Signs of the Times
How VSBLTY is reinventing retail’s digital displays
Coping with COVID-19
HealthSpace is transforming healthcare – and proving a pandemic can’t stop progress
The Power of Polymers Sixth Wave’s sixth sense for science on the cutting edge
Tech companies are innovating their way through the new normal
CEO of VSBLTY
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Letter from the Editor
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PROFILE VSBLTY Groupe Technologies
Helping brick-and-mortar retail fight back with superior consumer insight
HealthSpace Data Systems
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF James Black
Governments in need of contact tracing to cope with COVID-19 turn to a trusted name
Sixth Wave Innovations
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After taming mining, explosives and cannabis challenges, this PhD-packed team puts COVID-19 on notice
EDITORS Peter Murray Sheri Radford ASSISTANT EDITORS William Davies Christine Nguyen ART DIRECTOR Elisabeth Choi DESIGNER Nicole Yeh
This drone pioneer aims to become the world’s go-to provider for “unique” data
Better delivery of CBD to the body holds the potential to lower costs and broaden treatment options
NexTech AR Solutions Evan Gappelberg’s latest venture is a big bet on the future of augmented reality
WRITERS Patrick Graham Giles Gwinnett Angela Harmantas Andrew Kessel Peter Murray PHOTOGRAPHER Matt Watson FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION Published by Sparx Publishing Group on behalf of the Canadian Securities Exchange. To receive your complimentary subscription, please visit blog.thecse.com/publicentrepreneur-magazine and complete the contact form. To read more about the companies mentioned in this issue, visit blog.thecse.com or proactiveinvestors.com
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 5
Letter from the Editor COVID-19 has brought about sweeping changes worldwide, unimaginable even six months ago. And though the virus continues to test our collective strength, patience and empathy, we tip our hats to everyone who’s shown such resilience during this period of uncertainty and flux. Here at the Exchange for Entrepreneurs, we have embraced the “new normal.” We may be dressing more casually than before – and occasionally welcoming our pets into online meetings – but despite the challenging environment, the CSE’s listings growth has remained robust, and since late April we’ve seen a surge in trading activity and volume that’s still continuing today.
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INTRODUCING “NEWLY LISTED ON CSE” The CSE is excited to announce a brand-new series on CSE TV: “Newly Listed on CSE.” It features bite-sized interviews with leaders from our newly listed companies. Watch it all on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/CSETV
We’re also still as focused as ever on showcasing the unique entrepreneurial journeys of our publicly listed companies. Building upon our already extensive digital lineup of #HashtagFinance podcasts, YouTube videos and social media content, we’ve added new IGTV (Instagram) segments to the mix. Our unique digital ecosystem has enabled us to continue bringing you coverage, insights and access to investors and CSE-listed issuers and entrepreneurs, wherever you happen to find yourself. While technology is keeping the CSE connected to our stakeholders, it’s also proving to be more important than ever in healthcare. That is why we are focusing on technology in this issue of Public Entrepreneur. We look at a wealth of innovations in everything from monitoring community health (see page 20) to enhancing video conferences with augmented reality (see page 28) to using rapid-detection technology perfected in mining and cannabis to quickly test for a virus (see page 16). The CSE has always embraced innovation, which is why so many forward-thinking companies continue to list with us. That emphasis on innovation will never change, even as the world keeps changing around us. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected.
