Category Archives: Public Entrepreneur

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.

Public Entrepreneur Magazine – The Inspiration Issue – Now Live!

Over the inaugural year of the Public Entrepreneur Magazine, we’ve featured stories on a variety of topics including women leaders in the cannabis industry, predictions on the future of blockchain, and companies involved in battery metal exploration. Despite the diversity of industries and endeavours, companies featured across all four of these issues share one common ingredient: an inspired entrepreneur.

This issue of the magazine features interviews from a diverse range of entrepreneurs with different backgrounds in their industry. They share with us their insight, advice, inspiration, and goals for the upcoming year.

CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Also featured in this issue is a Year In Review for the CSE, with 2018 considered to be its most transformational year.

Check out the latest issue of Public Entrepreneur magazine below.

 

(Trouble accessing the publication below? CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE ISSUE)

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.

Revisiting the Blockchain Revolution: Three tech leaders take stock of the industry’s rapidly shifting landscape

The blockchain revolution: we speak to three industry leaders about how the landscape is shifting

Blockchain is an ingenious invention. That much is clear. It’s distributed. Permissioned. Immutable. It has the potential to be one of the most disruptive forces in business in decades.

Momentum is strong and changes are moving at a rapid pace. But how can blockchain actually be used in the future? Who is moving the space forward? Will the promise of it all be delivered?

Public Entrepreneur spoke to three executives who are leaders in pushing the space forward.

Interviewees:

Kate Hiscox, Founder, Venzee Technologies Inc.

Dean Sutton, Chief Executive Officer, Northstar Venture Technologies

Shone Anstey, Executive Chairman, BIG Blockchain Intelligence Group (CSE:BIGG)

Tell me a bit about your background. How did you get involved in this sector?

SA: I am Executive Chairman of Blockchain Intelligence Group having gotten my start with mining cryptocurrency in 2012. Since that time, we’ve done a number of things in the bitcoin space: industrial bitcoin mining (for clients), and built out cryptocurrency technologies and bitcoin mining pool software. At the tail end of 2014, we started work on leveraging our knowledge of search/analytics as it applies to bitcoin. In 2015, we formulated our company, which focuses on cryptocurrency-agnostic search and analytics solutions.

DS: I’ve been involved in the space since 2014, starting with working with friends doing mining out of a garage, and looking at models like a crypto-funded blockchain accelerator, and enabling rent payments with cryptocurrencies. It was quite early and we realized that the market was not quite there yet. I got heavily involved in working with data systems and integration, focusing on enterprise applications in things like health care. In 2017, BlockTech Ventures, now Northstar, was formally established to focus on the development, integration and commercialization of the core technology into existing markets.

KS: I’m a self-taught software engineer. I started coding many years ago and I’ve always had a fascination with technology. As bitcoin started to come into play in 2011/2012, that’s where it became very interesting. Probably about five years ago is when I understood the impact of what blockchain was really going to look like. For Venzee, we started looking at this in 2016.  We focused more on what was the threat or the opportunity to our business and we realized quickly that our software was positioned perfectly.

What is blockchain and why is it important to the future? Explain it to me like I’m your grandmother.

KH: At Venzee, we see blockchain as networks that are just a different type of database in our world. For me, blockchain isn’t actually new, it’s based on an architecture that’s been around for many, many years. It’s great to see it now being applied in a way that’s safer for accountability and transparency.

SA: We’re really focused on cryptocurrencies, in our case bitcoin, which we call the public blockchain. So, we don’t say: what is blockchain? We say: what is bitcoin? It’s a new trust layer of the Internet itself which you can think of as layer 8 to the 7-layer OSI stack. This is the missing component to the Internet that has not been available since its inception 30 years ago. Bitcoin is blockchain, blockchain is bitcoin. The two are connected in ways you cannot separate.

DS: It’s a core foundational technology, like the Internet, that holds all data in an open ledger that cannot be altered and allows for frictionless peer-to-peer transactions of value, replacing the costs and intermediaries that are commonplace in business and finance.
It’s important because of what it can enable, but it takes time for technology to be understood and then adopted. In the future, without knowing it, you and the businesses and platforms you use on a daily basis will be functioning with this technology in one form or another.

