Category Archives: Public Entrepreneur

Sophia Ruffolo on the Promise of a World with More Women-Owned Businesses

CSE’s Grace Pedota recently hosted Sophia Ruffolo – CEO and Founder of femmebought – to discuss her mission to promote women-owned businesses and close the funding gap for female-led companies.

In this discussion, Sophia shares the insights that are driving her mission for economic parity for women, including the dramatically low number of Fortune 500 companies led by women (3:30), the wide gap in VC funding for male-vs-female led companies (4:25), and the global response to her efforts to promote gender equality in business (8:27).

Listen until the end to hear how she made a 180 degree turn from her legal career in banking, the potential pitfalls of raising private capital, and the role she is playing in demystifying cannabis for women business owners.

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Public Entrepreneur Magazine: The Mining 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.

In this issue, we dig into the mining and exploration industry to take a closer look at how the balance between pursuing economic expansion and ensuring economic stability demonstrates the importance of mining to the economy.

CSE-listed companies featured in this installment include:

Blue Lagoon Resources Inc. (CSE:BLLG)
Cerro de Pasco Resources Inc. (CSE:CDPR)
Rockcliff Metals Corp. (CSE:RCLF)
Talisker Resources Ltd. (CSE:TSK)
Northstar Gold Corp. (CSE:NSG)
Generation Mining Ltd. (CSE:GENM)

Check out the most recent edition of Public Entrepreneur below.

Brian Fowler on the Fundamentals of Mineral Exploration and Geology

CSE’s Anna Serin hosts the debut episode of #HashtagFinance – Westcoast Edition with debut guest Brian Fowler, CEO of NorthStar Gold Corp. (CSE:NSG).

In this discussion, Brian shares many of the lessons and techniques learned over his career in mining exploration. This is a must-listen for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of exploration and geology!

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BevCanna Enterprises: Building a brand in a nascent category as Cannabis 2.0 takes hold in Canada

How do you build a brand – and a company – in a completely new consumer product category?

It’s a question that Vancouver-based BevCanna Enterprises (CSE:BEV) is addressing as it prepares to launch a premium line of CBD- and THC-infused beverages in Canada, just months after the federal government legalized the sale of cannabis edibles and drinks.

The team behind BevCanna includes beverage and bottling experts who played integral roles with iconic brand portfolios such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Vega, the plant-based drink. Led by Chief Executive Officer Marcello Leone, Chief Brand and Innovation Manager Don Chisholm, and Chief Commercialization Officer Emma Andrews, BevCanna’s management is full of entrepreneurial minds with deep expertise coming together to create a vision for a nascent category.

“There isn’t really a rulebook ahead of us, but we have a lot of intel and insights and inspirations from our past industries that we can apply to this space,” Andrews explains.

A nutritionist by training, Andrews built an impressive career in the health and wellness space, most notably with Vega. She was drawn to the cannabis space after working in the natural products industry helping to build emerging companies in disruptive categories, and felt an organic transition to the cannabis business.

As Andrews herself will tell you, she’s a longtime cannabis consumer with knowledge of the entire value chain and various form factors. But it was the emerging beverages category that attracted her interest – and her extensive expertise.

“I’m all about making sure cannabis experiences are accessible,” she says. “Beverages offer the best of both worlds – it’s a very approachable product category for new consumers and something that is easily adopted into our day-to-day routine because we’re used to consuming them.”

Part of Andrews’ job is keeping her finger on the pulse of consumer trends. Understanding consumer needs, desires, and drivers helps the company shape its products and manage the go-to-market strategy. It can be a challenging task for any consumer packaged goods company launching new products, but when the category is almost entirely new to users, statistics and hard facts are difficult to come by.

With that in mind, BevCanna commissioned an independent research group to survey over 2,000 adults of legal drinking age in the US and Canada on their interests and preferences in current and potential cannabis products.

The study found that more Canadians are aware of THC-based cannabis products, with smokable or otherwise combustible forms of cannabis currently the most common methods of consumption.

But it was CBD-based beverages that had the highest future purchase intent – 70% among consumers. The study also found that consumers across all regions see CBD-infused beverages as contributing to a healthy lifestyle.

Among 25 product concepts, the top performing ones included ready-to-drink spring water-based beverages, which consumers see as complementary to their quality of life and contributing to their well-being.

The survey also noted that while Canadian consumers would consider THC beverages as a means to relax and unwind, they tend to associate THC with consumption occasions such as hanging out with friends or social gatherings.