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VSBLTY GROUPE TECHNOLOGIES Helping brick-and-mortar retail ďŹ ght back with superior consumer insight By Angela Harmantas
n 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
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type of technology, which Hutton acknowledges. He months into the project, the crime rate has fallen by a shares that one large brand eager to adopt the software significant amount in several of the city’s 16 boroughs. believes customers are ready for it, but the company One of these, Cuajimalpa de Morelos, went from 11th wants to navigate the legal complexities before it com- safest to safest in about seven months. “It’s like a cyber mits to installation. neighbourhood watch leading to an outcome that you But there’s a “clear runway” to adoption, Hutton could argue is valid and reasonable,” Hutton explains. says, as a new generation raised with the internet The technology is also being deployed to help concomes to the fore. Shoppers can opt in to the experi- tain the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hutton. ence much the same way as they do by using a points VSBLTY recently teamed up with a cyber security card or a brand’s mobile application. It’s exchanging product and building services company to provide privacy for value, Hutton says. “I’m willing to give advanced camera technology that enhances security up some things that are germane and intimate to me and enables temperature screening before people enter in exchange for some value. That’s an open, ongoing office buildings. dialogue in retail.” “Computer vision has the ability to identify The probability of the younger generation who you are, whether you’re supposed to be where accepting this trade-off you are and determine if is much higher than with you’re showing any fever Computer vision has the older consumers, which is symptoms,” Hutton says. partly why retailers hav“That’s a really interesting ability to identify who en’t adopted the technoloconnection point between you are, whether you’re gy en masse. “The brands what we currently do and know it’s a waiting game,” what COVID-19 is requirsupposed to be where Hutton says. “If they do it ing us as a society to do.” you are and determine if now, they may only see, at The company is lookbest, 30% opt-ins, but years you’re showing any fever ing ahead to a busy 2020 as from now, it’s 75%.” its pandemic involvement symptoms. Retailers are expected adds more to an already to fully understand the full plate. In 2019, VSBLTY — Hutton model over time, and the received more orders in the same goes for using the displays to enhance security. fourth quarter than it had in the first three quarters Deployed in the public sphere, the technology could combined, and it saw its first seven-figure order in the be used to help identify people with warrants out for first quarter of 2020. their arrest or to pinpoint anomalous behaviour. “Our The challenge now is to keep momentum going hypothesis is that we are overwhelming our operators throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But Hutton with too much to look at,” Hutton says. “By letting still anticipates that 2020 will be the company’s first the software analyze the information, we’re giving the profitable year, offering revenue guidance of between operator some context.” $10 million and $15 million. One of VSBLTY’s biggest deals was signed in 2019 If VSBLTY’s success is any indication, that Gap with Energetika, an international provider of lighting store in Minority Report may become reality before we solutions, to install thousands of security kits powered know it. “Brands are dominated by people who grew by VSBLTY software in Mexico City. up on the internet and understand that impressions Energetika deployed cameras and VSBLTY ran the are best maximized where there’s measurement,” says analytics, looking for altercations, fires, car accidents, Hutton. “What’s happening in that movie is not too persons of interest and gathering crowds. Around six far away.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Harmantas is a senior financial journalist with Proactive. She has nearly 10 years' experience covering the equity markets in North America, with a particular focus on junior resource stocks. Angela has reported from multiple countries, including Canada, the US, Australia, Brazil, Ghana and South Africa. Prior to joining Proactive, she worked in investor relations and led the foreign direct investment program in Canada for the Swedish government. Angela currently resides in Toronto.
10 | THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE
Chief Executive Officer
Tim Huckaby Chief Technical Officer
VSBLTY Groupe Technologies Corp.
CSE Symbol VSBY
February 27, 2019
Brands are dominated by people who grew up on the internet and understand that impressions are best maximized where there’s measurement. — Hutton
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 11
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HealthSpace Data Systems Governments in need of contact tracing to cope with COVID-19 turn to a trusted name By Patrick Graham
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ublic 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
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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
Chief Executive Officer HealthSpace Data Systems Ltd
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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
November 30, 2015
“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. — Garrison
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 midJune. 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.”
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 17
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Since the 1990s, Patrick Graham has worked for the Associated Press, Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal as a reporter, editor and manager. He helped launch and oversee WSJ.com’s Wealth Adviser vertical to provide exclusive content for wealth managers, financial advisors and financial planners. Graham today specializes in investing, personal finance and retirement coverage.
