Category Archives: Public Entrepreneur

Alain Ghiai on Globalizing Swiss-Style Cyber Security and Digital Privacy

Alain Ghiai, Founder and CEO at GlobeX Data Ltd. (CSE:SWIS), joined Phillip Shum in the podcast studio to share his thoughts on how his company works to outperform Dropbox, Gmail and WhatsApp in the arenas of cyber security and privacy (2:37), how data has surpassed oil and gas as the world’s most valuable asset (5:00), and why Switzerland is the ideal home for cyber security infrastructure (9:40). Listen until the end to hear how GlobeX is establishing major partnerships with global companies like América Móvil, and the 12 specific verticals they focus their business on.

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GlobeX Data: There is no such thing as privacy in the online world anymore. Or is there?

GlobeX Data (CSE:SWIS) is on a mission to keep your data and communications safe, and in a world where each week seems to bring news of yet another large-scale data breach, it’s a mission of vital importance.

The Vancouver-based company offers a powerful product suite for cloud-based storage, document management, encrypted e-mail and secure communication with a few twists that differentiate it from the competition.  For one, data is stored in Switzerland (by Swiss partner GlobeX Data S.A.) in centres used by Swiss banks and organizations such as the United Nations. Switzerland is home to some of the strongest privacy protection laws in the world thanks to regulations such as the Swiss Federal Data Protection Act and the Swiss Federal Data Protection Ordinance.

GlobeX Data is readying a marketing push at a time when the cybersecurity market, by some counts, is set to exceed US$300 billion within five years, making the company’s recent debut on the Canadian Securities Exchange particularly timely.

In this interview with Public Entrepreneur, Chief Executive Officer Alain Ghiai explains why data is such a valuable commodity and why that means companies and individuals alike need to take more caution to protect themselves.

Can you give us a quick introduction to GlobeX Data and the company’s origins?

GlobeX Data has its origins in Switzerland and in payment processing. In 2008, during the credit crunch, most of the banks stopped lending to merchants. We used our technology to transform ourselves into a data backup company. In 2010, we started to develop a couple of products, the first of which became DigitalSafe, our secure backup file-share password manager. In 2012, I started GlobeX Data Inc. out of New York to expand in North America.

I was approached to license our technology to a CSE-listed company, which eventually became a shell company. When the licensing was supposed to be exchanged for funds the company didn’t have the money, so I called my board members and suggested listing on the CSE ourselves and formed GlobeX Data Ltd.  We raised money locally and set up an office in Vancouver. We started to receive a lot of interest from overseas and wanted to have an entity that handled everything outside of our Swiss-based private company. Vancouver was a perfect choice geographically to handle Asia and Latin America, our prime targets to start off our international business, and was also selected for the purpose of going public in an IPO on the CSE.

Our first major contract was with America Movil and its mobile division in Mexico called Telcel that has 75 million subscribers. Because they’re in 26 countries, we would eventually be able to sell services from the US all the way down through South America.  Over the last couple of years, we’ve signed deals with half a dozen partners. America Movil has close to 400 million subscribers, almost 300 million of them mobile users.

Why did it make sense to go public now?

Our goal in going public was to have a platform to raise more money and get wider recognition because when you are public it brings a level of transparency to the company that our partners like. Right now, data security and privacy is becoming a predominant subject in our society. People are the product now – the big companies are making money off our data. There is no real player that can offer the variety of services that we do when it comes to privacy and security. Our prime directive is to respect your privacy. We use the best security possible and have proprietary technology that other businesses don’t use because they think it’s too costly. Storage has become commoditized, but there’s no price for privacy.

I find that Canadians are quite conservative, almost too conservative to adopt new technologies. Also, they underestimate the value of security or privacy and the value that they hold. I think US investors value technology stocks a lot more than we do in Canada. This is why companies go to the US to get funding – investors there will pay for innovation. It’s a shame because Canada is a fantastic country with some great tech stories.  In order to attract more investors in the US, we plan to co-list in the US market by Q1 of 2020.

