Raising the Bar for Accuracy and Cost-Efficiency in Testing for Respiratory Illnesses

COVID-19’s devastating impact on the world has shone a spotlight on the importance of effective diagnostic testing for respiratory illnesses.

Canada and UK–based company Gemina Laboratories (CSE:GLAB) is progressing multiple Point-of-Care (PoC) diagnostic products for respiratory diseases, utilizing proprietary chemistry that the company calls “one of the most significant developments in rapid in vitro diagnostics since its invention.”

“Our technologies enable tests to be less expensive, more sensitive and more environmentally friendly,” Brian Firth, Gemina Laboratories Chief Executive Officer, tells Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Firth, a 35-year veteran of the PoC diagnostics industry, spent nearly eight years at Swiss Precision Diagnostics, producer of the Clearblue-branded pregnancy test, first as managing director of its UK subsidiary and later as chief operating officer of the parent company.

He has also owned a health tech advisory practice, with clients that included Agfa, Johnson & Johnson and AkzoNobel.

Gemina’s CEO explains that the company’s technologies fit into two groups: one that improves lateral flow tests and another that improves molecular testing.

Lateral flow technology, which is commonly used in home pregnancy tests, has traditionally been subject to poor accuracy compared to laboratory equipment due to inefficient deposition of the antibody, or “catcher”, in which as little as 30% of the antibody is effective.

Gemina’s proprietary chemistry is a surface chemistry binder that acts like a stand for the catcher, ensuring that all catchers are oriented in the optimum position, which increases both stickiness and efficiency so that 100% of the catcher is effective.

The company’s lateral flow improvements enable the same sensitivity as traditional tests but with 75% less antibody usage, which is one of the major cost advantages.

Its technologies also enable tests to be built on paper, derived from plant cells contained in products such as cotton, wood and hemp, rather than using expensive and difficult-to-source nitrocellulose, which has been used for the nearly 40-year history of the lateral flow assay.

Developed in the 1800s, nitrocellulose is formed by treating cellulose with a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids to produce a flammable compound that only degrades slowly in the environment, releasing nitric acid in the process.

The compound is well suited to lateral flow assay development due, in part, to the uniformity of the nitrocellulose pore structure and to the binding affinity between nitrocellulose and the antibodies used in the lateral flow immunoassay format.

Gemina’s technologies allow tests to be made efficiently on local manufacturing cells that can be built in any country, bringing true diagnostics access to even low-income countries.

The company’s molecular technologies, meanwhile, have enabled assays to be run on fully portable molecular diagnostic machines, which can detect tuberculosis (TB) in saliva, improving the screening for TB globally.

Its molecular technologies product will enter clinical trials in 2024 with the global launch expected in 2025.

Gemina’s testing breakthrough has the goal of creating affordable, rapid, lab-accurate PoC diagnostics in any environment, worldwide.

PoC is a market that has estimated compound annual growth of 7% and is expected to reach US$55.3 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.

“Gemina will begin to generate regular revenues early in 2024 with breakeven coming in early 2025,” Firth says.

He noted the company has devised a multifaceted revenue strategy that encompasses traditional product distribution, technology licensing, franchised manufacturing and a promising new venture in the pharmacy channel.

Traditional product distribution will be used for tests Gemina develops and brings to market. The company will also license its technologies to large diagnostics companies to significantly improve their processes.

As well, Gemina will engage in franchised/distributed manufacturing where manufacturing cells are licensed to individual countries, enabling these nations to manufacture their own critical diagnostics. The company will further supply the key reagents (a substance or mixture for use in chemical analysis or other reactions) and components for the individual tests the countries create.

Finally, Gemina is currently developing a pharmacy revenue channel supporting the move internationally toward test-to-treat programs.

Firth says the company’s earliest revenues will come from licence deals that are currently in negotiations, with the first of these expected to be signed soon.

To help accelerate its licence deals and partnership opportunities, Gemina recently engaged global investment bank Stifel, which has extensive licensing experience across the life sciences sector, as its exclusive financial advisor.

The initial licence deals will be followed by product distribution agreements for Asia as well as franchise manufacturing deals that are anticipated to be signed by the end of 2024.

Gemina is targeting a 20% share of the respiratory test market within 10 years, with its first product expected to be launched in the European and African markets.

To finance its growth, Firth said the company is planning a private placement in the closing months of 2023 into early 2024 that should support its strategy through 2024. 

Firth adds that the company is also seeing interest from several grant funds that will work with Gemina to secure appropriate non-dilutive funding.

And there are expectations that at some point during 2024, Gemina will use the upfront payment components of licence deals as another form of non-dilutive financing.

Looking ahead, Gemina’s CEO sees several upcoming catalysts that could help to boost corporate value.

Gemina anticipates signing its first significant licensing partnership by year’s end.

Within the next six months, the company expects to report positive pre-clinical results for its TB test, with full clinical results and the launch of the TB test targeted to occur sometime over the next year and a half.

As well, Gemina should announce the signing of distribution agreements for its molecular tests within the next year.

The company also anticipates launching its protein production facility toward the end of 2024, which will supply the increasing number of licensees expected to be signed.

Finally, along with Gemina’s first significant revenue in 2024, the company is gearing up for franchise bookings for local manufacturing facilities from multiple countries.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Gemina Laboratories at http://geminalabs.com/.

Democratizing Cannabis Markets While Aiming to Become Canada’s Leading Vice Retailer

You don’t have to look far on the Canadian Securities Exchange to find a cannabis issuer, as some of the world’s most progressive laws governing the plant’s sales and usage have led to rapid growth in cannabis companies turning to Canadian capital markets to grow their businesses.

Among those, 1CM (CSE:EPIC) stands out for the returns it has delivered for shareholders this year, with its market capitalization recently at an all-time high of $263 million.

The multidimensional cannabis company says it is dedicated to democratizing cannabis markets. It is doing this, partly, through its One Cannabis Market technology platform, which provides business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) solutions, including last-mile delivery, digital signage, big data analytics and wholesale clearing services.

Its retail operations are centred on T Cannabis, targeting the rural cannabis retail market, and Cost Cannabis, which is focused on urban consumers.

Following the 2021 acquisition of Tirthankar, a cannabis retailer founded by industry veteran Tanvi Bhandari, the company appointed Bhandari as its Chief Executive Officer six months later.

In a recent discussion with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, Bhandari shared her vision for 1CM.

1CM is succeeding in an industry that many companies have found more challenging than they had first anticipated. What gives you an edge?

I think the lowest prices, accompanied by dedication to customer service. When I started my company in 2020, my main goal was to position it to have the lowest operating overheads possible, and then determine the minimum margin required for a successful and scalable business. I think that’s what gives us an edge in the market compared to other retailers.

You say you are using technology to democratize cannabis markets. How are you doing that?

With technology, we do everything in-house with the sole purpose of, again, improving the customer service experience. For example, we have the 1CM loyalty app that’s currently live on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

This app leverages decentralized loyalty points that can be redeemed on the app for NFT coupons, in-store or taken off the app into the customer’s other non-custodial wallets. The ability for the customer to own their loyalty points and their NFT coupons and take them offline into their non-custodial wallets is a great example of democratizing the cannabis loyalty platform. So that’s something exciting. And then we also have our first wholesale e-commerce portal for retailers in Saskatchewan.

In Saskatchewan, other wholesalers operate in a more archaic fashion: they send out weekly Excel inventory lists and expect customers to send them back a purchase order.

We developed an intuitive e-commerce portal with a focus on user interface/user experience. This site allows our wholesale customers to browse, add to their cart, manage their available credit, make payments and check out.

As soon as the order is placed, we send them an advanced shipping notice (ASN) which includes the description and the images of the product that they’ve bought. The ASN can be automatically uploaded to their point of sale system, all of which significantly reduces the effort spent ordering and improves the service experience.

We also have a real-time delivery tracking app and a cannabis search engine that shows the customer the retailers around them selling the product and the price. They just need to type the product name, and it will show where the product has been sold and which location has the lowest price. This also helps us on the back end, as we use this data to ensure that our location has the lowest price.

I think there is a significant opportunity to utilize, develop and improve technology at scale in cannabis markets, and these improvements in technology will continue to democratize them. 

You entered the liquor, tobacco and consumer packaged goods (CPG) retail industry this year. Why the move into liquor?

