Tag Archives: Public Entrepreneur

Colin Fisher on the State of the Canadian Tech Scene in 2019 | #HashtagFinance

StableView’s Colin Fisher joins Grace Pedota for a spirited chat about the recent and current trends in Canadian tech finance including an explanation as to why blockchain is still important, despite the initial failures of crypto currency (3:00), why he actually built a crypto mining rig in his office (11:30), and the opportunities emerging in the rapidly growing eSports sector (21:15). Listen until the end to hear his thoughts on going public versus staying private, his solution for tech finance in Canada, and a tease of this year’s upcoming StableView Conference!

Subscribe: iTunes / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Play / RSS

Idaho Champion Gold Mines: Carefully chosen gold project meets with early success in a great state for mining

From his offices in Toronto, Jonathan Buick sees the glitter of opportunity more than 2,000 miles away. On the outskirts of Elk City, Idaho, is Buick’s Xanadu, the Baner project, where he has just struck gold.

“We drilled 19 holes and we hit mineralization on every hole. The further to the north we got, the shallower it was and the better the grade,” says Buick of the 1,705 hectare exploration site.

If history is any guide, Baner’s potential is substantial to say the least. The Elk City area had numerous alluvial gold deposits dredged from the tributaries of the Clear Water River, which runs through it, between the 1850s and the late 1980s. And Crooked Creek, an area just north of the Baner project, yielded about 1.5 million alluvial ounces between 1880 and 1910.

Before moving to acquire Baner in November of 2016 and set up Idaho Champion Gold Mines Canada Inc. (CSE:ITKO) via a reverse takeover, Buick and his colleagues reviewed over 250 gold projects globally. The scope of the search was narrowed to places within an appropriate time zone and a favorable, English language legal jurisdiction. Idaho emerged as the best bet.

“We’re in a good environment. We have great relationships with various agencies and both the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. They’ve been very supportive. We’ve also made it a real focus to try to hire as many of the local people as we can,” says Buick. “We think it’s important for people to know that we’re here to be good stewards, but also to participate in the economy.”

Baner was purchased for US$500,000 from a local family, who had owned it since the 1890s. Last June, the first exploration of the site in modern times began.

Idaho Champion’s first drilling effort at Baner yielded a discovery zone which is about 500 meters north to south by 200 meters east to west. As much as 5,200 meters of core was drilled in 19 holes as part of this maiden campaign. And the results included an assay from a hole which intersected 5.76 grams of gold per tonne over 12.65 meters.

The company recently purchased six additional claims, which allows it to increase its strike length a further 2 kilometers.

“I believe that we have only scratched the surface on our first exploration program at Baner. We have made a new gold discovery through the drill bit and encountered great initial grades in the highly oxidized zones near the surface,” said Buick. “There was good continuity in the holes and our newly acquired Sally claims will provide us the opportunity to expand the strike length an additional 2 km to the north.”

Particularly exciting is that the drill results show highly oxidized zones near the surface, which improves the grades and makes the gold project “much more economically attractive.”

The results at Baner are being analyzed to plan the exploration program for this year’s field season. Baner remains Idaho Champion’s focus, but just a couple of counties away sits the Toronto company’s second gold project, Champagne, not far from Arco, which it staked in February of 2018.

While the property was in production from 1990 to 1993 as a heap leach gold mine, the previous owners never drilled below 100 meters. Idaho Champion’s geologists think there’s a much bigger system at the 10 square kilometer property that could be characterized by “Midas”-type deposits, consisting of high-grade gold and silver epithermal systems. “We think there’s a much bigger target and a much bigger system underneath,” says Buick. “Our goal in 2019 is to go ahead and do some grassroots exploration.”

Buick is a businessman who likes to have options as a hedge against uncertainty. So, last November, in a bid to diversify, Idaho Champion purchased 822 federal US cobalt mining claims in four blocks – Victory, Fairway, Twin Peaks and Ulysses – (about 6,871 hectares) in the Idaho Cobalt Belt, just outside of Salmon, Idaho, from American Cobalt Corp. for a price of 4 million shares. Buick reports that his investors supported the move.

“When we picked up the cobalt, I went out to each of my investors and said I’m going after some cobalt because I think it’s important to have exposure to the market and also to protect us should we not be successful at Baner,” notes Buick.

