Sixth Wave Innovations: After taming mining, explosives and cannabis challenges, this PhD-filled team puts COVID-19 on notice

Almost everywhere you go these days, you come into contact with multiple products and services without knowing they are there. Some make life easier or more convenient, while others go so far as to keep you alive, or at least out of harm’s way. We don’t see these products because a non-expert would not even conceive of such things. But thank goodness some experts do, as some of these technologies are fueling the promise of overcoming COVID-19 and pandemics of the future.

Sixth Wave Innovations (CSE:SIXW) is one such group, where a highly accomplished team that includes seven full-time PhDs is adapting proprietary molecular identification technology to tackle COVID-19.

Sixth Wave’s COVID-19 research builds on its recent successes in partnering with the United States Department of Defense on explosives detection, as well as on its gold refining and its extraction of CBD and THC from cannabis. Its technology has consistently provided solutions to highly complex scientific challenges. Now, Sixth Wave is committed to successfully adapting its proprietary rapid-detection technology to the COVID-19 puzzle in time to make a difference.

More on that shortly. But first, the basis of Sixth Wave’s business: molecularly imprinted polymers. Few people know what these are, as only a handful of companies in the world even work on furthering such technology. It truly is science at the cutting edge.

Most people think of plastic when they hear the word “polymers,” but these large molecules are far more ubiquitous. For example, wood is a polymer (a natural one), as is protein. To put it simply, a polymer is a material made of long repeating chains of molecules. Each has unique properties, dictated by the types of molecules in the chain and how they bond together. The basic molecules that serve as the links in a polymer chain are referred to as monomers, a defining feature being their capacity to form chemical bonds with other molecules.

At its most basic level, Sixth Wave’s technology identifies specific molecules by creating a polymer with qualities that first attract the molecule in question, then see if it fits. Imagine, for example, a complex magnetic puzzle missing a single piece. The magnetic field draws certain types of pieces with opposite magnetic charges toward the puzzle. When one fits, the puzzle signals to the user that it has found the missing piece.

When a Sixth Wave product identifies its target molecule, it triggers a specific chemical reaction embedded in the polymer by Sixth Wave scientists. In the COVID-19 example, it might cause a colour change to indicate that the person being tested carries COVID-19. The applications are endless.

“The doctors are telling us that water droplets are transmitting COVID-19 from our mouths,” says Dr. Jon Gluckman, Sixth Wave’s Chief Executive Officer. “Once developed, we think we can take the new polymer and embed it into a variety of testing devices, including in an N95 mask or a breathalyzer. You could arrive at an assisted living facility, for example, and be asked to put on a mask as you check in. If it changes colour after several breaths, they know you are carrying the virus. You could do the same thing at airports, train stations or ferry terminals. This would provide a way for everyone to be tested so that even if someone looks good and does not show symptoms, they don’t get beyond the point of inspection if they are carriers and risk infecting others.”

The key to the concept is the ease of testing. No machines or bloodied fingers. No swabs poking into your nasal cavity.

The idea is to embed the polymer in testing form factors that are inexpensive, easy to self-administer and allow for immediate results. “The earlier and more frequently you can test, the better,” says Gluckman. “We need something you can use every day, so you can show up for work, be tested, and if you don’t have it, you’re good to go, and everyone is safe and comfortable with their environment.”

As mentioned earlier, the Sixth Wave team – many of whom Gluckman has been working with for over 15 years – has a proven track record of commercializing molecularly imprinted polymers.

Explosives detection was the largest success, seeing Sixth Wave develop and sell wipes for military applications that could detect TNT, ammonium nitrate and other explosives at extremely low concentrations. “If you wiped a surface and there was a nanogram worth of explosives there, you would see the colour change,” explains Gluckman.

More recently, the team has developed products for the mining industry, conducting lab and field trials with some of the world’s top gold companies, the current focus being pilot plant testing with Kinross Gold Corporation.

“We moved into mining with a cheaper, more efficient and environmentally friendly way to conduct gold and silver extraction when companies use our polymer in place of activated carbon,” says Gluckman. One of the main advantages is that Sixth Wave’s IXOS product has been capturing more precious metals, and fewer of the unwanted minerals that come along with them, than when activated carbon is used.

Similar technology is used in another new Sixth Wave product called Affinity, which extracts CBD from hemp, or CBD and THC from cannabis. High efficiency and high purity are the selling points for Affinity, and Gluckman says the company is ready to start recognizing revenue in this segment during 2020.

“On the cannabis side, our development work is largely done, and we are finalizing supply agreements with our manufacturer. Affinity will also be manufactured at our facility in Lafayette, Louisiana,” Gluckman explains. Extensive test work was conducted with cannabis producers, and Sixth Wave is confident the demand is there.

“With mining as well, very little additional development is needed,” Gluckman continues. “We have already taken the production to commercial levels, and our focus now is getting the product to market. We see a lot more drive for innovation at gold mines, which leads us to have more customer opportunities.”