How is the market for blockchain solutions doing?  IBM has a big unit and there are lots of smaller companies with various solutions.

DS: The market for blockchain solutions is immense and global and is the key area of focus for Northstar. The reason is, industry knows the technology holds immense value. The challenge is in identifying the opportunities, then being able to build, test and integrate the new technology into existing systems. Commonly, companies are engaging with Ethereum, IBM’s blockchain protocol, or Hyperledger (Linux Foundation). If you look at who is engaging with the technology in a meaningful way, from the Fortune 500 level it’s easier to create a short list of the companies not engaging with it than to describe who is. This is increasing at an incredible pace.

SA: It’s still early. IBM is one company leading the charge. I don’t think we’ve quite seen who has the mantel yet, but I do believe the open-source movement will lead it.

In your view, what will the market respond to in the next year?

SA: I think you’ll see more majors moving into the pure cryptocurrency market.  Companies like ours will help them get through the anti-money-laundering compliance issues. When you look at the amount of money these cryptocurrency exchanges are making, it’s a given. Companies have to play in this field or they will lose their edge. That fact is clear.

KH: At Venzee, we work with a range of clients, from huge retailers (Walmart, New Balance) on down. We’re having a lot of conversations about how blockchain is definitely of interest on an enterprise level. The industry is really starting to think about it — not necessarily implementing it — but they are finding that they are going to have a strategy or a use for this within the next three to five years.

DS: In the next year, we will see continued adoption, understanding, and the market generally understand more about the technology and what it means for industry. Less hype and initial euphoria, and more examples and use cases we can refer to. The technology itself will continue to advance, as it needs to, and we’ll see things like regulation that will come in and really bolster new innovation and capital markets participation in a whole new way.

The industry went through a profile and funding frenzy in the latter part of 2017 but has since gone relatively quiet.  What takes us out of the quiet period?

DS: Further to what I just mentioned; reality, regulation, understanding and a simple precedent for what the technology is doing in the real world. All new technology has this initial “innovation trigger” followed by speculation, and a pullback. That’s where we are, and what was needed. Now we’re in a very exciting time where the tree has been shaken, and the market is in a place to allow for sustainable and pragmatic growth based on more factors than speculation.

SA: Technology is taking a bit of time, which makes sense, particularly when you’re dealing with cutting-edge technology. There’s only value in solving difficult issues. If you’re looking to do something that’s never been done before it will take you three times as long and three times the cost. People don’t understand the mechanics of how everything is being built. From a fundamental standpoint, a lot will change and certainly, from a market standpoint, more money is going to come in, but regardless, the technology and the network is growing and people will continue to latch onto it.

I know I’ve missed something. What have I missed? What are you excited about?

KH: In terms of Canada, I think it’s great to see the CSE moving up and paying attention to blockchain. Canada has the potential to really be a leader in the space.  I was talking to someone recently that out of the 15 known cryptocurrency billionaires in the world, five of them are Canadian.  That’s incredible. A lot of that innovation is coming out of Canada and we’ve got an opportunity here as a country to grab onto this industry and move it forward.

DS: We’re excited for a number of things. We’re excited to see this technology continue to evolve and advance, making its way into the businesses and platforms we all use. We’re excited to see baseless ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) disappear into memory. For regulation, which will open up this new asset class, namely securities tokens (real equity, real assets) to the capital markets in a way never before done. To continue building real solutions for industry, helping advance the sector at large.

SA: Investors want to be able to draw the line between “what’s this technology” to actual real-world use cases. The CSE has been doing a ton of work on this and I think investors are going to be able to wrap their heads around this soon. That’s starting to come. The foundations are being laid. So, what will the next era bring? It creates an incredible opportunity for investors and for entrepreneurs as the new era marches forward.

This story was featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Public Entrepreneur Magazine – Extraordinary Future Issue – Now Live!

With technologies like blockchain, clean tech and AR/VR poised to change the way we live, work and invest, there has never been a more exciting time to be an entrepreneur.