Sixth Wave Innovations After taming mining, explosives and cannabis challenges, this PhD-packed team puts COVID-19 on notice By Peter Murray
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lmost 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
need something “ We every day, so you
you can use 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. — Gluckman
polymer (a natural one), as are proteins. 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.
Dr. Jon Gluckman Chief Executive Officer Company Sixth Wave Innovations Inc. CSE Symbol SIXW Listing date February 11, 2020 Website sixthwave.com
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The world has an immediate and dire need to manage COVID-19. 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. — Gluckman When a Sixth Wave product identifies its target molecule, it triggers a specific chemical reaction in the polymer designed by Sixth Wave. 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,
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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
Dr. Jon Gluckman
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.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Murray oversees a national editorial and broadcasting team as President of Proactive Canada. He spent several years managing the English news desk at Nikkei’s head office in Tokyo and has worked with research teams at Asian and European investment banks. Peter is based in Vancouver.
DRAGANFLY This drone pioneer aims to become the world’s go-to provider for “unique” data By Giles Gwinnett
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hile it was only in the past several years that drones gained broad recognition as valuable commercial tools, these amazing machines have actually been at work improving our lives for decades. Draganfly (CSE:DFLY) has been serving companies and governments looking for high-quality drones and related services for over 22 years, selling to markets as large and important as public safety, agriculture and industrial inspection. That list is just a start says Draganfly Chief Executive Officer Cameron Chell. Public Entrepreneur caught up with Chell recently to discuss Draganfly’s development to date and where the company is heading in the medium and long terms. According to Chell, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the value Draganfly can bring to society – and Draganfly shareholders – given time. And that includes playing a role in helping the world manage the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Drones have been available for commercial applications for a generation, but interest and real-world use have really gained momentum in the past few years. Why?
I think what’s driving the momentum is the actual practical use of drones. It’s sensor functionality, battery life, cost and actual regulation and awareness of drones, and people getting more comfortable with the functions they create. Basically, I think it’s the convergence of all the technologies coming together, and certainly the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that this is a tool that can be used in a contactless way, as a resource multiplier, or to carry out functions that humans don’t necessarily have to do now and risk close contact. There are many competitors in the industry. How does Draganfly’s experience over more than two decades give you an edge?
We are the oldest commercial manufacturer of drones in the world. The first drone ever credited with saving a human life sits in the Smithsonian today, and it was a Draganfly drone fitted with a thermal camera. What separates us is our technology and our software. You mentioned COVID-19. Draganfly recently initiated “pandemic drone” test flights. Tell us more.
On the pandemic side, the software we use can do two things: it can measure social distancing
and mask-wearing, so it can measure how well people are carrying out what officials are putting in place. And the second thing it can do is measure vital signs. The real advantage of our technology is that we can, for the first time ever, really, start to provide real-time data on the effectiveness of things like mask-wearing and social distancing, and we can start to get real-time data on community health, as opposed to waiting to see how full hospitals become, or relying on models of where the pandemic might go. In this case, we can have cameras measure social distancing and vital signs to determine infection rates within a crowd on the beach at a particular time of day, or what the infectious or respiratory potential is of a crowd in a football stadium. It doesn’t make a diagnosis, it doesn’t identify people, but it does come back and provide real-time data on where we think we’re at in terms of the infectious cycle at that moment. We provide both an aerial and fixed-base camera platform for different use cases. What has been the response from local governments and others to the test flights?
From a technology standpoint and from a public official standpoint, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. They understand that this isn’t a scenario where people are being identified and profiled, but rather it’s providing real-time data. For the first time they may not only get a sense of potentially what the health consequences are to first responders or the public in general, but they can also start to monitor
CAMERON CHELL Chief Executive Officer COMPANY Draganfly Inc. CSE SYMBOL DFLY LISTING DATE November 5, 2019 WEBSITE draganfly.com
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first drone ever credited with saving a “ The human life sits in the Smithsonian today, and it was a Draganfly drone fitted with a thermal camera. – Chell
whether potential hotspots are emerging and whether policies are working to help start opening up economies again. Who are some of the customers for Draganfly drones?