But it is a slow cycle. “A company might choose our technology but still be in the pre-feasibility stage,” Gluckman notes. It’s a market worth the wait, mind you, because a scenario assuming 10% adoption across global gold production suggests the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to Sixth Wave annually, according to Gluckman.

With the scientists who develop the core polymers freed from having to do modifications and test work for the mining and cannabis markets, development resources are becoming more focused on COVID-19 detection. “The world has an immediate and dire need to manage COVID-19,” says Gluckman. “There will be more deaths and little economy left if we don’t figure this out as a society. We’re proud to do our part to help the world get healthy again.”

To that end, chemistry work on the COVID-19 product has begun. Importantly, Sixth Wave can use synthetic molecules for development so that it does not have to work with the live virus. This is another benefit of past product development – handling live explosives is equally undesirable when working on products that involve chemical reactions.

As for the timing of COVID-19-detection products, “I think we are about four or five months away from having particles that would have gone through some testing and internal verification,” says Gluckman. “We are putting together a team that will include external laboratories to provide testing with the live virus. We have several universities we are talking to, and they have access to what we would need to test with.”

Sixth Wave is also partnering with companies that could manufacture products featuring the polymers, including a producer of N95 masks. “I would think in a six-month time frame that we could have the first test units available for approval by the Canadian government, and we’d submit them for approval in the United States.”

At this point, it should be clear that Sixth Wave is not just some company jumping on the COVID bandwagon. It is using proven in-house technology to tackle the COVID-19 chemical structure in more or less the same way it has approached other complex scientific challenges that have continuously resulted in successful solutions.

“In the space of seven years, Sixth Wave has developed and sold millions of dollars of explosives detection products to the US military, and we have created markets for molecularly imprinted polymers in the mining and cannabis industries,” Gluckman concludes. “Our products all lead to lower costs, are easy to use and feature capabilities unavailable with any other technology. We are a young company, but we are solid. We are not in this for a quick buck. We want to make a positive difference in the world.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Sixth Wave Innovations
at https://sixthwave.com/.

Sue Ozdemir on Delivering “Next Gen” Electric Motors and Powertrains | #HashtagFinance

CSE’s Anil Mall chats with Exro Technologies Inc. (CSE:XRO) CEO, Sue Ozdemir, about their strategy to commercialize its proprietary technology through strategic partnerships for specific near-term market opportunities.

Here’s an overview of what they cover in this podcast:

01:32 – Making electric motors smart with power electronics.
4:12 – A new type of inverter – intelligent coil driver.
5:43 – Positioned in the $100Bn global electric vehicle market.
8:01 – Sue’s background in the electric motor business, including GE Motor Division.
12:10 – Partnership 1 – Potential to retrofit combustion engines with electric engines.
15:23 – Partnership 2 – Clean Seed Capital to co-develop electric seeders.
16:38 – Partnership 3 – Working w/ Zero Motorcycle, the top manufacturer electric motorcycle.
17:11 – Partnership 4 – Sea Electric to develop an electric delivery van and co-developing a garbage truck for NA market.
21:18 – The approach to engaging new partners,

Exro is a Clean Tech company that has developed a new class of control technology for electric powertrains. Exro’s advanced motor control technology, their “Coil Driver”, expands the capabilities of electric motors and powertrains. The Coil Driver enables two separate torque profiles within a given motor. The first is calibrated for low speed and high torque, while the second provides expanded operation at high speed. The ability to change configuration allows efficiency optimization for each operating mode, resulting in overall reductions in energy consumption. The controller automatically and seamlessly selects the appropriate configuration in real-time so that torque demand and efficiency are optimized.

The limitations of traditional electric machines and power technology are becoming more evident. In many increasingly prominent applications, traditional methods cannot meet the required performance. This means either oversizing the equipment, adding additional motors, or implementing heavy mechanical geared solutions. Exro offers a new solution for system optimization through implementation of its technology which can yield the following results: increased drive cycle efficiency, reduced system volume, reduced weight, expanded torque and speed capabilities. Exro allows the application to achieve more with less energy consumed.

Related links
https://www.exro.com/
https://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/exro-technologies-inc

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts / Spotify / SoundCloud /
Stitcher / Google Podcasts / iHeart Radio / RSS

HealthSpace Data Systems: Governments in need of contact tracing to cope with COVID-19 turn to a trusted name

Public health departments have for decades been running contact tracing programs to reduce the spread of communicable diseases and other threats, stepping in to mitigate the impact of everything from unsafe restaurant food to unprotected sex to tainted tattoo needles.

But amid the widespread and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing has taken on a new sense of urgency. In the US, the novel coronavirus has spread to all 50 states, and deaths climbed above 125,000 in late June 2020. Meanwhile, the introduction of an effective vaccine is still some way down the road.