This “Extraordinary Future” edition of Public Entrepreneur casts its gaze forward to highlight the promising technologies of tomorrow and the entrepreneurs working to bring those stories to market.

CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

  • BIG Blockchain Intelligence Group Inc. (CSE:BIGG)
  • Victory Square Technologies Inc. (CSE:VST)
  • Copperbank Resources Corp. (CSE:CBK)
  • Cellcube Energy Storage Systems Inc. (CSE:CUBE)
  • Pacific Rim Cobalt Corp. (CSE:BOLT)
  • One World Lithium Inc. (CSE:OWLI)
  • Cannvas Medtech (CSE:MTEC)

Also featured in this issue is an insightful interview with thought leaders in the blockchain space from Blocktech Ventures, Venzee Technologies and BIG Blockchain Intelligence Group.

Check out the latest issue of Public Entrepreneur magazine below and be sure to check out highlights from the Extraordinary Future conference on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

 

Canntab Therapeutics: Merging medical cannabis with pharmaceutical expertise

The cannabis market is full of potential and creativity, with companies introducing new and innovative products every day. Dispensaries have gone way beyond smokable marijuana, offering customers everything from cannabis-infused edibles like beer and chocolate to personal care products like lotion and eye creams.

But the cannabis market isn’t all fun and games. Canntab Therapeutics Ltd. (CSE:PILL) is looking to fill a need in the pharmaceutical space.

Based in Ontario, the company was founded by pharmaceutical industry professionals. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Renwick was the former CEO of Orbus Pharma Inc., a generic drug developer and manufacturer. Prior to that, he was at Indukern Chemie AG, a Swiss pharmaceutical company.

Although once a private company, Canntab merged with Telferscot Resources on April 20, 2017 — a date synonymous with marijuana. Exactly one year later, the company went public on the unofficial pot holiday.

The company is presumably the first to offer medical marijuana in pill form.

The technology behind the pill was licensed from a predecessor firm. Since then, Canntab has filed seven patents for its two products. Approval from Health Canada to proceed with third-party clinical trials is in the works.

When a patient smokes marijuana or eats cannabis-infused edibles, it can be difficult to measure exactly how much of the medicinal elements are being delivered.

Chief Financial Officer Richard Goldstein also points to the potential danger of cannabis products being created by those without a pharmaceutical background, without GMP, or “Good Manufacturing Practices,” in place.

“A lot of it is being made in home kitchens and home basements. They’re not being made in the GMP environment. And yet, the marketplace continues to eat this stuff up. It’s quite scary at a level,” says Goldstein. He recalled a story where the tablets were so poorly pressed that they weren’t able to be dissolved in a patient’s system before exiting.

In contrast, the company’s extended-release tablets offer a consistent, stable dose each time and aren’t susceptible to spoiling and converting into other cannabinoid elements when exposed to certain environments like an oil-filled gel capsule would be.

“In true pharma, the only time you use a capsule to deliver medication is when you can’t have a tablet for that medication. If you can have a tablet, that is always the first choice,” says Renwick.

The tablets are intended to treat a variety of disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and arthritis. They can also act as a pain management and appetite loss drug for patients undergoing cancer treatments.

The pill delivery mechanism may also be the first step in reducing the stigma of marijuana by removing the smoking aspect.

Renwick recently had a conversation with a landlord who was spending hours in court after tenants complained about neighbors smoking marijuana, some of whom were using it for legal, medicinal purposes. The pill can be a smokeless alternative in areas where smoking isn’t allowed.

Canntab believes the pill alternative will also appeal to senior citizens who take multiple pills per day, especially in assisted living facilities where smoking may not be allowed.

“They’re not going to smoke. They’re not going to eat gummy bears, but they’ll take a pill if it makes them sleep better,” says Renwick.

The company does have a sleeping pill in the works, although clinical trials will still need to be performed.

And a future product line may include cannabis tablets intended to specifically treat sleep and social anxiety disorders.

While the legal landscape is always evolving from place to place, the company has come to agreements to expand outside of Canada.

