the capitalization efforts in the US cannabis space and applying that to companies from other sectors that perhaps have not been that well served by the venture capital and provide equity models that are the principal source of growth capital for early stage US companies.”

Speaking of tech, the CSE has an ongoing project of its own in the form of a blockchain-enabled clearing and settlement facility. The project team is in the late stages of quality assurance and plans call for moving to external testing with dealers and other interested parties before the end of 2018.

“Dealers continue to be extremely eager to get their hands on it,” Carleton explains. “They understand the business case and the client service benefits, as well as the number of companies that would like to use security tokens as a means of securing capital.  We continue to be very excited about this facility and it is going to be one of the things on the agenda for 2019.”

Continually working to improve the issuer experience is an important part of the CSE’s culture, and that’s reflected in exchange staff organizing or participating in over 80 events during 2018.

New Toronto office
The CSE seeks to make that part of its business even stronger in 2019 with relocation to a new office, the highest office floor in Toronto, no less – 72 stories up at First Canadian Place. “This was really brought on by the anticipated growth in our staffing levels, particularly in the listings regulation area,” says Carleton. “It is important that we continue to maintain high service levels for our issuers and deploy our regulatory responsibilities as an exchange.”

A full-blown market opening centre is in the works and it will be just one of several first-day activities designed to ensure that a new issuer’s launch into the public markets gets off to a good start. “The new First Canadian Place location will provide the space and a spectacular backdrop to have exactly that kind of experience.”

New issuers will be pleased to learn that they are joining an exchange that again set full-year records for trading volume, trading value, and other measures of investor participation.

Trading volume up
In the first 11 months of the year, trading volume was already 54.97% higher than the total for all of 2017, topping 27.05Bn shares. Most measures of investor activity had actually surpassed last year’s record levels by mid-summer. And with the listing application pipeline exceptionally healthy as we head into year-end, look for 2019 to be another blockbuster.

Granted, capital markets in Canada are having a better year in general, but the CSE’s pace of growth in 2018 is validation of a business model that puts the needs of issuers first.  Fund managers from around the world confirm this, sophisticated management teams who choose the CSE over multiple alternatives confirm this, and investors trading tens of millions of shares per day in individual companies confirm this.

Carleton and his team see it first-hand and fully anticipate 2019 to be another year of growth and progress in many forms. Be it cannabis and tech businesses listing from the US, Israeli companies following up on the CSE’s multiyear effort there to introduce the listing concept, or new investors learning about the many opportunities presented by CSE issuers, the outlook could hardly be brighter.

“Things are going well but we need to keep our foot on the accelerator,” Carleton concludes. “Top-quality service for our issuers, a fair and well-regulated trading environment, and continued innovation in the exchange’s technology and business practices. It has worked so far, and we are going to keep at it.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on December 31, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about the Canadian Securities Exchange at https://www.thecse.com/.

Cannvas MedTech: Knowledge is king in the cannabis world too, says chief of Cannvas MedTech

“We really want to be the Google of cannabis data,” is how Chief Executive Officer Shawn Moniz sums up the mission of Cannvas MedTech (CSE:MTEC), a Toronto-based startup that specializes in educating the public about marijuana.

Having watched from the sidelines as Canadian companies sprung up to offer marijuana and its associated hardware, such as vaporizers, Moniz chose the less-travelled road of education when he launched his own cannabis company.

“The benefit of being a digital reference library of cannabis is that we can go into any country and people can learn about the different uses and a safe way of using cannabis if they so choose,” he says. “We are not dependent on any type of legislation or political maneuvering because it’s education, and education has no borders.”

Cannvas MedTech went public in July on the Canadian Securities Exchange as well as the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

“We wanted to carve a little niche for us,” Moniz says. “We found there were a whole bunch of people growing … and on the other side, everyone was getting into devices, vaporizers and oil vaporizers. But we thought we don’t really want to go into those two spaces.”

Moniz decided instead to offer straight talk about cannabis after spending five years building platforms for big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Bayer – which tended to put patients first in discussions about drugs.

He was concerned that the information being disseminated about cannabis reflected the interests of the licensed producers funding it. “We saw very biased information,” he says. “There was a need that no one was willing to plug.”

“So, I said hey, why don’t we just do what I did in the digital pharma space and bring that patient-centric approach to the cannabis industry,” he adds.

At the core of Cannvas MedTech’s business is its website Cannvas.Me, which provides online cannabis courses for free. Cannvas.Me offers the chance to read about cannabis’ medical applications in materials put out by physicians along with an online cannabis course, marijuana product reviews and a cannabis strain matcher that determines which variety is suitable for a specific ailment. The goal is to reach 100,000 users of the platform by the year’s close.

