Category Archives: Public Entrepreneur

Melissa Rolston on Empowerment from Skin to Within – the JADA Story

CSE’s Grace Pedota was recently joined by Melissa Rolston, Founder of JADA, who dropped by to share her personal journey in the cannabis industry which has led her to launch her new venture – a cannabis infused skincare brand.

In this discussion, Melissa shares how she was inspired by her work in chronic pain management and photography (1:15), how one particular case she treated demonstrated how cannabinoid therapy can work effectively alongside chemotherapy (4:45), and the key allies in the industry that have helped her in her mission to evangelize “Empowerment from the skin to within” (10:26).

Listen until the end to learn about her new company called JADA, why she has partnered with DANA to address the market for high-end cannabis jewelry, and how her company is set up to help “break the stigma”.

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Versus Systems: Clever technology increases advertising engagement to extraordinary levels

Versus Systems (CSE:VS) is disrupting the conventional advertising landscape with an innovative choice/reward model. The company’s main focus is the esports sector, where game developers use its WINFINITE platform to create competitions that provide players the chance to win a variety of attractive prizes.

The platform can be accessed via mobile, console, PC games and streaming media, and thanks to that reach some half a million prizes have been awarded already. WINFINITE is used for games in the US and Canada right now, with a UK launch slated for December. Plans call for making it available in continental Europe in the first half of 2020, and in China around mid-year.

In August of 2019, Versus struck a licensing deal with hardware giant HP that will see its technology used in a variety of HP products and services. Public Entrepreneur caught up with Versus Chief Executive Officer Matthew Pierce last month to learn more about the company and its considerable potential.

How is the advertising landscape changing and how does Versus fit into that?

I think media is changing but that advertising is changing more slowly. People in general don’t care for old systems of advertising, or paid ads. We measure videos not by whether they were watched but by how many seconds they were watched before someone hits X to escape. People don’t care for banner ads or interstitials or pre-roll or any of those kinds of things.

And as content, as media, as games, as shows and all those things become more interactive, and more choice-based and more tailored to the viewer or the player, so too does the advertising. The advertising needs to be just as thoughtful. And for us, the marriage of choice and reward, which is to say that when you get to choose what you want to play for or you get to choose what you’re trying to win, it introduces the idea of earning it, so it no longer feels like an ad, but rather a prize. It feels like something you’ve earned and that makes all the difference.

Can you explain how WINFINITE works and how you came up with the idea?

In any Versus-enabled content, whether it’s a show, a fitness app or a video game, when you enter into the experience, when you’re about to load up the game or when you’re about to watch your show, there’s a menu that asks what you want to play for. You can choose anything from downloadable content in a video game to trips, to apparel, to food, to electronics. There’s a huge number of things that we’ve given away, from tickets to BlizzCon to hats and shirts.

Users see a win condition that says, “If you do this then you will get this, or if you do that then you will be entered into a sweepstakes to get that.” People try to win the race or crush the right amount of candy and then you get sent a message saying that you either won it or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you try again or try to win something else. It doesn’t interrupt the show or the game. It’s there to enhance the experience.

The company came out of an incubator whose limited partners included a large software development firm, a large law firm, and people with strong media backgrounds. The idea was to create something that’s in a really thorny regulatory space that is also difficult to achieve technically.

People love winning things and people love earning things. How can we make that real? We’ve been filing IP on it for years now. We’ve been granted patents covering how to do it and how to do it at scale.

Is it fair to say you’re focused mainly on the gaming space?

We very much like the gaming side of things. We also like things that look like games. Games are already made such that there’s what we call a “win condition,” and the win condition is very clear inside of a game – save this town, crush this candy, find the loot. That’s a really rich environment for us. But I also keep bringing up fitness because fitness looks a lot like a game as you try to run a certain distance or achieve specific goals.

What sort of feedback do you get from players?

Ninety seven percent of players interviewed that have used the platform say it makes the game more fun. And that is not true of most advertising, right? We did a huge survey with UCLA last year to talk about user behaviour and how people interact with media and it confirmed that people don’t care for ads. But 97% of people who play for rewards say rewards make the game more engaging. Once introduced to prizes, people play more and there’s not an ad unit anywhere that makes people consume the content more frequently.

How do you make money from this?