We are expanding beyond cannabis into other vice industries. We aim to become Canada’s leading vice retailer. We see the cross-segment complementarity and will leverage our strengths and experience in low-margin retail to drive revenues from these other vice segments.

This is how it happened. Earlier this year, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) decided that they no longer wanted to operate any government-owned liquor stores and that they would all be auctioned out. Cost Cannabis won six auctioned liquor licences and then we went on to purchase some of the underlying real estate from the Saskatchewan government. The good thing about these licences is that they let us sell tobacco products along with all other CPG products depending on the municipality of the location. This is very exciting for us as we look forward to growing revenue in other vice segments, which include liquor, nicotine and CPG.

Will you look for other acquisition opportunities like this?

We’re currently looking for acquisition opportunities, both in cannabis and the liquor market. We’re trying to acquire stores at attractive valuations as the industry continues to consolidate.

Is it important to have an online presence as well as a physical presence?

Yes, 100%. I think it is important to have an online presence connected to the physical presence in this industry. That’s why we want to have the technology side of the business grow in the same way we want to grow our footprint across Canada.

Where do you see future growth coming from? Will it be organic growth or M&A?

I think both at this point. There are a lot of retailers who want to sell stores that are not performing well, so we’re looking for attractive valuations in the industry while also driving significant growth from increases in same-store sales, new locations, B2B wholesale in Saskatchewan and liquor and tobacco sales.

What’s your ultimate vision for 1CM?

My vision for 1CM is to become the leading retailer of vice in Canada, building a brick-and-mortar unicorn the old-fashioned way. That’s what I would want eventually for this company, and I think we’re going in the right direction.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about 1CM at https://1cminc.com/

Experienced Team Ready to Ride the Safe Supply Drug Trend With Patience and Prudent Investmentsexperienced Team Ready to Ride the Safe Supply Drug Trend With Patience and Prudent Investments

Governments around the world are pivoting away from a prohibition approach to the street-level drug trade in order to mitigate the harm related to its often toxic supply. 

Safe Supply Streaming (CSE:SPLY) was founded two and a half years ago in response to the opportunity presented by the burgeoning safe supply ecosystem. Its goal is to help end the opioid crisis, which claims the lives of 21 people in Canada every day.

Bill Panagiotakopoulos, Chief Executive Officer, told Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine that the company sees tremendous promise in what he calls the “third wave of drug reform,” projected to be a US$360 billion–plus total addressable market.

This “third wave” follows cannabis, which was legalized for recreational use in Canada in October 2018, and then psychedelics, which have shown promise in clinical trials as potential treatments for a range of physical and mental health conditions. 

“People, politicians and regulators are waking up to the fact that ‘The War on Drugs’ is a failed policy,” Panagiotakopoulos explains. “It’s cost us as a society over $1 trillion, millions of lives and left us with a highly toxic drug supply.”

Safe Supply Streaming believes that as more jurisdictions decriminalize and legalize psychoactive compounds and other drugs, new opportunities will emerge. As such, it acts like a venture studio and invests in and incubates companies positioned to play a pivotal role in the safe supply space. 

The company’s streaming model allows institutional and retail investors alike unique access to up-and-coming companies in the safe supply environment. 

“We’re going out and identifying companies, in most cases startups, and looking to see which ones are going to win. Being really early investors, we are giving our shareholders the first mover advantage,” Panagiotakopoulos says.

In some cases, Safe Supply Streaming can offer investors the ability to own a stake in these companies before they reach the capital markets. “That’s something not traditionally available to your average investor,” he notes.

Panagiotakopoulos says the company is looking at the entire safe supply space and placing bets on a diverse range of entities.

The company’s initial investment is in a business at the forefront of ensuring the safety of drugs: London, Ontario–based CannaLabs. The laboratory services company is researching a range of psychoactive compounds, including MDMA and DMT, and is Health Canada–licensed to conduct analytics and testing for compounds both imported and made in Canada to support safe supply programs. 

Safe Supply Streaming also has a pipeline of other candidates that it expects will lead to the expansion of its portfolio in the next six to 12 months.

“There’s so much going on in the third wave of drug reform,” says Panagiotakopoulos, pointing to fentanyl test strips as an example of the type of safe supply product or service the company would look to invest in.

Fentanyl test strips are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is also a major cause of overdoses and often shows up in MDMA, cocaine and other street drugs.

Until recently, fentanyl test strips were considered to be drug paraphernalia in the United States. But they can serve as an important tool in preventing opioid-related deaths. In Canada, 81% of apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January and March of 2023 involved fentanyl, up 42% since 2016, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The market for fentanyl test strips is expected to reach US$12.64 billion by 2030 and $6.77 billion in the United States alone by 2027.

Safe Supply Streaming is also exploring opportunities around new uses of the coca plant — known for its psychoactive alkaloid cocaine — such as in energy drinks, functional foods and pharmaceuticals.

Safe Supply Streaming’s leadership team features former executives from across the cannabis and psychedelics industries, as well as finance professionals who have the experience and knowledge required to make informed investments in the safe supply ecosystem. 

Collectively, the members of Safe Supply Streaming’s team have raised and deployed more than C$3.5 billion in capital during their careers and created more than $10 billion in shareholder value. 

Panagiotakopoulos believes it is important that the company be led by professionals who have worked in the drug ecosystem and have a deep understanding of its rules and regulations. Still, he says it isn’t easy to pick winners when it comes to cannabis and psychedelics investments.

“The best people to deal with these types of investments are those who have spent significant time in the cannabis world through its scheduling and ultimate legislation here in Canada or who have navigated the complex legal framework of having a ketamine clinic or conducting clinical trials of psilocybin to treat various ailments,” Panagiotakopoulos explains.

Safe Supply Streaming’s President is Ronan Levy, who has 15 years of capital markets experience building cannabis and psychedelics companies.

Levy co-founded and was Executive Chairman of Reunion Neurosciences, served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Field Trip Health & Wellness and founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx, which were both acquired by Aurora Cannabis in 2016. 

Setti Coscarella, Vice President of Corporate Development, worked as lead strategist of reduced-risk products at tobacco giant Philip Morris. Panagiotakopoulos notes that Coscarella’s experience in the highly regulated tobacco industry is important, in addition to his consumer packaged goods expertise.

The CEO himself brings around a decade of experience working in Canada’s cannabis sector, including participating in roundtables with Health Canada to shape the country’s licensing regime.

Among Safe Supply Streaming’s advisors are Aaron Sonshine, a partner at leading law firm Bennett Jones, and Michael Astone, a former managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald and current Chief Executive Officer of ArcStone Securities and Investments.

“You can have the right thesis but the wrong timing or the right timing but the wrong company — we’ve mitigated those risks,” Panagiotakopoulos says.

“We’re at the right time, which is early on, and the right sector, which we believe is going to be big.”

Safe Supply Streaming listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange in October, as well as on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange under the ticker QM4, and is working toward an OTC listing in the United States.

“We didn’t wait another two years until we were at a different valuation, and this allows everybody to make that investment with us,” Panagiotakopoulos says.

“We are hyper-focused on where the market is going to be in the next three to five years, and we’re making our bets. The fact that we’re publicly traded allows everybody to make those bets along with us.”

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Safe Supply Streaming at https://safesupply.com/.

Creating a single point of access to a broad range of crypto stories

Picking winners in the fast-evolving cryptocurrency, blockchain and artificial intelligence sectors isn’t easy for investors. A long list of major success stories fuels excitement about opportunities to deploy capital in both new and established companies, but as in any industry, there are also teams that were unable to reach their goals.

And yet, there is no doubt that the companies that do succeed will change the world. That’s certainly the belief at Web3 Ventures (CSE:WEBV), which offers investors exposure to entities that are pushing the boundaries for these innovative sectors.

“Look to the future and understand that things will be very different a decade from now,” says David Nikzad, the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder. “I call it deep technology, and I think Web3 Ventures is all about community. It’s a community of people that want to bring parity to the financial system and make sure that what they get has trust and transparency.”

Nikzad got his start in digital marketing and has worked in investing for the last two and a half decades. Now, with his own fund, he’s become something of a shepherd for investors who may have misgivings about blockchain and Web 3.0. 