As more marijuana buyers explore Cannvas MedTech’s web site, they will provide data that will power the analytical side of Cannvas’s business, which has the lofty goal of providing the equivalent of census data for the cannabis industry.

Indeed, layered just below its education platform is Cannvas Data, which uses algorithms to pull apart the research on cannabis trends and find new data that might be of use.  Via its connections to other cannabis companies, academics, doctors, and governments as well as its own web site, Cannvas management is set to ramp up its data collection around the world.

As Cannvas MedTech’s business takes off, the idea is that its data will become more tailored to the marketing needs of cannabis companies and the research needs of governments, physicians and academics. Its management will be able to tell, for example, how the consumer tastes of a 25-year-old construction worker in Ontario compare to his or her counterpart in Australia. They might also be able to determine the extent to which patients at military bases are taking cannabis to address their cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“People educating themselves about cannabis is where we win. There’s a lack of awareness and a lack of education and the data is key to that,” notes Moniz.  

Partnerships are pivotal to the company’s ability to gather information. In one of its most prominent tie-ups to date, the company recently signed a revenue sharing agreement for Cannvas.me with the Vancouver-based e-commerce platform Namaste Technologies, which runs medical cannabis patient portal Namaste MD that has a reach extending to 20 countries and boasts a database of 1.5 million users.

Namaste has developed the country’s first cannabis telemedicine app, available on iPhone and Android devices, which allows patients to connect to doctors or nurse practitioners for consultations within minutes.

“The data is really going to set us apart within the industry. The Cannvas.me platform on a global basis will collect all of that data and feed it back into the industry,” reports Moniz.

Cannvas Connect, meanwhile, is the third branch of the business as it offers a secured network to allow for the sharing of Cannvas’s data with, say, Health Canada or the company’s other partners in academic and medical circles.

“Cannvas Data and Cannvas Connect, that’s where we have partnerships with academics and research facilities and we’re trying to do partnerships with the government in Canada,” points out Moniz. “We have analysts here providing insights and trends within the community and global markets.”

While 80% of the business is focused on Canada, the remainder is global and Moniz reports that Cannvas is already reaching out to clinics in Australia and Germany to introduce its software so Australians and Germans can have information on medical cannabis at the doctor’s office. Its management also recently travelled to Hong Kong and Japan and hosted presentations there. “In most parts of Asia, you can’t buy cannabis or legally obtain it,” says Moniz. “But playing on that education format opens up a lot of doors for us.”

The company’s goal is to have software in at least 100 clinics within the next year.

Keen to remain independent from the clutch of licensed marijuana producers who control the industry, Moniz and his management team opted to take Cannvas public instead of approaching companies for money. “We wanted to remain non-biased so the only way to do that is to make sure we got funding agnostic of any licensed producer,” he says.

Since its launch last September, Cannvas has built up a staff of 19 with offices in Vancouver and Toronto. As Cannvas widens its global reach by introducing its software in clinics around the world, it aims to become the international authority on the cannabis sector. Information will drive the company forward, along with the industry itself, Moniz believes.

“From a marketing perspective, it’s very important for the cannabis sector to know who their market is,” says Moniz. “Right now, everyone is just blasting out the same message to everyone whether you’re a medicinal or a recreational user. It’s one message fits all.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on August 31, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Cannvas MedTech at https://www.cannvasmedtech.com/ and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/cannvas-medtech-inc.

One World Lithium: Explosive demand for energy storage stokes future for One World Lithium

Energy storage sounds very much like a prosaic industry, but it is poised for a boom.  One World Lithium (CSE:OWLI) hopes to be part of the explosive growth.

Tim Brock, a consultant to One World Lithium, or OWL, believes that a junior company with an eye on eventual production must strive to be a low-cost producer with a long-term supply contract.  “One World Lithium has the potential to do this,” he said.

OWL has reason to be excited, given the particulars of its Salar del Diablo property in the State of California Baja Norte, Mexico.  The project covers a large closed basin that provides a compelling exploration setting for the presence of lithium in brines. The Salar del Diablo project has the potential to be a low-cost producer, one reason being that it sits about 35km from San Felipe, a cost-efficient regional service center with a deep-water port that could ship lithium carbonate to customers in Asia and the rest of the world, Brock explained.

One World Lithium has an option to acquire up to a 90% interest from the New Energy Discovery Group.  The company currently has a 60% working interest and on completion of the initial drilling program will have earned an additional 20% working interest with an option to purchase an additional 10% on receipt of a bankable feasibility study.

OWL expects to have an OTCQB listing in September as well as to be interlisted on the Frankfurt Exchange.

