Welcome to the latest issue of Public Entrepreneur magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of different industries.
While social distancing measures in recent months have forced individuals to stay apart, one constant has kept everyone connected: technology. In this issue of Public Entrepreneur, we examine how technology has become more important than ever in the healthcare industry and how it has proven to be vital in fighting COVID-19.
We take a closer look at how visionary leaders and entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of innovation to change the world –from enhancing video conferencing with augmented reality, to monitoring community health, to using rapid-detection technology to quickly test for the virus.
CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:
First of all, given that Canada remains in varying phases of lockdown due to COVID-19, how is the CSE team doing? Is everyone healthy and adjusted to working on a different basis for the time being?
Yes, everyone is in fact healthy and team morale is excellent. Right now, we have a small number of people at the head office in First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto – one IT person and usually two members of the market operations team, sometimes augmented by our software development group. They are all driving to the office rather than taking public transit.
The building has strict rules in terms of wearing face masks in public areas and distancing in the elevators, but very few people have come back to the office. We are definitely making good use of the various video-calling applications available, so teams are getting together on a daily basis for updates, to share information, and so on. And I’m pleased that people also get together for an occasional social event via video conference. I hear there may even be some games of chance involved one night of the week.
In any event, things have worked out well, and I say that knocking on wood furiously. There was obviously a lot of pressure on the trading systems in late March as Canadian markets experienced record levels of message traffic and close to record levels of trading activity. We weathered that storm quite nicely with a distributed workforce, which is very gratifying.
I will say the fact that many of our current team members were with the exchange during the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 really helped us respond to the various challenges, during March in particular. We knew what to look for and what the bottlenecks in the system were likely to be, and we had our eyes out for those issues. I can remember sending an email one Sunday in March saying we were going to see the market really come off the next day and thus needed to review our circuit breaker rules and have all the notices drafted in advance. We had some extra staff in the office that day just in case. We are very happy with the way our teams and all the machines we rely on rose to that particular challenge.
How did the exchange react in March when it became clear to Canadians that special measures would need to be taken to cope with COVID-19?
We were a little ahead of the curve in some respects. Many of us were at the PDAC mining conference in Toronto, and as it became apparent that a number of PDAC attendees had contracted COVID-19, we placed ourselves into voluntary self-isolation right away. As a result, we were about a week ahead of the official lockdown orders, and that put us in good shape because we had already done most of the things we would have been required to do later in the month.
As well, we have various protocols in place that have been rehearsed over the years. These anticipate the Toronto office not being available or the Vancouver office not being available and having to distribute the workload to people working remotely. We had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done.
Now, I don’t think any of us ever anticipated that we would be working like this over the course of many months, but, as I say, we had thought through this in advance and done some rehearsals, so it was really just a case of dusting off the plans and executing them.
The head office sounds quiet for the time being, but what do you anticipate in terms of gradually returning to “normal” or what you envision as your new normal? And what does Richard Carleton’s typical day look like?
People ask me what reopening is going to look like for us, and my answer is that we have been functioning throughout. We have been conducting business across all lines, whether it is trading services, market information, or listings. And as I mentioned, we are quite pleased with how everything has worked. Activity, particularly in corporate finance and listings, has been robust over the past couple of months, to say the least.
With things going as well as they have been, we are in no rush to have everyone return to the offices in Toronto and Vancouver. One of the issues is physical capacity in elevators, because we could undermine our productivity lining up to go upstairs and downstairs multiple times a day. Another issue is that many of our employees use public transit to get to the office, and people are uncomfortable with regular use of public transit right now. I don’t see that opinion changing until we get a better handle on infection rates, particularly in Toronto.
One other thing to consider is that some on our team have school-age children, and it’s not clear at this point what is going to happen in Ontario or British Columbia. Will school be back five days per week? Will it be a partial return? Will significant levels of homeschooling continue? Those are all things we have to be sensitive to when thinking about any return. My sense is we are going to be at less than full capacity, certainly at First Canadian Place, for the foreseeable future.