Canntab is working on import and export permits, with agreements already in place to send tablets to Australia and Germany. Deals with Poland, Spain, and Greece are also being discussed.

Moving into the U.S. market is challenging. Recreational marijuana use is already legal in nine states, including California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada. Medicinal marijuana is legal in a total of 29 states, including those West Coast states as well as East Coast states like New York and Delaware. But on the federal level, cannabis is still illegal.

“Ultimately, we want to get something going in the US, preferably in California,” says Renwick.

The company has said it has a “soft plan” to get there by perhaps 2019. A lawyer is looking into licensing in California on its behalf.

A 2017 Gallup poll found that 64% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana.

Looking to the future, Canntab’s CFO is confident that the company is in good financial shape.

Goldstein notes that the company’s immediate cash needs have been fulfilled after going public.

“The good news is that we have lots of money to do what we want to do in the short term and then as opportunities present themselves, we’ll seek capital if necessary,” says Goldstein.

This story was featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Canntab Therapeutics Limited at http://canntab.ca/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/canntab-therapeutics-limited.

Cannex Capital Holdings: Funding and expertise to help young cannabis businesses realize their potential

With hundreds of cannabis companies popping up over the past few years, it is perhaps unsurprising to see some consolidation in what, right now, is a very hot sector.

Cannabis – or weed or pot or whatever you want to call it – was, for a long time, looked down upon by many members of society who thought of it as a drug for slackers and spotty teenagers.

That image has certainly started to change as an increasing bank of research suggests cannabis – or more specifically the stuff in it – has a number of positive uses, including as a treatment for things like stress and chronic pain.

Lots of companies have emerged to try to get a piece of this lucrative pie – some analysts think it will be worth US$180 billion within just a few decades – which has created a very fragmented market made up of small firms which don’t always have the experience or the resources to thrive.

That’s where Cannex Capital Group (CSE:CNNX) comes in. The company joined the Canadian Securities Exchange in March, raising US$48 million from investors, including some “blue-chip institutions”, in the process.

Cannex accelerates business growth for small, revenue-generating companies by acquiring them and giving them the support, both financially and managerially, to grow into sustainable, large-scale businesses.

“There are lots of companies in the cannabis sector that are just starting off and many of them are going to fail because they don’t know how to operate a business at scale,” says Chief Executive Officer Anthony Dutton.

“We’ve already proven that we know how to do that, we’ve been successful at that which means we’re going to be successful at it going forward.”

The ‘we’ Dutton refers to is himself and his two main operating partners from Washington State; Cannex Chief Operating Officer and Director Leo Gontmakher and Director Jerry Derevyanny, who is also Cannex’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Development.

Having worked in the corporate finance business for the better part of 25 years, Dutton brings solid financial experience to the operation, but as he openly admits, wherever he has been he has always had a solid operating team – in this case Gontmakher and Derevyanny.

The duo formed the top brass at BrightLeaf, a cannabis holding company which was acquired by Cannex for US$36 million as part of Cannex’s initial public offering in March and is the firm’s foundation asset.

BrightLeaf’s strategic operating tenant is Northwest Cannabis Solutions – the biggest grower and processor of cannabis in Washington State.

If the structure sounds a little weird, don’t be alarmed. As Dutton explains: “The reason we’ve done it this way is for licensing requirements. There’s nothing nefarious, it’s just the way the deal had to be structured to follow Washington law to the letter.”

NWCS has a couple of manufacturing facilities where it grows “premium” cannabis, some of which it uses for its own derivative products (more on those later) and the rest it sells on to retailers under the ‘Private Reserve,’ ‘Legends,’ and ‘Funky Monkey’ brand names.

While NWCS is the largest cultivator in Washington, it also purchases significant quantities of trim and full flower cannabis from third-party growers, which, along with some of its own trim, it extracts and processes into two types of extract: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active substance to create the “high” feeling of marijuana, and cannabidiol (CBD) distillate.

“We [then] refine it and infuse it into what are called derivative products – so everything from creams to vape pens to chocolates to candies,” says Dutton.

That’s the main arm of NWCS’s operations: extracting the oils from the plant and then using it to create a range of infused products.