Despite a sharp price correction in 2018, growing demand for lithium-ion battery elements are predicted to sustain cobalt prices into the 2020s. And the Idaho Cobalt belt represents a top district for primary cobalt discoveries.

“The standalone cobalt groups are having a challenge finding the capital. But that’s a pause in the market,” says Buick. “Cobalt is going to continue to be a focus and a priority for the end user and capital will come back into the cobalt space. I’m very confident that cobalt will again shine.”

Field work including site surveys, ridge & spur soil sampling, rock sampling and geologic mapping kicked off at Idaho’s four cobalt ventures last November in a bid to gather information for a more robust effort this year.

Buick describes the four cobalt projects as “life jackets” offering protection on the Baner program. Thanks to the recent gold discovery, it looks likely that the cobalt projects will be used to support the work at Baner. “If we had been unsuccessful at making the discovery, we would look to change our focus and apply it to spending on the cobalt,” explains Buick. “We’re now in active conversations with third parties to allow for the monetization of the cobalt to allow us to expand on our gold focus.”

Under review now is whether to spin out the cobalt projects into a new company; to sell them and keep an interest; or bring in a partner. “Right now, we’re reviewing all of those options on the cobalt that will allow us to come back and focus on the gold,” Buick reports.

Having raised more than $400 million throughout his lengthy tenure in finance, Buick, who specializes in securing strategic capital in Korea and Japan as a managing director of Harp Capital and his own investment firm, enjoys a reputation as a money finder.

Before Idaho Champion started trading on the CSE at the end of September, Idaho raised more than US$3 million. It remains pre-revenue, however, and posted a net loss of C$2.36 million in the three months until the end of September, according to its latest regulatory filing statement.

But business is percolating, and Buick is confident that money can be found. “We have shareholders who said they would commit to the next source of funding when that is needed,” he says. He also points out that the company is not only engaged in conversations about its cobalt projects, but it’s also been approached by some larger gold companies about how they can participate in Baner.

Over the next two years, Buick intends to make the mission of Idaho Champion as public as he possibly can. “We’re a newly minted company on a project that hasn’t had modern exploration,” he concludes. “In our first program of exploration we made a discovery, but we’re an unknown story. It’s my job now to get out and get in front of the investor.”

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on March 8, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Idaho Champions Gold Mine at http://www.idahochamp.com/.

Gary Kaminsky on a Holistic Approach to Compliance for Cannabis Companies | #HashtagFinance

Acreage Holding’s Director of Legal Compliance recently sat down with Barrington Miller to discuss the dynamics of working with regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. Cannabis industry (6:00), Acreage’s M&A ambitions (10:30), and the real impact of the Farm Bill (15:15). Listen until the end to hear Gary’s thoughts on the increasing legitimization of the cannabis industry, outlook for the STATES Act, and the integral role of social equity in the cannabis sector.

Subscribe: iTunes / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Play / RSS

Omar Khan on Navigating the Challenges of Marketing Cannabis | #HashtagFinance

Episode 3 — Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Omar Khan sits down with Barrington Miller to discuss his perspective on the SNC Lavalin Affair (1:45), the challenges of marketing cannabis products (7:15), and his analysis of the Ontario cannabis lottery (11:45). Listen until the end to hear Omar’s thoughts on what the legal cannabis industry will need to do to bring more users over from the black market!

Subscribe: iTunes / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Play / RSS

Richard Carleton on Ushering the CSE into the Cannabis Era and Ukulele! | #HashtagFinance

Episode 2 — In this wide-ranging discussion with Canadian Securities Exchange CEO Richard Carleton, he shows Grace Pedota his chops on the ukulele, discusses the Exchange’s recent trip to Davos, Switzerland (5:15), and shares how the CSE embraced the cannabis industry (12:15). Listen until the end to hear Richard’s origin story as CSE’s CEO and for summer travelling tips!

Subscribe: iTunes / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Play / RSS

Irving Resources: Steady progress on gold projects in Japan serving investors in this explorer well

When the Canadian Securities Exchange featured Irving Resources (CSE:IRV) in its quarterly magazine two years ago, the company had assembled a portfolio of attractive projects in Japan and done some early groundwork.

At the time, President and Chief Executive Officer Akiko Levinson and director (and chief geologist on Irving’s projects) Quinton Hennigh spoke of a commitment to exploring methodically and at a measured pace. It was as if they knew they had something special. No need to rush.