As for my day, it is kind of interesting. In normal times, I have a lengthy commute morning and night, and that has been replaced by walking to my basement to begin the workday. I have always been an early riser, and there has been no change there. I began using that extra time in March to give people a heads-up on what to expect each day. I scan the global financial press and other information sources every morning and send a note to all staff with thoughts on what we should expect and try to have that out no later than 7:30 in the morning. After that, my workday starts.
How has this environment influenced activity at the exchange, in terms of trading, new issues, the new-issuer pipeline? Are there pluses and minuses?
We saw a tremendous amount of trading activity in March as stocks collapsed and then returned in record fashion in all markets. But financing was slow in April as a result of the uncertainty we saw in late March. There was a strong rebound across all of our business lines in late April and into May, and that has continued right through into July. We are trading on sunny July days at levels that I would have said you were crazy if you told me five years ago that these were the sorts of numbers we were going to be doing.
It may be a function of retail investors playing such a large role in our market. Even if people are getting out a bit more than before, they still have time on their hands, so they’re doing a lot of trading from home. That’s clear from the numbers we see on the turnover front.
On the corporate finance side, our numbers on a year-over-year basis are down a bit in terms of capital raised, and that really was a function of April being quiet. But there have been more deals. So, a little less money, but probably 25% or so more individual financing transactions being completed.
I think we can explain that in a few ways. One is that we obviously don’t have a long list of cannabis issuers raising large amounts of money, as was the case at this time last year. That having been said, I will point out that we are starting to see some of the big multistate operators listed on the CSE raise meaningful amounts of capital again, which is a good sign for the sector.
We are also seeing a lot of interest in precious metals exploration, energy metals, rare earths, and other commodities. Generally speaking, the amounts raised to fund exploration projects are smaller than those that the big cannabis issuers were raising in recent years.
I think through the end of May, CSE issuers had closed nearly 450 transactions, which is more than three per day. New listings have also remained healthy, with April being the exception. And the applications pipeline suggests a continued strong flow of new issues over the next few months. I am a little surprised by that, but we obviously are all very pleased.
Let’s talk about some of the numbers from the first half of 2020 as a whole, and then how the first quarter and the second quarter differed.
Trading volume in the second quarter was considerably higher than in the first quarter due to the market volatility. The corporate finance numbers are a bit skewed, because one of our US cannabis issuers raised US$300 million in January, so the total dollar amount favours the first quarter over the second. But since activity in general started to rebound in late April, the number of financings coming to market has really increased. I’d also say there has been a shift in capital formation from the cannabis space to the mining space, and good interest in technology as well.
I’ll point out again that these are not companies that will raise tens or hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. So, more money raised in the first quarter and really positive in terms of the number of transactions being completed throughout the first half.
One other important number I would highlight is IPOs completed in the first half. There were 17 IPOs across all Canadian exchanges, if you disregard CPCs and SPACs, and 15 of those took place on the CSE. Considering the slow pace of IPOs just a few years ago, this is great to see for Canadian financial markets. The majority of IPOs on the CSE were in the mining sector, which I think is also worth noting.
The creation of a senior tier at the CSE is a topic of importance to both existing and potential issuers. What can you tell us about progress toward establishing the new tier?
We are deep in discussion with the corporate finance staff from the BC and Ontario securities commissions. I am very pleased with the progress we have made to date, and we will look to publish proposed rules for the junior and senior tiers as soon as we have come to an understanding on all of the issues with the securities commissions. When we reach that stage, there will be an opportunity for members of the public, corporate finance professionals, and our issuers to provide specific comments on the proposed rule changes. Things are going well, though, and it is pretty much the biggest undertaking we have going over the course of the summer.
Can you update us on the clearing and settlement platform? That is also a huge undertaking, and it involves a wide range of parties in the financial community who do business with the exchange or for whom the exchange facilitates business.
We have identified partners who will be extremely important in executing this project as we move into the production phase. We are doing an awful lot of work on it, and this summer will be spent getting to the point where we can engage groups from the dealer and vendor communities to work with us on testing.
Let’s discuss changes in the approach to marketing, as the CSE team spent a lot of time on the road right up until the end of February. That is not the case now, nor for the foreseeable future. What new ideas emerged to help the team adapt and ensure marketing activities remained effective?