“New consumers and lower tolerance consumers are both big markets for us,” Andrews says. “Part of that is because of the potency limitations in Canada being 10mg THC, so for someone with a really high tolerance it’s probably cost prohibitive for a regular user to exclusively consume cannabis beverages to get the outcome they are seeking. But it will be beneficial for a new consumer or a lower tolerance consumer, or the social drinker who might have a few beverages just to relax and unwind, and that’s exactly what THC-infused beverages can offer.”

BevCanna’s first brand, Anarchist Mountain Beverages, was inspired by the site of its bottling operations on Anarchist Mountain. Products will include a range of THC-dominant, ready-to-drink beverages, shots, and powdered drink mixes, with a flavour nod to the plants found throughout the Pacific Northwest.

BevCanna’s second cannabis-infused beverage brand to hit the market in Canada is called Grüv Beverages, featuring iced tea with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC. BevCanna also intends to launch a third brand mid-2020 called LEV, a CBD-dominant mixture of fruit flavours with an alkaline spring water base.

But the products are only one component of building a brand. To be successful, the company has to create repeat consumers.

Andrews contemplates the challenge ahead as the novelty of seeing infused beverages on shelves wears off. “Formulation is important,” she says. “I think it impacts how someone builds a lifestyle habit around consuming these beverages. We want to put out products that have a wide appeal and don’t seem too gimmicky.”

Grüv’s iced teas are familiar taste profiles in easy-to-drink bottles. Potency, too, is important. Grüv has 5mg THC and 5mg CBD. “You can sip these while gardening or hanging out with friends so it’s very easy to fit into your lifestyle and not have it be this one-off indulgence,” notes Andrews.

BevCanna is looking at 2020 to roll out multiple products and brands. Each province must approve the beverages for sale, and the company is already talking to regulators in BC and Ontario. “For us it’s all about planning throughout 2020 to make sure we get the right consumer awareness and retail adoption,” Andrews explains. “There’s a number of different stage gates we have to pass through in order to become a national brand. The larger provinces are our initial focus and then national rollout as time goes on.”

The rollout is also taking place amidst what some investors would term a challenging time for the cannabis industry. Just over one year after the legalization of flower and cultivation, sales figures and returns have been dismal for most companies. Will it be the same for edibles and beverages?

Andrews looks at the two segments very differently. “The first wave was set around flower, which is still easy to procure illicitly. There’s a lot of competitiveness for that product category.”

There are some key differences between the first and second waves, according to Andrews. “Derivative products are processed, bottled and manufactured – it’s a much more complex production, so I don’t anticipate that there will be as much competition,” she says. “Buyers will look to the legal market because there’s a much wider selection of products than they’ve ever been able to experience before. The product selection is going to be unlike anyone’s ever seen.”

On the profit side, BevCanna has multiple revenue streams, including house brands and white label bottling, a joint venture to bring multistate cannabis vape brand Bloom to Canada, a 130 acre outdoor cultivation site, plus an active push for additional joint ventures, licensing, and acquisitions of technology and brands.

Andrews envisions both the house brands and white label business being a global play down the road. BevCanna is in the process of obtaining EU GMP certification which is on their radar for mid to late 2020. Additionally, BevCanna is entering the California market with their house brands as well as white label services come early 2020.

However the industry takes shape, BevCanna appears set to become a key player in Cannabis 2.0. The task at hand for the company is to retain its own identity while growing into a major brand in the infused beverages market.

“I think the word that really captures the essence of what we’re doing is ‘innovation’,” Andrews says. “A lot of what the cannabis business is doing is pushing at the periphery and forging a new path, but it can be subtle instead of aggressive. Innovation can come down to things like sustainability in the form factors or packaging. For us, it’s about finding opportunities that lead to a better consumer experience or a better legacy for our planet.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about BevCanna Enterprises at https://www.bevcanna.com/.

Vishal Gupta on Using Green Gold to Fund Exploration of (Gold) Gold

CSE’s James Black was recently joined by Vishal Gupta, CEO of California Gold Mining Inc. (CSE:CGM), to discuss his company’s multi-pronged growth strategy in hemp cultivation and wholesaling, as well as gold exploration in California.

In this conversation, Vishal discusses how he is leveraging operating cash flow from their hemp business to fund gold exploration (1:48), the importance of understanding the bottlenecks in the wholesale hemp market (4:54), and why his company isn’t growing hemp in Canada (8:28).

Listen until the end to learn why hemp CBD extraction still needs to grow by an order of magnitude to supply companies like Coca Cola, the environmental benefits of growing hemp, and Vishal’s own experience in investment banking (and how it led him to running a gold/hemp company).