Fast-forward to the first quarter of 2019 and their thesis is proving right. With samples up to 480 grams per ton gold and 9,660 grams per ton silver, permits in hand and targets ready for drill-testing, progress to date shows that not only are there excellent projects in Japan, but that exploration can indeed be conducted in an efficient manner.

The market clearly agrees, having boosted Irving’s share price in the past two years by over 100%. This increase in valuation is even more impressive given that many precious metals exploration companies have seen their share prices implode during that period.

Public Entrepreneur spoke with Levinson and Hennigh in February 2019 to get the latest on achievements to date and what investors can look forward to over the balance of the year.

Why did you choose Japan as the focus for Irving’s exploration work? What initially attracted you and why is Japan a good place to explore?

AL: The idea of exploring in Japan began making sense when Quinton and I went there in 2012 and visited the Hishikari mine, which is one of the richest gold mines in the world.  Quinton said, “Look, there can’t be just one of these.” So, we started looking for a way of exploring in the country ourselves. That opportunity came in 2015.

QH: Japan has not had any exploration conducted for perhaps 30 years.  The last major discovery was the Hishikari mine Akiko just mentioned.

Japan has been perceived as a country that is difficult to explore in, but when we looked into it we found the situation to be the opposite.  Japan is actually quite straightforward to explore in, and now here we are, looking for the country’s next high-grade gold deposit.

Talk to us about the regulatory environment. What is the permitting process like? How does it differ from that in countries such as Canada or the US?

QH: I would say that the regulatory framework is actually not all that different from in Canada, the US or Australia.  It is fairly predictable in terms of the expectations placed on companies. It is straightforward to get permits and so forth.

I think the biggest challenge was that some of the people overseeing the permitting process had not really encountered much in the way of mineral exploration for many years, so there was somewhat of a learning curve as they worked on our permits because they simply were not familiar with some of the processes involved. But I think we are past that now and the whole structure is working quite well.

AL: When we started this three years ago, this was new to everybody – to METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), to Irving, and to the people who help move us through the permitting process.

But Quinton says all the time that there really are no surprises.  It is very predictable if you go through the process and if you do it diligently.  I think that because of Irving and others who are trying to do similar work in Japan, the regulatory system has a better understanding of this process. It is becoming faster.

Japan is a highly seismic area – explain how this influences the types of deposits found in the country and how it influences your exploration strategy.

QH: The seismic activity is related to the fact that Japan sits on the Ring of Fire. It is part of the Circum-Pacific Belt associated with volcanism and earthquakes as the plates collide.  You have the Oceanic Plate under the Pacific Ocean, and the Continental Plates. In this case you have the Eurasian Plate. As those two converge, you generate quite a bit of magma down deep that then rises to the surface and can produce volcanoes – there are numerous volcanoes up and down the Japanese archipelago. That volcanism is actually what leads to the formation of a lot of these gold deposits. The heat associated with the process is very near surface and heats the groundwaters. Those waters carry minerals, including gold, and redeposit them as they come to surface and emerge as hot springs.

Japan is well endowed with this environment – there are hot springs from one end to the other. This has been the case for many millions of years. So, Japan has seen a long history of hot spring formation, and we are looking for paleo hot springs – basically old hot springs that would have carried gold up to surface.

As a result, deposits in Japan are relatively shallow. Usually when you find an old hot spring, at surface what you see is a terrace of silica, a silica sinter. It is kind of a flat body of silica deposited by the hot springs. From the feeder below, cracks in the ground fed the hot spring water through, and that’s where the gold forms. These deposits are present within a couple of hundred meters of the surface.

We’re interested to know about your top projects and why you chose them as the focus of your exploration.

QH: The Omu Project is in northern Hokkaido.  Omu is centered on a volcanic system that was active about 12 million years ago.  We have a history on the property of not only volcanism but extensive hot springs.  There are at least three major centers where hot spring waters have surfaced. One of them is at the Omui mine, which is an historic mine that produced maybe a ton of gold in the 1920s.  It was very high grade and has seen little, if any, exploration since.

The second area we are focused on is the Omu sinter.  This is a new discovery that we made a few kilometers due north of the Omui mine. The system is intact, basically preserved in its entirety. The silica sinter is on top and we believe there is potential to find high-grade veins underneath like we see at the Omui mine. It has never been drilled or tested and is thus a brand new exploration target.