Take the collapse of FTX, which saw US$8.9 billion in customer assets go missing under the leadership of Sam Bankman-Fried. That hurt a lot of investors, but Nikzad believes there are positives moving forward. 

“It definitely shook a lot of people’s trust in crypto, but I think it was sort of a silver lining for the bigger banks to get into the industry. That drove BlackRock and others to get into the game. I think that in a weird way, it’s all going to work out perfectly, and I think that was the catalyst.”

The CEO has an optimism that borders on inevitability. He was an early disciple of the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper and bought Bitcoin before it took off. 

Web3 Ventures, he says, is his endeavour to give investors the same opportunity but through an audited, publicly traded company.

In terms of exposure, Web3 Ventures has a mandate to focus on decentralized finance, healthcare, telecommunications, tokenization, venture capital, blockchain games and social media. All told, the company has deployed $2 million since its inception. 

Notably, Web3 Ventures’ crypto assets are staked by a third-party custodian for greater security and fairer pricing, according to its website. 

“Look at us as a liquid fund that gives somebody a community of diversified assets that they can invest in the space,” Nikzad explains.

“This is a marathon for us,” he adds. “Digital assets will become the norm. Things will be tokenized. Big board exchanges will tokenize stocks. Usually, it takes a decade for new technologies to be implemented, so the time is now.”

The Web3 Ventures team is made up of lawyers, accountants, investor relations talent and broker-dealer experts, nearly all of whom have a capital markets background. 

“My co-founder, Jason Hobson, is a securities lawyer,” Nikzad says. “I think that’s really useful in terms of reaching critical mass — getting people like that involved.”

“We’re not some kid that, you know, left Harvard and decided to use customer funds to pay for some condo,” he quips.

For the skeptics, Nikzad points to his track record. 

“In one year, we built a company that, fully diluted, has a $100 million market cap. We look at all the investments we’ve made today, and our failure rate is very low,” he says.

“We put our own money on this; we didn’t go and beg for funding. Obviously, it’s always nice to get funding but almost a little antithetical to the whole Bitcoin decentralized finance kind of ethos. We practice what we preach.”

Nikzad in many ways embodies the DeFi ethos. 

Take generative AI, which Nikzad believes has the potential to change the way consumers interact with nearly every industry on the planet, particularly in an age of declining social trust. 

“People don’t trust anybody. They don’t want to go to the doctor. Instead, they want to go to a website,” he notes. “I call it WebMD 3.0”

Nikzad, for his part, says he hasn’t been to a doctor in three decades. Why would he, he says, if there are large language models and data sets that can deliver information that’s just as good. 

“[The skeptics represent] the old guard,” he exclaims.

Looking ahead, Nikzad believes tokenization, crypto and blockchain will follow the same path that social media companies took over the past decade and a half to become mainstream. 

“My grandmother uses Facebook. That didn’t happen in the first year of Facebook, it took multiple years,” says Nikzad. “Today, my father, my grandmother, people in my family that come from previous generations, they own crypto.”

It’s a changing world, and Web3 Ventures wants to offer investors a chance to participate in the space while it’s still in its early days. 

“Do you hear any hesitation in my voice?” Nikzad asks. “No. That’s what it takes. I don’t hope and pray. We just execute and we know.”

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Web3 Ventures at https://www.w3ven.com/.

Pioneering an innovative “flower-first” approach in the cannabis world

Innovation in cannabis involves improving upon or introducing new ideas, be it in the form of genetics, product formulation or packaging. But for brands to really thrive, they must do what successful companies in any industry do: address consumer needs.

MTL Cannabis (CSE:MTLC) is a case in point. The family-founded company prides itself on being a “flower-first” group, emphasizing the importance of the cannabis plant itself. Having recently completed a successful reverse takeover of Canada House Cannabis Group (CHV), MTL is positioning itself to harness a variety of revenue streams, including Canadian recreational and medical cannabis markets, as well as international export opportunities.

Notably, the company has self-financed its organic growth, integrated the various CHV business units and expanded operations while responsibly servicing its creditors, with plans calling for continued expansion, bolstering working capital and reducing capital costs.

Mike Perron, Chief Executive Officer, is a seasoned industry professional who helped shape Canada’s regulated cannabis landscape, first as an advisor with MNP LLP and then taking on various leadership roles within the industry. Perron then teamed up with MTL’s founders, brothers Rich and Mitch Clement, to bring the cannabis world a flower-focused brand with quality and innovation at its core. He spoke with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine recently about corporate culture and what comes next.

MTL Cannabis has positioned itself as a brand that defines modern street cannabis culture. Can you elaborate on how you are achieving this and what it means to be a “flower-first” company?

This focus on flower is at the heart of our company. Our founders originate from this world, and our expertise lies in doing what we do best. We’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel or add unnecessary bells and whistles. Our primary concentration is on flower-based products, encompassing dry flower and pre-rolls, with some additional forays into producing hash, as we have the knowledge and resources in-house to expand into this category.

MTL Cannabis has gained considerable success in dried flower sales since its recreational market launch in 2020. What are the key factors that have contributed to your brand’s rapid growth and success in this segment?

From a sales perspective, our growth has been largely organic. Until last January, we didn’t even have a dedicated sales team — just one exceptional sales representative working closely with the provincial boards and hitting the streets by himself on the weekends to introduce the brand to dispensaries and budtenders.

Our story, brand and products have spread primarily through word of mouth. Budtenders and consumers trying our products and recommending them to others have been pivotal. Quality is our top priority, ensuring that everything leaving our facility is of the highest standard. When you uphold that promise to consumers and medical patients, everything else falls into place. 

The recent share exchange agreement with Canada House Wellness Group represents a significant development. How do you envision this partnership impacting MTL Cannabis?

Canada House has its roots in clinics and medical cannabis, going back to the original Canada House asset, which was a clinic in Oromocto, New Brunswick, called “Marijuana for Trauma,” and was founded by veterans for veterans. The veteran population is a significant part of our business, representing approximately 96% of our medical sales. We have 12 clinics across Canada, in addition to virtual clinics, with most strategically located near military bases.

Our approach differs from the classic licensed producer (LP) model, where clinics direct patients to their LPs; instead, we prioritize offering the best service to veterans, whether through us or other LPs. 

The transaction is set to provide MTL Cannabis with additional licensed cultivation space. How will this expansion benefit your company and its consumers?

Canada House represented significant expansion possibility, particularly with the IsoCanMed facility in Louiseville, Québec. While the facility had strong foundational elements, it required substantial improvements.

Our team, with its focus on operational excellence, recognized the facility’s potential, from efficient HVAC systems to room sizes, and invested over $2 million to enhance its capabilities. Currently, we are expanding it further, as we’re reaching our capacity limits as sales continue to increase.

MTL Cannabis aims to blend “old school knowledge with new school techniques.” Could you describe how you balance traditional cannabis cultivation practices with modern innovations, and how this approach sets you apart in the market?

When it comes to innovation, the most groundbreaking aspects have been on the supply chain and processing side, primarily driven by one of the founding brothers, Mitch.

Our innovation journey encompasses everything from post-harvest processes to packaging, making us one of a kind. It’s like a DIY project — we’ve built everything from scratch.

I often joke with Mitch, calling him a “MacGyver in manufacturing.” If you handed him a toothpick and a stick of chewing gum, he’d create a packaging line out of it. He’s found ingenious ways to scale our business, sometimes repurposing main manufacturing equipment but mostly rethinking how we do things. Coming from the culinary world, he’s like the Gordon Ramsay of our packaging operations. His relentless focus on improving efficiency is remarkable, such as optimizing the time it takes to fill three pre-rolls in a tube, trimming fractions of a second to improve speed. This stems from his passion for serving customers flawlessly, repeatedly and quickly, ensuring they have a fantastic experience every time.

The company’s portfolio includes products like dried flower, pre-rolls and hash under different brands. What’s the strategy behind the brands, and how do they cater to various consumer preferences?

In all honesty, our approach is about simplicity and authenticity. We take immense pride in our products, and we stand by them.

I’ll share a story that highlights our commitment to quality. We introduced our second SKU, starting with the Sage n’ Sour strain, and later the Cookies n’ Cream strain. It was well-received by customers and sold exceptionally well. However, when we realized that it fell short of our standards, we made the decision to discontinue it and replace it with superior genetics.