Draganfly has sold over 9,000 drones, primarily for public safety, but also to agriculture, construction and mining. It is all the industries you would expect, but our primary customers have been public safety, law enforcement and border patrol. We’re seeing demand grow from that sector, but interestingly also for consumer safety and workplace safety. Imagine places such as theme parks, convention centres, factory floors or retail outlets, where you’ve got consumers coming in and management wants to ensure a couple of things. One is that their workforce is safe and not bringing in potentially infectious diseases, and then there is consumer safety and advocacy, where you might have a convention centre or a theme park that’s putting this type of system in place to benefit consumer confidence. An interesting concept that we see starting to develop is that the same way you and I get a weather report right now, we’re going to see the emergence of health reports. Where do you see the drone industry in three to five years? And what does this mean for you as a company?
We are a North American manufacturer, so there’s lots of data security concern as it relates to foreign
manufacturers. We really see ourselves growing in the domestic space or, quite frankly, amongst NATO or Five Eyes countries, to be able to provide drones and secure data delivery. How do you make money in the drone business? Is it volume, or government and agency customers that generate recurring revenue, or the consumer market?
For sure, it isn’t from consumers. We think foreign manufacturers will continue to dominate that space. For us, we will continue to do contract engineering for military applications. That’s just a staple of ours that provides a good base of income. Ultimately, our recurring income will be driven by data analytics and management. Today we build specific drones, devices, software and services for industry verticals in which we can provide hardware, software, services and data management that give our customers a competitive advantage in their industry. We do sell drones to end users, and it is a growing market. However, we see demand being very strong in turnkey and subscription-based services. Companies aren’t necessarily looking for a drone and a pilot. There’s an element of that, but the bigger growth area is going to be more around turnkey service. I’m an insurance company and I want rooftop inspections for 5,000 homes a month, say, and I just want the data. And where Draganfly differentiates itself is that we’re really good at incorporating sensors and providing data you typically can’t get from other drone providers. You are also helping to find landmines. Tell us more about this work.
This is a great example of a large untapped market that requires specialized equipment and software, not to mention data analytics and management. We’re working with a partner called Windfall Geotek, which has a ton of experience in this space, but they need a specialized drone with specialized sensors in order to provide their AI with the data that is beyond just magnometer data. We expect to roll that out in force over the next eight months. What’s really exciting about this is not just being able to uncover mines without having people and dogs at risk, but also the amount of data that we collect – the 24 | THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE
patterns of mines, the number of mines missed in the past, the areas and the regions. Building a database of this type of stuff really helps the AI to be able to uncover more mines. Your acquisition of Dronelogics Systems earlier this year marked a big change. What does this deal mean for Draganfly?
Dronelogics is a 10-year-old company with a fantastic reputation and incredible management. They do great integration work with multiple drone systems. We intend to make more acquisitions, and the two principals at Dronelogics are key for us to build on top of our acquisitions and do proper integration. The other advantage of the acquisition is that they sell a lot of other manufacturers’ products, but as we get moved into that mix, we become vertically integrated a bit whereby they can provide either Draganfly products and/or our contract engineering services. You’ve built up a strong team. Tell us about the group.
Andy Card is former White House Chief of Staff under George W. Bush. He was also Secretary of Transportation. His endorsement of our company is important. He only sits on two boards: us and BNSF, which is the massive railroad system. To have his ear, his insight and global perspective has been fantastic. He works with us on public relations, but also in terms of being able to provide business development insight into both the government and industrial worlds. We’ve also got John Mitnick. He’s the former General Counsel of Raytheon and former General Counsel of Homeland Security. John’s role is insight and advisory, but also penetrating us into the government’s position of not moving forward with foreign drones and looking to North American manufacturers. Julie Myers is on our advisory board. She’s former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security. We also have Dr. Jack Chow, who was the first Assistant DirectorGeneral of the WHO on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is a big drone advocate and has been for 10 years. Is there any other core message the market needs to know about Draganfly?