The third area is in the western part of the Omu property.  It is called Hokuryu. Like Omui, it is an historic mine and produced a few tons of gold. It was shut down during the Second World War, well before its resources were mined out. We are a little deeper into the system, as the sinter has weathered away – we are down into the vein system beneath it. There are pieces of vein at surface with an average grade of 50 grams per ton gold and 500 grams per ton silver. It is a very rich and promising new target.

I love the story you told once about finding a project after noticing interesting rocks in a local garden. Can you each share with us a favorite story about your exploration work in Japan?

AL: Those rocks were actually being used at a kindergarten in an ornamental fence.  Our team went to the school and asked where they’d found them. They guided us to the location and that is how we located the sinter.  The town wanted to get rid of the rocks because they planned to build something else. They put up a poster saying, “Anyone who wants these, please take them.”  We said, ”Yes, we’ll take them!” And now some of them are in our office. They were just going to throw them away.

QH: I usually judge geologists by comparing what they talk about to what you see in the field.  In other words, if they say, “This is the biggest thing since Ben Hur,” and then you get into the field and it’s disappointing, you know they embellish.  Then there are geologists who are low key. They’ll say, “Oh, there is something kind of interesting,” but then you get out in the field and it’s the biggest thing ever.

One of our advisors is a gentleman by the name of Hidetoshi Takaoka.  Two years ago, we went to Sado Island to visit a historic mine. The mine has a tourist shop in front with a box of rocks you can buy as souvenirs.  I picked one up and Mr. Takaoka said, “We can find one better than that. There is a creek near the mine and pieces of ore have washed down the hill over the years.”  We crawled down this steep valley just in front of the mine, and after about five minutes at the creek, Mr. Takaoka reaches down and picks a rock out. We crack it open and it is literally full of gold.  I knew then that he tends to understate things. It is one of the nicest specimens of epithermal vein I have ever seen.

You have tremendous partners in Japan. Tell us about them and how they have contributed to your success.

AL: How Irving started was that Quinton and I worked for a company called Gold Canyon and that merged with another company. What was left in Gold Canyon was a joint venture in Africa with the Japanese government mineral agency called JOGMEC. We worked in Africa with Mitsui Mineral Development Engineering Co. (MINDECO). They are probably the top engineers in Japan for mining and exploration. We had already worked together for about 10 years, and when Quinton and I asked MINDECO engineers if they could help us if we did work in Japan, they said they’d assist in any way they could. It has been amazing to have a built-in team from the beginning that is likely the best in Japan.

And previously Quinton mentioned Hidetoshi Takaoka. He is the one who recommended we look into the Omu project. He was chief geologist for Sumitomo Metal Mining and found the Pogo mine in Alaska for Sumitomo.

If Irving puts projects into production, your plan is not to build a mill or facility onsite yourself, but rather to supply smelters, is that correct?

QH: The rock is rich in silica, and silica is needed by smelters as an agent called flux.  Flux is added to copper, zinc or other concentrates and it helps retain heat in the furnace – it acts as an insulator to keep heat in the molten material.  It also extracts some of the nastier elements – it takes out iron and other things. So, silica is very important to the smelting process.

In Japan, they use perhaps a couple of million tons per year. Traditionally, Japanese gold mines have supplied the sinter for smelters, but as gold mines have diminished in Japan, this has become less and less so.

When the ore is added to the furnace as flux, gold and silver come straight out into the copper matte, and they recover them through further refining in the smelter – they are a byproduct of the smelting process.

We thus saw a huge opportunity.  If we find a high-grade deposit we feel it is easy for us to integrate into the smelter flux market in Japan. It saves us from building a mill, which is capital intensive and requires more permitting.

AL: When Omui was in production they shipped ore to the Kosaka smelter back in the 1920s.  Kosaka remains a large smelter today in full operation. When we spoke to them two years ago, they said that if we were to make a discovery they would welcome our supply.

You have a busy 2019 planned – tell us about the first half of the year and how it sets up the activity in the second half.

QH: For this year, we are working on getting our drill program lined up in Omu. We brought a drill rig from Canada and a drilling company we worked with in the past is seeking visas for some of its drillers.  Once we get those, we can start drilling, I suspect some time in March. The drill program should last most of the year, say from March to October. We will probably test the Omu sinter first and the Omui mine second.

