Category Archives: CSE Issuer Stories

Interview with Tom Rossiter, Chief Executive Officer, RESAAS Services Inc.

In late July, Peter Murray of Kiyoi Communications sat down with Tom Rossiter, Chief Executive Officer of CSE-listed RESAAS Services Inc. (CSE:RSS) to discuss his perspective on opportunities in the real estate sector and RESAAS’s unique platform. Below is the transcript of their discussion.

Peter Murray (PM) RESAAS offers unique services to the residential real estate industry, a massive market if there ever was one.  Can you begin by walking us through what the company does at a high level, and given all the pivots that seem to take place at technology companies, has your mission changed along the way?

Tom Rossiter (TR) Our mission hasn’t changed along the way, it has evolved.  If we rewind to the beginning of RESAAS (Real Estate Software as a Service), we set out to create an online platform that aids the existing practices of the real estate industry.  We all know that real estate agents are social professionals – maybe the most social group of professionals that exist.  When you are together with them in real life it is amazing to see the knowledge sharing, the education, the tips and tricks, and the deals that get done.

We thought that should be supplemented digitally so the value of a professional circle could transcend a local market and put an agent or organization on the map not just locally but nationally, and maybe even overseas.  You can think of RESAAS as an online destination for real estate professionals to act as they do in real life.

Eventually, the networking effect kicked in, which means the bigger the network, the greater the value to those in it.  Word got out about all the great content, and data, and deals, and leads, and listings that were happening inside RESAAS amongst the agents using it.  Leading organizations with extensive footprints in terms of agent count and office locations began to catch wind of what was going on and thought, “Wow, we have this large physical presence.  What would happen if we embraced this RESAAS model to be our digital complement?”

A big part of our business now is working with these larger brands and organizations and supplying our technology and services to their networks.  We provide a white-labeled platform so they can give their agents a way to interact digitally, and ultimately do more business.

(PM) 2. What tools are you providing and what makes them unique?

(TR) The tools are really just an extension of what the agents are already doing.  Every agent either has listings or wants to find listings for buyers, so we provide an easy system for listing sharing amongst agents.

Buyer needs is a particularly important aspect.  In hot markets, there is less inventory and more demand.  Where listings are scarce we provide a buyer needs experience so that agents can signal they have a buyer and detail that buyer’s requirements.  While RESAAS works very well across buyer’s markets, seller’s markets and neutral markets, we’ve become particularly popular in seller’s markets, where there is that supply issue.  What we have been able to do is to create a new way for the industry at large to organize and visualize listings.

The way the industry works is that it can take up to five days between the time an agent signs a listing agreement and the time a property is listed on the MLS with pictures and other information.  During that period, agents might communicate the listing to others and transactions can thus occur pre-market.  And those that do are outside of the MLS.

For local organizations charged with governing their respective local real estate markets, this is a big problem because they need to know everything about the market so their database, their analytics and their comparables are accurate.

Last year in the US about 22% of properties that sold never got to the point of having an MLS listing.  And in hot markets, that can reach 40%.  To bring that back to RESAAS, we have created a way to capture listing data pre-market that is structured, organized, clear and compliant.  Agents love it because it levels the playing field.  But even more important is that our clients, the local real estate associations and boards, can finally visualize and track activity in its pre-MLS phase.

Because of varying regulations and bylaws in individual markets, RESAAS sometimes has data for days, or even weeks, before any other destination online has it.  Ours is the first platform of its kind and has been termed extremely disruptive.  We are marching out across the US and activating different markets every week.

(PM) 3. Would you say that locating senior management and most of the technology team in Canada has been the right decision for RESAAS?

(TR) We are fortunate to be based in Vancouver, which has become what I consider to be the Silicon Valley of the north.  It is a thriving destination for technology companies to base an office in or establish their headquarters.  I have been here for 10 years and watched the city transform from a technology reception standpoint such that there is now an understanding of how a company like ours needs to be supported, financed and communicated.

There is an amazing community in Vancouver amongst technology companies.  Even though companies might compete with each other, there is collaboration and innovation.  And given the variety of companies that exists here – private, public, start-up, emerging, well-established, large and small – there are so many industries serviced by them that the thought-leadership and mentorship opportunities are tremendous.

Importantly, Vancouver has a buoyant investor scene that supports and understands technology companies.  As a public technology company on the CSE, we could not be more grateful to be in such a dynamic environment.

(PM) 4. Take us inside the RESAAS strategy.  How did you develop your game plan, and what are the keys to executing effectively?

(TR) RESAAS started as a freemium platform.  We opened the gates to a network we had built and did so without putting up a paywall.  We wanted to minimize the barriers for busy professionals to use and believe in our platform.

The strategy all along was to build a critical mass of users and analyze what they did – what they talked about, what they wanted and how they used what we had created.  We didn’t put a timeline on it.  Our approach was to launch the platform and once we felt we had enough information, analytics and patterns to understand the behavior, then we’d be informed enough to build solutions that we could sell.

As a result, everything we are doing now and everything we have created is based on industry activity and demand.

Really, it is consistent execution of the game plan.  Run something for free, analyze the patterns and data, build solutions that represent what people are crying out for, then monetize it at scale to an industry in need.  We are now in the last phase of that four-pronged strategy.  By spending time up front to understand exactly what different facets of the industry require, when we build a solution and take it to market the reception is fantastic from the get-go.  We are not finding our way or having to pivot on the fly because we have gone to market with a polished solution we know is in high demand.

(PM) 5. Some technology companies become profitable early on but others achieve very high valuations with hardly any revenue at all.  What is your take on this, and where is RESAAS on the earnings versus valuation continuum?

(TR) We view RESAAS as similar to a Silicon Valley company mentality.  By that I mean that the process is to assemble a team and raise capital, build a product and run it for free, and then based on the data you subsequently monetize it.  We have chosen to do that in Canada, we have chosen to use the CSE as our vehicle to raise our capital, and we have spent time, capital and resources to build something that has longevity and scalability.  And the product is in high demand now that we are selling it.

During the early days, people got excited because when you assemble a brilliant team trying to tackle a problem in an industry as large as real estate, it is natural for people to dream big.  During the development/pre-revenue phase, people get excited and imagined the blue sky.  But when you turn on the revenue, that aspect of the business is beginning from a cold start.

What can happen is that people start to look at you from a current revenue standpoint and forget about the blue sky.  It happens to a lot of companies in Silicon Valley, too.  We are in that phase where we must push revenue growth month-after-month, quarter-after-quarter, geared around a recurring revenue model.  We know where we are going with this, we know how big the market is, we know how many customer types there are, and we have created a model that enables us to monetize a single agent multiple times.  That, combined with the intrinsic value of the data we are gathering, puts us in a strong position for robust valuation in the near term.