The original move might have been fine at most LPs, but it didn’t align with our stringent criteria and commitment to quality. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else ever could. Our core principle is simple: if it comes from our facility, it must be best-in-class. If it’s not, we will do everything in our power to rectify it immediately.

That’s interesting. You don’t often hear about companies pulling a top-selling product from the shelves voluntarily.

Well, our consumers are of utmost importance to us. Personally, I enjoy sitting down with our sales representatives, whether they’re on Vancouver Island or in Southwestern Ontario. I often ask them, “What’s the word on the street? What are consumers saying about our products? Is there consistent feedback or reviews that call for an upgrade, update or enhancement?” If there’s any room for improvement, we’re quick to respond. Our goal is to ensure that consumers have the best possible experience, and we want to consistently reward their commitment to our brand. 

What experiences and lessons have shaped MTL Cannabis from operating hydroponic supply stores to becoming a Health Canada–licensed cannabis cultivator?

Quality, both in terms of product and service, is our guiding principle. We acknowledge the industry’s shortcomings, often characterized by flashy promotions and over-hyped marketing with a lack of real execution. In contrast, we’re not here to put on a show. Our focus is on running a business rooted in quality, customer care and keeping our promises of quality to our consumers and patients. By fulfilling these promises, it inevitably benefits our shareholders in the long run. 

Let’s finish by discussing how you plan to meet the evolving needs of medical and recreational consumers in the cannabis industry.

I want to see continued expansion and a relentless dedication to meeting consumer needs. My hope is that, in a few years, I can look back and say that we played a role in building the best-managed and top-performing company in this industry, a company deeply rooted in quality.

I’ve been part of the cannabis industry since 2014, and our results speak volumes. There’s much work ahead for the entire industry, considering that it has, to some extent, lost the trust of investors. We aim to be a part of an industry-wide effort to regain that trust. Rebuilding trust takes time, and we want to be one of the companies leading the way in restoring investor confidence.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about MTL Cannabis at mtlcannabis.ca

Innovation drives success at a beverage legend where customers shape branding and unique flavour is the norm

“Give the people what they want” is a tried-and-true business philosophy, but rarely does one come across a company as open to customer wants and ideas as Jones Soda (CSE:JSDA). From putting photos submitted by consumers on the bottles of its craft sodas to encouraging product customization for events big and small, listening to its base has made Jones a success story for over a quarter of a century.

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine caught up with David Knight, the company’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, in early November to learn about the history of the brand and what comes next. Expanding a winning formula into multiple new markets lies at the core of its tasty plan.

Jones has one of the most eye-catching and constantly evolving brands in any market. Consumers can even submit their own photos and potentially see them on a bottle. This is obviously a reflection of corporate culture and a philosophy of success. Tell us more about the thinking behind the brand.

The company was founded in 1995, so it’s been around for 28 years now. The founders chose the name Jones because they wanted one of the most frequently used last names in the country. They started with Smith and ended up going with Jones, which is in the top five in the US and the top 15 in Canada. It was really started as the beverage of the people.

The platform is all about natural cane sugar with unique flavours and bright colours. It’s about fun and great taste and lots of options.

From a community standpoint, this month we have our one millionth community photo on the bottles, so we’ve got a deep level of interaction with our core consumers who, as you said, send in their photos, and if they make it, their photo goes on the bottles. It is a lot of fun, and we get real engagement and great stories on our products.

Last year, we added augmented reality, which means you can use an app on your phone and bring a photo to life as a video.

We started on the street, so we are very deep into action sports like BMX and skate and surf. We were the cool brand to be found in skate shops and delis, and since then have moved into larger formats such as Safeway, Albertsons, Walmart and Target. It’s really grown from the original days and has been a fun ride for the team.

As the newly appointed President and CEO, what is your plan for the company? What is the focus, what are you looking to preserve and is there anything you believe needs to change?

As we’ve just talked about, we’ve got a very powerful brand. We think there is a huge opportunity with consumers who have experienced Jones at various times throughout their lives. We have that core group of consumers, and we also need to invest in the next generation and bring those folks into Jones as well. We are doing that, in part, through more distribution and getting into convenience stores.

As a beverage guy, I’m a big believer in cold availability, which means making sure that Jones is available cold at arm’s length for consumers. Anywhere there is a fridge with beverages in it, Jones needs to be there. In other words, distribution growth.

The team has done a wonderful job of getting us into the cannabis market as well. We launched Mary Jones in California and have good penetration among dispensaries in the state. We quickly became the number one cannabis soda and were just voted the best-tasting cannabis soda at a recent cannabis cup.

The transition of great taste from soda into cannabis beverages has been a big one. We’re in Washington now too and are launching into Michigan. We’ll then be looking at expanding the brand into other states, with a strong look at Canada in 2024.

Beyond that, we just launched Jones Plus, which is an energy play. It’s a high-boost caffeinated beverage.

So, the theme is innovation that makes sense for us in categories and beverages where the brand will work. We define that as craft sodas, craft caffeinated beverages and the cannabis play with Mary Jones in both the regulated and the Delta 9 hemp-derived space.

Let’s look at results. Sales dropped a little over 10% from the first half of 2022 on a challenging year-on-year comparison, though margins improved quite noticeably. Is that improvement reflective of operations or are there external factors at play?

Management set a focus on margin improvement about three years ago with a five-year objective of getting to a 35% margin. So far, I think we’ve achieved an improvement of nine percentage points, so that’s a huge accomplishment by the operations team.

As we’re mostly in large format retail stores, grocery, etc., we did see some headwinds. Some of our accounts during COVID-19 switched from single bottles to four-packs and then switched back, and this is what caused most of our volume decline.

Thanks to innovation, including a mini can which I think will do well, we are expecting a rebound next year, as we have a new format, new space and new distribution in the retail market.

The beverage business is pretty cyclical. You present, you get listings, you drive volume for that year and you kind of rinse and repeat for the next year. We’ve just gone through that cycle and expect some big wins for 2024.

Let’s look at the creative side of the company. Internally, where do ideas for flavours such as Zombie Juice and Pucker Punch come from?

We believe that good ideas can come from anywhere. And again, our community is pretty forthcoming with ideas. We get a lot of flavour ideas from customers, and underneath every cap we have a little phrase from the community. We take ideas beyond just the photos we get.

Jones also has a pretty tight creative team. Some of our team have been on the brand for over 20 years, so we have a good history and legacy of what Jones is and how we can keep that authentic.

That’s one of our secret sauces. It’s the creativity of the brand. We are edgy and we like to have fun, and as a team, we select the ones that we think are going to work. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, though we do drive hard at it.

You mentioned you get a lot of feedback from the community. Can you share a story with us that stands out in your mind?

In my first week at Jones, I was going through an airport with a Jones t-shirt on, and someone pulled me aside and said, “Oh, Jones is super cool. I love the turkey gravy.” We came out with a turkey gravy flavour for Thanksgiving several years ago, and it comes back every year.

Similarly, we are now launching a dog soda based on bone broth and some functional ingredients that help dogs with joint health. It goes to show that these fanciful flavours really do resonate, and we get community feedback, press pickup — I don’t know of another beverage business that does this.

Humans drink throughout the day, but there is competition for their dollar. What are the top reasons you believe the company can increase its value consistently going forward?

I’m a brand guy and have worked on some pretty big brands, but Jones is a particularly good one. It has a deep history and is known for its fun irreverence. We are a very welcoming brand across all genres, colours, sizes and shapes. I feel blessed that I’m working on a brand that has such a legacy in this country. You talk to people who have had Jones, and they can tell you a story about their first experience with a cream soda or a root beer.

We have a team that is passionate about the business and a culture that thrives in terms of ideas and appetite for growth and going the extra mile. It’s a great brand with great people.

The one area I really want to drive is innovation and continuing to do things that bigger companies do not. We have a brand called MyJones where consumers send us a photo for an engagement party or a graduation, and they can customize the bottles for their event. We take customization seriously, all the way to our retailers. As an example, we’ll do special events for our retailers where we put their brand on bottles. Customization is a competitive advantage, and we’ll do a lot more of it in 2024.

And we are pushing the edge of what else Jones can do beyond craft soda, caffeinated beverages and cannabis beverages. We are pushing the innovation pipeline for next year.