NWCS has a host of brands including Magic Kitchen (edibles) and Evergreen (vaping cartridges), in addition to its aforementioned cannabis flower labels.

“We’re very focused on quality, so we have to focus on brand; brands are very important,” said Dutton.

“There’s a reason why people buy Coca-Cola and not some generic cola. Ultimately in the cannabis business, brands are going to be the dominant element of value and we want to make sure we own, manufacture, and distribute some of the best brands.”

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the second company to join the Cannex stable – Jetty Extracts, which was acquired in April for US$22.5 million – is also home to some popular brands in California that have a loyal following.

Like BrightLeaf, Jetty, which specializes in extracts and vaping products, also boasts a strong management team who aren’t newbies to this nascent industry. As Dutton highlights, “that’s the kind of leadership we’re interested in.”

Jetty is significant because it takes Cannex into the Californian market – comfortably the biggest in the US. By 2020, it is estimated that the state will be raking in more than US$1 billion a year in cannabis taxes alone.

That isn’t enough to satisfy the ambitious Dutton though, who has grand plans to take Cannex across the United States and around the globe in the not-too-distant future.

“We’re already in two states and by the end of this year I want to be in two more US states and one foreign country,” he proclaims.

“Within five years I’d like to be in every legal US state, I’d like to be a coast-to-coast consumer-branded company and I’d like to be in three to five international jurisdictions.”

Acquisitions in the booming cannabis industry are unlikely to come cheap, but Dutton isn’t too concerned about this for now. Cannex has US$15 million in the bank and is already cash-generative, so he says there is no need to raise money in the immediate future.

He is acutely aware that at some point, though, he will have to go back to the markets to fund the kind of rapid growth he wants, but he doesn’t expect it will be a challenge to find people willing to back him with their cash.

“The thing that has really impressed upon me in the past couple of months is that investors now want to invest in this sector. They don’t want to start investing in a company that might start generating revenue next year [though], they want a company that’s doing it now. So, for that reason, we’re getting a huge amount of interest.”

This story was featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Cannex Capital Holdings Inc.at http://www.cannexcapital.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/cannex-capital-holdings-inc.

Friday Night: Focus on specific US markets reflects outlook for national, regional catalysts

Brayden Sutton is one of the pioneers of the modern Canadian cannabis industry and is also fast becoming an authority on the business in the United States, where he believes resources are currently better deployed in most cases.  Public Entrepreneur spoke with Sutton, Chief Executive Officer of Friday Night Inc. (CSE:TGIF), recently about the different outlooks for the two markets.

We’ll get into the US regulatory environment around cannabis and your opinions on cannabis stocks in a moment, but first can you explain what Friday Night does and why you chose the US market as your focus?

Friday Night’s primary asset is the very first cultivation license for cannabis in Las Vegas.  We bought this asset early in 2017 and took it public in June of that year.  It was July when things went recreational, and since then we’ve experienced very good growth.  It was all a function of making sure we were ahead of the trends, not chasing them.

I’ve always been one to go where the puck is going to be, not to follow others.  I was a first mover on the investment banking side of the cannabis space with my own capital in 2013, and then in cultivation and later in various forms of extraction and processing.  I have been fortunate to be able to get in front of trends and I knew that Las Vegas was going to be a great market to be in.

One staggering statistic is that the US cannabis market is estimated to be over $75 billion, and yet not one group controls even 1% of that market.  Now that is the opportunity of a lifetime for investors.  I was personally invested over 10 years ago in the Canadian cannabis industry, as the MMAR (Medical Marihuana Access Regulations) eventually gave way to the MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations), and I co-founded Supreme Pharmaceuticals in early 2014.

I began to feel that from 2014 to 2017 things had become stretched on the Canadian side.  Canada has a very limited market in all aspects.  Despite it leading the world in capital for cannabis initiatives, there are only about 7 million cannabis users coast to coast, so it is a tiny market versus a state such as California or somewhere such as Las Vegas, regardless of whether you are talking adult use or medical.

I know the company has holdings in businesses outside cultivation.  Can you talk about those as well?