(PM) 6. Tell us about the technology and user base you have built to date.  What comes next?  How does it grow in new ways and monetize from here?

(TR) RESAAS attracted almost half a million agents in the first 24 months of operations.  From that we learned, through analytics and behavioral analysis, what we felt different groups in the industry needed and would buy, and we built those solutions.

We started taking our solutions to market in 2016 and are already working with some of the biggest brands in the space.  The top two global real estate franchises are RESAAS customers and run on our technology.

In 2017, we judged that the role of the free network for real estate agents had played its part.  As I’ve already mentioned, the years we spent gathering data and analyzing behavior formed the basis for the products we subsequently created.

We have thus decided to add a paywall to RESAAS, which means the free version is no longer available.  Going forward, all users will be paid for either by the brokerage they belong to, their local association, or by themselves.  It will mean a reduction in the number of users we have but the revenue per user will increase dramatically.  This is a tactical part of our strategy that we began executing this year and we are very happy with the early conversion numbers.

(PM) 7. You have raised over $30 million since debuting on the CSE in February 2011.  What types of investors back a company like RESAAS and what can you tell us about your relationship with shareholders?

(TR) RESAAS is fortunate to have an enlightened, supportive and loyal group of shareholders who have invested from our IPO in 2011 all the way up to our most recent financing.  That is a tremendous asset for our company and something we are very grateful for.  It has allowed us the time, bandwidth and resources to build the company we envisioned, to take the time to professionally execute on our vision, and to take our strategic plan to market in exactly the way we wanted.

The result is that we have come to market with a product and set of services the industry has never seen before and clients are calling out for.  The entire process has been made a lot easier by being listed on an exchange like the CSE.  It provided a tremendous amount of assets, tools, resources and connections outside the network we have within our own company.  The CSE has proven to be a fantastic capital markets partner and facilitated the timeframe we needed to build a world class technology company here in Vancouver.

(PM) 8. Looking at life in the public markets, what are some of the positives, and what has been your biggest challenge?

(TR) RESAAS has found the public markets, on balance, to be extremely advantageous for our company’s growth.  They provided a vehicle to raise a tremendous amount of capital.  They provided us an avenue through which to meet influential, informed and intelligent investors across Canada, and they furnished our company with enough capital to execute our vision.  We have been able to build a better business because of this.

Going public pre-product is somewhat unconventional in North America and definitely made us refine our communication style.  We communicate corporate updates clearly and more regularly than is perhaps the norm, to give investors insight into the direction the company is heading.

Typically, a company would be private and build something and would go to market.  They would have all the right components in terms of revenue growth and then they would IPO.  RESAAS chose to IPO early and use that time to build a product from nothing, but having spent the hours and airmiles to understand industry needs.

We were fortunate enough to have a shareholder base that believed in our vision and supported our direction.  And here we are six years after our IPO in a position where all of our early shareholders are still supporting the company.  They are extremely happy with what we’ve created, and they are over the moon with the opportunity before us.  We could not be happier or more fortunate to have such a supportive group of investors behind the company.

(PM) 9. What would you tell the next generation of growth companies about going public?

(TR) As an emerging tech company, a listing on the public markets provides a proven platform to raise capital, whilst retaining more control than perhaps the alternative of remaining private would allow.  In addition to the financial benefits that a public listing can bring there is greater awareness, credibility, investor confidence and use as a sales tool.  I have to say that the public markets have been fantastic.

(PM) 10. Finally, can you speak about the achievements investors can look forward to in the coming 12 months.  Why should people be excited about RESAAS?

(TR) Well, I would say that 2017 is RESAAS’s breakout year.  It’s the year we finally recognize the effort our company has put in over the last six years to monetize our solutions.  We already work with national brokerages and franchises.  We already work with major and progressive real estate associations and boards across North America.  And most excitingly for this year, we launch our newest solution aimed at the brokerage network, targeting over 120,000 independent brokerage firms across North America with a solution we spent more than a year building based solely on input from the people who run those brokerages.

This is the year that RESAAS becomes “SAAS-ified” and we could not be more excited about the direction the company is heading, our growth potential, and ensuring that we remain number one in this industry from a B-to-B technology standpoint.

CSE Stockpools Cannabis Investment Challenge 2017: Insights & Updates

[Updated: 8/07/17] In partnership with Stockpools, Lift Cannabis Expo, and Abattis Bioceuticals Corp. (CSE:ATT), the Canadian Securities Exchange is pleased to announce Canada’s first Cannabis Investment Challenge: a fantasy online stock trading competition focusing solely on the Canadian cannabis sector.

This exciting competition enables participants to create a fantasy portfolio based on select companies listed on the CSE that are actively involved in the cannabis industry.

Contestants will compete for weekly cash prizes based on the best performing portfolios each week and will also be able to play for the grand prize trip to Las Vegas for a marquis marijuana convention. There are up to $4,000 in cash prizes up for grabs as well as the grand prize trip, valued at $3,000.

To learn more about the Cannabis Investment Challenge, and to register for the upcoming week (Week 7), click here.

Weekly Featured Company Insights

As part of the Cannabis Investment Challenge, each of the seven featured companies were asked for their perspectives on the rapidly evolving cannabis industry in Canada.

Companies who have shared their insights include (in no particular order):

Follow along as we highlight one of the seven investment challenge’s featured companies each week and gain insight into how they see the opportunities and challenges ahead for the cannabis market.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are those of the author themselves and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of the Canadian Securities Exchange.

Week 7: Brad Moore CEO: Global Cannabis Applications Corp. (CSE: APP)

Around the world, more and more governments are either moving toward legalizing medical marijuana or decriminalizing it altogether. In fact, the global cannabis market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 37.8 percent between 2016 and 2020.

With legislation pending in more than 40 nations, analysts are forecasting legal medical cannabis will become a multi-billion- dollar -per -year industry. GCAC is poised to profit from the growing global trend in medical cannabis regulation and can begin generating revenue faster than the licensed producers trying to break into the space. Global Cannabis Applications Corporation’s (GCAC) technology solutions under the Citizen Green brand are “dedicated to the digital world of all things medicinal cannabis.”

Many potential medical cannabis users in newly regulated markets such as Germany, Australia and Canada may have limited to no experience with cannabis.

Citizen Green mobile apps, CannaLife and Prescriptti , provide a bridge to knowledge and the support of an online community for medical cannabis users. These two solutions create a massive user-driven data solution, a unique opportunity for cannabis R&D.

GCAC’s ‘Pain To Strain’ model combines advanced algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and real time anecdotal user feedback  to provide a highly valued user data set for licensed producers, practitioners, pharmacists and regulatory agencies.  This information is instrumental for creating safe, effective products and programs for medical cannabis users.