Lithium has multiple industrial applications, including lithium-ion batteries, heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease lubricants, plus as an additive for iron, steel and aluminum.  All told, this creates demand greater than current world supply.

Demand for lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, storage, and mobile devices by manufacturers in Asia, Europe and North America, has mixed with supply trends to drive lithium prices significantly higher.

The price of lithium is up 870% since 2005, and 177% in the last year alone.

In addition, countries are beginning to set dates after which all vehicles sold must be non-internal combustion.

Brock believes several trends will influence the energy storage industry through 2025.

Demand for lithium carbonate will more than double to 600,000 tonnes by 2025 from 270,000 tonnes in 2018.  Meanwhile, supply should rise to between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes in 2025, compared with about 200,000 tonnes at present.

Lithium supplies currently dominated by Albemarle Corp., SQM and FMC Corp. “may be challenged as more independent production of lithium comes on line,” Brock notes. 

All of this is keeping the energy storage industry on the boil. 

The Salar Property is slated for drill-testing in late October 2018.  Plans call for 4,000m of drilling at 11 drill site locations to intersect possible lithium bearing aquifers. The pre-drilling results from geochemical, geophysical and geological work defined over 60 sq. km of potential lithium in brine aquifers (formations). The Salar is approximately 8,000 feet deep, which gives the potential for stacking of more than one aquifer going to depth.

There are five geological conditions that must be present in order to successfully explore for a lithium-in-brine deposit.  These are a closed basin, meaning that no fluids can escape; presence of hot springs; a volcanic source of lithium; faults to transport the lithium to the Salar; and a regional heat source.  The Salar del Diablo meets all of these necessary conditions. As a comparison, these conditions are also present at the Salar de Atacama, which is a similar size to the Salar del Diablo.

OWL has been in discussions with potential buyers as well as offers to joint venture future exploration but elected to drill the property on its own.

The market is watching in anticipation as the Salar del Diablo project is one of the largest lithium-in-brine prospects to be drilled in 2018.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on August 29, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about One World Lithium. at https://oneworldlithium.com/ and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/one-world-lithium-inc.

Pacific Rim Cobalt: Cobalt and nickel covered with one prized Indonesian asset

Cobalt and nickel covered with one prized Indonesian asset

Energy storage is a technology crucial to our future, and for good reason. Affordable storage is “the missing link” between intermittent renewable power, such as solar and wind, and 24/7 reliability, according to McKinsey and Company.

Ranjeet Sundher, Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Rim Cobalt (CNSX:BOLT; OTCMKTS:PCRCF), which is developing a cobalt asset in Indonesia, says a major form of energy storage includes lithium-ion batteries, and one of the metals they rely on heavily is cobalt.

“Global demand for renewable power is fueling a massive shift from traditional energy supply chain economics, and the most widely used power source for portable applications is cobalt-reliant lithium-ion batteries,” said Sundher.

“Pacific Rim leverages the global shift to renewable energy and the electric vehicle revolution by capitalizing on two elements: cobalt and nickel. Cobalt and nickel are both essential to lithium-ion batteries.”

The mining industry veteran says lithium-ion batteries can be used to smooth the flow of power. They can be integrated into electricity systems so that if a main source of power fails, it provides a backup, improving reliability.

Despite Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeting in July that he wants cobalt out of his next-generation batteries, cutting the base metal can create safety and performance issues. For now, the supremacy of cobalt in the growing electric car market is unassailable.

“Cobalt is necessary for any lithium-ion battery with a high energy density. Essentially, any high-performance battery requires cobalt. As most of these batteries are for vehicles and phones, performance is a necessity. Therefore, you cannot get rid of cobalt,” said Sundher.

Sundher, who previously founded Indogold Exploration, a Jakarta-based mining service firm, is creating a carpe diem moment for Pacific Rim Cobalt by developing a cobalt and nickel asset in Indonesia. The Cyclops Cobalt-Nickel Project, recently renamed for its proximity to the Cyclops mountain range, is situated on the north coast of Papua Province. The project covers 5,000 hectares with nine prospects, five of them drill-tested with known cobalt-nickel mineralization.

Nearly 66% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country torn by a long-running civil war. This turmoil means that mining cobalt is often dangerous and subject to supply disruptions that can result in spiraling prices. Some companies call the cobalt mined in the Congo the “blood diamond of batteries” owing to harsh mining conditions and use of child labour.

In contrast, Pacific Rim Cobalt’s Cyclops Project has excellent logistics and infrastructure. Located 15 kilometres from the Sentani Airport, the project’s tidewater location offers strategic access to China, the largest battery metals market in the world.