We have been very active on a variety of social media channels and have transitioned sales and marketing efforts away from individual meetings and conferences for the time being. We have replaced that with active use of Instagram broadcasts, our YouTube channel, and other online media to engage with our audience. We are at the point where we can begin to assess what is working and what is not.
The nice thing is that these activities are considerably less expensive than the kind of work we were doing before. We can fail fast on them, without significant financial impact to the organization, and direct resources to the channels where we are getting engagement. We have been doing a lot of interviews with thought leaders in emerging areas. One of the popular ones recently has been the psychedelics space.
We have also collaborated with MNP and the Aird & Berlis law firm on a series of webinars on various subjects. We’ve done psychedelics and technology, and we’ll have a cannabis update in August. We have been able to engage several hundred people at a time and are starting to see increasing numbers of subscribers to our YouTube channel and people following live on Instagram. Barrington, Phil, Grace, James Anil, Anna – everyone is getting lots of face time on these channels and engaging with different parts of our constituency.
It has been interesting and a great learning experience, and we are definitely figuring out how to better target our efforts. And it is considerably less expensive than doing things the old-fashioned way, which has been good for our bottom line.
The leadership team at a securities exchange has a somewhat unique perspective from which to observe the national business community. What are your thoughts on diversity among small-cap public companies at the management and board levels?
There is no shortage of data to suggest that management, boards of directors, and senior advisors of Canadian small-cap companies tend to be largely male and largely white, and therefore don’t reflect society more broadly. I look at the Canadian Securities Exchange, and our board and senior management team tend to fall into that category.
I am pleased that our workforce is, generally speaking, representative of the populations of Toronto and Vancouver, so it’s very diverse. And one of our challenges is identifying how we get to a greater degree of diversity in our management ranks, and on our board as well. We need to act in ways that see the Canadian Securities Exchange, in a short period of time, represent the demographic of Canada generally, and our home markets in Toronto and Vancouver more specifically.
Is there a specific role for junior capital markets to play in helping the world overcome the COVID-19 crisis?
That’s a bit of a chestnut. Small business is the engine of economic growth and employment growth and innovation in an economy. But they get to be chestnuts because there is a kernel of truth in them. We certainly see companies looking for different applications, whether they are looking for vaccines, or to lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, or to anticipate outbreaks in areas at risk using combinations of data and artificial intelligence.
There are obviously many things the small-cap community is working toward in response to the epidemic. You never know where breakthroughs are going to come from. But there clearly is no shortage of entrepreneurial energy, and significant resources have been made available to help companies try to solve some of these problems.
CSE’s Barrington Miller chats with Brad Moore, CEO of Global Cannabis Applications Corp. (CSE:APP) about his company’s ambitions as a technology company that strives to improve medical cannabis patients’ outcomes through the gathering and analysis of deep data.
Here’s an overview of what Barrington and Brad cover in this edition of the #HashtagFinance podcast:
1.10 – Virtual work is nothing new for Brad and his international team.
3:35 – GCAC’s Israeli technology connection.
6:01 – How Brad has applied his military mindset into the cannabis/tech industries.
9:53 – The impact of the early 2018 cannabis “craze” on the company.
13:54 – Defining 2020 as the year of the (delayed) balance sheet.
15:46 – The application of blockchain on their business model.
18:20 – Building data points during COVID.
19:35 – The differentiator.
23:53 – The power of data to improve patient incomes.
28:47 – What a potential exit path looks like for the company.
Current approval processes for medical treatments generally start with a formulation of elements. The objective of any clinical study is to ensure efficacy, and safety, within a fixed sampling size. However as cannabis is a plant, and each plant is unique, the challenges have been in ensuring that each gram tested would provide a consistent result. In response to these challenges, GCAC has developed a patent-pending data model called, Seed to Seed.
GCAC’s approach is to measure an individual’s unique treatment experience on a per dosage basis. By digitally measuring both the biometric & anecdotal feedback and comparing that to others using the same or similar products on a large scale, GCAC can provide an averaged efficacy rating for the treatment used. This is accomplished through a proprietary system of mobile applications, heart monitoring biometrics, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. When integrated with blockchain seed to sale solutions, GCAC technology will be able to recommend “how to treat ailment X with product Y at a given point in time under a set of circumstances”. By securing this information on an EU GDPR complaint blockchain, their data outputs are comparable to results generated by a regulatory approval process.