We are also going to conduct trenching and bulk sampling at the Omui mine site. We plan to open up some of the veins with excavators and not only study the geology but extract a bulk sample, say up to 1,500 tons.  The plan is to ship the material to the Kushikino mine and smelting complex in Kyushu. They are prepared to handle our material and we are planning on selling it to them directly.

Other than that, our focus will be earlier-stage exploration on Hokuryu, which is on the Omu property, and we are also going to undertake greenfield prospecting and mapping on our other projects in Hokkaido.

Is there anything we have missed?

QH: We are one of a handful of exploration companies that have waded into Japan recently, but I would put us at the head of the pack because we have very good relations with the entire Japanese mining community – government, the mining companies, regulators, the towns.  We built this company purely to operate in Japan. We have a good Japanese team. I think we are in the best position to make a discovery in Japan.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on March 3, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Irving Resources at https://www.irvresources.com/.

Miranda Werstiuk on Women in Finance and Building Sustainable Mining Practices | #HashtagFinance

IBK Capital’s Miranda Werstiuk sits down with Grace Pedota to reflect on her career in capital markets, being a woman in mining finance (4:15), and to share her vision for sustainable mining practices utilizing blockchain (9:45) and more.

Subscribe:  iTunesSpotifyStitcher / Google PlayRSS 

Delrey Metals: CEO Morgan Good is bullish on materials supporting innovation in energy storage, EVs and the steel of tomorrow

Delrey Metals Corp. (CSE:DLRY) is a growing mineral exploration company powered by a focus on battery metals.

It has acquired the Star, Porcher, Blackie and Peneece vanadium properties in British Columbia and intends to review and acquire other projects showing potential for materials used in strengthening alloys for steel and titanium, as well as energy storage and electric vehicles.

Last year, the company completed Phase 1 work at the Sunset property in British Columbia, which showed a significant new cobalt, copper and zinc anomaly. Delrey has an option agreement to purchase a 100% interest in the highly prospective property.

On the heels of raising $1.5 million in Delrey’s October IPO, chief executive officer Morgan Good is excited about the company’s prospects. Public Entrepreneur caught up with him and got his take on mining, finance and commodity prices.

How did you get into the corporate world?

I was born into a stock brokerage family. Several of my relatives were floor traders, brokers, promoters or financiers. Growing up, I played competitive golf at Point Grey Golf & Country Club in Vancouver, where those relatives and other supporters gave me a deep understanding of money and the stock market. As a teenager, I had a serious interest in finance and venture capital.

What are your company’s most important projects?

All of Delrey’s current projects are important, particularly our recently acquired vanadium- focused assets. Of those, the Porcher and Blackie properties have unique features that jump out. We’re initiating geophysical work and airborne magnetic surveys on all four of the vanadium projects and are keen to see Phase 1 results. From there, we’ll be in a much better position to decide next steps. I think it’s worth mentioning that we are in advanced stages of making a strategic acquisition that could add significant value to the Delrey story.

Delrey’s Sunset project is near the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. Do you ever have time for outdoor activities such as skiing or hiking?

When I travel for business, which is quite frequent, I like to try and enjoy activities that are consistent with the parts of the world I’m in. Being born, raised and currently living in Vancouver, skiing and snowmobiling are two outdoor Whistler activities I enjoy. But I do like warmer locales near a beach or desert.

This isn’t your first job as a CEO. What was your previous gig like?

I was previously CEO of ALQ Gold Corp., now ‘Ignite International Brands Ltd.’, a company focusing on cannabis-related investments. Dan Bilzerian, the celebrity poker player, is now CEO and Chairman after we assisted in launching his global cannabis brand, Ignite. My complete focus is now on Delrey.

You founded Patriot Capital in 2013 to invest in public and private companies. What were the highlights of that?

Patriot is my private firm that invests directly in every entity I attach my name to, thereby aligning my personal investments with my professional efforts. Patriot also takes positions in several other, primarily public companies and has profited in many areas. Included are mining resources in the Yukon Territory and British Columbia’s Golden Triangle, as well as notable cannabis plays, which, as you know, have boasted monumental returns for investors.

What was it like going through Delrey’s IPO? Your company raised $1.5 million in October, right?