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AMPD Ventures: Meeting the need for digital speed when every millisecond counts

AMPD Ventures (CSE:AMPD) Chief Executive Officer Anthony Brown has declared war on computing latency.

For the digital layman, latency is deterioration in the speed (measured in milliseconds) at which a signal arrives, gets processed and is sent back to the requesting computer. The lower the latency, the faster the processing time.

Latency is a big deal with online gamers. Any lag, jitter or other performance issue with a video game can ruin the player experience. For professional gamers, latency is a livelihood issue because money is at stake – a lag or glitch means rival players are able to move and react faster to score more points.

“Those milliseconds can add up,” Brown says. “The more interactive an application is – like any esport where they’re continually pressing buttons and moving and doing things, and you’re in communication between the client and the server – the more it counts. Even though you’re dealing with milliseconds, the resulting impact on the application can be quite noticeable.”

Brown has been confronting the latency problem since his days two decades ago when he co-founded the Seven Group, providing high-performance computing for banks and engineering firms and then working with the likes of Disney Interactive on video games. Brown’s passion eventually morphed into AMPD Technologies, which he co-founded in 2015.

Besides video games and esports, AMPD helps other companies bring their dreams to life through data visualization, video rendering, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality, and high-level academic research.

Brown and his management team listed AMPD Technologies’ AMPD Ventures unit on the Canadian Securities Exchange in October, to both raise capital and increase AMPD’s profile. The move secured the company $3 million in new funding.

To minimize latency in our increasingly connected digital world, AMPD develops and employs a method called edge computing, which entails placing nodes, which is where the data and content resides, as close as possible to the end-user.

Brown says edge computing represents the fourth stage of the digital revolution, which started with cable television and then the Internet, followed by the cloud.

“It’s the next generation of digital infrastructure. It’s the next Internet, if you like,” he explains.

The cloud is the matrix of “virtual” machines spread out across the globe that Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others maintain to store vast sums of data and perform distributed computing. It might be the heart and soul of e-commerce and video streaming, but the cloud is also seriously flawed.

Remember, it’s partly about distance. For one, sending and requesting data from the cloud adds to the latency lag. Because of this, the cloud and its distributed computing architecture servers can’t adequately handle the emerging data-heavy technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality that need high-performing computing to function properly.

“What we do is hardware-switched, hardware-firewalled, array-based storage. That means that the storage is separate from the servers and all the servers can access it directly at superfast speeds. And then we put that at the edge, in the urban centre where the data is being used. So that last-mile latency is mitigated as well,” explains Brown.

The company recently opened its first data centre in Vancouver, not far from its headquarters. Besides offering clients high-performance computing solutions, the centre is designed to capture the heat generated by the servers and distribute it to the building, and produce clean drinking water via the condensing systems in the air conditioners.

AMPD is currently onboarding clients and expects to max out the data centre’s capacity before too long. Halfway through November, the company announced its first client, Bardel Entertainment, which works on the popular cartoon series Rick and Morty.

In a deal expected to generate more than $1.2 million in revenue over three years, Bardel will utilize the AMPD Remote Render Service that enables studios to access thousands of cores of processing power without having to build their own costly data centres. When rendering for animated content, two-dimensional or three-dimensional images are generated for the screen from a computer, using huge amounts of processing power.

Importantly, the render service is not hooked up to the Internet but rather connected via direct fibre access to AMPD’s servers in the company’s data centre. That means minimal latency issues by avoiding the cloud.

AMPD has also started a partnership with Myesports Ventures, which runs the online gaming stadiums where players compete in esport tournaments with live audiences. Myesports currently has one live stadium and three more planned in 2020, and has tapped AMPD to supply the computing infrastructure for players and onsite gaming hosting.

In addition to supplying the backbone for players at the stadium, AMPD will be able to let players access the platform from home, giving people in the local area an ability to play an esport with the same low latency experience as esports athletes competing in the stadium itself.

AMPD also is involved with the Digital Technology Supercluster Learning Factory project, a consortium financed by the Canadian government to provide digital solutions for the manufacturing industry. The project will leverage AMPD’s high-performance computing platform to create digital twins of production lines for advanced aircraft parts. The project goes live in December for both simulation and virtual reality visualization.

“Eventually we’ll hit critical mass where we just need to proliferate and get ahead of the curve to be able to build out as many data centres and as many high-performance computing nodes as we can,” Brown concludes. “To be able to handle the load of all those super cool applications coming down the pipe that people can’t even use yet is what we are gearing up for.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about AMPD Ventures at https://www.ampd.tech/.

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.