“We have a solid growth story in the right place,” said Sundher. “We are developing our flagship cobalt asset in Indonesia. We were fortunate to pick an asset that already had a tremendous amount of work done on it making it much easier to leverage. There have been over 850 drill holes done on our property, which allows us to talk to potential offtake partners much earlier than we normally would.”

The Canadian company has a production permit, environmental permit and sealed road access 12 months of the year to the project. “This means we can work on development without any seasonal delays,” said Sundher.  “We are currently beginning to drill 150 holes totaling 5,000 metres on our Cyclops Project and aim to make our historic estimate of 37 million metric tons at 0.11% cobalt compliant.”

The goal of the program is to establish a maiden compliant resource on the project as well as to identify target locations for extraction of mini bulk samples required for metallurgical and process testing.

With a historic estimate of 37 million metric tons grading 0.11% cobalt and 1.31% nickel at a 0.8% nickel cut-off grade, Cyclops contains significant cobalt and nickel mineralization as well as excellent infrastructure for year-round development activities.

Sundher makes clear that China is a focus of the company’s strategy for eventual supply.  “A key factor and strength of our development going forward is our proximity to China. Indonesia faces China. China is a big investor into Indonesia and they are a big consumer of cobalt,” said Sundher.

Indeed, China’s fast-growing battery industry accounts for 80% of cobalt usage. Beijing is locking down supply chains and gobbling up as much cobalt as it can.

Pacific Rim Cobalt has signed a preliminary offtake agreement with Beijing Easpring Material Technology Co. to purchase nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate from the Cyclops project for five years from the start of commercial production. 

“This is a major milestone for us. Beijing Easpring supplies five of the world’s top six battery manufacturers. They are incredibly sophisticated and dedicated to the electric revolution. Our business model is China-facing,” said Sundher.

It’s no secret that global battery makers have been searching for ways to reduce cobalt in their batteries to cut costs.  Next year, China’s largest lithium-ion battery maker, Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., plans to begin producing next-generation nickel-rich batteries, called NCM 811, which are cheaper to make and have longer lifespans.

Pacific Rim Cobalt is positioned to roll with these changes in battery composition, though, as it has both cobalt and nickel in its arsenal.

“The NCM 811 chemistry does reduce the amount of cobalt, but it replaces it with nickel. We are a cobalt and nickel company, so the switch does not affect us as much as other companies,” said Sundher.

“Our preliminary offtake partner, Beijing Easpring, is one of the leaders of 811 chemistry, and it is not anticipated to be the leading battery chemistry for a number of years,” said Sundher.

“It’s Day 1 in our company and I firmly believe that any investor who is interested in cobalt and understands the cobalt supply chain should have a close look at what we are doing.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on September 10, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Pacific Rim Cobalt at https://pacificrimcobalt.com/ and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/pacific-rim-cobalt-corp.

CellCube Energy Storage Systems: Smoothing the path between renewable energy and its end-user

Smoothing the path between renewable energy and its end-user

The path toward clean energy has proved to be a bumpy one. Misconceptions about the viability and reliability of renewable energy sources have sometimes hindered progress.

CellCube Energy Storage Systems Inc. (CSE:CUBE; OTCQB CECBF; Frankfurt 01X) has heard all the questions and concerns. How does solar power work when the sun goes down? How do you utilize wind power on a not-so-breezy day? The company has found that the missing link between clean, renewable energy and intermittency is in energy storage.

Despite the confusion about just how clean energy works, CellCube Chief Executive Officer Mike Neylan believes that a societal transition from fossil fuels to cleaner or renewable sources is well underway.

“The fundamental need for large-scale energy storage is driven by the increased integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid,” says Neylan.

Neylan, with over 20 years of corporate experience under his belt, has a blend of energy know-how and the financial experience to back it up. Formerly, he was a private equity portfolio manager with alternative investment manager Sprott Inc. and oversaw an investment fund focused on physical power trading when he was the chief operating officer of Aquilon Power Corp.

Renewable energy generation has been increasing, spurred on by the rapid growth in solar and wind power generation, according to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Solar power generation has increased by 31% compared with 2015 while wind power generation is up by 16%, as per the study.  A total of US$19 billion worth of public investment was put into renewables in 2016. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance research, storage markets are estimated to reach 40GW by 2030 and are expected to spend over $100 billion in the ramp-up phase over the same period.

“Climate change is driving decarbonization and the increase of renewable sources powering the electricity grid,” says Neylan. “Consumers are looking for cleaner sources of energy with the same duration and reliability that they’re accustomed to having. Clean energy sources backed up by a long duration energy storage system fit the bill.”