Partners are important, too. I can talk about STK Steakhouse and Kona Grill. Jones is now on their menu for soda, a float and a spiked Jones. They are responding well to the velocity and margin that they are getting and the glass bottle that works with fine dining.

We’re really making sure we get Jones into more key distribution points and have people celebrate the legacy of the brand. We are doing a lot of great things for next year, and we’re all really excited.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Jones Soda at https://www.jonessoda.com/

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Inspiration Issue – Now Live!

Welcome to the latest issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of different industries.

Whether it is an incremental step forward or a giant leap, inspiration is often the catalyst for entrepreneurs and investors to breathe life into a vision of the future. This inspiration-themed edition of our magazine takes a cross-sectoral view of stories, highlighting the diversity of listings on the CSE and demonstrating the fact that as Canada’s leading entrepreneurial exchange, we have front row seats to some of the most innovative pursuits of our time. 

In this issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, we feature six CSE-listed companies that are setting the pace on innovative approaches to new and familiar frontiers, including cannabis, blockchain, and healthcare.

The CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Check out the Inspiration Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine here: 

The “Senior” Exchange and Other Capital Market Myths

These are tough times for many publicly traded companies. Valuations have declined alongside rising interest rates, and capital is incredibly difficult to come by across many sectors.

In a challenging market like this, some boards and management teams are trying almost anything to give their valuation, trading liquidity, and capital-raising opportunities a boost, however small. Not surprisingly, one of these moves is an old standby: switching stock exchanges.

We get it. Company leaders are right to ask for better value from their stock exchange — something we at the CSE, via our innovative thinking and superior customer service, are proud to say we bring to the table. 

What is troubling, however, is when fiction overtakes fact. When market participants base their listing decisions on storytelling that is full of inaccuracies about how markets work in general, and about the CSE in particular, it not only sows confusion among investors and public companies alike, but it robs market participants of the true nature of the choices available to them. And it is obviously antithetical to fair and efficient market function.

Unfortunately, we have seen a few of these inaccuracies in the public sphere recently. So, I would like to take the time to correct a couple of myths about Canadian stock exchanges and lay out some clear truths about the CSE.

There is no such thing as a “senior” or “tier one” exchange

There are stock exchanges of various sizes in Canada. But the idea that certain exchanges are “senior” or “tier one” just isn’t so. The truth is that every stock exchange in Canada is regulated on the same basis. 

All trading activity on each stock exchange is overseen by the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization, which also administers the “timely disclosure” responsibilities of every public issuer. We are all in the same boat and must play by the same rules. 

Referring to a stock exchange as “senior” is a misleading marketing tactic that confuses market participants about the structure and function of stock markets. It is a naked attempt to establish superiority over other exchanges that do not, in fact, exist. 

The CSE is a stock exchange. Period. What differentiates exchanges are the issuers that they list. And contrary to what may be said about the CSE, we can list all issuers.

Anyone can invest in CSE securities

From the largest investment fund to the tiniest retail investor, everyone is eligible to invest in CSE issuers. To suggest otherwise is a myth.

Now here is where securities laws make investment more complex: Every Canadian issuer is classified as either “Venture” or “Non-Venture.” “Venture” issuers are typically smaller and less liquid, and certain institutional investors have mandates that prevent them from buying these securities. That is entirely understandable. 

“Non-Venture” issuers are larger companies and face more demanding corporate governance requirements, including larger boards of directors and tighter reporting deadlines. The advantage of this designation is that they are eligible for inclusion in many more institutional funds.

The CSE offers issuers the opportunity to choose a “Venture” or a “Non-Venture” path. In fact, the CSE is uniquely positioned in the Canadian capital markets as the only exchange with regulatory approval to list both “Venture” and “Non-Venture” issuers.

CSE issuers are also eligible for membership in index funds offered by leading international providers. One notable exception is the S&P/TSX indices, which limit inclusion to companies trading on the TSX. But nothing prevents any index provider from including CSE securities if they meet the eligibility criteria for a particular index. 

Market integrity rests on clarity

The Canadian stock exchange business is ultra-competitive at the best of times and even more so in the current market conditions. This competition provides opportunities for Canadian companies to access the capital that they need. But competition cannot and should not confuse or undermine fair and efficient markets. It is important that market participants have a complete understanding of what each exchange offers to ensure that issuers select the exchange that best meets their needs.

The CSE is proud to offer issuers a client-focused, low-fee, and innovative model that has driven our success over the nearly two decades of the Exchange’s existence. It has enabled us to grow from a startup with three listings in our first year to more than 800 listings today. 

I will not call the CSE a “tier one” exchange because, again, there is no such thing. However, I firmly believe it is the leading Canadian exchange for entrepreneurs. By providing access to the Canadian public markets with exceptional service, support, and continuous improvement, we are leading the way in creating a vibrant and innovative marketplace.

Year-End 2023 Interview with Canadian Securities Exchange CEO Richard Carleton

It was a tale of two stock markets in 2023, with large-cap indices nearing record highs, while the shares of smaller companies struggled to find steady footing. Ongoing geopolitical uncertainty didn’t help, but if one had to name a single factor explaining the divergent performance, most observers would point to interest rates, which have surged manyfold from their pandemic trough that ended in the latter half of 2021.

History suggests that small-cap companies will again have their day in the sun. Reasons for optimism include expectations for a softening interest rate environment and the undeniable global trend toward greater electrification, which will continue to present opportunities to companies of all sizes. As is always the case with financial markets, timing is the hardest thing to predict.

Through all of this, the Canadian Securities Exchange maintained steady growth in its issuer base in 2023, while also introducing important changes to listings policies, margin eligibility, and its visual brand.

In a late-November discussion, CSE Chief Executive Officer Richard Carleton offered his perspective on markets at home and abroad, as well as his outlook for 2024, as the Exchange gets ready to mark a particularly important milestone.

Every year is different for the capital markets and in 2023 it was the interest rate environment that took centre stage. How would you characterize the capital markets in 2023 based on your interaction with issuers and others in the financial community?

It’s a tricky question and my initial reaction is that it was unprecedented, difficult, and a little strange — these are the words that come to mind. The first big issue is a lack of trading activity in all of Canada’s public markets, but particularly in the junior capital markets. The last time we saw turnover levels this low was 10 years ago. It has been a significant decline given that we were at record levels only two years ago, which was the height of the pandemic. To see declines in overall trading activity on the order of 70% to 80% is something that in my career, which dates back some 35 years in the capital markets, is unprecedented.

I think it’s fair to say that the interest rate environment and the overall economy is likely the culprit. As we know, retail investor participation is very important, particularly for the junior capital side of the markets, and there is a lot of pressure on Canadian families from an inflation perspective, housing costs, mortgage renewals, and so on. So, I think we are seeing that decrease in activity as a result.

That said, there are reasons for tremendous optimism because we have had many new companies access public capital through the Canadian Securities Exchange over the course of the year. We are not at the record levels we saw in 2021 or 2022 in terms of new companies coming to market, but we are still going to see roughly 100 companies list in 2023, which is extraordinary growth.

There has been a significant shift in the nature of those companies. In the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of investment in battery, strategic, and critical minerals, which are principally lithium, graphite, copper, nickel, cobalt, zinc, and rare earth elements.

This obviously takes place in anticipation that as the economy further electrifies and we bring new battery plants into production, there will be considerable demand for all of these minerals. Given the lack of new capacity brought on line for these minerals over the past 20 or 30 years, the belief is that there is a tremendous opportunity for Canadian companies, whether they are mining in Canada or internationally, to fill that demand.

So, as I say, we are in this kind of strange situation where we have a very robust listings pipeline and new listings cohort from 2023, but at the same time, we see participation rates and asset valuation levels that are disappointing and somewhat frustrating for company management teams.

You just described a year that had as many challenges as opportunities, yet the CSE is on pace for an impressive number of new listings across a wide variety of business sectors. What enabled the CSE to perform so well?

We attract the majority of new companies coming into Canada’s public marketplace at this time. There are a number of reasons for this, but I think that the most important factor is the excellent working relationship our listings regulation team has built up over the years with entrepreneurs and their legal, accounting, and investment banking advisors. 