Creating Delrey and conducting its IPO was a great experience. We’re fortunate to have been able to work with an incredible management team, legal team and, of course, our sponsoring brokerage firm: Leede Jones Gable Inc. It assisted very closely in our launch. I have to give a lot of credit to the Canadian Securities Exchange and British Columbia Securities Commission for making the journey efficient, informative and educational. Delrey closed on $1.5 million last fall and began trading October 24.

How much cash does Delrey have on hand? How long is it funded based on the current burn rate? Any other big fundraisings on tap?

Currently Delrey has about $1.4 million in the treasury. Our initial commitments technically and corporately are minimal as we roll out Phase 1 on our British Columbia vanadium assets. Once we make our next major move, you’ll see the capital requirements increase and at that time we’ll make the necessary plans for further financing.

Vanadium prices have dropped since an impressive spike upward last year. What’s your outlook for that market?

What goes straight up must come down, as the price of vanadium proved. It was a healthy correction, and the price has since consolidated and started moving back up. We believe the outlook for the commodity in 2019 and beyond is more than positive and the market will continue to see bullish signs from the metal.

What can we expect from the battery metals industry in general?

We will see a lot more excitement in the future. A major catalyst is China’s new laws requiring more vanadium in steel alloys used in the country’s construction and infrastructure buildouts, which are mind-boggling in size. At Delrey, we believe vanadium redox batteries will jump from the current 1% to 2% of vanadium consumption and usage.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Delrey Metals at https://delreymetals.com/.

Nerds On Site: Clever solution for small business computing needs drives fast growth in highly fractured market

In today’s global connected environment, with laptops, servers, mobile devices, and other digital equipment collectively running millions of different software applications, in-house IT and network security work is no joke. A single IT professional cannot cover all aspects of this vast technological universe and be up to date on every topic, as things change every day.

In recent years, network intrusion, ransomware attacks and other black-hat activity has reached such proportions that it’s no longer random bad luck when it hits someone. Internet vulnerability is day-to-day reality for companies of all sizes.

If you work at a large company, you’re in luck relatively speaking, as there is likely in-house help to lean on if you have an issue.

For small companies, however, external support is often the only place to turn. There goes the rest of the day, for starters.

Nerds On Site (CSE:NERD) is a practical solution for small and medium-sized enterprises to consider. The company has a large team of carefully chosen technology specialists ready to visit your home or place of work to diagnose problems on the spot and offer ongoing managed solutions to prevent problems occurring in the first place.

Oftentimes, a fix will be at hand and the team member will be able to find and implement solutions before leaving. If software, parts, or a security installation is required, Nerds On Site works closely with suppliers to get things fast and at fair prices.

When it comes to software, Nerds On Site also has the ability to develop unique, state-of-the-art solutions through third-party developers. Examples include electronic records processing and security applications. It’s kind of like having your own IT department without needing to be a large company.

Eugene Konaryev is a director at Nerds On Site and did much of the necessary financial work leading up to the listing of the company on the Canadian Securities Exchange in late November. Sporting a computer science degree from the University of Toronto, he immediately understood Nerds On Site’s capabilities and the concept of addressing its large market when he first met CEO (Capability Expansion Orchestrator) Charlie Regan in 2014.

“What the company does is mobile IT services to small and medium-sized business,” says Konaryev. “We still have a small portion of residential customers, but what we really do is enable SMEs to enjoy high-quality IT service and support without the need for high-priced contracts.”

It is not just hardware and software the company helps with, mind you. Once hired, Nerds On Site provides round the clock network and device monitoring options, on-site and remote support, IT asset management and much more. “We take care of pretty much everything there is in SME IT,” says Konaryev.

Nerds On Site was founded in 1996 and has established a solid presence in 10 major cities across Canada. One way to explain its scale is to refer to the number of Nerds in the network. At present, there are 125, the largest concentration being in Ontario, and specifically Toronto.

Clients include a large number of Canadian Tire locations, with a broader corporate relationship in the works.  Importantly, Nerds on Site has also been named an Apple mobility partner.

When entering a new city, the game plan is to have at least five Nerds, and preferably 10. For example, the planned expansion into 10 US cities entails 100 Nerds – 10 in each city. The company uses a subcontractor model and is starting to use franchising as well in the United States.

“When you enter a new urban market, a sophisticated Nerd force makes a difference,” says Konaryev. “Talent is very important. They call one another ‘enterprise nerds’ in a positive way.” He explains that set-up expenses for the company when it enters a new urban market are around $250,000 for a 10-person team, a pittance compared to almost any other type of business with 10 highly motivated employees serving an entire city.