Most commodities have always been able to be stored, like water in a reservoir or grain in a silo. Until relatively recently, there was little technical capacity for storing grid-scale electricity except through pumped hydro projects – which are expensive and have geographical constraints. Production would have to always meet demand to avoid waste and ensure a reliable and balanced grid.

CellCube stores energy by way of a vanadium redox flow battery, a brainchild of NASA in the 1970s.

Named after Vanadis, the Norse goddess of beauty, vanadium is a silvery, ductile metal known for its brilliant colors and for making steel stronger. Vanadium salts are non-flammable and non-explosive, increasing safety and battery life.

CellCube’s vanadium redox flow batteries provide 100% useable energy without impacting product life – there is no capacity degradation. The energy storage system comes as a containerized solution with scalable multi-unit modules that can provide grid-scale rated power and between four to eight hours of energy storage.

A battery’s cycle starts when the battery is fully charged and ends once it has been discharged, or all the stored energy has been used up, and then it’s recharged again.

Unlike other technologies on the market, CellCube’s energy storage system doesn’t suffer from cycling dependency and has a much longer lifespan – lasting more than 20,000 cycles. The battery is ideal for long-term renewable energy projects with a lifespan matching that of conventional power generation assets at 30+ years.

If there is ever a service interruption, CellCube receives an alert so that they can respond promptly and keep the energy flowing while reducing the cost of wasted energy. The battery can be looked after around-the-clock or be monitored remotely.

In the past, electricity storage was limited to small electrical-chemical batteries like lead acid or nickel-cadmium batteries. Lithium-ion batteries grew in popularity but were better suited for short-term storage. Vanadium batteries are better equipped for large-scale stationary energy storage, according to CellCube.

The Toronto-based company has original units that have been operating for nearly 10 years, or 11,000 battery cycles. In total, there are 130 installations in 24 countries, including units in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa and famously frigid Siberia.

Its adaptiveness to weather extremes also sets the battery apart from the competition.

While some parts of the world look toward clean energy, other parts are still in the dark. CellCube has the capacity to bring electrification to future generations in rural areas.

Excess renewable energy can be stored and then fed into a microgrid, or an electricity grid separate from the mainframe grid. A diesel generator, less expensive than gasoline but a nonrenewable form of energy, can be used to charge the CellCube, but a shift to clean energy may lead to more autonomy for distant communities.

“If you dovetail it with solar or wind, then you have a cheap, clean, renewable source of energy driving the power but used in conjunction with storage, you have a much more efficient system completely independent from the grid,” says Neylan. “So, it allows communities that are isolated in any particular way to really assume control for their own power generation systems and to do so on an economic basis and on a clean basis.”

CellCube is looking to pave the rough road to renewable energy by providing consumers in all locations and climates with cleaner energy they can depend on to power their lives in rain or shine.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on August 31, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about CellCube Energy Storage Systems. at https://www.cellcubeenergystorage.com/ and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/cellcube-energy-storage-systems-inc.

Gianni Kovacevic: One-on-one with the realistic environmentalist

Sharp. Focused. Radical. Three words that describe Gianni Kovacevic.

He’s also passionate about the energy industry in a way that is unparalleled. In 2016, he published My Electrician Drives a Porsche and drove across the U.S. to promote it on the world’s first zero-emission book tour.

Public Entrepreneur recently sat down with him to chat about the energy industry and his latest venture, CopperBank Resources Corp. (CSE:CBK), a company that is engaged in the acquisition and development of mineral properties.

Who is Gianni Kovacevic and what drives you to be so passionate about the energy industry?

I’m an investor. Within that, I’m a curious investor, and I want to look at investing in the future and all that it entails. I’ve been captivated by the energy space. Effectively, I look at it like technology now. It’s moving forward at a faster pace than most people will appreciate and recognize.

I’m Croatian. My brother and I have been fascinated by the scientist Nikola Tesla, a Serbian born in Croatia, who invented the modern way in which we create and transfer electricity. That spawned our studies – we both went to BCIT and took electrical studies and I’ve followed it like a Harlequin Romance ever since.

What it taught us was that fairytales at the time are now becoming commercially viable when it comes to the electrification of transportation, solar power, wind power and the integration of that. It will be led by the consumer, in my opinion.

What is the future of batteries, and related to that, and how does that shape the future for companies in the battery metals sub-sector?

When it comes to understanding energy, there are three silos: 1. The generation, or creation, of energy, so the creation of electrical energy. 2. The movement of energy. There are three ways to move energy from point A to point B, you can do it with a pipeline, with a ship or a railroad or you can do it with electrical cables. 3. The utilization of energy and that’s where we can look at batteries.