There’s a lot of talk out there that data is more valuable a commodity than oil. What’s your take?

I think data is even bigger than oil right now. The thing that makes it valuable is that a company or group can use it to create a profile and sell it to a third party to try and sell something to the consumer. Contrary to oil, which is a consumable, data can be repackaged and resold. Thanks to social media, the public is used to advertising their status every few minutes.

Why is it that people seem to be incredibly willing to give away their data for free?

When it comes to information, anything that is “easy” in the digital world is counterbalanced by the individual giving away more and more privacy. We live in a society where everything needs to be instant. If you want to have this instantaneous response, you are essentially giving away your data for free. Most people don’t realize the danger that this can cause because the average person doesn’t think they have anything to hide. It’s not about hiding from the government, it’s about keeping your data private so commercial companies don’t exploit you like a commodity.

How do the services work? Are they an alternative to popular instant messaging applications?

GlobeX’s services don’t use open source coding; instead, we use our own technology to add privacy and security by design. We try to offer what businesses and people need, which is a backup for their data and a file share and secure e-mail. DigitalSafe is like a Dropbox, e-mail and a password manager all in one. Our e-mail engine, Custodia, lets you send a message to an unsecured e-mail address and that service will not be able to read the content. PrivaTalk is a secure communications suite with chat, voice, video and e-mail. Our chat has a self-destruct timer that will disappear on the device. We never require your phone number because the minute you do that, hackers have an even higher ability to access your data.

We are also launching a product called Sekur, a service for high net worth individuals and corporations, in the fourth quarter of 2019. We were inspired to create the product from the Sony hack that happened a few years ago. This service is for any business for management to communicate without the in-house IT department knowing what’s going on.

What else is coming down the pipeline in the next few months?

We’ve already released DigitalSafe and PrivaTalk and plan to launch Sekur before the end of the year. In Mexico, we’ve launched and integrated DigitalSafe with America Movil and are planning to release PrivaTalk by the end of the year. Another product we’re excited about is PrivaTalk Messenger, which is similar to BlackBerry Messenger in that it’s a server-based closed-loop system. We’re going to launch PrivaTalk Messenger by the end of the year as well.

We’ve talked at length about the dangers of leaving data unsecured. What are some simple steps that we as individuals can take to protect our information?

The question that we need to be asking ourselves is how much is our data worth to us? The first thing I would advise is to reduce your social media footprint. Essentially, you are announcing to the world where you are and what you’re doing, and eventually artificial intelligence will put together a profile on you that can lead to hacking.

The second thing is to use secure services. There’s no free privacy or security. Use a paid service that will secure your information because at least then you have some sort of comfort or recourse that your data is safe.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about GlobeX Data Ltd. at https://globexdatagroup.com/.

Sarah Tahor on Exporting Israel’s Groundbreaking Cannabis Innovations to the World

Sarah Tahor, Founder & CEO at Can Innovations, joined James Black in the podcast studio to share how her company is bringing international cannabis innovation to Canada (1:50), a brief history of cannabis research from the legendary Dr. Raphael Mechoulam (4:29), and how Canada and Israel’s markets complement each other (6:49). Listen until the end to learn more about the current status of cannabis licensing in the country and the groundbreaking work that is happening at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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RIWI Corp: Getting one’s hands on insight nobody else has requires creative thinking…and 1.5 billion responses

RIWI Corp. (CSE:RIW) runs a business for the curious, the analytical, for governments of the world, and for financial services firms looking to develop an edge. It is a business that is never the same two days in a row and thus endlessly fascinating, with the potential to drive policy, influence strategy, and bring improvements to the world at large.

In short, the company performs global trend tracking and predictive analytics that provide previously unavailable insight into how people think and behave. Relying on the Internet, it conducts surveys and can also run ad tests assessing the efficacy of corporate marketing initiatives. The company has thus far analyzed over 1.5 billion responses in putting together reports for its clients.