As such unlike the plethora of overvalued licensed producers, the revenue model for a cannabis centric technology company is not tied down by a lengthy licensing process nor the heavy costs associated with acquiring land and building facilities.  As the global consumer base of medical cannabis products grows so does the value of Global Cannabis Applications Corporation.

Week 6: Larry Bortles – Chairman of the Board, Canada House Wellness Group Inc. (CSE:CHV)

The landscape of the cannabis industry is rapidly changing and expanding, as this trend continues we see an industry consisting of a wide array of businesses that have different purposes and objectives.

Canada House places value on its overall objective that we believe should be applied across the industry, which is to not just focus on market-driven or monetary objectives but also a social responsibility regarding the reinstatement of cannabis as an alternative option to health ailments. Cannabis hasn’t been provided the opportunity to play the role it should in treatment that it did historically before experiencing disparagement and Canada House is helping in its reinstatement of being an acceptable form of treatment. We see this as a common trend within the industry. If we do this successfully we are on track to be successful in the industry ourselves and vanquish the incorrect reputation cannabis has received.

The subsidiaries of Canada House are formed for the best opportunity at success with our integrated services that have been established through a client-centered approach. Together, Marijuana for Trauma, Knalysis Technologies and Abba Medix provide a vertically-integrated platform to help our clients achieve health outcomes that were not previously attainable, an alternative from pharmaceutical cocktails. A client-centered multi-faceted approach based around the role that cannabis plays is a combination that we think the cannabis industry should embody as changes and expansion occur.

Week 5: Linda Sampson, CEO and Director, Marapharm Ventures Inc. (CSE:MDM)

Marapharm Ventures Inc. is a publicly traded company, primarily investing in the medical and recreational cannabis space, with operations based in British Columbia, Canada.

Through its wholly owned operating subsidiary Marapharm Inc., the Company has applied to Health Canada to become a licensed producer under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).  Marapharm’s initial facility, a proposed 22,000 sq ft state-of-the-art cultivation facility, will be constructed on an 11 acre leased site in Kelowna, British Columbia.

The Company’s growth strategy will be to build facilities or acquire licenses in the United States, determined by identifying opportunities in the market. The company has currently focused its attention on opportunities in Nevada, Washington and California. Land has been purchased and construction has begun, In the Apex Business Park in the City of North Las Vegas, Nevada. The company’s intention is to build cultivation and processing facilities in this location, which will utilize two medical and recreational cultivation licenses and one medical processing license. In Washington State, the Company has an opportunity to lease a facility to an I-502, tier 3 license holder. The licensee holds a production license for 30,000 sq ft and a processing license with unlimited potential. In California, we have commenced the purchase of two industrial properties and own a delivery service for medical cannabis.

Marapharm has also purchased and is developing an all-natural hemp oil based cosmetic line called, Maragold, which will be ready for market within a few months. The products created by Maragold will be marketed online directly to end-users and will be sold individually or by subscription.

Week 4: Benjamin Ward, CEO of Maricann Group Inc (CSE:MARI)

As the CEO of Maricann Group Inc., I have been setting the stage for our entrance into the European medical marijuana market for many years. In 2014, we identified Germany as a potential gateway into Europe and secured a facility in Dresden.

Early this year, when German parliamentarians voted unanimously to legalize cannabis based medicines and opened up an estimated 800,000 patient market, we obtained $42,500,000 in non-dilutive, debt-free financing to begin the Dresden facility expansion.

Currently, there are only a handful of Canadian producers who export marijuana, but with the country running out of legal marijuana to supply both medical and – soon – recreational users, exporting is becoming increasingly hazardous to the domestic market.

It has also became apparent that eventually countries will seek to trap the industry’s economic opportunities while alleviating downside risk for regulators in product safety and close their borders to imports. When this happens, only companies with boots on the ground will have a place in the market.

For these reasons, we have chosen not to export our products from Canada and instead produce in Europe to exclusively supply European patients.

Maricann is entering Europe equipped with a German operational team, including the former head of production and manufacturing for Bayer. The company has also carefully selected an Advisory Board of well-respected German-based medical professionals in research, healthcare and business.

We are slated to produce 40,000 kilograms of cannabis per year inside the new 150,000 square foot GMP-compliant, clean-room cultivation facility. With the potential for 820,000 square feet, we can increase production and scale capabilities in Europe’s largest market for medical cannabis.

It is our aggressive global expansion efforts paired with our market leading technological extraction and product formulation differentiation that has positioned Maricann to be leaders in the European and Canadian medical market.

Week 3: Rosy Mondin, CEO of Quadron Cannatech Corp. (CSE:QCC)

Anil Mall from Stockpools asks:   Where do you see things going with legalization and how does this impact Quadron?

Licensing:

In Canada, there already exists a diverse and well-established private sector for both medical and illicit recreational (i.e. ‘non-medical’ or ‘adult-use’) cannabis; in fact, Canada is considered by many as a world leader in cannabis production.

Through my work as Executive Director of the Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada (CTAC), we’ve been advocating government to implement a licensing structure which grants more licenses to increase the quantity and variety of the available supply chain.  We believe a legalized cannabis licensing structure should be open to industry participants of various sizes, from craft to larger forms of industry, and regulations should implement a more responsive licensing system providing greater flexibility for businesses.  Therefore, we would like to see a move towards a system of separate licensing categories like we’ve seen in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada and California. Having various types of licensing ‘classes’ falls into line with the consultations and recommendations we made to the Task Force on Legalization last year.

Extracts:  Extracts are the fastest growing category of cannabis products. Canada’s medical cannabis industry has been focused on dried cannabis product, however demand in extracts/oils/concentrate is growing exponentially, and oil sales in Canada are already significantly outpacing dried “bud”.  According to Health Canada data, as of March 2017, oil sales comprised ~50% of total sales by Licensed Producers, and does not consider sales of oils and extracted products sold through dispensaries and the black market.

Health Canada data: bud vs oil sales

Cannabis oils, in addition to allowing for a greater variety of product, is safer than smoking, is more stable than dried material, and can be produced using standardized preparations (particularly important for consistency in dosing).

In addition to this Health Canada Licensed Producer data, if we look at the sales data coming from Washington state, concentrate sales skyrocketed to $140 million last year.  Additionally, if we look at the data that came out of the Mackie Research Focus Report earlier this year, assuming full legalization, by 2018 the Canadian demand for oils to increase by 198,000% by 2020). There’s no shortage of data and statistics. Impressive figures are also coming from growth of ancillary markets, and consulting services: In the USA, investment in the ancillary market (i.e., businesses that do not touch the cannabis plant) grew 161% in 2016 compared to 2015.

Catering to these trends is exactly where Quadron’s offerings are targeted.