People feel very comfortable working with the team, and I believe there is also an appreciation for the opportunities we provide through our listings development group to help showcase the unique stories of our issuers to a marketplace that, as I say, is challenging at the moment. So, it’s really both as the company lists on the CSE, and then as they look to grow in part through a relationship with the CSE, that we have an opportunity to help our issuers achieve their goals.

The CSE underwent a significant visual rebrand in 2023 that brought with it a new slogan: Always Invested. Why was now the right time and what does the refreshed brand represent?

I’d say there are two things. The first is that we have been involved with our partners at the securities commissions on a rebuild of our listings policies, really for the first time in the 20-year existence of the organization. There are significant changes to both tighten up the requirements for all companies listed on the exchange, as well as the creation of a senior tier which will enable us to regulate larger, more mature companies on a similar basis as they would be on larger exchanges in North America.

With that was really the recognition that we have moved past the start-up phase and are now a material part of Canada’s public markets. The visual identity of the brand is meant to convey our evolution. The logo is bold with forward momentum, it represents stability and, to a smaller degree, modernization and disruption. 

The slogan “Always Invested” is a promise to our customers and partners. A promise that we will always be invested in quality service and the future of efficient public capital markets. 

Was the decision to look at the listings policies mostly an internal one or did the broader financial community influence it as well?

The drive to update the listings policies came from a number of sources. We had feedback from the entrepreneurial, legal, and audit communities in terms of where our policies should be headed. And we work very closely with the regulators in terms of supporting investor protection and promoting capital formation and liquid markets through availability of information on companies.

We concluded that we could do a number of things to update the approach we have taken from when the listings manual was first drafted in 2003. So, with the benefit of 20 years of experience and feedback from various stakeholders, it was time to make significant changes.

The CSE will reach its 20th year as a recognized exchange in May 2024. You must already be planning a celebration of this milestone. What is in store and what can issuers and investors expect from the CSE in the next 20 years?

The first question is the easiest in that we are certainly looking to mark the event, but in ways that are sensitive to the difficult financing conditions many of our issuers are finding. Of course, times are challenging also for the investment dealers who we work with on the corporate finance and trading sides. So, I wouldn’t expect anything too over the top, but it is important that we celebrate the milestone because it is significant. 

I like to tell entrepreneurs when they are considering working with the CSE that we are an exchange that has experienced many of the same challenges and triumphs as a company that they are going through: we were a start-up that initially struggled to find an audience for its services, went through multiple pivots as we looked to find our way in an intensely competitive market, had to raise capital during very difficult market conditions but ultimately succeeded by never losing sight of our goal, which is to build a great exchange. We will be celebrating these achievements next year as we reach our 20th year as an exchange. 

As for the next 20 years, that’s a really good question. There has been a lot of criticism of traditional finance models from our peers in the crypto world: they are looking to decentralize trading facilities and disintermediation of service providers like traditional brokers, custodians, clearing agencies, and the like. From my perspective, the system we collectively operate for access to trading and capital through the traditional stock market environment has evolved to respond to a series of challenges over many years. It is actually very robust.

All of the systems and processes that had to be re-invented for crypto trading are already deeply baked into the investor protection and business processes that we have in what they call the legacy or “centralized finance” world, as the crypto community sometimes refers to it. 

My point is that the exchange trading environment is likely to look an awful lot like it does now, with more technology applications eliminating the remaining manual processes from the trading world, and facilitating the availability of better and more timely information for investors.

A visit to Australia earlier in the year brought the opportunity for new perspective on a capital market that is often compared to Canada’s. What can you tell us about the market there and the ambitions of the local financial community?

What’s interesting is that before we left for Australia, and since we returned, I saw articles in the Canadian business press suggesting that Australia is eating Canada’s lunch when it comes to embracing and supporting the new generation of companies in the strategic minerals space. When we were in Australia, we saw opinions expressed in the local financial press that Canada was eating Australia’s lunch when it came to supporting the investment and development of companies in the strategic minerals space. I’m not sure who is right or wrong, but clearly there is a difference of opinion on the point!

It’s clear that Canadian mining companies have been looking for capital from the Australian market. It appears that there are a number of Australian funds that are prepared to invest in relatively early-stage exploration companies, and also that companies from the CSE, and Canada in general, have had some success in raising capital from Australian investors.

The window seems very tight for raising additional money here in Canada so when a couple of Canadian companies had success in Australia, others followed that lead and attempted to replicate their experience.

From our perspective, we are looking to remove as many barriers and costs as we can for companies on the CSE to raising capital in Australia, and will support CSE-listed issuers seeking admission to the ASX in any way that we can.

Staying with the mining theme, can you share your thoughts with us on the sector’s outlook for 2024?

It is clear that good projects across a wide range of potential minerals are getting funding and entering the public markets. They are able to raise that first round of investment to support the first phase of exploration.

The new issuers from 2021 and 2022 that now have a season of drilling under their belts have been generating some positive reports. Normally, you would expect to see positive price performance, but for some reason, we are not seeing it. As a result, when companies raise their second round, the funding is dilutive for their original investors because the transaction is conducted at the previous issue price, or even lower for some of them.

This is a challenge and a source of some frustration for the industry. That said, we continue to see good projects come to the CSE and there is an extensive pipeline of companies preparing to come to market in 2024.

I hope and expect that with a return to more normal levels of retail participation as interest rates begin to come down in 2024, which I think is a near certainty, you will see the cycle happen where the management teams that successfully advance projects are rewarded with better market valuations and are able to raise significant additional funds at higher prices.

The cannabis sector has gone through some adjustment of late. What has been the CSE’s experience and have you had any feedback from cannabis issuers that stands out in your mind?

Cannabis issuers in many respects are very similar to those in the mining sector right now in that there is a degree of frustration from company management over lack of support in the secondary market as far as asset valuation goes.

We have a number of companies listed on the CSE which continue to build market share in the United States, and there continue to be new states that legalize for adult recreational purposes, which opens up new markets for these companies.

But it appears that the investment community is focused on legislative progress toward either rescheduling of cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance, which could result in significant tax relief for companies in the United States, or toward some form of outright legalization for adult recreational purposes on the Federal level.

As a result of these challenges with their equity market valuation, many of the larger companies are raising debt capital by either mortgaging tangible assets or securing lines of credit through the significant cash flow a few of these larger companies are generating. It is a very challenging time for these companies and my hope is that we begin to see more institutional participation and more long-term investors with a sophisticated understanding of the prospects and outlook for these companies. That should create the conditions for better price performance that recognizes the progress that many of them have made over the last five years.

In June, CSE issuers became eligible for margin following a decision by the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization. How have issuers benefited since that decision was made?

It’s a benefit that flows to the investment dealers when they hold CSE securities in their own names on an overnight basis. The changes mean that, for eligible securities, they don’t have to take 100 cents on the dollar as a capital hit and will see significant reductions on that charge against their firm’s regulatory capital.

I know that sounds like deep inside baseball, but the practical benefit for an issuer is that it can significantly decrease the dealer’s cost of conducting an offering on behalf of the issuer. For many of these companies, the dealer will hold the stock in its inventory for a significant period of time. It is very expensive if they are tying up regulatory capital to hold that position.

This change should, and will, facilitate a lower cost of capital for CSE issuers.

It is always up to the investment dealer to determine if they will permit a client to hold a security in a margin account; the regulatory change does not mean that CSE securities will become eligible for margin accounts. Investors will have to ask their dealer about the issue. 

We took a 20-year look forward earlier in the discussion. Let’s shorten the timeline and conclude with your thoughts on what the CSE plans to achieve in 2024.

We’re deep in the planning stages of our forecast, our budget, and the strategic plan for 2024, and there are a few things I would highlight.

We saw tremendous growth in our staff complement in 2023 as we powered up to service our ever-growing issuer population and to administer many of the new listings policies implemented over the course of the year. We should be quiet on the “new hires” front in 2024.

There will be demand for new capital from the mining companies, in particular, who joined the Exchange over the last three years. The CSE will do what we can to assist these companies in reaching sources of capital in Canada, the U.S., and overseas. We’ve talked in past years about the preferred access Canadian public companies have to the U.S. capital markets; I believe that the U.S. could be an important source of capital for the CSE’s mining issuers in the coming years. We also want to work with the industry to assist them in any way we can to engage with a younger generation of investors looking to support the energy transition through their investment portfolios. 