The lithium-ion battery has gotten a lot of press. It’s good for devices, tools, transportation. When you get to the larger, commercial-scale batteries, you’re talking about vanadium-redox or iron-salt batteries. They’re huge – the size of a building – with very simple and abundant ingredients.

So what’s the glue of every system I just went through? Copper. Electricity demands copper.

You are executive chairman of CopperBank.  Tell us about that company and what excites you about its future.

CopperBank is a unique company. It’s a company built by investors, for investors. We appreciate that the future of energy will be copper. We look at investing in junior mining as the highest of high-risk industries.

Our strategy is to acquire projects that have had a significant amount of capital already invested. When the copper price is low, they are un-economic, when the copper price rises, there’s optionality. Our portfolio has growth, optionality and development potential. We can enhance the value – even in a lower-priced copper environment – to offer investors not just the optionality play, but also accretive growth.

We specifically like copper because as a commodity, it will have strong CAGR demand growth. Unlike the oil and gas industry, copper mining has a window where in the next three to four years we have no major copper mines coming online. That’s big news.

You label yourself a realistic environmentalist. What does that mean?

It’s recognizing that about two billion people in the world don’t live like we do. Eventually, they will have access to running water and electricity. There’s nothing that can prevent that. It’s how we do it in the most proactive way possible. All of these things will be led by the consumer. As much as you want to adjust or pivot the behaviour of people, you can’t do this.

What impact will technology have on emerging markets, and particularly on commodities in emerging markets?

You have to look at the per capita usage of commodities. We currently have 7.5 billion people in the world and we’re probably going to climb to about 9 billion. As these developing nations become more developed, the trend is (and we’ve seen this many times) that birth rates fall. So eventually we will go into decline, but that’s an issue for 2050 and beyond. When you look at the per capita consumption of commodities in the next 10, 20, 30 years that’s where I think – as an investor – there are going to be winners and there are going to be losers.

As we pivot to a low-carbon society, things like thermal coal and crude oil will no longer be growth businesses. We’ll see other commodities become the blue ribbon champions – things like copper because it will continue to grow. We will pivot. That amplitude will increase.

What commodity investment opportunities can you not ignore today?

What Tesla has done with its supercharger network. Effectively, they have disrupted the entire incumbent energy system. You can now drive an electric car anywhere in the developed world, due to their super charger network, and it only took Tesla about three years to achieve that.  Think of the gravity of what they have developed in a very short time.  Royal Dutch Shell by comparison, is a $300 billion company that sells 6 million barrels of oil every day through their 44,000 forecourts. Shell is an energy distribution business and good part of their market cap is attributed to selling transportation fuels. That is no longer a growth business.

What have I missed? What else should we have talked about?

The consumer. The consumer will eventually guide the way. The gentrification, urbanization and behaviour of the millennial generation is profoundly different than the generations before. Where is the largest millennial population in the world? It’s in China. There are 415 million millennials and over 100 million have graduated from university. Those educated, urban Chinese want no part of factory jobs anymore. The European/American millennial is saying they don’t want to live in the suburbs of cities anymore. They are more than happy to live in the gentrified area of Kansas City in a condo, and they don’t have a car nor do they want one — they don’t even have a drivers licence, so they are never going to be the customer of Big Auto or Big Oil.

So if one aggregates any 100 of these people. Many don’t have a drivers licence, and if they do it’s for something like a car sharing service like Car2Go. They don’t want ownership, they want access. Or, they will use a service like Uber. So how does this reverberate into what we’re talking about? If we aggregate 30 or 40 of these young people, they require one car, car-sharing, or an uber driver.

When you look at the consumer, guess what? They all used to buy a car. No longer. These types of consumers, that count in the hundreds of millions, are never going to be the future customer of VW, GM or Toyota. If the Big 3 automakers each sell around 10 million cars a year, I will suggest to you that in the future, their car sales will stop climbing. And I believe car sales in general will actually start to fall. Additionally, a good portion of those cars become more fuel efficient and for professional drivers increasingly so they will buy electric. It’s all about cost, not price – the total cost of ownership, not to mention the governmental pressures that are forcing industry to provide zero emission transportation.

We’ll see technology companies getting in the game: Tesla, Apple, Dyson, you name it. There’s a cool factor, green factor, price factor. It’s going to disrupt the whole business model. It’s all been turned on its head. And then you look at one other thing.

I also think it’s always important to think about the Ernest Hemingway quote when you think about car companies: “How’d you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on September 8, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Copperbank Resources Corp. at http://copperbankcorp.com and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/copperbank-resources-corp.