The Science of Cannabis:  As cannabis use expands and more products enter the marketplace, third-party testing labs will be needed to ensure purity, potency, and consistency of products before they reach the consumer. It’s a crucial step in the supply chain process, a critical consideration for public health and underlies the whole framework for legalization which is predicated on “safe product”.  Anticipating these needs, our subsidiary Soma Labs Scientific, aims to establish scalable labs, using research, development and science to establish industry standards for the creation of standardized extracts, using our state-of-the-art extraction and formulation equipment, products and services.

Extraction and Formulation Equipment:  There is so much demand for extracted product that there are waiting lists to purchase commercial-scale machinery. Quadron is currently the only company trading on the CSE in the cannabis ancillary equipment manufacturing and supply space, giving us a great first mover advantage.

For more information on Quadron Cannatech Corp. please email QCC@kincommunications.com

Week 2: Robert Abenante, President & CEO, Abbatis Bioceuticals Corp. (CSE:ATT)

Who is Abattis?

As the cannabis industry gears up for legalization in Canada, Abattis Bioceuticals Corp. is establishing itself as the leader in providing services to licensed producers, medical and legal recreational users and large scale farmers of marijuana and hemp biomass. “We see this industry commoditizing at an incredible rate and our intent is to be the picks and shovels cornerstone to this high growth sector.” stated Robert Abenante, President & CEO of Abattis Bioceuticals. “Our mandate is to be fully integrated along the supply chain through our subsidiaries. This means we should be able to cultivate, test, extract, formulate and push value added products into the market in the quickest and most cost effective way” added Mr. Abenante.

Through its Health Canada Licensed Dealer, Northern Vine Labs the Company provides federally mandated testing of legal cannabis and derivatives as well as formulations for products using legal cannabis, derivatives and industrial hemp/cannabidiol.

The Company also has an exclusive distribution agreement with Suzhou Raybot Material Tech Corp. (“Raybot”) which allows it to sell and service proprietary extraction machines in North America and Europe. This ability gives Abattis a major competitive edge within the industry as no large scale cost effective extraction methods currently exist. Raybot’s machines provide industrial scale and cost-effective cannabinoid extraction with the potential to significantly disrupt the rapidly growing cannabis derivatives market by providing several competitive cost advantages in the extraction of CBD, THC and other derivatives from marijuana and industrial hemp.

Abattis also has a sales and marketing subsidiary, Vergence Naturals Ltd., focused on the sales and marketing of nutraceutical products. In addition to selling third party natural health products, Vergence will be the main distribution arm for the products formulated by Northern Vine with or without CBD. Vergence has established sales channels in Asia, Europe, Canada and United States.

Northern Vine, an Abattis subsidiary, is one of the few Licensed Dealers in Canada, of which only seven are cannabis specific and of which only two are publicly traded. In March 2017, High Times announced that the next billion dollar industry would be cannabis testing. With random product testing introduced by Heath Canada in April 2017 and mandatory pesticide testing for Licensed Producers mandated by Health Canada in May 2017, the Company has the best advantage of its peers to be a frontrunner for servicing the cannabis industry.

Combined with the ability to formulate products and to extract biomass, Abattis is well positioned to be a leader in the burgeoning medical and soon to be legal recreational cannabis market.

To learn more about Abattis Bioceuticals Corp., please visit www.abattis.com or www.northernvinelabs.com or feel free to contact Brook Bellian, Investor Relations at brook@abattis.com or call 604-336-0881.

FORWARD LOOKING INFORMATION

This welcome letter contains forward-looking statements. The use of any of the words “anticipate”, “continue”, “estimate”, “expect”, “may”, “will”, “project”, “should”, “believe” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Forward- looking statements in this press release include statements regarding the selling and servicing of proprietary extraction machines in North America and Europe; the potential of the technology to significantly disrupt the rapidly growing cannabis derivatives market; the competitive cost advantages; the potential size of the cannabis testing market; the Company’s advantage to its peers to service and to be a leader in the medical and legal cannabis industry. Although the Company believes that the expectations and assumptions on which the forward-looking statements are based are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on the forward-looking statements because the Company can give no assurance that they will prove to be correct. Since forward-looking statements address future events and conditions, by their very nature they involve inherent risks and uncertainties, including that the Company will not be able to open its new lab or execute its proposed business plan in the time required or at all due to regulatory, financial or other issues. Additional risk factors are included in the Company’s Management’s Discussion and Analysis, available under the Company’s profile on www.sedar.com. The forward-looking statements are made as at the date hereof and the Company disclaims any intent or obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, where as a result of new information, future events or results, or otherwise, except as required by applicable securities laws.

Week 1 – Brayden Sutton, CEO of Friday Night Inc. (CSE:TGIF)

 The cannabis industry in Canada, broadly speaking, is very fatigued and taking a much-needed breather, as reflected in the share prices across the board.  Some would say that they ran too hard and too much after Trudeau’s promises.

Right now, as a result, Canadian LP’s are priced with legalization “baked-in.”  This is important to point out, in case Mr. Trudeau does face hurdles, potentially causing a delay in the passing of the legislation next year.

As prospective new patients wait for ‘legalization’ they will notice the disparity between the market caps of collective Canadian cultivators vs. lethargic patients and sales numbers. The fatigue caused by this disparity forces investors to take a closer look at the ancillary components of this sector, such as extraction and processing technologies, branding, software and IT infrastructure, security – you name it. Something else to keep in mind is that the United States could hold even greater potential than Canada in this sector.

29 American states now have some form of a medical cannabis program, with many of them also including an ‘adult-use’ or recreational program. Places like Colorado have provided us now with almost 5 years of data since they went legal, and the numbers are staggering.

The data is very compelling for other states to come on board.

So as the wave goes through the US, it’s all eyes on the next, high-per-capita-use-demographic states, such as Florida, Arizona, and in particular Nevada, with recreational sales beginning there on July 1st of this year.  With an estimated 48 million visitors a year to the “strip” in Las Vegas, it’s a highly anticipated market.

Another up and coming market is Germany, as they too roll out a federal medical program, much like the one we have here in Canada: the ACMPR.  So, it’s tulip-mania over there, much like Canada experienced in 2013 and 2016 leading to the prices we have here today.

There is tons of opportunity all around, but timing is everything. Never bank on something until it’s done, and make sure you know the current usage landscape to ensure it matches the enterprise values.

Alternate Health to gain from the growing market of medical marijuana

The waves of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Canada and now California have sparked a ‘Green Rush’ in the cannabis industry, but Alternate Health (CSE:AHG) CEO Dr Jamison Feramisco reminds investors not to forget about the market potential of the medical side of the business.

“The key to leadership in medicinal cannabis is constant innovation in the scientific research that puts the patient’s needs first,” says Feramisco. “Alternate Health takes a value-added approach, investing in the clinical studies and patented technology that turns cannabinoids, like CBD, into real medicine.”