The business model works in classic advertising fashion, which is that the brands that want to reach these players pay to place their products inside of the content, the difference being that our engagement rates are minutes rather than seconds, and the transaction rates are measured in whole percents, rather than hundredths of a percent.

We are much, much, much more effective with respect to getting people to do something. Do they go into the store, or do they go to the website? It’s much more effective when you introduce these ideas of choice and reward. The brands pay for that because it’s just a more effective ad unit.

We split the revenue with the content owner, so in the case of HP we’re in all the HP Omen computers and we split the revenue with HP. When we are in a game we split the revenue with the game developer and the publisher. So, we make our revenue on a transactions basis. Every time someone makes an attempt to win a prize, the company who put up that prize pays for that engagement.

You’ve struck a number of partnership agreements. Is there one deal you are particularly proud of?

The HP deal is massive. HP is a US$50billion company and we have a multi-year deal. They are well known for being safe and secure, and conservative and thoughtful and the idea that they would partner with us, I think, suggests that we’ve worked very hard to be a credible, trustworthy, thoughtful, capable company. HP sells tens of millions of computers a year and they’re one of the most highly respected hardware manufacturers on earth. They have access to not just gamers, but to anything you can do on a computer that you want to encourage or incentivize. We can put rewards around things other than games. The platform also works extremely well for fitness apps and certain business applications.

What would you say to potential investors about the group’s future targets?

Now’s a great time. You start talking about tens of millions of machines from the HP deal and then you also start talking about the opportunities that we’ve got when we grow into some of these other markets, particularly in Asia. You have access to a lot of people playing a lot of games or a lot of people engaging with these apps. And they want to win. It’s perfect for us.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Versus Systems at https://www.versussystems.com/.

Dr. Rahul Kushwah on How AI Will Revolutionize Impairment Testing

CSE’s Barrington Miller was recently joined by Dr. Rahul Kushwah, COO at Cultivar Holdings Inc. (CSE:CULT), to discuss his company’s recent listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange and the innovative work his company is pursuing in the application of artificial intelligence to impairment detection.

In this conversation, Dr. Kushwah shares his thoughts on why its important to challenge the widely accepted correlation between impairment and THC levels (1:19), why Fortune 500 companies are interested in their testing (3:13), and how Cultivar is applying AI to non-invasive impairment testing (4:35).

Listen until the end to hear about how Rahul’s experience as a research scientist led him down the path to public entrepreneurship and why the company has cultivation interests in Jamaica.

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Anish Chopra on Why You Need to Understand Risk Tolerance

CSE’s Phillip Shum was recently joined by Anish Chopra, Managing Director at Portfolio Management Corporation, to discuss his market perspectives based on a 20+ year career in asset management.

In this discussion, Anish shares how he sets himself up to recognize good opportunities in bad markets (3:24), why fundamentals are the key entry-point to investing in 2020 (4:55), and why it is imperative to understand risk tolerance before determining a fit with a financial advisor (6:26).

Listen until the end to hear Anish’s thoughts on the differences between the US and Canadian investment landscape, and his professional journey that has led him to being one of the most respected market commentators in Canada.

New Wave Esports: Esports investments are the latest thing and this CEO is at the top of his game

Esports in North America is undergoing a metamorphosis. Video games like Fortnite and Overwatch have taken the world by storm, viewership at tournaments is bigger than ever and capital is flowing into the industry from sources that had never considered it before.

New Wave Esports (CSE:NWES) provides the spark for organizations looking for oxygen in the space, whether it’s esports teams, platforms, tournament organizers or technology innovators. If you have a great moneymaking idea in this industry, New Wave Esports is the type of company you turn to for the capital to make your dream a reality.

And it has not taken long for the company’s investments to begin paying off. In July, Lazarus Esports, a competitive team in which New Wave owns a minority stake, took home US$3.5 million at the Fortnite World Cup.

At the helm is Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mitre, who perfectly fits the profile of an esports CEO. He’s fresh-faced – young enough to have spent his whole life growing up around video games, but old enough to remember carrying a roll of quarters to the arcade. With a beard, gauges in his ears and a sleeve of tattoos down each arm, he looks the part.

New Wave Esports went public in October and Public Entrepreneur caught up with Mitre in the midst of a road show to talk about where his company, and the industry as a whole, goes from here.

Tell me about your background in the gaming industry and how New Wave Esports came to be.

I’ve been in gaming for over 17 years. I started off testing video games way back in the early 2000s, where I learned the fundamentals of game development and gained an understanding of what motivates players to keep coming back.