We own 91% of a company called Infused Manufacturing, which operates as Cannahemp, and they are solely a hemp-derived CBD business.  It doesn’t come with the same restrictions and the products appeal to a much broader base.  From tinctures and creams to bath bombs and lip balms – there is a very impressive list of products that apply to far more people than cannabis does on its own.

More recently we have acquired Spire Secure Logistics, a Canadian company focused on due diligence and security in the cannabis sector.  That branches us into exposure to Canada and once again a growing trend – there is a major lack of discussion around infiltration of organized crime, diversion of product, internal theft of product, products making it into stores when they should not be there, and many, many other issues.  It gives us a magnifying glass into the operators we are considering and the ones we have in terms of ensuring we are only working with top-notch business people who put shareholders first – and as important, don’t bring with them any negative history.

What are some of the unique aspects of operating in the US market and how do you make the most of them?

One big one is the opportunity today.  With Canada, everyone took at face value Prime Minister Trudeau’s promise of legalization by July, which will not happen.  It remains to be seen if it will even happen this year.

If you go south of the border, however, you’ve still got many federal catalysts to come.  I would argue that Canada has had its primary growth in the space already from 2013 through 2017 as far as investment is concerned.  Now it’s all about market share and who will ultimately shake out as the “Big 5” to serve a recreational market and a much less fragmented medical market.  It is much like when people buy a stock on the rumour and sell when the news comes out.  In Canada, I feel if cannabis were to become legal tomorrow a lot of people would sell on that catalyst and look for the next big thing.  That’s the nature of venture capital; it gets bored easily and needs new opportunities and to blaze new trails.

Just recently there was a conversation between President Trump and the Governor of Colorado, which sent US cannabis stocks higher.  There is so much to look forward to and I really see America today much like Canada was in 2013 in terms of the financial opportunity that exists right now.  It has years of accelerated growth ahead, and as people wonder if they have seen the peak, it just continues to get bigger, as it did in Canada for the last five years.

As far as operating in the US, I have enjoyed it and our partners municipally and locally are far better to deal with than Health Canada in every way.  There is much more of an entrepreneurial mindset in the US.  It’s just a lot more enjoyable of an environment, and people seem to be more accommodating to this business, be it construction companies or bankers, they all seem to be happier to have the business.  My experience in Canada was people were more hesitant and unsure of the muddy legal landscape.  In Nevada, it’s black and white.

Observers are aware of the conflicting positions of US state governments and the federal government.  How does that environment get reflected in your corporate strategy?

What if the United States suddenly voted on a rescheduling of cannabis this year or next?  Something to consider.  Big Pharma spends more money lobbying than any other industry in the US, by far.  Big Pharma has an interest in not missing the boat.

Just take Merck, Ely Lilly and Pfizer as examples.  Think of the money they are losing every day because this drug is Schedule 1 (no currently accepted medical use in treatment) and not Schedule 2 (has a currently accepted medical use).  There is going to be a major push from them and it is already happening behind the scenes.  I continue to be of the opinion that we may see more federal catalysts in the US before we do in Canada and for that reason as a company we are very much focused on Nevada and we are fairly confident in an overall softening on the Federal stance, allowing the sector to mature further.

So to answer your question, on a state versus federal level we very much enjoy where we are and are perfectly happy to paint within the lines of the state.  One thing I admire very much about the US is the Tenth Amendment and individual states’ rights, and with that we are very confident in our strategy that we will be able to take full advantage federally, once able to do so.

What is the difference between doing business in the various states?  Why would you choose one jurisdiction over another?

Nevada has been extraordinarily regulated for decades, and it has to be for things like gambling.  Compare Nevada to other states; Washington has thousands of cultivation licenses, as does California, as does Oregon, as does Colorado.  Nevada has less than 200.

Colorado legalized the plant in 2014 and the cartels involved in trafficking cannabis moved back into the state because there was an economic point at which they could still be in business.  So the state was forced to lower taxation by a couple of dollars per gram and immediately the economics shifted for organized crime and they left.