The World According to Victory Square: Global tech making a difference on multiple fronts

Technology is changing the lives of every living thing on our planet and at a speed difficult to grasp.  Then there is the question of direction – where is the tech world taking us, and to what end?

To begin understanding these issues, it helps to have insight from someone who lives and breathes technology, but at the same time is not so consumed by it that they lose touch with everyday realities.  Someone driven by the outcome of their efforts for human beings, rather than the pursuit of technology for its own sake.

Shafin Diamond Tejani, CEO of Victory Square Technologies (CSE:VST), is firmly in the former group.  With a vision for his company built around clear opinions on future trends, he speaks sincerely about both increasing shareholder value and the positive influence he and his team can have on local communities…and those not so local.  At the end of the day, Tejani believes the benefits are there for all of us to share.

Public Entrepreneur visited Victory Square headquarters in Vancouver recently for an in-depth discussion of Tejani’s philosophies and thoughts on where technology is headed.  Investors and entrepreneurs alike could learn much from one of the city’s leading lights in technology investing and helping entrepreneurs realize their business and personal goals.

Victory Square invests in companies that are shaping the future, and that means you have some precise views on where technology, and the world in general, is going.  Can you share that outlook with us?  What are you focused on and what do you see for the future that some people might not?

Human nature is very predictable, and history is very cyclical.  If you look at the past few decades you see very clear patterns.  Our focus recently has been on new emerging technologies, which are disrupting established technology and creating completely new industries.  We are seeing things like decentralization, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and virtual and augmented reality being the next big movements.

I started my first company during the early dotcom boom of the mid-1990s.  The Internet and the Web democratized access to information and connected people from all over the world.  We have seen that impact every walk of our lives on a global scale, and it accelerated further with the explosion of mobile phones and smartphones.  We can now say that humankind is almost entirely connected.

Humans generally want to do the same things.  On the Internet they want to access information, purchase things, play games and watch movies.  They also use social media to connect and communicate with one another.  But for the last 25 years, most of these activities have taken place on centralized servers.  Facebook allows you and I to communicate but it’s a centralized platform.  We input the information, but they own that input, and they monetize it to third-party advertisers without us getting a cut of the money.

The impact of global platforms like Google, Twitter, and Facebook leads to problems ranging from the threat of government-ordered censorship to more subtle, algorithmic biases in the curation of material that users consume. These platforms which host and inform our connected public perspectives are unelected, unaccountable, and often difficult to oversee or audit.

We are now living through a new movement to create technologies and services to address these issues. Decentralized technologies that are open source, enabling peer-to-peer interactions in lieu of mediated centralized platforms are the remedy to our current global landscape.

In a centralized system, everything is kept in the same place and can be hacked.  In a decentralized network there may still be a Facebook that can create the network, but we all own our own information and we all participate and benefit from how successful that network becomes.  People will want to do the same things, but the underlying architecture is going to be different.

From an innovation standpoint, Victory Square focuses on things we know.  We like verticals that are commercial and virtually recession-proof.  Sports betting is a good example.

Let’s vector in a little closer.  How do you choose companies to invest in based on your broader view for the future of the world?

Given that we begin by focusing on verticals we know well, the next thing we do is identify a large customer with a pain point.  Then we look at some 80 accelerators we have relationships with around the world to see what problems talented people are trying to solve.  We can bring teams to Canada to evaluate them if they are overseas.  The evaluation will take place over anywhere from three to six months, and by bringing entrepreneurs to Canada there are a number of programs we can take advantage of that help to mitigate our risk.

We focus on verticals that we have a strong track record and experience in, identify a large customer in that vertical, look wide globally to find the best talent, bring it to Canada to give it all of the advantages of being based in Canada, and then we are able to evaluate the tech and the team as they validate with that large customer we have brought them to.

Tech has been commoditized, so it’s your ability to have an operator who can execute efficiently.  Execution becomes the real key.  We look for strong teams and leaders who have built a product that customers are willing to pay for.  And given that commoditization, you need differentiating factors – someone who can speak well and articulate what they are really doing, and then there is that work ethic and hustle that we also look for in an operator.

Give us an example of an investment and the impact it stands to have on the future.

There are 19 companies in our portfolio doing exceptional things.  One of those is FansUnite, which was founded by an accountant and a lawyer who are very passionate about sports betting.  We acquired the company about 18 months ago for $2 million, worked with them to build a unique product, and they just oversubscribed a financing of $4.45 million at a pre-money valuation of $13 million.  FansUnite is aiming to go public in early 2019.