I went on to do community management, and eventually started doing global marketing campaigns. I’ve worked at Electronic Arts (EA), THQ, Sega, Sierra Online, and various music and toy companies.

The past five years I’ve been at EA, and I got to work on the Battlefield franchise, as well as some other competitive titles like FIFA, Madden, NBA Live, and Need for Speed. And esports has always been a common thread in the sustain/retention models of those games, so I’m able to bring my gaming network and my expertise to New Wave Esports.

Then, I met with Trumbull Fisher. He’s a 15-year finance industry expert who’s raised capital across Canada for industries like cannabis and mining, and he brings capital markets experience as New Wave Esports’ president. Between my gaming and his finance, we bring the investment vehicle that is New Wave Esports.

How does your investment process work?

We set up the company in two pillars, the first of which is the acquisition arm. We’re looking for companies that we can fold into the New Wave Esports family. They benefit from the performance of our shares as well as the ancillary services we provide, and their revenues are directly turned into our revenues.

The second pillar is the traditional holdings arm. We’ve built a phenomenal portfolio of minority investments, and as we go forward, I expect to see a shift in our investment approach toward majority stake investment.

We‘re unlike a traditional investment group that just puts in a bunch of money and checks in every quarter. We place investment capital and take stock options in companies, and we sweeten the deal with financial advisory services and new revenue streams.

We facilitate new sponsorships for teams and collaborations with big franchises like Fortnite or Battlefield, as examples, and that’s where teams thrive.

What do you look for when considering a potential investment?

We look at the esports industry in four verticals. The first one is teams and organizations – that’s Lazarus.

We also look at tournament organizers, whether an event is in your local hometown or a big arena – that’s Even Matchup Gaming.

The third is platforms and networks. This is anywhere gamers congregate online, such as online tournaments or an esports gambling platform – that’s PlayLine.

Fourthly, we target technology and tools, which is really the backbone of the industry. A lot of this is behind the scenes, including data insight and business intelligence for esports companies to better know their audience or build a better experience for gamers coming in – that’s Thunderbolt CDG.

We look at the esports industry as an ecosystem. First and foremost, we look for ethical teams that share the same vision as us. Secondly, we ask if these companies are led by executives that have run businesses before, and if not, how we can help. Thirdly, we consider whether these companies are positioned to thrive in a space that may be saturated or may not have any competition.

Speaking of Lazarus, congratulations are in order after the team won $3.5 million at the Fortnite World Cup this summer. What was your involvement there?

Lazarus is owned and operated by an organization called Tiidal. We came in and invested a sizeable chunk into Lazarus in March.

Not many people knew about Lazarus before the Fortnite World Cup, but the tournament came around and Lazarus took second in the duos and fourth in the singles, which led to that $3.5 million revenue into Tiidal. That put Lazarus on the map as one of the highest grossing esports teams in the world.

I was at the airport and I got a call from one of our advisors who said, “Dude, Lazarus just took home $3.5 million! Their athletes are like rock stars now!” I love calls like that.

Why did you decide to take New Wave Esports public?

We see the public vehicle as an opportunity for the esports community as well as other investors and brokers to invest in the industry. We are the first esports investment company to be traded publicly on the Canadian Securities Exchange, and we wear that with a badge of pride.

We went live on October 28, and so far it has been phenomenal. This generates exposure for us and opens up new opportunities worldwide. Not only are we listed on the CSE, but we also just listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Germany, where we know esports is massive.

How do you see esports evolving in North America?

The esports industry is still very much growing in North America. Asia is 20 years ahead of us, so we look to them as an opportunity to replicate those tried and true models. That’s why we opened up the New Wave Esports Asia department.

But with North America as an economic stronghold, everyone’s looking to see what we do to push esports forward. You’ve got celebrities like Will Smith putting sizeable money into a team called Gen G, and Drake took an ownership stake in gaming group 100 Thieves.

It’s just starting in North America, so the revenue multipliers have yet to hit. So, if you’re at the ground level, you’ll see that coming through.

Look, gaming has been around for 40 years, and it’s always been entertaining to watch someone play who’s better than us. I remember swarms of people at arcades watching someone play Street Fighter, and that’s why Twitch exists today.

As a video game player, how does it feel to be running your own esports company?