RIWI’s client roster includes companies in the private sector, predominantly finance, as well as groups active in humanitarian aid such as the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Security is another area of great importance to the company.

Public Entrepreneur caught up with Founder and Chief Executive Officer Neil Seeman recently for a discussion of RIWI’s role in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape and a look into corners of the technology world we never even knew existed.

How has technology and the market you serve changed over the last decade or so?

The market for global data collection has really exploded in the last 10 years and we’re just at the cusp of it. I feel that we’re sort of in Web 3.0 right now. I was lucky enough to have been an investor in Web 1.0 (the early days of the commercial Web) and then Web 2.0 (the social Web). Now today with Web 3.0, where RIWI sits is the world of incalculable amounts of data, and more importantly, data for actionable insights.

It’s less about Big Data these days than it is about Smart Data and that’s where we focus. And the second titanic change, which is just occurring, and where RIWI sits at a leadership position, is the importance of being an ethical data broker and only collecting data free of personal identifiers. This is becoming a game-changing issue in the world of data collection. It’s a highly competitive marketplace but the total addressable market is pretty extraordinary.

Your technology uses machine learning. Can you explain in simple terms how you collect data?

RIWI invented a global platform such that anyone with access to a Web-enabled device can stumble into a RIWI survey or ad test as they navigate the Internet and enter an abandoned domain that doesn’t exist at that moment in time – they encounter a RIWI survey or ad test on a non-trademarked domain. We invented that and expanded our intellectual property and we continually learn which constellation of domains is able to capture a perfect mirror of the Web-using audience in any region of the world. This changes in real time and we understand why and how that happens. We have a decade of historic data so we understand the changing Internet infrastructure in every country and that is a form of intelligence that can be very valuable to understanding how we can solve client needs.

How does your technology differ from that of other companies? How do you position yourself against your peers?

It’s differentiated in a number of ways. The first is global access. We have single-button technology such that you can access eight or 180 countries, or 229 territories and countries using RIWI. Otherwise, you would have to go to online panel suppliers or different market research providers in the countries.

Secondly, we reach opaque or otherwise impossible markets. We are the only continuous data provider in terms of sentiment data and ad testing data in all cities and regions across China, for example.

Thirdly, we are random in our reach. We patented and then built out a global platform and cloud-based architecture called Random Domain Intercept Technology such that the recipients who are intercepted are random and RIWI is privacy-compliant such that we are not collecting any personally identifiable data, and this fourth aspect of RIWI is highly differentiated from other digital data collection tools.

Fifth, and most importantly, we’re being recognized for broadening the voices of people who participate in surveys and ad tests. In other forms, traditional or even modern forms of sentiment collection, whether it’s social media analytics or public opinion panel-based polling or natural language algorithms using artificial intelligence, you’re getting a very, very narrow slice of public opinion, whereas with us, the majority, and in some cases the vast majority, of the people whose opinions and behavioural reactions we collect have not answered a survey or ad test of any kind in the preceding month, nor are they regular posters online.

Who are your customers and how many do you have? Can you give me an example of where your data has been particularly impactful for a client?

We currently have several dozen major enterprise clients across our business lines. They range in size. We try to build recurring revenue-based clients such that they are either quarterly subscriptions or annual subscriptions that can be renewed, sometimes on a rapid-response basis. Within each of these, some are such that they have multiple sectors or country groupings.

In terms of impactful work, we have worked for G7 agencies on strictly confidential matters, but on the unclassified side we’ve done, for example, very impactful work for the Canadian government where we’ve measured the sentiment toward women and girls and how they are treated under ISIS in 18 Middle East countries. We’ve enabled some fascinating data that have helped educate people in all regions of the world about the brutality of how women and girls are treated under ISIS.