Overall, we are being quite conservative in our expectations for trading and new listings in the coming year. I personally believe that interest rates will come down sooner and faster than the broader consensus, but that probably isn’t a sound basis for us to be doing our financial planning for the year! What I am certain of is that when rates do begin to come down, there will be more robust trading volumes across the markets. It is my hope that investors take the time to get to know the issuer classes of 2022 and 2023 a little better as they come back to the market.

2023 Year-End Rewind

Throughout December, we’re looking back on the year and sharing our favourite highlights from each month. To kick things off, we’re rewinding to January, when we attended a renowned mining event and published a special edition of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

January Highlights

Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (VRIC)

On January 29–30, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (VRIC), produced by Cambridge House International, made its highly-anticipated return.

In the lead up to the conference, we had the honour of speaking with Jay Martin, President and CEO of Cambridge House, on a special episode of The Exchange for Entrepreneurs Podcast. Jay Martin spoke with us about the importance of reviving VRIC as an in-person event, his investor newsletter, and engaging with capital markets discourse from all sides. 

You can watch the episode here.

Following this insightful discussion, we were eager to connect with and learn from the many thought leaders, companies, investors, peers, friends, and colleagues in the mining space who attended this renowned conference.

Several CSE-listed issuers also exhibited at the event, including:

To close out VRIC, we held our Cross-Border Networking Reception, in collaboration with our event partners, OTC Markets, Odyssey Trust, MNP, Investing News Network, DealMaker, Grove Corporate Services, and Bennett Jones.

It was great to connect with friends old and new and to gain fresh industry insights. We hope to see everyone again at VRIC 2024!

View the album: Cross-Border Networking Reception

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Mining Issue (VRIC Edition)

In preparation for VRIC, we published  and distributed a special edition of the 2023 Mining Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

This issue, which offered a preview of the full edition published in March, highlights the stories of six companies boldly leaning into world-class opportunities within the context of rising interest in gold and battery metals. 

Companies featured in this edition include:

  • Irving Resources (CSE:IRV)
  • Li-FT Power
  • Relevant Gold
  • Snowline Gold
  • Tantalex Lithium Resources (CSE:TTX)
  • Western Uranium & Vanadium (CSE:WUC)

Read now: Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Mining Issue (VRIC Edition)

February Highlights

Ray Williams on The Exchange for Entrepreneurs Podcast

In honour of Black History Month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Ray Williams, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Financial Markets at National Bank Financial, on the Exchange for Entrepreneurs Podcast. 

This special episode delivers a fascinating look at the importance and limitations of Black History Month, the opportunities and benefits of furthering diversity on both a human and economic level, and the legacy of 100 Strong and Black Opportunity Fund, which both champion Black individuals to succeed in Canada. 

Notably, this discussion provides a prompt for executives and investors alike to ask themselves the question of whether they’re doing enough to investigate, encourage, and mentor talent from all backgrounds and to best position their firms for the greatest success.

Watch now: Ray Williams on “Capitalizing” on Diversity | The CSE Podcast Ep7-S3

PreDAC Vancouver & Toronto 

Leading up to the renowned PDAC Convention, organized by Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, we teamed up with Investor.Events to host PreDAC Vancouver and PreDAC Toronto. 

Our highly-anticipated mining industry networking events were a great success, with the Toronto session knocking attendance out of the park as a sold-out event.

We enjoyed connecting with friends old and new for two exciting afternoons filled with pitches, industry insights, presentations, networking, and great company.

Enjoy reminiscing with these photo highlight albums from each event!

View the albums: PreDAC Vancouver 2023 & PreDAC Toronto 2023

March Highlights

PDAC Convention & PDAC Investor Luncheon

Organized by the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, the PDAC Convention has been the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention for over 90 years. With our strong connection to the mining industry, the CSE was proud to attend, exhibit, and be a media partner at this world-renowned event.

Throughout this four-day event, there was a high volume of activity, including fascinating programming, exhibits, and extensive networking opportunities with leaders in the mineral exploration and mining sectors. Along with connecting with attendees at our booth on the exhibition floor, we produced and provided mining-focused content, and distributed free copies of the mining edition of our magazine.

It was a thrill to connect with CSE-listed mining companies and to host our Investor Luncheon, which featured a keynote address from Mr. Peter Kent, former Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada, former Member of Parliament, and current ; rapid-fire pitch presentations; and was sponsored by MNP, DSA Corporate Services, Marrelli Support Services, Investor.Events, BTV, INN, Market One, Newsfile, Purves Redmond, W.D. Latimer, Vested, and SmallCap Communications.

We’re looking forward to next year’s convention!

View the album: PDAC Investor Luncheon

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Mining Issue

Expanding on the VRIC edition, we launched the full version of the 2023 Mining Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, in conjunction with PDAC. 

This edition offers insight into mining companies that are reaching far corners of the globe, from Japan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in light of rising interest in gold and battery metals, including:

  • Irving Resources (CSE:IRV)
  • Li-FT Power
  • Relevant Gold
  • Snowline Gold
  • Tantalex Lithium Resources (CSE:TTX)
  • Western Uranium & Vanadium (CSE:WUC)

In addition to featuring these fascinating stories and perspectives, the full edition spotlights the CSE’s Anna Serin, Director of Listings Development Western Canada and US and Vancouver Branch Lead, who shares her family connection to the mining space.

Read now: Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Mining Issue

April Highlights

Senior Tier Launch

This April, we were proud to announce a major policy update at the Exchange, which included the launch of our long-awaited Senior Tier. 

The CSE received final approval from the Ontario Securities Commission and British Columbia Securities Commission to materially revise its listing policies. These amendments create a level playing field with other exchanges, ushering in a new era at the CSE.

With a strengthened competitive environment for issuers, enhanced investor confidence, and greater accessibility to a broader range of institutional investors, this was a defining moment for issuers, investors, and the CSE team.

Read Now: Updated Policies for Canadian Securities Exchange Usher in New Era for Exchange and its Stakeholders

Growing Steady

We were proud to announce record growth numbers in our March market statistics, released on April 18, 2023. Not only did we see 30 new corporate listings in the first quarter of the year, but we also saw eight IPOs, proving the CSE remains the IPO destination of choice for emerging corporate issuers.

These growth numbers were a fantastic milestone to cap off the start of 2023 and set the pace for the months ahead.

Read now: Canadian Securities Exchange Reports March 2023 Performance Figures

May Highlights

Welcoming New Members to the CSE Team

Change has certainly been a central theme at the CSE this year. At the start of 2023, we had the pleasure of welcoming two new members to our management team: Tracey Stern and Stuart Schady.        

Tracey Stern, Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, has had an extensive career as a senior market regulator with the Ontario Securities Commission and as a chief compliance officer with a Canadian investment dealer. In her new role, Tracey is supporting the continuing evolution of the CSE as a leading exchange for global entrepreneurial companies.

Stuart Schady, Vice President of Trading & Market Data Services, assumed his new role after three years at the CSE as Director of Business Development in the Trading & Market Data Services Group, with previous experience in various roles in global financial services. In his new role, Stuart is bringing his impressive focus on service and his knowledge of the ever-evolving trading landscape.

Read Now: Canadian Securities Exchange Announces Executive Appointments

In the spring, we were thrilled to welcome Melissa Robertson, who joined as our Listings Development, Events & Content Manager, and Dimitri Giller, our new Director of Listed Company Services, to the CSE team.

With his experience and knowledge in the tech space, Dimitri was featured in the 2023 Technology Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, which would be released in June. In this interview, he shares his journey to the CSE and his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities tech companies are facing today.

Read now: Spotlight on Dimitri Giller

SME’s Current Trends in Mining: Richard Carleton Interview

Richard Carleton, CSE CEO, was interviewed at SME’s Current Trends in Mining Conference in New York City by Mark Bunting from Red Cloud TV.

During this fascinating interview, Richard discussed the CSE’s differentiators and successes in the mining sector, saying “We’ve been very successful in the mining space over the last 12 months. Roughly 80 companies or so have joined the Exchange from the mining sector.”

Richard also shared his uniquely positioned insights into trends in critical and precious metals, liquidity and OTC markets, and more.