As a result, overwhelmed state and local health officials across the US are turning to private companies such as HealthSpace Data Systems (CSE:HS) to help devise solutions.

HealthSpace, an established Software as a Service (SaaS) company currently serving more than 500 public health departments across North America, responded to the challenge by extending its HSCloud Suite and My Health Department products to create a fully automated digital contact tracing platform for COVID-19.

Several US public health departments have deployed the British Columbia–based company’s platform, including the State of Hawaii and several counties in Washington State, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina. The automated platform can be up and running within 48 hours, although most departments usually complete their initial setup over the course of two weeks.

“Our platform not only has the ability to be deployed rapidly, it fits perfectly with the normal course of work public health departments are already doing,” explains Chief Executive Officer Silas Garrison. “We believe that as numerous people begin to be employed to bolster contact tracing efforts, our platform will be a proven benefit to accentuate the human effort with an automated solution.”

Over the years, health departments have typically had in-house staffers or contractors retrace the steps of people who tested positive for diseases and record anyone who had contact with them. The trackers then embarked on the painstaking process of cold-calling each contact to ask a series of questions and determine if they had experienced symptoms, while also encouraging them to avoid infecting others.

However, ramping up operations to handle the scope and breadth of COVID-19 tracing is a daunting task for most cash-strapped state and local governments. It means hiring hundreds, if not thousands, of tracers to work in large call centres. It also means training the contact tracers through online programs or sometimes weeks of in-person instruction.

Even with the best training, there’s a huge hurdle to overcome, as contact tracing is only effective if the contactee is willing to pick up the telephone and converse with the caller. The pick-up rate for unfamiliar or unidentified numbers in today’s society is very low. And the people who do answer are often guarded and uncooperative, if not downright abusive.

The logistics of launching a contact tracing program, hiring and training tracers, renting office space, and maintaining it for months can be costly, and far beyond the reach for some jurisdictions facing plummeting tax revenues as a result of the pandemic.

For HealthSpace, given the company’s years of work providing hundreds of state and local governments with its powerful self-serve enterprise cloud and mobile platform to manage their operations, stepping up to help both clients and non-clients in need during an unprecedented public health crisis seemed like a natural fit.

Garrison says it was during an initial general outreach to its customers about COVID-19 that HealthSpace first learned of the growing need at public health departments to find ways for a rapid scaling up of existing contact tracing operations, assuming the departments even had such operations to begin with.

He says HealthSpace’s automated contact tracing platform is simply a “modified version” of its foodborne-illness-tracking service, which has been in use for years. That is why the company was able to deploy the platform quickly, with minimal need for additional capital or other resources.

“It took very little technical effort to get this up. And immediately we turned it on and we started to spread the word out to our customers,” says Garrison. “We had several early adopters, literally within 24 hours, and it didn’t take too long for the word to spread.”

The platform, which was rolled out in April, connects with individuals daily by sending a unique and secure link via text message or e-mail. The link leads to a questionnaire that the recipient fills out by entering symptoms, temperature, places visited and people they have been in direct contact with.

These latter people are sent questionnaires each day, too. If anyone exhibits symptoms, health officials know immediately, issue quarantine directives and arrange for testing or treatment.

Information is securely stored inside the company’s cloud-based platform. Public health departments can access the encrypted data – which they own – for detailed real-time reporting and analysis. In addition, the data can be securely sent to healthcare providers, a service the company has always provided to its customers as part of its My Health Department product.

Garrison notes that HealthSpace’s automated platform isn’t meant to supplant human tracers. “They still need teams of people to manage this information, because you might have all the information oriented digitally. It still takes more specialized knowledge and skill to look over that information and determine who they need to make a more proactive outreach to.”

In order to get established clients, as well as new ones, to adopt the contact tracing platform, the company is providing a version for free, for 90 days in most cases. Also, waiving upfront fees acknowledges that many local and state governments don’t have the funds to purchase the platform right now.

“They are getting the benefit of the platform today for a situation that is dire and are able utilize it while they’re waiting on getting their funds in place,” Garrison explains.

“What this has done has actually worked to our benefit. They are now references and have been spokespersons for us in several key areas that will translate to sales. So, it actually works as a very powerful, tip-of-the-spear sales tool, because they are able to get it for free, get it into people’s hands and appreciate its power and value. And now they’re talking to other potential customers about it, which could directly translate into exponential sales growth for us.”

Organizations deciding to use the platform for the long term will pay $200 to $300 per month for each user – a nurse or epidemiologist, for example. A client requiring 10 user accounts could thus generate up to $36,000 in annual revenue.

The approach appears to be working, as HealthSpace announced its first contract incorporating contact tracing for COVID-19 in mid-June. The agreement will see Mecklenburg County Health Department in North Carolina use HSCloud Suite for contact tracing and managing its Onsite Program for five years. The work with Mecklenburg County will generate revenue of US$157,800 for HealthSpace.