CSE’s Barrington Miller chats with Paul Rosen, CEO of 1933 Industries Inc. (CSE:TGIF) about his recent appointment as Interim CEO of the company and his operating philosophy moving forward in the face of COVID-19. Paul also shares his personal journey as an early leader in the cannabis industry and makes note of the many changes he’s observed in the C-suite among his cannabis sector peer group.
Here’s an overview of what Barrington and Paul cover in this edition of the #HashtagFinance podcast:
2:00 – Paul’s early beginnings in the Cannabis industry in the late 80’s as a constitutional lawyer.
3:58 – Hortican Inc.’s pre-MMPR history and evolution with PharmaCan Capital Corp./The Chronos Group.
6:57 – His transition into a management role at 1933 Industries.
7:55 – How Cannabis 2.0 has impacted C-suites in the industry.
11:58 – Highlighting traits of the early-stage Cannabis entrepreneurs.
13:28 – The unique challenges of running a public cannabis company.
17:16 – The imperative of running a clean balance sheet in today’s COVID-19 environment.
20:14 – Las Vegas’ cannabis prospects in light of the severe downturn in tourism.
25:25 – Paul’s view on how the global pandemic will hasten tax generation from cannabis and social justice.
29:35 – Why preparing for domestic (US) demand is still the biggest opportunity in cannabis.
31:57 – The shift to prioritizing profitability first.
1933 Industries is a vertically-integrated, growth-orientated company, focusing on the cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis consumer branded goods in a wide range of product formats.
CSE’s Barrington Miller is joined by Daniel Safayeni, Director of Policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to discuss the Provincial Government’s decision to end curbside pick-up and delivery of legally purchased cannabis products. Brought-in as a temporary pandemic measure, the decision to not extend (or make permanent) this policy poses risks to public safety, economic growth and employment opportunities. At this current time there is no other industry that has this measure being rescinded. Daniel also act’s as the co-chair Ontario Cannabis Policy Council (OCPC).
CSE’s Anil Mall chats with Derek Wood, CEO of Tocvan Ventures Corp. (CSE:TOC), about his experience in mineral exploration finance and the many do’s and don’ts of building a public mining stock. The conversation also touches on Tocvan’s ambitions as an early-stage natural resource company engaged primarily in the acquisition, exploration and, if warranted, development of mineral properties. The company’s objective is to conduct exploration programs on the Pilar Gold project in the Sonora state of Mexico and the Rogers Creek project in Southern British Columbia.
Here’s an overview of what Anil and Derek cover in this edition of the #HashtagFinance podcast:
1:41 – How life after lockdown has never been busier.
3:40 – An overview of Tocvan Ventures.
6:43 – The difference between porphyry and epithermal deposits.
10:02 – The industry comps to Tocvan.
12:50 – Derek’s deep experience in the Canadian capital markets.
15:03 – How to create value for junior mining investors.
17:53 – The team at Tocvan.
21:50 – The benefits of mineral exploration in Canada.
28:29 – Canada’s global role in junior capital financing.
30:52 – The 5 Ps of the mining industry.
34:35 – Derek’s issue with the 43-101 standard.
38:12 – Tocvan’s Pilar gold-silver project in Sonora, Mexico.
41:35 – His advice for a young investor in the mining sector.
44:35 – The advantages of utilizing a broker for private placements.
CSE’s Phillip Shum chats with Charlie In, Chairman of Raffles Group Financial (CSE:RICH) about their recent listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange and their focus on providing customized public listing advisory services by working with audit, legal, tax and banking professionals.
Here’s an overview of what they cover in this episode of the #HashtagFinance podcast:
:49 – Serving public market prospects in China and Southeast Asia.
2:50 – Plans for growing the business through licensing to serve the massive Asia-Pacific region.
7:57 – The reasoning behind Raffles listing in Canada.
11:59 – Raffles’ strategic relationship with BMO.