Draganfly is a data company that makes drones, devices and software, and provides services to create
and provide better data. The strategic differentiator for Draganfly is that we provide data to our customers that basically nobody else can. An example would be the landmine data, or health measurement data. You might think of us today as a drone manufacturer, but three years from now, or five years from now, I believe Draganfly will be a prominent business brand you will associate with data analytics and management. That’s where you go to get your data, or that’s where industry goes to get its data. Data is valuable, but unique data is priceless, and the name of the game for Draganfly is to create unique data.
MORE CONTENT ON THE #HASHTAGFINANCE PODCAST Cameron Chell on the Race to Deploy An Epidemic-Tracking System – episode available on blog.thecse.com/pe-podcasts
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Giles Gwinnett is a UK-based journalist who has been with Proactive for 10 years, and on its North American coverage team for five. Prior to that he worked for several years at regional newspapers and for a news agency. He has written about a wide variety of business and other topics in his career, including the arts, crime and politics.
COMPANY IN T E R V I E W
INNOCAN PHARMA Better delivery of CBD to the body holds the potential to lower costs and broaden treatment options By Andrew Kessel
Chief Executive Officer
InnoCan Pharma Corporation
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BD is advertised as providing relief for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other benefits. Its popularity reflects, in part, that it is positioned as non-psychoactive while still providing access to many aspects of the cannabis plant that are good for human health. The challenge is to create a more precise and efficient method for delivering CBD into a patient’s body, preferably allowing for synergistic effects and/ or controlled release. InnoCan Pharma (CSE:INNO), based in the Israeli tech hub of Herzliya, has found what might be the golden ticket for CBD-integrated pharmaceutical technology in the form of a method to inject CBD into the body. InnoCan and Ramot, Tel Aviv University’s business engagement centre supporting scientific discovery, are collaborating on a revolutionary exosome-based technology that targets both central nervous system indications and COVID-19 coronavirus symptoms, as CBD-loaded exosomes have the potential to provide anti-inflammatory properties to help infected lung cells recover. Public Entrepreneur spoke with InnoCan Chief Executive Officer Iris Bincovich recently about this project and other exciting directions the company’s technologies are taking. Tell us about your personal background and how InnoCan came to be.
My background is in healthcare, working in the international pharmaceutical and cosmetic and medical device
arena, and I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the Israel Institute of Technology. I have experience developing strategies and building brands in the dermatology space, and I have worked and communicated with top pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal. InnoCan Pharma was established by Yoram Drucker, an Israeli serial intrapreneur with experience founding companies in the field of stem cells; Ron Mayron, former CEO of Teva Israel, Teva Pharmaceutical being one of the most important generic drug producers in the world; plus Nir Avram, who was on the pharmaceutical innovation team at Perrigo and holds a number of patents, not to mention more than 30 years of experience developing topicals. We bring worldwide experience in healthcare and nearly 20 years of international marketing, business development and sales experience. I have led and managed hundreds of successful international transactions in the OTC cosmetics and dermatology sector. InnoCan gives me an opportunity to utilize my experience, take my knowledge in the healthcare markets and combine it all into a company that today is active in three different segments. We are involved in several pharma projects with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and with Tel Aviv University to better administer cannabinoids into the body with innovative delivery platforms and potential to treat several diseases. We have also developed a line of over-the-counter topicals, Relief & Go, targeting a variety of skin conditions associated with issues like pain relief. Our pain relief spray provides a fast-action muscle relaxant and pain relief. It contains an analgesic blend of active ingredients, with isolated CBD to provide temporary relief of muscle and joint pain. And we developed a line of CBD-integrated derma cosmetics, SHIR, whose formulations feature a tailored blend of active ingredients and technologies. Let’s talk about the technology itself. How is the company using exosomes and CBD?