The company shared news that same month that counties in Ohio, Arizona and Illinois have started using the platform as well, with HealthSpace providing it on a gratis basis for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2020 and beyond, Garrison says public health departments can pivot the automated tracing platform to tackle other epidemiological outbreaks once the COVID-19 crisis is under control. For example, the company is in talks about using it to track people living with HIV.

“The platform is so flexible and powerful that it extends well beyond the COVID-19 situation,” Garrison says. “This is a sustainable path forward for a new business model within our existing platform.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about HealthSpace Data Systems
at https://web.healthspace.com/.

Jonathan Buick on Developing a Technical Knockout in Idaho | #HashtagFinance

CSE’s Barrington Miller chats with Jonathan Buick, CEO of Idaho Champion Gold Mines Canada Inc. (CSE:ITKO) about his company’s recently closed $8.1 million bought deal financing and the plans for its two fully funded 2020 exploration programs at its Baner and Champagne Gold Projects located in Idaho, USA.

Idaho Champion is a discovery-focused gold exploration company that is committed to advancing its 100% owned highly prospective mineral properties located in Idaho, United States. The Company’s shares trade on the CSE under the trading symbol “ITKO”. Idaho Champion is vested in Idaho with the Baner Project in Idaho County, the Champagne Project located in Butte County near Arco, and four cobalt properties in Lemhi County in the Idaho Cobalt Belt. Idaho Champion strives to be a responsible environmental steward, stakeholder and a contributing citizen to the local communities where it operates. Idaho Champion takes its social license seriously, employing local community members and service providers at its operations whenever possible.

Related links
https://idahochamp.com/
https://thecse.com/en/listings/mining/idaho-champion-gold-mines-canada-inc

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts / Spotify / SoundCloud /
Stitcher / Google Podcasts / iHeart Radio / RSS

Dr. Ahmad Doroudian on the Potential of a COVID-19 Treatment | #HashtagFinance

Dr. Ahmad Doroudian on the Potential of a COVID-19 Treatment, Not a Cure | #HashtagFinance

The CSE’s Barrington Miller chats with Dr. Ahmad Doroudian, CEO of BetterLife Pharma Inc. (CSE:BETR), about BetterLife’s ambitions to advance on the AP-003 clinical trial programs of Altum Pharmaceuticals Inc., which includes a therapeutic pipeline consisting of three products, including AP-003, a patent-pending interferon a2b (IFNa2b) inhalation formulation. Recent studies in China and the UK have provided data that suggest the therapeutic efficacy of interferon-based treatments for COVID-19.

Here’s an overview of what’s covered in this edition of the #HashtagFinance podcast:

3:47 – What BetterLife is doing about COVID-19.

7:01 – How early their product can be used, and if it can be used for prevention.

9:32 – What BetterLife was working on before the COVID-19 pandemic.

11:32 – The differentiators between BetterLife and other companies developing COVID-19 treatments.

15:38 – Taking the treatment approach, instead of the cure approach, to COVID-19, similar to HIV.

19:58 – Phase II clinical trials, and what that means for an investor.

BetterLife Pharma Inc. is an emerging biotechnology company engaged in the development and commercialization of therapeutic pharmaceuticals as well as drug delivery platform technologies. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, BLife Therapeutics Inc., BetterLife is refining and developing drug candidates from a broad set of complementary interferon-based technologies that have the potential to engage the immune system to fight virus infections, such as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and human papillomavirus (HPV), and/or to directly inhibit tumours to treat specific types of cancer.

Related links:

Home

https://thecse.com/en/listings/life-sciences/betterlife-pharma-inc

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts / Spotify / SoundCloud /
Stitcher / Google Podcasts / iHeart Radio / RSS

VSBLTY Groupe Technologies: Helping brick-and-mortar retail fight back with superior consumer insight

In the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report, a perplexed Tom Cruise enters a futuristic Gap store and is immediately greeted by a friendly face on a digital screen welcoming him and asking about his recent purchase. Twenty years ago it seemed like a far-flung idea, but today Cruise’s interaction is well within the realm of possibility for the modern shopper.

In a sense, the futuristic shopping experience is an early example of the use of proactive digital display, a technology that Philadelphia-based VSBLTY Groupe Technologies (CSE:VSBY) is pioneering for the retail and security sectors. Artificial intelligence and machine learning comprise much of the horsepower behind this transformative product.

“Everything in that movie is absolutely what we can do right now without any stretch,” says VSBLTY Chief Executive Officer Jay Hutton. “Right now, we are gathering metadata, or non-identifiable information, to aggregate and collate at scale.”

The idea for VSBLTY came together in the minds of Hutton and business partner Tim Huckaby, a developer at Microsoft and now VSBLTY’s Chief Technical Officer. The two believed the big players in digital display had failed to innovate over the last decade and that the industry was poised to undergo significant disruption.