15:22 – The ownership structure of Raffles.
17:31 – Charlie’s 20+ years of experience in finance.
19:44 – What to expect from the company in the coming months.
Raffles Financial is an exempt corporate finance advisory firm, registered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which provides public listing advisory and arrangement services. Raffles Financial serves as an advisor for family trusts, family offices and investment funds. Raffles is expanding their representation in 30 regions in Asia-Pacific and believes that working with BMO PBA, it will give clients a complete suite of investment and private banking solutions starting from public listing services to family trusts and portfolio management.
CSE’s Anil Mall chats with Tower One Wireless (CSE:TO) CEO and President, Alejandro Ochoa, about their focus on owning and operating wireless telecom infrastructure sites in Latin American markets that are experiencing strong growth.
Here’s an overview of what they cover in this podcast:
1:55 – Tower One – a specialty real estate play first.
4:00 – Why they went public and how they are different than their competition (Build. Own. Operate.)
5:05 – A focus on building new infrastructure with anchor tenants in place.
5:55 – Why Alejandro is focused on Latin America.
6:50 – The challenge of building a qualified team in this industry.
10:15 – The potential of the Latin American telecom market.
12:40 – How COVID-19 is impacting network design.
15:05 – Other business impacts of COVID-19.
17:07 – Meeting demand in Mexico and Colombia, and divesting assets from Argentina.
18:10 – Working through COVID-19 with creativity.
19:49 – Addressing the 5G “controversy”.
21:46 – Working with remote communities.
25:35 – Recent developments including the new master lease agreement in Colombia.
Tower One Wireless’ core business is providing access to its infrastructure to major national and multi-national cellular carriers through long-term leases (10 plus years). With the migration to fourth generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) and (5G) networks in Colombia and Mexico, the company pursues markets with a large demand for additional telecom infrastructure.
CSE’s Phillip Shum chats with TAAT Lifestyle & Wellness Director Joe Deighan, who discusses their recent public listing and subsidiary Taat Herb Co. who manufacture and sell premium hemp products including hemp cigarettes made from a proprietary blend of premium hemp.
Here’s an overview of what they cover in this podcast:
1:38 – Joe’s background in the e-liquid manufacturing sector.
3:30 – The taste profile of the TAAT hemp cigarettes.
4:48 – Why TAAT is addressing the tobacco market with CBD products.
5:50 – The size of the North American cigarette market.
6:33 – How management is supporting TAAT’s growth.
8:17 – The distribution opportunity for hemp cigarettes within the US.
10:08 – The banking advantages of hemp over cannabis in the US.
11:45 – Origins of the “TAAT” name.
TAAT Lifestyle & Wellness Ltd. is focused on hemp-based products that have been demonstrated to aid in improving health, quality of life, and overall wellness.
Taat Herb Co. provides a better-for-you alternative to tobacco that tastes and smokes as well as, or better than, traditional cigarettes. Taat Beyond Tobacco™️ Hemp cigarettes effectively deliver high yielding CBD & CBG without the “high” and without the scent or taste of cannabis.
On this episode of #HashtagFinance, CSE’s Barrington Miller talks with Guy Goulet, CEO of Cerro de Pasco Resources Inc. (CSE:CDPR) and how the company is focused on applying the latest technology in the production of commodity metals through the treatment and reprocessing of all material resources, dumps, tailings, mining waste and more in order to secure long-term economic prosperity in Peru.
Here’s an overview of what they cover in this podcast:
2:03 – Mineral rights by the numbers.
4:41 – Prospects for the mining sector, gold and silver specifically.
6:39 – Guy’s last visit to Cerro de Pasco.
8:20 – How raising $50M is easier than raising “small” money.
10:46 – Cerro de Pasco’s history including the largest copper stock in the world.
11:34 – Why processing tailings is easier than mining rock.
14:06 – How Guy utilizes his background as a geological engineer in the capital markets.
16:58 – The Cerro de Pasco puzzle and how it comes together.
17:42 – Why he needs to remind stakeholders that its a remediation project, not a mining project.
21:31 – The latest development including their merger with Volcan Compañia Minera S.A.A.