Watch now: RCTV | Canadian Securities Exchange On-Site SME New York

June Highlights

Margin Eligibility Announcement

In June, we were proud to announce that, under the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization’s margin eligibility rule, the CSE was identified as an “acceptable exchange.” This decision applied immediately to all CSE-listed securities.

Margin eligibility has ushered in significant benefits for CSE-listed securities, including enhanced liquidity and reduced financing costs, and has served to make the Exchange a more attractive home for potential issuers.

We are pleased to be able to meet the ever-evolving needs of companies listed with us.

Read Now: Canadian Securities Exchange Securities Eligible for Margin

Summit on Responsible Investment

On June 27, we hosted the first-ever Summit on Responsible Investment in Kelowna. Our socially responsible investing and environmental, social, and governance event brought together a considerable crowd of professionals from a diverse range of industries for a day packed with presentations, panel discussions, company spotlights, networking, and exhibiting.

The event was a resounding success, thanks in no small part to all of our guests, presenters, collaborators, and sponsors, MNP LLP, Dentons, Odyssey Trust, Socialsuite, Business Television (BTV), irlabs, Accelerate Okanagan, and Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. Plus, attendees raised over $6,000 for the Central Okanagan Food Bank to help combat food insecurity in Kelowna and West Kelowna.

We are excited to bring the Summit back by popular demand in 2024. In the meantime, replays of each session are available free to watch on CSE TV.

Watch now: Summit on Responsible Investment Playlist

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Technology Issue

At the end of the month, we published the 2023 Technology Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine. With widespread advancements and numerous opportunities in technology, such as the public release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and its rapid growth to 100 million users in just two months, this issue was exceptionally relevant for investors, entrepreneurs, and the over 100 CSE-listed companies in the technology space.

In this issue, we took a deep dive into the stories of six companies that are getting ahead of the curve with innovations to solve tomorrow’s problems today, from emergency communications to plant-derived nutraceuticals to cryptocurrency forensics.

The CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Read now: Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Technology Issue

July Highlights

Summer Networking

The CSE had an action-packed summer filled with great company, new connections, and incredible sightseeing.

We kicked off our summer event circuit by hosting our first-ever SunDAC mining networking event in June, co-hosted by Grove Corporate Services, Newsfile, and OCI Group, and sponsored by enPercept. It was a delight to have Zero Zero Pizza as our venue and to catch up with friends and contacts we reconnected with at this year’s PDAC Convention over delicious food and great drinks.

We also had a great time donning our cowboy hats and catching up with old and new friends in Calgary for our annual Stampede festivities, including pancake breakfasts, a CSE-hosted reception, and boot scootin’ parties.

Thank you to everyone who attended SunDAC and joined us on the Stampede grounds. We look forward to another summer of networking in 2024!

August Highlights

The CSE Open

In August, we hosted the 2023 CSE Open, which brought together friends and colleagues for a fun day of golf at the scenic Wooden Sticks Golf Club.

Along with being a great opportunity for networking, bonding, and working on our golf swings, we also supported two important causes: the Centennial Infant and Child Centre Foundation and Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides

And what helped make the event a hole-in-one were our event sponsors: Independent Trading Group (ITG)MNP, and Dog and Pony Studios, as well as:

We look forward to playing another round next year!

View the album: The CSE Open 2023

Baseball Classic

We also had a great time taking our friends and clients out to the ball game at the 2023 CSE Summer Baseball Classic. 

Vancouver’s Nat Bailey Stadium was the perfect setting for a summer baseball game, with the Vancouver Canadians and Hillsboro Hopps engaged in a thrilling showdown. It was wonderful connecting with colleagues and clients, and to show our appreciation for their enduring support.

Our sponsors irlabs, Odyssey Trust, SmallCap Communications, Capital Tides Vancouver Investor Cruise by Investor.Events, International Deal Gateway, and Stockhouse, helped make this event a home run.

Enjoy these photo highlights from this unforgettable day.

View the album: The CSE Summer Baseball Classic 2023

September Highlights

2023 Precious Metals Summit Beaver Creek

In September, the 2023 Precious Metals Summit Beaver Creek brought together professionals from the investment and mining spaces for panel discussions, presentations, and networking at a beautiful mountainside setting in Colorado. 

We were proud to sponsor and attend this premier, invitation-only independent investment conference, and the CSE’s Richard Carleton, CEO; Anna Serin, Director of Listings Development for Western Canada and US & Vancouver Branch Lead; and Phillip Shum, Director of Listings Development had a great time connecting with friends and colleagues.

Several CSE-listed issuers were also in attendance at the event, including:

Plus, we had the pleasure of teaming up with MNP and MLT Aikins to host a daily social hour during the summit at the CSE Hospitality Suite. It was a fantastic way to network in between one-on-one meetings and other scheduled networking events while enjoying refreshments.

Thanks for having us!

View the photos: Beaver Creek 2023

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Precious Metals Issue

At the Precious Metals Summit Beaver Creek, we premiered the 2023 Precious Metals Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

This issue explores the definition of “precious” in today’s world, which seems to be taking on new meaning as energy-linked metals rise in prominence to feed the growing shift toward cleaner technology, and features the stories of precious and critical metals companies focused on bringing world-class jurisdictions to the limelight, from North America to West Africa.

CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Rob Cook, the CSE’s Senior Vice President of Market Development, is also highlighted in this issue and shares his insights and trends in mining and the capital markets.

October Highlights

Family Office Showcase – London, England

We were thrilled to travel “across the pond” to sponsor a family office showcase in late September in London, hosted by Global Partnership Family Offices and presented by International Deal Gateway (IDG). 

CSE-listed issuers, Discovery Lithium (CSE:DCLI), Hillcrest Energy Technologies (CSE:HEAT), and Gemina Laboratories (CSE:GLAB) also presented at the event.

Ahead of this exciting showcase, the CSE’s James Black sat down with Liz Priestman, CEO and Director of IDG, on The Exchange for Entrepreneurs Podcast. 

The two discussed IDG’s role, family offices benefits and differentiators as investors, the focus on the UK, advice for CEOs, and IDG’s plans and success stories of companies they’ve worked with.

Watch now: Liz Priestman on Finding a Fit with Family Office Capital | The CSE Podcast Ep16-S3

International Mining and Resources Conference – Sydney, Australia

The CSE team journeyed to the land down under for the renowned International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney, Australia. 

At this renowned mining event, now in its 10th year, the CSE’s Richard Carleton, CEO, and Anna Serin, Director of Listings Development for Western Canada and US & Vancouver Branch Lead, had the chance to enjoy presentations covering the entire mining value chain and network with global mining leaders, resource experts, and leading companies.

It was great to be joined by CSE-listed companies, United Lithium (CSE:ULTH) and Inflection Resources (CSE:AUCU), and to celebrate United Lithium’s victory at the pitch competition!

During the conference, Richard Carleton was also given a moment in the spotlight in an interview with Kitco Mining. Richard discussed the current state of the mining sector, raising capital as a Canadian miner in Australia, and major economic trends. 

Thanks for having us!

Read now: ‘Tremendous number of new projects’ in the critical minerals space: Canadian Securities Exchange CEO

November Highlights

Red Cloud Fall Mining Showcase 2023

We were proud to be an event sponsor for the Red Cloud Fall Mining Showcase, in partnership with PearTree, on November 7–8 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel in Toronto.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this action-packed event. It was great to connect with colleagues and friends in the mining space and meet with attendees from around the world.

Plus, CSE-listed companies, ACME Lithium (CSE:ACME), CDN Maverick Capital (CSE:CDN), Kuya Silver (CSE:KUYA), and Latitude Uranium (CSE:LUR) were in attendance.

A special thank you to Red Cloud and PearTree for having us and for putting on such a great showcase. We’re looking forward to the next one!


Thanks to everyone who joined us at MJBizCon, which took place at the exciting Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas! It was great to participate in this action-packed event, explore the exhibition floor, and dive into the current state of the cannabis landscape.

Plus, CEO of the CSE, Richard Carleton alongside Anil Mall, Director of Listed Company Services, and Phillip Shum, Director of Listings Development for Toronto, had the opportunity to connect with innovators, executives, and entrepreneurs alongside issuers in the cannabis space.

Thanks for having us and inspiring us to “dare to grow”! We’re thrilled to share our photo highlights from this exciting event.