The diversified healthcare company – which has patent rights for CBD delivery systems for sublingual tablets and transdermal patches and offers education programmes, electronic medical records (EMR) software and toxicology laboratory analysis – started trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange in January. Two months later it joined the US markets on the OTC bulletin board.

Feramisco brings experience in delivering profitability, strategic mergers and acquisitions and innovation in healthcare as the co-founder and president of Texas-based Apri Health – a healthcare data analytics company, formerly known as Transfuse Solutions. Feramisco is a graduate of the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School with a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry.

Alternate Health stands to gain from the growing market of medical marijuana.

There are about 40,000 patients with prescriptions for medical marijuana in Canada, according to Health Canada. Over the next 10 years, the number of these patients is expected to grow to more than 450,000.

The group’s Alternate Health Media division offers education programmes for training healthcare professionals and physicians in the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions.

The Cannabidiol Certification Programs have been approved by the American Medical Association (AMA) and address all facets for the use of marijuana’s two active chemicals that have medical applications – cannabinol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD and THC are considered useful substances to manage pain, and are also prescribed by some physicians for conditions including glaucoma, epilepsy and anxiety.

In January, the company announced the first continuing medical education course for practitioners on the endocannabinoid system, the body’s reaction to CBDs.

The video-based course, accredited through the University of Louisville and approved by the AMA, provides an overview of the endocannabinoid system and the role it plays in the different functions of the human body.

“Doctors and medical professionals have been waiting for a proper medical education program to provide details for this emerging medicine,” says Feramisco. “This program is the culmination of many years of investigation and research, coupled with a substantial investment in production to create a quality and highly necessary education program for doctors and healthcare practitioners.”

Cannabis tablets as an alternative to traditional smoking

Alternate Health has acquired the commercial rights to patents for developing and manufacturing sublingual tablets that include CBDs and/or THC.

The sublingual tablets can be rapidly absorbed into the body in less than three minutes. The company said it recognised the need for a more efficient way to use medical cannabis than the traditional smoking and ingestion methods.

Sentar Pharmaceuticals in March granted Alternate Health an exclusive 10-year agreement for global nutraceutical license rights to its patented sublingual delivery systems to administer CBD and THC in tablet form.

The company paid Sentar 850,000 common shares for the renewable license agreement.

The California marijuana Industry is estimated to grow to $25bn per year and is set to eclipse $50bn by 2026, Alternate Health said, citing USA Today.

“Alternate Health is uniquely positioned for licensing their manufacturing pharmaceutical grade delivery systems of CBD and THC healing products in this fast-growing new marketplace,” says Feramisco.

“Alternate Health facilitates the development of organic, safe and healthy medicines through our patented delivery systems to patients around the world, and the California market represents a significant starting point for us.”

Leader in electronic medical records software

Alternate Health describes itself as a leader in software applications and processing systems to the medical industry.

Its Alternate Health Technology business includes VIP Patient, electronic medical record (EMR) software that allows doctors to register patients and document their diagnosis and generate insurance recoveries with up-to-date billing codes.

The CanaCard Patient Management System tracks patient data and prescriptions while ensuring regulatory guidelines and financial transparency. It is a complete EMR, managing controlled substances like medical marijuana with an interface between patient, doctor and licensed provider.

“Alternate Health’s proprietary EMR systems give doctors, patients and producers the tools to manage prescriptions and dosages in a safe and transparent way,” says Feramisco. “This software is a key asset in the management of Alternate’s CBD delivery systems, while providing us with valuable feedback and clinical data.”

Alternate expands its labs division

The group also has an independent clinical lab in San Antonio, Texas, under the banner of its Alternate Health Labs business, which specialises in toxicology and blood testing services.

The lab receives and assesses the blood and urine of patients from across the United States and then supplies the results to physicians so they can diagnose and treat diseases and medical conditions.

In March, the company agreed a deal to expand the business through the acquisition of a 20% stake in Clover Trail Capital, a Texas-based investment company.

Clover Trail, which owns a 40% holding in Sun Clinical Laboratories, has investments in labs that conduct toxicology and blood studies for hospitals, private insurance groups and clinics.

Feramisco said: “It is an excellent opportunity for us to grow and increase the effectiveness of Alternate Health Labs, already a leading source of revenue for us and a key part of our strategy to fundamentally advance patient care.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on May 11, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Alternate Health at http://alternatehealth.ca/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/alternate-health-corp.

iAnthus Capital bordering on big things

The movement to legalise cannabis in a majority of US states is drawing interest from an expanding list of companies, as entrepreneurs sense opportunity in a market where growth is virtually guaranteed.

Currently, 29 US states have legalised the use of full-strength medical cannabis, with eight of those states allowing recreational use of the drug as well.

In all, 43 states allow some degree of cannabis use, meaning 93% of Americans live in a state that allows consumption.

According to the latest industry data, direct legal cannabis sales totalled US$7bln in the US in 2016 and by 2020 will reach around US$22bln.

However, although this looks like a good opportunity for businesses, the fact that cannabis is still illegal on a federal basis in the US makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to finance their operations.

This is where Canadian Securities Exchange-listed iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc (CNE:IAN, OTCQB:ITHUF) has stepped in.

“You have a strange anomaly in the US where cannabis is legal at the state level and illegal at the federal level,” says Hadley Ford, chief executive of iAnthus Capital.

“Citibank and Bank of America aren’t making any loans to cannabis operators, and the Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanleys of the world aren’t taking anyone public.”

iAnthus, however, raises capital in Canada, where cannabis is legal for medical use at both the federal and provincial levels, and puts the cash to work in the US market.

That market is growing at a compound annual rate of over 30% so the returns on investment have the potential to be significant.

iAnthus, which has raised over C$50mln since its founding, has been putting money to work in Colorado, Vermont, New Mexico and Massachusetts, and is also in discussions pertaining to other high-growth markets.

TGS deal

In early February, iAnthus announced a strategic partnership with The Green Solution (TGS), a big player in the US cannabis industry.

TGS operates 12 dispensaries and integrated cultivation and processing facilities in the state of Colorado and has generated over US$150mln of cumulative revenue since its inception in 2010.

“The chance for us to work with TGS on strategic opportunities is very exciting,” said Ford. “TGS is a leader in cannabis and we look forward to seeing what we are able to do by working closely together.”

As part of the strategic relationship, TGS will provide iAnthus with retail expertise and advice on investments in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Mexico and Colorado.

iAnthus is providing a US$7.5mln credit facility to TGS which will be used to fund the build out of additional store locations. The facility runs for one year and carries an interest rate of 14% during the first four months, escalating to 23% thereafter.

To finance the credit facility, and also to provide cash for general corporate and working capital purposes, iAnthus closed a bought deal private placement at the end of February which raised gross proceeds of C$20mln. The deal was structured as a convertible debenture with an 8% coupon and convertible into common shares at a price of C$3.10 per share.