Was there a way to create digital signage that contained computer vision software to measure quantitative and qualitative engagements and interactions? Hutton and Huckaby knew that previously uncaptured metrics such as the characteristics of individual shoppers could provide valuable insight to retailers.

Enter VSBLTY’s software. The key lies in marrying digital displays with real-time measurement, allowing retailers new revenue opportunities by delivering the right message at the right time to a specific audience.

For today’s retailer, traditional point-of-sale and out-of-home advertising provides limited engagement with the consumer and does not generate data to analyze. The VSBLTY platform integrates signage, security and analytics to optimize opportunities throughout a store.

“The physical store supplants the internet as a premium place for brands to deliver impressions because the shopper is in a place where they can buy the product being promoted – it’s instant gratification,” Hutton explains. “Brands will re-vector internet spend to stores because the store is more measurable, more instantaneous and more connected to upselling, or sales lift.”

Results from successful activations have challenged long-held assumptions about shopper behaviour. One example, centred around the March Madness basketball tournament, started with the idea that men aged 25 to 40 would rather not cook a meal when they are watching games. VSBLTY’s software was deployed in the frozen foods aisle of a grocery store using five different products and measured on multiple engagement types such as traffic, coupon redemption and sales. The outcome? An approximately 500% increase in engagement compared to conventional signage in the frozen foods section, and three times the coupon redemptions. In an unintended result, the entire frozen foods aisle saw a sales boost.

The shift from wanting more impressions to more qualitative engagements is a seismic trend in the marketing world. Companies are using phrases like “customer intimacy” and “brand engagement” more than ever, Hutton says. “The companies know the only way to get to this ‘promised land’ is through digital means. It’s enormously disruptive.”

For companies, it’s not so much a question of if they can use it, but if they will. There are very real privacy – and legal – concerns associated with this type of technology, which Hutton acknowledges. He shares that one large brand eager to adopt the software believes customers are ready for it, but the company wants to navigate the legal complexities before it commits to installation.

But there’s a “clear runway” to adoption, Hutton says, as a new generation raised with the internet comes to the fore. Shoppers can opt in to the experience much the same way as they do by using a points card or a brand’s mobile application. It’s exchanging privacy for value, Hutton says. “I’m willing to give up some things that are germane and intimate to me in exchange for some value. That’s an open, ongoing dialogue in retail.”

The probability of the younger generation accepting this trade-off is much higher than with older consumers, which is partly why retailers haven’t adopted the technology en masse. “The brands know it’s a waiting game,” Hutton says. “If they do it now, they may only see, at best, 30% opt-ins, but years from now, it’s 75%.”

Retailers are expected to fully understand the model over time, and the same goes for using the displays to enhance security. Deployed in the public sphere, the technology could be used to help identify people with warrants out for their arrest or to pinpoint anomalous behaviour. “Our hypothesis is that we are overwhelming our operators with too much to look at,” Hutton says. “By letting the software analyze the information, we’re giving the operator some context.”

One of VSBLTY’s biggest deals was signed in 2019 with Energetika, an international provider of lighting solutions, to install thousands of security kits powered by VSBLTY software in Mexico City.

Energetika deployed cameras and VSBLTY ran the analytics, looking for altercations, fires, car accidents, persons of interest and gathering crowds. Around six months into the project, the crime rate has fallen by a significant amount in several of the city’s 16 boroughs. One of these, Cuajimalpa de Morelos, went from 11th safest to safest in about seven months. “It’s like a cyber neighbourhood watch leading to an outcome that you could argue is valid and reasonable,” Hutton explains.

The technology is also being deployed to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hutton. VSBLTY recently teamed up with a cyber security product and building services company to provide advanced camera technology that enhances security and enables temperature screening before people enter office buildings.

“Computer vision has the ability to identify who you are, whether you’re supposed to be where you are and determine if you’re showing any fever symptoms,” Hutton says. “That’s a really interesting connection point between what we currently do and what COVID-19 is requiring us as a society to do.”

The company is looking ahead to a busy 2020 as its pandemic involvement adds more to an already full plate. In 2019, VSBLTY received more orders in the fourth quarter than it had in the first three quarters combined, and it saw its first seven-figure order in the first quarter of 2020.

The challenge now is to keep momentum going throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But Hutton still anticipates that 2020 will be the company’s first profitable year, offering revenue guidance of between $10 million and $15 million.

If VSBLTY’s success is any indication, that Gap store in Minority Report may become reality before we know it. “Brands are dominated by people who grew up on the internet and understand that impressions are best maximized where there’s measurement,” says Hutton. “What’s happening in that movie is not too far away.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about VSBLTY Groupe Technologies
at https://vsblty.net/.

Public Entrepreneur Magazine: The Technology Issue – Now Live!

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

While social distancing measures in recent months have forced individuals to stay apart, one constant has kept everyone connected: technology. In this issue of Public Entrepreneur, we examine how technology has become more important than ever in the healthcare industry and how it has proven to be vital in fighting COVID-19.