We’ve also done a lot of work on marginalized groups, populations that don’t participate in surveys and this is not only important in the humanitarian aid sector, it’s important, for example, to the finance sector, which is trying very much to understand the future consumer of technology adoption. We’re also the largest data collector in the world for changing attitudes toward LGBTQ communities, and for undocumented citizens and people in rural communities, even in America, whose voices are often left out of important debates. We like to say we give “voice to the voiceless” in any region of the world.

It’s impactful to me when we may only solve 2% to 5% of a company’s data challenges but we are embedded with them such that they thereafter understand the universe of their other data collection needs.

The possibilities for your data seem limitless. How big can you see this getting?

Our goal is to be the Booz Allen of global data collection. We want to be everywhere in terms of our continuous data collection, in fragile and conflict states, in opaque markets, and we want to deliver data that provides actionable insights in real time. We do that with real-time dashboards that are constantly being updated such that with the touch of a button, a decision-maker can understand the truth of what’s going on, whether it’s predictions about stock market turmoil, trade wars, or gang violence.

You’re clearly growing and have been turning in quite good performance numbers of late. What is your business model? Is it the case that when revenue grows so does profitability? Are your costs mostly fixed?

One of the beautiful things the math analysts like to observe about our company from a shareholder perspective is that as our revenues grow and as our profit grows, our costs associated with sales decline or stay relatively flat. This was always embedded in the vision of the company, such that we’re not, for one, selling people, we’re selling data and dashboards and analytics, but secondly, we’re a machine-learning platform such that the technology itself is embedded, or twinned, with shareholder value creation, because the machine-learning technology continually expands in its capacity for data collection and continually decreases the costs associated with data collection. Further, our offerings are “plug-and-play” for our clients – the same issues that confront our client Bank of America Merrill Lynch also confront Asia- or Europe-based hedge funds looking for a privacy-compliant information edge.

How do you go about landing new clients?

Two ways – there’s no secret sauce here. It’s about boots on the ground and hardcore sales, using a highly disciplined sales process. I’m an accidental entrepreneur because this grew out of a small research unit I had at a college associated with the University of Toronto, and we’ve changed the mindset by going from a creative think tank environment to a heavily sales-focused enterprise with sales-focused disciplines and systems and processes.

Secondly, the uniqueness of our platform and the uniqueness of our data – especially it being privacy compliant – and the nature of our clients means that we get a lot of attention, whether it’s media attention or public presentation opportunities, or thought leadership opportunities. Our Head of Research was selected to present this Fall at TEDxToronto. Our data collection tools to generate alpha for the finance community won us a global “Battle of the Quants” award that created buzz this year.

And we also win attention from new audiences because we are in this great situation where we can generate internal data in unusual parts of the world in rapid fashion, so we offer insights that we know will be valuable and get the attention of prospective clients whose eyes light up when they see it.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about RIWI Corp. at https://riwi.com/.

Bryan Baeumler and Lance Montgomery on Averting DIY Disasters with HeyBryan

Bryan Baeumler and Lance Montgomery, CEO of HeyBryan Media Inc. (CSE:HEY) joined James Black at the CSE Media Centre to discuss the potential of extending Bryan’s home renovation brand to a publicly traded vehicle (0:48), the mechanics of how the HeyBryan app works (1:37) and the types of renovations that are best left to professionals (2:44). Listen until the end to learn more about the company’s business model and how HeyBryan Media plans to expand the brand beyond the home services space.

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Oren Shuster on Serving the Medical Cannabis Market in Europe

Oren Shuster, CEO of IM Cannabis Corp., joined Barrington Miller in the podcast studio to share how the company’s foundation has been built on the experience of growing pharma-grade cannabis since 2010 (3:21), their focus on applying EU GMP standards to meet growing demand in Europe (5:13), and the important lessons learned through trial and error over the years (8:12). Listen until the end to learn more about the distinct differences between the EU/Israeli market vis-à-vis North America and the opportunity presented by the German medical cannabis market.