The stock, which also started trading on the OTCQB in early April, is currently changing hands for around US$2.00.

“If you are an investor, there are very few industries where you can pretty much have guaranteed top-line growth of 30% for the foreseeable future,” Ford points out. “There are not many ways for the public to play that opportunity. We believe iAnthus provides an easy way for investors to invest in multiple operators across high-growth states in the US.”

Ford says the group has put over US$19.1mln to work to date, and he thinks the opportunities for investors “look outstanding.”

Massachusetts interest

Aside from being excited about working with TGS in Colorado, Massachusetts is also high on Ford’s radar.

At the start of March, iAnthus said construction had begun on a state-of-the-art cannabis cultivation and processing facility for affiliate Mayflower Medicinals, Inc., a Massachusetts non-profit and cannabis dispensary licence holder.

The 36,000 square foot facility in Holliston is expected to have annual production capacity of 8,700 pounds, with the ability to supply over US$35mln of medical and retail sales. The company has spent US$2.1mln of the approximately US$10mln it will need to build out the cultivation, processing and store locations. “We have the necessary cash on our balance sheet today to complete the project,” notes Ford.

Ford calls Massachusetts the “Colorado of the East, but with less competition.” Mayflower has been awarded two of its three licences by the state, including one of the three dispensaries currently approved to open in Boston. A Boston ordinance provides that no other dispensaries can be opened within a half-mile of any dispensary currently approved by the City.

Ford believes that operations in Massachusetts should start generating revenue in the fourth quarter of this year.

Political risk limited

The election in November last year which made Donald Trump US President included referendums in a number of states on legalising cannabis in one form or another.

Even so, some people question the heightened political risks to the US cannabis industry caused by Trump’s presence in the White House.

Ford, however, plays down such fears, seeing no material change with Trump in power from the environment under President Barack Obama. “Obama could have decriminalized cannabis. He didn’t,” notes Ford.

Ford says the real issue is not one of politics, but of economics, with states like Colorado seeing a big tax boost and the cannabis industry serving as an important jobs provider.

“Nothing is going to stop the forward motion of the industry at this point,” Ford explains. “It doesn’t make sense politically, doesn’t make sense economically, and there just aren’t the federal resources available to roll back the progress that has been made in 29 states.”

iAnthus reported a small loss last year, but as it puts its capital to work it should ultimately see the business turn very cash generative. “When I look at some of the opportunities we have in the pipeline, the future looks very rosy from our perspective,” Ford concludes.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on May 11, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about iAnthus Capital at http://www.ianthuscapital.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/ianthus-capital-holdings-inc.

Maricann looks to replicate Canada success in newly legal German cannabis market

Anyone looking for a model company in the medical cannabis sector would be well advised to consider Maricann Group Inc (CSE:MARI), as thus far it seems to have done everything right.

With a green ethos that drives both product development and corporate efficiency efforts, Maricann succeeded in becoming one of the first companies in Canada approved to cultivate and sell medical cannabis.

Not content with being an early mover in just its home market, Maricann was quick to stake its claim in another jurisdiction largely overlooked by its peers: Germany.

On the verge of turning a profit

The combination has the company predicting profitability by the second quarter of 2018. Its top line is off to a good start, with sales currently running at $450,000 per month. And having just announced a $42.5mln non-dilutive stream financing that will fully fund its German plans, Maricann is positioned to really put its foot on the accelerator.

The strategic mix of Canadian and European markets notwithstanding, Maricann chief executive officer Ben Ward sees the company’s key point of differentiation being technology for extraction and product formulation.

“We have locked up two groups with preparative chromatography expertise in cannabis and this means we have the only ability in the industry to get all the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids,” says Ward. “To formulate the plant, you first have to be able to deconstruct it to make sure you get the active pharmaceutical ingredients.”

Ward explains that there are 500 terpenes – an organic compound found in numerous plant-based products – specific to the cannabis plant, and that companies looking only at cannabinoids or THC are missing much of what cannabis has to offer. “We are focusing on whole-plant medicine, which is done by extracting all of the different isolates.”

This approach to the industry reflects the direction set for the company early on by founder Dr Eric Silver. An assistant professor and clinical teacher in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, Dr Silver knew first-hand the benefits that alternative medicine employing cannabis could have on patients. The next step was to gather colleagues from the industry with capital and know-how and begin the search for a facility to purchase.

Eventually, the team settled on the Langton facility, which had been operating under the MMAR (Marihuana Medical Access Regulations) regime established in 2001.

The facility was approved under the more robust MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) in March 2014, with a license to sell product grown at the facility arriving in December of the same year.

A green ethos going hand-in-hand with the commercial imperative

A brief analysis of the facility indicates Maricann is committed both to being a custodian of its environment and running its business with an eye on costs. Langton has its own co-generation plant to help with electricity needs and there is even a natural gas well on the property to provide some of the fuel. Other efforts include equipment to capture rainwater for use in the fertigation process.

These and other efforts lead the company to believe that it is among the most competitive producers on the Canadian landscape, with per-gram costs estimated at just $1.37. That should translate into healthy margins that really make their presence known as sales continue to ramp up.

“Our revenue generating capacity right now is restricted only by our footprint of 34,000 square feet,” says Ward. “We are building a 216,000 square foot facility and that will be able to produce another 20,000 kg of dry flower starting in the first quarter of 2018.”

As far as near-term trends are concerned, Ward is in the camp of industry executives who believe smoking cannabis will give way to ingestion in other forms over time. “We think users will come to prefer extract-based products, which is the experience in more mature markets such as Colorado and California,” Ward notes. “Once people can access a product with a consistent extract in a dose they are used to, they will opt for that. We think that is when the real adoption will take place.”

Maricann is ready with its own line of gel caps, which it developed in partnership with another company, to help that trend along.

First we conquer Canada, then we take Berlin

The Canadian operations are clearly well on their way to developing serious momentum, and the plan is to create the same success in the German market.

It was only in January of this year that Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, voted to legalize medical cannabis. The drug will be available from pharmacies to patients with a prescription, and importantly for companies serving the market it looks like it will be covered by German health insurance.

“I think we will see almost a carbon copy of the Health Canada program as far as cultivation and regulations are concerned. The difference will be in distribution,” posits Ward. “It won’t be supplied directly to patients but through major pharmaceutical companies or wholesalers, or distribution through pharmacies. Germany’s market will likely remain medical for a long time, but from an ease of access standpoint I think it will move ahead of Canada because of the German population’s propensity to seek alternative therapies.”

Ward explains that companies hoping to grow cannabis in Germany need to possess over three years of cultivation experience, a benchmark that the team at Maricann is able to meet. The company is currently preparing an initial 150,000 square feet of space in a facility that it has the option to purchase. “All we have to do is install the tables, the fertigation system and the lights and we will be operational,” says Ward. “We are moving through the licensing process there right now.”