Underlying the growth opportunity for Nerds On Site is that it operates in a highly fragmented market with the majority of companies in the space being small and short-lived, according to Konaryev. The big IT service companies focus on large enterprises and charge such high fees to their well-heeled corporate clients that catering to the SME market does not make sense for them.

Even though the SME market is largely there for the taking, no company has established itself as the segment leader on a national scale, although there are good local and regional players both in the US and Canada. Nerds On Site sees them as potential M&A opportunities.

“When someone asks who our biggest competitor is, I can’t even give them a name,” says Konaryev. “There are small IT shops in cities and often when you need help, there is nobody available to answer the phone, or you call and they have gone out of business.  That’s why this is such a great opportunity.”

The strategy for the coming year involves an aggressive rollout into the 10 fastest-growing cities in the US, most of them in Arizona and Florida. The plan is to launch in the first 10 US cities in 12-16 months.

“We have the capital to launch Nerdmobiles in these cities thanks to the funds raised during the IPO,” says Konaryev. “And then it’s all about finding talent, and fortunately, talent is in abundance if you know where to look. For example, we did a small campaign about six weeks ago to attract prospective Nerds in Florida and in one week we received over 400 applications.”

The follow-on expansion phase is slated at 50 cities, after which would come a 100-city expansion, the ultimate goal being to offer national coverage in the US. Continued expansion in Canada is also part of the plan.

When it comes to choosing Nerds, applicants need not only IT education and appropriate practical experience, but also the self-starter attitude that all successful entrepreneurs possess. The initial telephone interview has a pass rate of only about 50%, with those making the first cut moving on to a video interview, and then an interview in person with a local team leader.

Qualified applicants get about a month of training at Nerds on Site headquarters in London, Ontario. For US Nerds, training would take place on site in Florida.

Typically, for every 10 applicants, only one or two make it through the process. Once qualified, Nerds get access to competitively priced lease or buy options for a Nerdmobile, a network of other Nerds that is always there to help, a local customer database, low-cost inventory, and any other support they might need from the broader Nerds on Site team.

“We promote a collegial network where knowledge is shared and if someone does not know something, they can reach out to a colleague through IAAN (the company’s ‘I am A Nerd’ tablet-based control system), and the helper can share in the revenue because of their contribution,” Konaryev says.

Nerds On Site raised $4.7 million through its IPO.  Revenue in fiscal 2017 was around $8.3 million. Fees related to the listing are weighing on earnings, but the company would have been profitable had those one-time fees not been incurred, says Konaryev. The 10-city US rollout will use a significant portion of the capital but once that is complete Konaryev says the company anticipates being in the black.

Konaryev recalls that when Charlie Regan joined the company and the team considered how best to scale, they called as many IT specialists as they could identify and found that 80% did not answer. “From our experience, about 95% of SMEs are massively underserviced,” says Konaryev. Slowly but surely, Nerds On Site seeks to make this a problem of the past.

This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on January 30, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Nerds On Site at https://www.nerdsonsite.com/.

VirtualArmour International: Keeping the bad guys at bay with customized network security solutions

Every week, it seems, brings another concerning story about hackers infiltrating a commercial or government network and making off with highly sensitive information.  One would think that with the threat having been clear for so long, entities with significant exposure would have devoted appropriate resources to figuring out how to protect themselves properly. Alas, all too often this seems not to be the case.

VirtualArmour International (CSE:VAI) has a solution to this problem, or to put it more accurately, a tailored solution that precisely fits each customer’s risk profile and particular set of network vulnerabilities. Boasting a 100% retention rate across a very broad customer base, the company is obviously doing something right.

Public Entrepreneur spoke recently with VirtualArmour chief executive officer Russ Armbrust about the state of cybersecurity and what his company does to help organizations stay ahead of the curve.

Cyberattacks make the news regularly and the loss of confidence a compromised company suffers can be quite serious. Can you give us your view on the state both of attempts to infiltrate corporate and other networks, and the quality and consistency of efforts being made to counter them?

There are constantly new tactics and techniques being developed to compromise IT assets for valuable information. Considering these tactics are continuously evolving, we make it a point to partner with what we consider the best-in-class technology providers who have proven track records of constantly improving their solutions to stay ahead of this evolution.