If you were going to tell 15-year-old Dan that he would have a career built on video games and ultimately become the CEO of an esports company, he’d be saying, “Get out of here, that’s insane.”

Back in the 90s, video games were still kind of for nerds. You didn’t have Internet connectivity, a mass audience and mobile games that make gaming accessible to everybody.

It’s phenomenal to see gaming grow, and it has created a community that I absolutely identify with. I’ve been able to build a sustainable life from it, and this is an opportunity for me as a CEO to grow the video game industry.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about New Wave Esports at https://newwaveesports.com/.

Peter Hodson on the 103,000 Answers He Has for DIY Investors

CSE’s Phillip Shum recently sat down with Peter Hodson, the founder of 5i Research, and former Chairman of Sprott Asset Management, to discuss what he’s learned over his 50 years of investing experience.

In this discussion, Peter shares the feeling he gets finding the little gems that turn into the “next big thing” (2:29), how his firm has answered over 103,000 questions from DIY investors, (7:08), and his explanation as to why a value investment isn’t necessarily a cheap investment (10:12).

Listen until the end to hear Peter’s thoughts on why there’s always something to worry about (in investing), and how to combat that with a long-term investment plan. Peter also shares his insights on “FANG” stock and why he believes their value may be immune to government intervention.

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HeyBryan Media: Home maintenance should be easy, safe and a few app-clicks away

HeyBryan Media (CSE:HEY) has its sights set on becoming to the home maintenance industry what Uber Technologies is to the transportation industry – a genuine disrupter.

In 2018, technologist and entrepreneur Lance Montgomery created the HeyBryan app, which seamlessly pairs homeowners and tradespeople. In short, the handyman app gives harried homeowners instant access to reliable experts in their zip code who can handle everything from electrical repairs to plumbing, and more.

Every expert undergoes a background check to ensure a safe experience. Montgomery, who has a strong track record of taking companies public, has done a good job of propelling HeyBryan’s user base, with the company recently announcing average monthly customer growth of some 115% since the beginning of 2019. Having contractor and TV personality Bryan Baeumler playing a key role in the business has certainly helped to drive that growth.

Public Entrepreneur caught up with Montgomery recently to talk about how he is creating a carpe diem moment for the company by tapping Canada’s $50 billion home maintenance market, while eyeing the even larger US market.

Can you share the story about how HeyBryan Media started?

HeyBryan started from a personal experience, as do most successful startups. One day, I came home and the dishwasher was broken. I did what everyone does and googled “dishwasher repair Vancouver” and got served with paid ads. Frustrated, I tried Craigslist and wasn’t comfortable with what I found. I didn’t feel confident about who would come, and what I would be charged. Are they vetted? Will they even show up? These are things homeowners deal with every day; it’s the small tasks that we all need done and it’s hard to find help.

So, I decided to research the space and really didn’t find anything that worked in Canada. That’s how HeyBryan Media was born.

Tell us about your marketplace app and what it does.

HeyBryan connects homeowners to home maintenance experts in your area, on your schedule. All experts are vetted and verified. It’s really an end-to-end solution that brings the connection together. Everything happens in-app – scheduling, payment, chat, ratings, reviews and rescheduling.

On the expert side, we provide the opportunity to work when you want and where you want. They set their own rates and get paid fast through the app, with money deposited in their account. We bring the business to them and allow both sides of the marketplace to rate and review each other. This gives us great data on the quality of the work and where experts rank in our system.

How long did it take the company to develop the app and line up reliable experts?

The app started slowly with just our CTO and me working on it in our spare time. But as we raised money, we were able to get additional support to speed up the process. To go live in Vancouver, we did a 30-day recruitment, so all in all it was 12 months from idea to first city launch.

Typically, does the tradesperson vetting process take a lot of time?

We partnered with Certn, an AI-based company that does ID/criminal and background checks in real time. We then have our customer success team onboard them, so it’s fairly quick. We currently have around 600 experts on the platform.

What are your key markets and how do you expect them to shape up?

We are currently live in Vancouver and Toronto with plans to expand across Canada in 2020. Our marketing efforts are showing growth in both markets and the focus is now on repeat customers, referrals and new customer acquisition, but the growth is solid. Future plans call for entering the United States.

What are the hallmarks of an innovative company and does HeyBryan fit the bill?