We take a closer look at how visionary leaders and entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of innovation to change the world from enhancing video conferencing with augmented reality, to monitoring community health, to using rapid-detection technology to quickly test for the virus.

CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Check out the most recent edition of Public Entrepreneur here:

Interview with Canadian Securities Exchange CEO Richard Carleton H1 2020 Review

First of all, given that Canada remains in varying phases of lockdown due to COVID-19, how is the CSE team doing? Is everyone healthy and adjusted to working on a different basis for the time being?

Yes, everyone is in fact healthy and team morale is excellent. Right now, we have a small number of people at the head office in First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto – one IT person and usually two members of the market operations team, sometimes augmented by our software development group. They are all driving to the office rather than taking public transit.

The building has strict rules in terms of wearing face masks in public areas and distancing in the elevators, but very few people have come back to the office. We are definitely making good use of the various video-calling applications available, so teams are getting together on a daily basis for updates, to share information, and so on. And I’m pleased that people also get together for an occasional social event via video conference. I hear there may even be some games of chance involved one night of the week.

In any event, things have worked out well, and I say that knocking on wood furiously. There was obviously a lot of pressure on the trading systems in late March as Canadian markets experienced record levels of message traffic and close to record levels of trading activity. We weathered that storm quite nicely with a distributed workforce, which is very gratifying.

I will say the fact that many of our current team members were with the exchange during the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 really helped us respond to the various challenges, during March in particular. We knew what to look for and what the bottlenecks in the system were likely to be, and we had our eyes out for those issues. I can remember sending an email one Sunday in March saying we were going to see the market really come off the next day and thus needed to review our circuit breaker rules and have all the notices drafted in advance. We had some extra staff in the office that day just in case. We are very happy with the way our teams and all the machines we rely on rose to that particular challenge.

How did the exchange react in March when it became clear to Canadians that special measures would need to be taken to cope with COVID-19?

We were a little ahead of the curve in some respects. Many of us were at the PDAC mining conference in Toronto, and as it became apparent that a number of PDAC attendees had contracted COVID-19, we placed ourselves into voluntary self-isolation right away. As a result, we were about a week ahead of the official lockdown orders, and that put us in good shape because we had already done most of the things we would have been required to do later in the month.

As well, we have various protocols in place that have been rehearsed over the years. These anticipate the Toronto office not being available or the Vancouver office not being available and having to distribute the workload to people working remotely. We had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done.

Now, I don’t think any of us ever anticipated that we would be working like this over the course of many months, but, as I say, we had thought through this in advance and done some rehearsals, so it was really just a case of dusting off the plans and executing them.

The head office sounds quiet for the time being, but what do you anticipate in terms of gradually returning to “normal” or what you envision as your new normal? And what does Richard Carleton’s typical day look like?

People ask me what reopening is going to look like for us, and my answer is that we have been functioning throughout. We have been conducting business across all lines, whether it is trading services, market information, or listings. And as I mentioned, we are quite pleased with how everything has worked. Activity, particularly in corporate finance and listings, has been robust over the past couple of months, to say the least.

With things going as well as they have been, we are in no rush to have everyone return to the offices in Toronto and Vancouver. One of the issues is physical capacity in elevators, because we could undermine our productivity lining up to go upstairs and downstairs multiple times a day. Another issue is that many of our employees use public transit to get to the office, and people are uncomfortable with regular use of public transit right now. I don’t see that opinion changing until we get a better handle on infection rates, particularly in Toronto.

One other thing to consider is that some on our team have school-age children, and it’s not clear at this point what is going to happen in Ontario or British Columbia. Will school be back five days per week? Will it be a partial return? Will significant levels of homeschooling continue? Those are all things we have to be sensitive to when thinking about any return. My sense is we are going to be at less than full capacity, certainly at First Canadian Place, for the foreseeable future.

As for my day, it is kind of interesting. In normal times, I have a lengthy commute morning and night, and that has been replaced by walking to my basement to begin the workday. I have always been an early riser, and there has been no change there. I began using that extra time in March to give people a heads-up on what to expect each day. I scan the global financial press and other information sources every morning and send a note to all staff with thoughts on what we should expect and try to have that out no later than 7:30 in the morning. After that, my workday starts.

Before and After “COVID Hair”

 

How has this environment influenced activity at the exchange, in terms of trading, new issues, the new-issuer pipeline? Are there pluses and minuses?

We saw a tremendous amount of trading activity in March as stocks collapsed and then returned in record fashion in all markets. But financing was slow in April as a result of the uncertainty we saw in late March. There was a strong rebound across all of our business lines in late April and into May, and that has continued right through into July. We are trading on sunny July days at levels that I would have said you were crazy if you told me five years ago that these were the sorts of numbers we were going to be doing.