Ward comments that the team is happy working in jurisdictions where legalization is uniform on a federal level, contrasting the environments in Canada and Germany to that in the United States, where cannabis is illegal federally but many states have passed laws to make it legal.

“Much of the rest of the world, and especially western Europe, is moving forward with legalization in some way,” observes Ward. “There is a much larger population that Canadian companies can export our experience to, and in doing so create best in class companies that compete globally. We might only be talking five or six years, but that is a lifetime of experience in the cannabis sector. I see Canadian companies moving into other markets and helping governments with regulatory issues so that their citizens can look forward to safe, reliable access to high-quality cannabis.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on May 10, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Maricann Group Inc. at https://www.maricann.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/maricann-group-inc.

Namaste Technologies moves closer to buying “vaping” online business

The acquisition by Namaste Technologies Inc (CVE:N) of various assets currently owned by Haze Industries has moved a step closer.

The Canadian company, formerly known as Next Gen Metals but now focused on medical marijuana and alternative medicines, said that it has now signed an asset purchase agreement that will see it acquire a number of web site domains, a customer list of more than 150,000 individuals plus intellectual property and goodwill of VaporSeller, an e-commerce platform for the fast-growing vaporizer and accessories market.

Namaste will pay US$500,000 in cash when the deal closes, and will hand over five million shares of the company. In addition there is any earn-out clause of US$1.5mln over a three-year period that could be triggered by revenue, margin and operational controls.

Namaste anticipates closing the transaction on or about June 30, 2016, subject to the receipt of all director and regulatory approvals, including approval of the Canadian Securities Exchange if required.

Namaste also revealed it has arranged a non-brokered private placement of at least 8.5mln units but no more than 12.5mln units at C$0.12 a pop, to raise between C$1mln and C$1.5mln.

Each unit comprises one common share of Namaste plus half a warrant; each pair of warrants would entitle the owner to exchange them for a single common share upon payment of C$0.18 any time up to 24 months after the date of issue.

The net proceeds from the offering will be used to fund cash closing costs associated with the VaporSeller transaction, inventory expansion and for general working capital purposes.

“The signing of the definitive agreements for the acquisition of VaporSeller represents a significant step forward in terms of the completion of this transaction. As the first of multiple opportunities we have identified to expand through acquisition, our management team is high focused on ensuring an efficient and effective execution of this transaction as well as a seamless integration of our current platform and VaporSeller,” said Sean Dollinger, president and chief executive officer of Namaste.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on June 8, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Namaste Technologies Inc at http://www.namastetechnologies.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/namaste-technologies-inc.

The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation profits from shift to US cannabis market

Technology companies often attribute their success to a strategic “pivot” that saw them de-emphasize an early business in favour of what ultimately proved to be a better idea.

The burgeoning cannabis sector now has its own example in the form of The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation (CSE:BCC), which shifted its focus to the United States after identifying cultivation opportunities it could advance much more quickly than its founding project in Canada.

Through a strategy of acquiring existing businesses and providing capital and management expertise to accelerate their growth, the company has positioned itself to be profitable early in its young life.

With its first acquisition, completed in January 2017, The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation acquired highly profitable assets in Arizona. These were only consolidated as of January 1, so their contribution to the company’s full financial year, which ended March 31, will be limited. Still, they will provide a good indication of what can be expected in coming quarters.

The Arizona assets are the first of several that chief executive officer Scott Boyes is working to bring under the company’s umbrella. The plan is to move quickly, setting up shop in states where risk is quantifiable and businesses are available at valuations that allow for multiple expansion as capacity is expanded on both the production and distribution fronts.

Unlike Canada, the US cannabis cultivation market is fragmented

“The market in the US is highly fragmented, characterized by a landscape with thousands of small producers,” explains Boyes. “This contrasts with Canada, which has a much more concentrated landscape with fewer but larger players.”

Boyes shares that the Arizona deal cost US$25mln, and was concluded at around 1.5 times revenue and 4 times cash flow, undeniably reasonable metrics for a business in the super-hot cannabis sector.

The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation gained more than just operating assets, as Boyes was eager to work with the executive who had built the Arizona business, Beth Stavola – so much so that Stavola is now president of the company’s US unit, CGX.

Purchasing the Arizona assets was an easy decision based on the results of extensive due diligence, which included an audit by a Canadian accounting firm and other assessments.

“The business checked every box,” says Boyes. “It was in a state where the regulatory authority is friendly. Also, when you obtain a license in Arizona you get seed-to-sale capability, with the right to operate a dispensary, to have one on-site cultivation, one off-site cultivation, run a full concentrates operation, and do your own packaging.”

Boyes explains that Arizona laws dictate medical cannabis operations must be owned by non-profit organizations, and therefore The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation does not cultivate or sell cannabis products itself in states with this type of legislation. Rather, the company purchased management, real estate leasing and other entities providing support to the licensed cultivation and retail operations under long-term services agreements. Because the owner of the license and facilities is a non-profit, the cash left over after operating costs flows to the service providers.

The company also holds another license that will enable it to open a third Arizona dispensary, which is currently in development. All three will operate under the Health for Life (H4L) banner and carry, among other products, the award-winning Multiple Extracts (MPX) brand Stavola established.

One final note on Arizona is that legalization for adult recreational use is off the table right now, following a November 2016 vote on Proposition 205, which proposed legalizing cannabis use for people 21 years of age and older. The “No” victory was far from overwhelming, with the vote decided by a margin of fewer than 3 percentage points.

After praising Arizona, the company is turning its focus to Massachusetts

The company’s second big acquisition of 2017 is taking place in a state where voting in November approved recreational use. In early April, The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation announced a Letter of Intent (LOI) to purchase a 51% stake in Massachusetts-based IMT LLC. The deal will take place via CGX using a services company structure similar to that employed in Arizona.

Assets include a 40,000 square foot facility zoned and licensed for cannabis cultivation and a license to open up to three medical cannabis dispensaries. Annual capacity is an impressive 2,500 kg of cannabis and 500,000 g of concentrates. The first dispensary, in the city of Fall River, will be adjacent to the cultivation facility.

The acquisition calls for a US$5.1mln cash payment to IMT LLC and a further US$2mln in capital to build the second and third dispensaries. Massachusetts could begin licensing dispensaries for recreational sales as early as January 2018, with preference given to medical-use locations already up and running.

In early May, The Canadian Bioceutical Corporation announced it is moving into a third market, as it is acquiring 100% of GreenMart of Nevada, a licensed cultivation and wholesaling business based in Las Vegas.