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Jo Vos on Empowering Cannabis Shoppers through Education

Jo Vos, Managing Director of Leafly, joined Grace Pedota in the podcast studio to share how their platform is empowering cannabis shoppers through education (2:04), the challenge of presenting plant data differently to keep pace with a rapidly maturing audience (4:02), and the importance of standardizing industry terminology (11:38). Listen until the end to learn more about Jo’s vision of how Leafly is bridging the cannabis marketing world and regulation, the ongoing opportunity to break down cannabis stigma through informed dialogue, and her personal tips for downhill cyclists!

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XPhyto Therapeutics: Unique assets and a focus on Germany’s medical cannabis market set this opportunity apart

The art of successful investing is not about what is happening now, but rather figuring out what is on the horizon and set to emerge as the next big thing. Positioning oneself to make the most of that development is what gives competitors in any aspect of the business world an edge – the famed early-mover advantage.

Hugh Rogers and his team embraced this concept wholeheartedly when putting together XPhyto Therapeutics (CSE:XPHY), the company Rogers now leads as Chief Executive Officer, two years ago.

Armed with a legal background focused on corporate restructurings, plus experience in molecular biology from research work at the University of Toronto, Rogers agreed with his business partners that they wanted to participate in the burgeoning cannabis industry, yet not in the way everyone else seemed to be doing it.

Large-scale growing operations in the US and Canada did not interest the group. So, what was it that others were overlooking, something with greater potential than was to be found in the increasingly crowded North American arena?

“The vision for XPhyto was to foresee where the industry would be in two, four, and six years, and then position the company accordingly,” explains Rogers. “In the end, we decided that medical formulations and clinical validation in emerging European cannabis markets was the best place for us to be.”

That best place, to be precise, is Germany, where cannabis is legal for medical use and, according to XPhyto, not subject to the same stigma the drug suffers in North America and many other parts of the world.

“It’s a very open market in the sense that, in our experience, regulators at every level of government, and I would also say the medical community – physicians and pharmacists – are open to cannabis products,” says Rogers. “There is a history of botanical medicine in Germany where they are eager to learn but at the same time are looking for clinical validation.”

And no other entity, quite literally, is positioned in the German market the way XPhyto is to help cannabis achieve the level of formal validation that consumers expect of widely used pharmaceutical products. The company’s 100% owned German subsidiary, Bunker Pflanzenextrakte GmbH, possesses a German cannabis cultivation and extraction licence for scientific purposes issued by the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. To XPhyto’s knowledge, it is the only one in existence.

“We’re setting ourselves up to work with the government on the scientific side,” explains Rogers. “That means cultivation, extraction, remediation of oils, seed banks, tissue banks, clinical trials – all of the scientific knowledge.”

The XPhyto team has done an admirable job of building a company with top clinical talent both at the German operations and in Canada, including its recently announced cannabis research and development agreement with the Department of Biochemistry at the Technical University of Munich.

Soon to follow in Germany is a 10,000 square foot facility, half of which will house small-scale cultivation rooms, with the other half being for storage, manufacturing, and distribution. The company estimates it will be up and running with plants under cultivation in the first quarter of 2020.

Expect security levels to be high, given the structure that aptly named Bunker is renovating was once a military command centre. Bunker founder, and now XPhyto Vice President of European Corporate Development, Robert Barth will oversee the renovations. It was also Barth who brought the Technical University of Munich into the fold.

The German research bandwidth is augmented by two exclusive five-year engagements XPhyto has with the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Alberta. “Our primary goal in Canada is to focus on clinical validation,” says Rogers. “We have an ISO-certified clean room for our new extraction equipment for production of cannabinoid extracts and isolates. I think the first formula we’ll clinically study will be for topical dermatology followed by oncology pain management. Our expertise at the university is drug delivery and we have some unique applications for cannabis products.”

Clearly, the company’s main objective is clinical testing, and ultimately clinical trials, designed to provide the medical community with the same standard of product understanding and trust that many other prescribed treatments currently enjoy. In this way, doctors will know exactly what type of cannabis, or cannabis-derived product, to prescribe for a given condition, in what dose and for how long.