I think innovation is solving or disrupting an industry. This small task space has been painted with a negative brush and our goal is to change this perception. We are adding technology to a very outdated industry and bringing value to both the homeowner and the experts — this is highly innovative.

How important is it to have a company like HeyBryan with an aging Canadian population?

Peoples’ homes are their biggest asset and research shows that people are staying in their homes longer and home maintenance is a massive market. As the population ages, it’s important to have a trusted solution for this demographic so they can get help around the house with no worry.

Is the HeyBryan app the number 1 app for averting DIY (do it yourself) mishaps?

Yes, with a trusted brand like Bryan Baeumler, we feel we are number 1. There’s always competition, but we share the same values as Bryan and want to be the go-to home maintenance solution. We focus on the small tasks, so we are not looking to get into large renos, but if you maintain your home properly, you can avert larger disasters. Take a car – if you maintain it, the car will last longer, and you can avoid the engine blowing up.

Talk to us about the business model for the company.

Everything is done in-house, and we have a full team looking after technology, creative, design, development, data, marketing, sales and customer service. Everything has been built in-house, which allows us to grow and scale as well as pivot when needed.

The revenue model is two-sided. We take 20% of every completed task from the expert and a 7.5% trust and support fee from the customer. The customer fee takes care of our hard costs such as insurance/payment processing fees. All in, our margin is 27.5%.

HeyBryan is already disrupting the home maintenance industry, but do you have plans for new products?

Yes, we are exploring many avenues both in strategic partnerships and complementary new revenue streams. The opportunities in the gig economy are endless and we’re excited about the future of the overall company.

You were successful in getting Bryan Baeumler to sign on as the name brand and face of your company. How does the celebrity endorsement help keep marketing costs in check?

Securing a celebrity endorsement was a massive win. Trying to build brand awareness and consumer confidence is expensive and time-consuming. Bryan brought that reputation, as well as awareness and trust. We can leverage Bryan’s following and his massive reach allows us to spend money in other areas to evolve and grow the business.

You have the entrepreneurial DNA to take your idea and build it into a business. What is one of the important lessons that you’ve learnt?

Be patient and don’t try to rush to market with a sub-par product. Do your research, plan and always expect delays. The other major thing I learnt was how critical it is to have the right people in the right roles. Surround yourself with the right people in the right roles and allow them to shine. We have built an amazing team and I couldn’t be prouder.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about HeyBryan Media at https://heybryan.com/.

Rana Vig on How to Maintain Investor Interest 365 Days a Year in Mining

CSE’s James Black and Barrington Miller (!) both recently sat down with Blue Lagoon Resources Inc. CEO Rana Vig to discuss the company’s new listing (CSE:BLLG) on the CSE and the lessons he’s learned through the first 10 years of his capital markets career.

In this discussion, Rana shares the origin of the company’s name and offers the “best” advice ever shared on #HashtagFinance (2:58), the importance of keeping investor attention year-round (4:27), and why he insists on being the “dumbest” person in the room (10:45).

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Public Entrepreneur Magazine: The Inspiration Issue – Now Live!

Welcome to the latest issue of Public Entrepreneur Magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of varying industries.

The first issue of the new decade shares captivating entrepreneurial stories, offering exclusive insights into how the featured business undertakers have harnessed the power of innovation to become genuine disruptors in their respective industries.

This magazine installment also takes a look back and reviews the many milestones achieved during the previous year, and provides an exciting outlook on what you can expect for 2020.

CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

HeyBryan Media Inc. (CSE:HEY)
New Wave Esports Corp. (CSE:NWES)
Versus Systems Inc. (CSE:VS)
AMPD Ventures Inc. (CSE:AMPD)
BevCanna Enterprises Inc. (CSE:BEV)

Check out the most recent edition of Public Entrepreneur below.

Chris Bursey on the Technical Solution for Better Beer Management

CSE’s James Black recently sat down with Chris Bursey, CEO of Direct Communication Solutions, Inc. (CSE:DCSI), to reflect on the company’s innovations in the IoT space and recent public listing on the CSE.

In this discussion, Chris shares the motivating factors behind choosing public capital over venture capital (1:36), DCSI’s plans to revolutionize the bar and restaurant industry through better beer monitoring (2:57), and how he transitioned into entrepreneurship after serving on aircraft carriers as an air traffic controller (7:34).

Listen until the end to hear about Chris’s “Grizzly Bear Theory” and the burden (and honour) of being the head of an organization.

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