It may be a function of retail investors playing such a large role in our market. Even if people are getting out a bit more than before, they still have time on their hands, so they’re doing a lot of trading from home. That’s clear from the numbers we see on the turnover front.

On the corporate finance side, our numbers on a year-over-year basis are down a bit in terms of capital raised, and that really was a function of April being quiet. But there have been more deals. So, a little less money, but probably 25% or so more individual financing transactions being completed.

I think we can explain that in a few ways. One is that we obviously don’t have a long list of cannabis issuers raising large amounts of money, as was the case at this time last year. That having been said, I will point out that we are starting to see some of the big multistate operators listed on the CSE raise meaningful amounts of capital again, which is a good sign for the sector.

We are also seeing a lot of interest in precious metals exploration, energy metals, rare earths, and other commodities. Generally speaking, the amounts raised to fund exploration projects are smaller than those that the big cannabis issuers were raising in recent years.

I think through the end of May, CSE issuers had closed nearly 450 transactions, which is more than three per day. New listings have also remained healthy, with April being the exception. And the applications pipeline suggests a continued strong flow of new issues over the next few months. I am a little surprised by that, but we obviously are all very pleased.

Let’s talk about some of the numbers from the first half of 2020 as a whole, and then how the first quarter and the second quarter differed.

Trading volume in the second quarter was considerably higher than in the first quarter due to the market volatility. The corporate finance numbers are a bit skewed, because one of our US cannabis issuers raised US$300 million in January, so the total dollar amount favours the first quarter over the second. But since activity in general started to rebound in late April, the number of financings coming to market has really increased. I’d also say there has been a shift in capital formation from the cannabis space to the mining space, and good interest in technology as well.

I’ll point out again that these are not companies that will raise tens or hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. So, more money raised in the first quarter and really positive in terms of the number of transactions being completed throughout the first half.

One other important number I would highlight is IPOs completed in the first half. There were 17 IPOs across all Canadian exchanges, if you disregard CPCs and SPACs, and 15 of those took place on the CSE. Considering the slow pace of IPOs just a few years ago, this is great to see for Canadian financial markets. The majority of IPOs on the CSE were in the mining sector, which I think is also worth noting.

The creation of a senior tier at the CSE is a topic of importance to both existing and potential issuers. What can you tell us about progress toward establishing the new tier?

We are deep in discussion with the corporate finance staff from the BC and Ontario securities commissions. I am very pleased with the progress we have made to date, and we will look to publish proposed rules for the junior and senior tiers as soon as we have come to an understanding on all of the issues with the securities commissions. When we reach that stage, there will be an opportunity for members of the public, corporate finance professionals, and our issuers to provide specific comments on the proposed rule changes. Things are going well, though, and it is pretty much the biggest undertaking we have going over the course of the summer.

Can you update us on the clearing and settlement platform? That is also a huge undertaking, and it involves a wide range of parties in the financial community who do business with the exchange or for whom the exchange facilitates business.

We have identified partners who will be extremely important in executing this project as we move into the production phase. We are doing an awful lot of work on it, and this summer will be spent getting to the point where we can engage groups from the dealer and vendor communities to work with us on testing.

Let’s discuss changes in the approach to marketing, as the CSE team spent a lot of time on the road right up until the end of February. That is not the case now, nor for the foreseeable future. What new ideas emerged to help the team adapt and ensure marketing activities remained effective?

We have been very active on a variety of social media channels and have transitioned sales and marketing efforts away from individual meetings and conferences for the time being. We have replaced that with active use of Instagram broadcasts, our YouTube channel, and other online media to engage with our audience. We are at the point where we can begin to assess what is working and what is not.

The nice thing is that these activities are considerably less expensive than the kind of work we were doing before. We can fail fast on them, without significant financial impact to the organization, and direct resources to the channels where we are getting engagement. We have been doing a lot of interviews with thought leaders in emerging areas. One of the popular ones recently has been the psychedelics space.

We have also collaborated with MNP and the Aird & Berlis law firm on a series of webinars on various subjects. We’ve done psychedelics and technology, and we’ll have a cannabis update in August. We have been able to engage several hundred people at a time and are starting to see increasing numbers of subscribers to our YouTube channel and people following live on Instagram. Barrington, Phil, Grace, James Anil, Anna – everyone is getting lots of face time on these channels and engaging with different parts of our constituency.

It has been interesting and a great learning experience, and we are definitely figuring out how to better target our efforts. And it is considerably less expensive than doing things the old-fashioned way, which has been good for our bottom line.

The leadership team at a securities exchange has a somewhat unique perspective from which to observe the national business community. What are your thoughts on diversity among small-cap public companies at the management and board levels?

There is no shortage of data to suggest that management, boards of directors, and senior advisors of Canadian small-cap companies tend to be largely male and largely white, and therefore don’t reflect society more broadly. I look at the Canadian Securities Exchange, and our board and senior management team tend to fall into that category.