But investors and others new to the company shouldn’t conclude that the validation theme at the core of XPhyto’s model means that cash flow is something far off in the future. The supply/demand balance in Germany’s medical cannabis market features more of the latter than the former, and XPhyto is positioned to help.

“The German market is large and domestic production expected to come online in 2020 will meet only a small fraction of total demand. There is a deficit that will be made up through imports and that is an opportunity we are rapidly pursuing,” remarks Rogers.

“We are working to secure supply of ultra-premium flower in Canada,” he says in beginning to explain the import strategy. “The best premium growers are in Canada and the US. We are focused on Canada and are working with a number of great growers to source product.”

The XPhyto team believes that providing the best experience for patients must embrace testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and offering products in optimal packaging. If everything goes according to plan, product will be ready for shipping by Q1 2020.

Advancing this strategy on multiple fronts is the acquisition, announced in late August, of Vektor Pharma TF GmbH, which holds permits for cannabis importation and narcotics product manufacturing, among others. And in a possible sign of things to come, Vektor also has established itself in the research and manufacturing of thin-film strips for drug delivery, including transdermal patches and oral strips.

Said Rogers at the time of the acquisition’s announcement, “We believe that Vektor will add significant long-term value at every level of our business, from clinical trial expertise and drug manufacturing capability to their German cannabis and narcotics import licences and strong relationships with the German health authority.”

XPhyto’s strengthening German presence will be a source of many things, boots-on-the-ground intelligence being one that should enable the company to smoothly blend into the German supply scene with the long term in mind.

As an example, Rogers explains that if XPhyto has a certain volume of cannabis ready to sell it won’t necessarily put it all on the market as fast as possible. “What we want to do is build our distribution and demand through consistent supply so the physician knows when they prescribe our product that there is availability for three to six months. We would rather build our patient base slowly and steadily than flood the market – here is a whole bunch of supply and then, oops, it is not available next month. The end result when you take that approach is that physicians are less likely to prescribe your product.”

Having only made its trading debut on the Canadian Securities Exchange in August, XPhyto is a newcomer to the public markets. But asked why investors should be interested, Rogers is clear as to what sets the XPhyto opportunity apart. “It is important to understand that the cannabis industry is here to stay,” he concludes. “But at the same time, you must carefully consider where to allocate your investments. We have gone 100% into opportunities that were on the sidelines for a long time, and I think you are going to see medical applications, clinical validation, and European opportunities come to the forefront over the next two years. And that is exactly where XPhyto is positioned.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Xphyto Therapeutics at https://www.xphyto.com/.

The Jamaica Stock Exchange on a New Partnership with the CSE

Marlene Street Forrest, Managing Director of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, and Ian McNaughton, Chairman of the JSE, join James Black for a special edition of #HashtagFinance to discuss the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the JSE and the CSE (0:49), how this collaboration will help create opportunities for investors on both exchanges (2:23), and which industries they believe will utilize this new ecosystem most (6:36). Listen until the end to learn more about the requirements for listing on the JSE, factors that have helped the exchange see success during their 50 years of operation, and for a very special song commemorating the JSE’s 50-year anniversary!

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Jason Paltrowitz and Richard Carleton on Opportunities Beyond the Border

This special episode of #HashtagFinance takes the podcast out of the studio and into the CSE Media Centre! Jason Paltrowitz, Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at OTC Markets Group, and Richard Carleton, CEO of the Canadian Securities Exchange, join James Black to talk about Cannabis Investor Day, the inaugural event co-hosted by the CSE and OTC Markets Group (0:53), the importance of the CSE’s partnership with OTC Markets when it comes to creating opportunities for listed companies beyond the border (1:40), and why maintaining cross-border shareholder visibility is essential (6:25). Listen until the end for Jason’s explanation of the different market tiers at OTC Markets, for Richard’s advice to Canadian issuers going into the US markets, and to learn how both the CSE and OTC Markets Group help companies not only go public, but learn how to be public.

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