The response landscape of cyberattacks has shifted to a proactive approach, looking for behaviour-based activity as opposed to the signature-based approach. Utilizing emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to maintain a proactive stance against hackers will continue to improve and aid in keeping pace with the way we respond to these threats.

As far as the quality and consistency of counterefforts, I would say that 90% of companies are very immature at this right now. That is the reason for the growth of our company. Most of the companies we talk to don’t know what they don’t know. It is a comprehensive process with each of the companies to get them up to the cyber posture they need.

Let’s look several years down the road – what do you project as far as the evolution of network security is concerned?

The traditional model of network security is being challenged and new technologies are becoming commonplace. Everything soon will be connected to the Internet in some way or another, be it wireless, cellular, Bluetooth or something new. We see that each and every day in commercial advertisements. Now your refrigerator is connected, your oven is connected. With nearly everything expected to be connected, this will produce new attack vectors and require constant development of defense mechanisms and techniques, both proactive and reactive.

Walk us through VirtualArmour’s approach to the problem.  What are your competitive advantages – what makes you better? And how does the company keep pace with the constantly changing cybersecurity landscape?

We focus on customer experience. Everyone’s cyber posture is unique, so our goal is to understand the potential cyber gaps of each customer.  We focus on becoming a true partnership and acting as an extension of their team. In today’s world, the new modern MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider) should help a customer solve problems, not just send alerts. And that is our true differentiator.

As to how we keep pace, we believe that we have hired some of the best engineers in the business. With such a broad range of customers in so many industries, as well as interacting with our customers’ highly skilled engineers, it enables our engineers to constantly evaluate and stay on top of this ever-changing cyber landscape.

Where do you find the majority of cyberattacks are coming from? Are they just people seeing if they can penetrate networks for the challenge of it, or is it cybercriminals seeing if they can enter networks to obtain information and use that to generate profit in some way? Who is who in the zoo out there attacking these networks?

It is all across the board. We see attacks coming from the outside to gather information, and we see attacks coming from inside of corporations. It is literally all across the board in terms of how people are trying to penetrate networks.

What types of companies choose VirtualArmour to protect them?

They don’t necessarily come from any specific industry, but they do have common traits. They typically are highly regulated and lack the proper resources or skillset to deliver what is required on any security practice.

We have customers in health care, retail, financial, oil and gas, mining and many others. With the customer service we provide we have been able to maintain a 100% retention rate to date with our customer base. And what is really exciting about that is our typical contract ranges anywhere from one to three years.

Our business is built solely around services. Professional services are helping with architecture and projects. And then managed services is where we are the eyes and ears to a company’s network and security. We are monitoring 24/7. We are not just alerting but we are helping with a customer’s entire network.

Where you do stand right now in terms of revenue and what is the outlook?

As of our reported results for Q2 2018, our managed and professional services increased 78% to a record US$1.2 million versus the same year-ago quarter, and total revenue increased 50% to a record US$4 million. And with our current growth, we are well on track to continue at this tremendous pace.

Looking at our margins, you can see our business continues to grow and a favorable shift to our higher margin, managed and professional services business.

Are there any industry dynamics people are unaware of right now that you think have the potential to drive more business to VirtualArmour in the long term?

Cybercrime is expected to hit US$6 trillion annually by 2021.  Due to these numbers they are also expecting cybersecurity jobs to more than triple. This talent pool will remain flat, which is going to create a shortage of talent and make it more difficult for customers to maintain their existing talent. And that will drive customers to sign with companies like VirtualArmour to deliver on all these services.

And to wrap things up, how about some client feedback or observations from your team on making sure the companies you serve want to continue working with VirtualArmour. What’s the secret there?

I’d point out that we typically come across the same competitors when we compete for an opportunity. What’s really been exciting for us is that we have been coming out on top and it is due to the customer service experience.

When we win a new client, I always like to ask them why they chose VirtualArmour and we get the same answer over and over. We truly do take a different approach. We are more customer-focused. We provide playbooks around their business needs rather than telling them they have to do things a certain way. When they meet our engineers during the sales cycle, they come to believe they are some of the best in the business and that makes them comfortable about the services they are going to receive.

This story was originally published at proactiveinvestors.com on January 3, 2019 and featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about VirtualArmour International at https://www.virtualarmour.com/.