Nevada was forward-looking in saying they want to ensure illegal players are pushed out and that their new licensees are not going to be underwater in 12 months.  I would point to Canada again, where we have over $15 billion of market cap making up the public companies in the space, never mind the private ones, and they are fighting over a total market share of only about $200 million a year in business right now.  To me, that represents a bubble in the truest sense.  Yes, legalization will launch that number to more like $5 billion-plus, but legalization is not guaranteed.

Look at Nevada versus Canada, Canada probably has 50 times the square footage in terms of canopy space and it has perhaps a fifth of the user base.  It is just back of the napkin math.  If Canada flicked a switch tomorrow and said it was legal tomorrow, what are they going to do with the surplus product?  Export to Europe? In one or two years Germany, Australia and other countries will be caught up and won’t want or need imported weed.  Canada will not be important at that point from a global supply standpoint.

I still scratch my head and wonder why there are millions of square feet of canopy on the way for a country as small as ours.  Particularly when THC will more than likely eventually come from a petri dish, not a flower pot as the trend moves further and further from the combustion of flower to get THC in your body.

From an investor standpoint, anyone owning US assets in any form needs to have a far greater risk profile than one owning only assets in Canada.  The general consensus could be said that Canada is safer, but has far more downside than upside, whereas the US is far riskier, but brings much higher upside potential.

Tell us about the feedback you get from investors and financial professionals on the cannabis sector and Friday Night in particular.

Investors are always hungry for the next thing to get excited about – the next catalyst.  We have always been focused on revenue and profit.  We are currently at a run rate of well over $10 million a year, which I think is notable in less than 12 months of being in business.  Shareholders are very picky nowadays and they demand perfection, as they should.  But there is no such thing as a perfect company, so all we can do is our best.  And right now I would say we are extremely pleased at our progress to date as well as our trajectory and future prospects.

We are always looking to improve.  We are looking at vertical integration, and right now we are looking at owning a strong retail presence, so that is taking a lot of my time, to determine what the best course of action is regarding final sale of the product.  Once we are fully vertically integrated we can be exposed to that seed-to-sale margin that so many others enjoy.

There are certain things that are hard to invest in.  I am not going to spend CDN$25 million on 20,000 square feet which is the going rate on a Canadian ACMPR grow, when I could spend US$5 million and buy something that is already doing a million dollars a month in sales.

On the banking side and institutional side, they are more pragmatic and see things on a numbers basis.  What is our maximum funded capacity, what is the maximum money we can make relative to our current market cap if everything goes as planned, and where would we be in the worst-case scenario?  Shareholders tend to be younger, more astute and better educated, but since there is so much misinformation out there, they are looking at it as more of a land grab, which is not the way to look at it.  You want to consider if a company is sustainable and profitable many years out, and what they are spending today to get there.

We are generating a million a month and moving towards profitability.  All we can do is block out the noise, build value and continue to do what we’re doing.  I see a lot of companies buying smaller companies for the sake of owning more companies, mostly due to investors and I think that’s a dangerous strategy long-term.

Any other thoughts you want to leave us with?

I have been an investor for 14 years.  When you hold a stock, if you hold XYZ company, you should ask yourself every night when you go to bed if the state or country I am in goes legal, how will I do?  If it does not go legal, how will I do?  If there is an influx of competitors, how will I do?  If key management leaves, how will I do?  Just make sure you check all those boxes.  If 30 months from now nobody is buying flower, will this company survive?  When Merck and Eli Lilly and Pfizer step into the scene, they could literally make this plant obsolete within decades.  What I mean by that is that a tiny fraction of the world rolls cannabis and smokes it.  But, for example, if and when a 50mg THC/CBD capsule is made for 10 cents in a lab and sold for $5, good luck to the company growing $2 grams and selling it at $6.

So, just make sure that whatever stock you hold does not have any one lynchpin.  Know what will happen to that share price in any environment.  If someone came along who was stronger and better than me, I would be gone in a heartbeat.  I am not a lynchpin for this company.  If I ceased to exist tomorrow, the company would still flourish.  Those are the type of companies you want to own.

This story was featured in The Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Friday Night Inc. at http://fridaynightinc.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/friday-night-inc.