I am pleased that our workforce is, generally speaking, representative of the populations of Toronto and Vancouver, so it’s very diverse. And one of our challenges is identifying how we get to a greater degree of diversity in our management ranks, and on our board as well. We need to act in ways that see the Canadian Securities Exchange, in a short period of time, represent the demographic of Canada generally, and our home markets in Toronto and Vancouver more specifically.

Is there a specific role for junior capital markets to play in helping the world overcome the COVID-19 crisis?

That’s a bit of a chestnut. Small business is the engine of economic growth and employment growth and innovation in an economy. But they get to be chestnuts because there is a kernel of truth in them. We certainly see companies looking for different applications, whether they are looking for vaccines, or to lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, or to anticipate outbreaks in areas at risk using combinations of data and artificial intelligence.

There are obviously many things the small-cap community is working toward in response to the epidemic. You never know where breakthroughs are going to come from. But there clearly is no shortage of entrepreneurial energy, and significant resources have been made available to help companies try to solve some of these problems.

Brad Moore on Leveraging Blockchain to Improve Outcomes for Medical Cannabis Patients | #HashtagFinance

CSE’s Barrington Miller chats with Brad Moore, CEO of Global Cannabis Applications Corp. (CSE:APP) about his company’s ambitions as a technology company that strives to improve medical cannabis patients’ outcomes through the gathering and analysis of deep data.

Here’s an overview of what Barrington and Brad cover in this edition of the #HashtagFinance podcast:

1.10 – Virtual work is nothing new for Brad and his international team.
3:35 – GCAC’s Israeli technology connection.
6:01 – How Brad has applied his military mindset into the cannabis/tech industries.
9:53 – The impact of the early 2018 cannabis “craze” on the company.
13:54 – Defining 2020 as the year of the (delayed) balance sheet.
15:46 – The application of blockchain on their business model.
18:20 – Building data points during COVID.
19:35 – The differentiator.
23:53 – The power of data to improve patient incomes.
28:47 – What a potential exit path looks like for the company.

Current approval processes for medical treatments generally start with a formulation of elements. The objective of any clinical study is to ensure efficacy, and safety, within a fixed sampling size. However as cannabis is a plant, and each plant is unique, the challenges have been in ensuring that each gram tested would provide a consistent result. In response to these challenges, GCAC has developed a patent-pending data model called, Seed to Seed.

GCAC’s approach is to measure an individual’s unique treatment experience on a per dosage basis. By digitally measuring both the biometric & anecdotal feedback and comparing that to others using the same or similar products on a large scale, GCAC can provide an averaged efficacy rating for the treatment used. This is accomplished through a proprietary system of mobile applications, heart monitoring biometrics, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. When integrated with blockchain seed to sale solutions, GCAC technology will be able to recommend “how to treat ailment X with product Y at a given point in time under a set of circumstances”. By securing this information on an EU GDPR complaint blockchain, their data outputs are comparable to results generated by a regulatory approval process.

Related links:
https://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/global-cannabis-applications-corp

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts / Spotify / SoundCloud /
Stitcher / Google Podcasts / iHeart Radio / RSS

Paul Rosen on the One Non-Negotiable for Success in Cannabis | #HashtagFinance

CSE’s Barrington Miller chats with Paul Rosen, CEO of 1933 Industries Inc. (CSE:TGIF) about his recent appointment as Interim CEO of the company and his operating philosophy moving forward in the face of COVID-19. Paul also shares his personal journey as an early leader in the cannabis industry and makes note of the many changes he’s observed in the C-suite among his cannabis sector peer group.

Here’s an overview of what Barrington and Paul cover in this edition of the #HashtagFinance podcast:

2:00 – Paul’s early beginnings in the Cannabis industry in the late 80’s as a constitutional lawyer.
3:58 – Hortican Inc.’s pre-MMPR history and evolution with PharmaCan Capital Corp./The Chronos Group.
6:57 – His transition into a management role at 1933 Industries.
7:55 – How Cannabis 2.0 has impacted C-suites in the industry.
11:58 – Highlighting traits of the early-stage Cannabis entrepreneurs.
13:28 – The unique challenges of running a public cannabis company.
17:16 – The imperative of running a clean balance sheet in today’s COVID-19 environment.
20:14 – Las Vegas’ cannabis prospects in light of the severe downturn in tourism.
25:25 – Paul’s view on how the global pandemic will hasten tax generation from cannabis and social justice.
29:35 – Why preparing for domestic (US) demand is still the biggest opportunity in cannabis.
31:57 – The shift to prioritizing profitability first.

1933 Industries is a vertically-integrated, growth-orientated company, focusing on the cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis consumer branded goods in a wide range of product formats.

Related Links
https://1933industries.com/
https://thecse.com/en/listings/diversified-industries/1933-industries-inc

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts / Spotify / SoundCloud /
Stitcher / Google Podcasts / iHeart Radio / RSS