In the sports betting industry, all bettors are generally betting against the house.  You are trusting the house to manage the lines appropriately, trusting them to put the player funds in escrow, and then to pay you out accordingly when the time comes.  Paying exorbitant fees and trusting a centralized third party with your funds was what led to FansUnite incorporating blockchain into their business.

A main pain point is that the house is using a third party to process payments, which means they must charge a fee, and it can be as high as 10%.  That means if you bet $100, only $90 is actually going into the pool, so you have to win 54% of the time just to break even.  They realized that decentralization and blockchain could address this and built their own protocol and currency. FansUnite will become one of the first companies to build the infrastructure that allows any operator to build a blockchain based sports betting application on the protocol.  FansUnite is building the first decentralized application which will be a low-margin sportsbook, taking the fees per bet down to an industry low 1% margin for the book.  There are many other efficiency benefits as FansUnite aims to change the landscape of the sports betting industry.

Your company materials suggest giving back to the community is important to Victory Square.  How does investing in things that make the world a better place fit into the structure of a capitalist enterprise?

My family is from East Africa, and in the early 1970s there was a military coup and we ended up in Canada.  We basically won the lottery by landing in Canada, where we had access to good education, stable government, safety and security.  The advantage we had in Canada and the thankfulness is tied into a responsibility I have always felt, and it has trickled down to our portfolio companies in the form of something we call TKM: Time, Knowledge and Money.

There are some in our team who might not have financial resources to give, but they have time and knowledge.  A graphic designer might donate design services to a philanthropic organization in need of that skill.  Lawyers or accountants can provide legal advice or business planning for charities.

Our focus at Victory Square is on vulnerable children and making sure they have the basics, which means access to nutritious food, education, safe environments, love and support.  We found that not only do we have the time and capacity to do it as a capitalist enterprise, but if often benefits us because it aligns us with the interests of other socially minded entrepreneurs.  There is no negative impact – it is only positive.

There is no typical day for you, but how about a typical week or month?  Give us a look inside the world of a manager at the top of an investment organization.  What are your biggest challenges and how do you keep on top of all the moving parts?

I am fortunate to have an amazing team and we divide and conquer.  If we take September as an example, we are hosting a conference in London called the World Blockchain Forum, where investors, thought leaders and emerging tech companies from all over the world will be gathering, including some of our own.  We’ll be connecting with investors and accessing deal flow in the UK.

Right after that we head to Asia, where we have some portfolio companies.  We will be stopping in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and then we end in Singapore.

Thankfully, Asia is a day ahead because we come straight back to Vancouver for conferences, one of which is Cambridge House’s Extraordinary Future, which we sponsor and are actively involved in, and then the AR/VR Global Summit.  At the end of September, we are in Malta for the Malta Blockchain Summit.

Portfolio companies are global, events we host and speak at are global, our talent pool and investors are global, so we are spread out.  And alongside all of that, we are managing our portfolio companies and day to day responsibilities, so we have to ensure we have a really organized team, but also a really deep and hard-working team so we can successfully execute on everything.

And there are also lots of activities we run on the philanthropic side – educational programs, food drives, golf tournaments, galas and other events.  That initiative is important to us and we have a team that makes sure we devote appropriate time.

Victory Square must have a shareholder group a little different than that of the average public company.  Can you discuss the type of investor that backs you?

We attract a wide variety because we are in many different verticals.  We have exposure to artificial intelligence and machine learning, to VR/AR and blockchain, as well as mobile games and film.  They fall into three categories: institutional investors who have a longer vision, retail investors who don’t fully understand the sector but want exposure, and then there is a big group of investors who support our portfolio companies from the global crypto community.  Given that tech is borderless, we are seeing investor interest from all over the world.

If you could convey just one lesson to a talented, budding entrepreneur, what would you tell them?

There are lots of things I think are key, but forced to make a shortlist, I’d offer an analogy.  If we needed to go to Florida we could get in a car and start driving, but we might not have enough food or money or gas.  We might eventually make it to Florida, but it would not be the most efficient way.

A well considered plan is one of the biggest things.  You need a roadmap for where you want to go.  But you also have to realize that the direction you initially started out on might not work, so you have to be flexible and adjust.  The entrepreneurial journey does not always look like a hockey-stick curve.  It can be very volatile, and having that plan enables you to be better prepared to face the challenges and difficult periods and be persistent and determined to get past it, rather than become frazzled and quitting early.

You also need the right attributes, such as strong work ethic, leadership skills, passion and determination.  If you put enough smart people together with a good idea or opportunity, you are going to figure it out.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on September 19, 2018 and featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Victory Square at http://www.victorysquare.com and on the CSE website at https://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/victory-square-technologies-inc.