The growing facility is fully operational and can produce 1,600 kg of dried cannabis per year plus 85,000 g of concentrate. Total cost is US$19mln, payable half in units of the company and half as a non-interest bearing promissory note.

Boyes notes that while Nevada’s population is less than three million people, over 42 million tourists visit each year, so with voters having recently given the green light for recreational use the total market could be very large.

Completing over C$50mln in acquisitions during the first half of 2017 would be quite a feat, and a US$25mln line of credit the company secured in May will play an important role. It will also help to limit dilution; the company stated its intent in late March to raise US$20mln by issuing new shares but decided to raise less (the book was closed at US$11.2mln) because the line of credit can cover a substantial portion of near-term spending.

While Boyes says the Canadian cultivation license for its facility in Owen Sound, Ontario, is still something the company would like to obtain, the focus for now is definitely the US, where he says more acquisitions can be anticipated this year.

The company is undervalued relative to many other cannabis players in Canada

Boyes has been somewhat surprised that his company has not achieved the valuation multiples enjoyed by some other public cannabis issuers in Canada, but thinks this will correct itself over time as investors become more comfortable with businesses operating south of the border, where on a federal level the possession of cannabis remains illegal.

“There is a degree of concern about the political environment in the US, but the more you are involved down there the less you see it as a risk,” Boyes concludes. “Some states may need to tighten their regulations, but overall the industry is growing too quickly and simply creating too much employment and tax revenue. We may see some speed bumps along the way but, in my opinion, the US is a good place to be growing a business such as ours.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on May 8, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

Learn more about Canadian Bioceutical Corporation at http://www.canadianbioceutical.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/the-canadian-bioceutical-corporation.

CannaRoyalty charting own course in North America’s cannabis marketplace

When the first companies focusing on cannabis opportunities started listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange a few years ago, the common model was to submit an application to Health Canada with an eye to producing for the domestic medical-use market.

Fast-forward to 2017 and regulatory change in Canada, plus some 29 US states and the District of Columbia, is creating new business opportunities in what is beginning to take on the guise of an international market.

For CannaRoyalty Corp. (CSE:CRZ), it’s 25 opportunities so far, or at least that is the number of holdings the company has acquired to date.

Run by founder and CEO Marc Lustig, former head of capital markets for investment banking powerhouse Dundee Securities, CannaRoyalty looks on both sides of the border for investment opportunities with the potential to contribute a dependable stream of cash flow.

Candidates are put through a strict due diligence process and those making the cut are offered capital under a set of terms tailored to fit their business, along with guidance from CannaRoyalty that has proven valuable in helping investee companies deploy that capital to boost growth.

“There is no cookie-cutter framework we use as a threshold for all asset types,” says Lustig. “We are primarily seeking exposure to obtain royalties, which means that when we invest we are getting a part of the business in the future in the form of a percentage of revenue or a percentage of net income.”

A quick perusal of the CannaRoyalty portfolio shows that royalty agreements often come alongside equity stakes in a business, which enables CannaRoyalty to be more hands-on than would be the case if it were merely receiving a percentage of revenue.

One of the company’s earliest investments was in Toronto-based Resolve Digital Health, in which CannaRoyalty participated as a seed investor. “With minority positions such as Resolve, we of course want a good return, but the bigger priority is the strategic side,” says Lustig. “Resolve is producing a revolutionary technology called the Breeze platform which we aim to license from them. It’s great that Resolve is worth eight-times more than where we invested, but the strategic upside is equally important.”

Resolve’s Breeze vaporizer provides users with a metered dosage of cannabis using a sealed pod that is inserted into the device. Usage can be monitored through an app that works via bluetooth on smartphones, thus providing accurate information for the patient and supporting health care professionals.

Another example of a minority holding is Vancouver-based Anandia Laboratories, in which CannaRoyalty holds a 20% equity stake. “Anandia is definitely one of our most exciting holdings,” says Lustig. “It is a leader in testing and genetics of cannabis and a good example of our interest in ancillary businesses that are integral to the execution of a federal recreational policy in Canada.”

Lustig refers to the Anandia investment as the “picks and shovels model,” whereby rather than investing in producers themselves, CannaRoyalty favours businesses that make products cultivators need to grow cannabis effectively – moving up the value chain as compared to cultivators whose product is at risk of becoming a commodity.

At the other end of the ownership percentage spectrum, CannaRoyalty owns 100% of DreamCatcher Labs, which Lustig describes as one of the largest companies designing vaporization pens and cartridges. Hardware designed and manufactured by DreamCatcher is sold to other companies on a private label basis, with one model in particular also used for CannaRoyalty’s own GreenRock Botanicals brand.

Lustig’s personal interest in the cannabis industry developed through his work at Dundee, and he had an edge in understanding the potential of the fast-changing sector thanks to his molecular biology degree and start in the pharmaceutical industry, prior to moving into capital markets for his career.

In 2014, when Canada allowed companies to set themselves up as entities producing commercially for the medical-use market, the overnight change in investor sentiment opened the banker’s eyes to a new opportunity.

“If you were in one of the investment firms in Canada you could not help but do financings for new cannabis companies and that was my education in terms of the capital markets opportunity – there was endless capital that wanted to be invested in this new and exciting area. But it was also an opportunity for me to learn about cannabis the plant and cannabis the market.”

Lustig believes sales of cannabis and related products could one day outstrip those of alcohol and tobacco, seeing as the plant has both recreational and medicinal uses. “Because of the legal environment, cannabis has never had the chance to benefit from large research budgets to determine the full extent of its medical properties,” says Lustig. “When you consider all the therapeutic uses it could have, that is where the unlimited upside comes from – the idea that cannabis can be officially recognized as a medical product as well.”

Despite that growth, being in the right product at the right time will remain important, and Lustig holds strong views on how the cannabis marketplace is likely to evolve. “We will continue to grow our company on the principle that we are a lot more excited by non-smoking methods of ingesting cannabis, such as transdermal patches, edibles, vape cartridges and capsules. That, to me, is where the high growth in the market is. I think you will see that side of the market get to 75-80% versus the ingestion of cannabis by smoking.”

As for CannaRoyalty in the near term, Lustig says investors can anticipate more deals bringing cash flow and strategic synergies, some in markets where CannaRoyalty does not currently have a presence. Jurisdictions in which the company already has portfolio holdings include Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Puerto Rico.

Before long, all of this is expected to culminate in an attractive bottom line. “Investors should view our portfolio as a diverse mix of income and asset growth in the cannabis market,” Lustig concludes.

“With our cannabis know-how and management expertise we are building a platform of assets designed to accelerate early strength in high-value segments of the cannabis market. This strategy sets us apart from other cannabis companies and will drive asset growth and shareholder value.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on May 2, 2017 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.

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Learn more about CannaRoyalty at http://cannaroyalty.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/cannaroyalty-corp.

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.