We are developing a new platform that delivers cannabinoids in an improved way into the body. Our
September 24, 2019
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 27
With COVID-19, most people die from a secondary infection and lung or multi-organ failure. CBD is highly anti-inflammatory, and CBD-loaded exosomes, which we refer to as CLX, may hold the potential to provide antiinflammatory properties and assist in the recovery of infected lung cells. — BINCOVICH
latest project is a collaboration targeting the COVID-19 virus with Tel Aviv University and Professor Daniel Offen, who heads the Neuroscience Laboratory at the Felsenstein Medical Research Center. Exosomes have the ability to target damaged cells like a targeted missile, improve regeneration and assist in their recovery. Together with Professor Offen, an experienced researcher on cell and gene therapy in neurodegenerative diseases, we are looking to develop new technology that might be applicable to several indications. Professor Offen is a co-founder of several biotechnology companies developing therapies for neurological disorders. One of them, BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, developed cell treatment for ALS patients and is now in Phase III clinical trials. Along with Professor Shulamit Levenberg of Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, he previously utilized loaded exosomes administered by intra-nasal spray into rats with severe spinal cord injuries. The results were dramatic. Within a few weeks, the rats began to walk again. With COVID-19, most people die from a secondary infection and lung or multi-organ failure. CBD is highly anti-inflammatory, and CBD-loaded exosomes, which we refer to as CLX, may hold the potential to provide anti-inflammatory properties and assist in the recovery of infected lung cells. The lungs are the organ most affected by COVID-19, so the CLX are expected to be administered by inhalation. How far along in the development process are you?
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We are in the preclinical stage, which we estimate will take nine to 12 months. We will begin production of exosomes loaded with CBD and then do in-vitro proof of concept in several models. From there, we will do animal proof-of-concept models and then safety testing. InnoCan’s strategy is to combine R&D with commercial experience. Professor Offen has more than 20 years of experience working with stem cells and exosomes, and he has already established companies developing therapies for neurological diseases. How do these different delivery methods compare to taking CBD oil orally?
We are developing a unique technology with Professor Barenholz from the Hebrew University to enable the injection of CBD into the body. When you take cannabinoids orally, about 80% of it is destroyed by enzymes of the liver. Patients overload to achieve a therapeutic level. More than that, the dose is not controlled systematically. In each case, a drop of oil is put below the tongue and it might take some time from administration until therapeutic effect is achieved. Size and therapeutic effect can differ from one drop to the next. We are proposing a much more controlled and effective delivery system. CBD is an oil molecule that normally cannot be easily injected into the body. But once isolated inside a capsule, such as a liposome, it could be injected. Liposomes are small vesicles that could entrap a substance inside. Imagine a child with epilepsy – which there is already an FDA-approved CBD drug for – having a seizure; today he needs to be under close care, to be given the medicine,
it will take a few minutes until the effect begins, and so on. InnoCan’s approach could be different. We are looking at a solution where the child will have a smartwatch connected to a pump with injectable CBD-loaded liposome. Then, instead of the child having a seizure, maybe falling to the floor and needing someone to administer CBD, the watch will sense the seizure and instruct the pump to inject a specific amount of CBD into the body. Precise delivery of CBD immediately could assist in relieving the seizure. And this is just one application. For an epilepsy seizure, the CBD would be released immediately, but the liposomes can also be multi-layered to prolong the release of the CBD. We are developing a platform for several potential indications. For example, for people suffering from chronic pain, we may be able to offer an injection once a week, and over time one could have a consistent release of CBD into the body. Professor Barenholz has already developed a liposome-based breast cancer drug, named Doxil, that was licensed by Johnson & Johnson. We are working with people who have done this before and are connected to the commercial side. This is the value-driven proposition of the company. Do you have any other products headed for commercialization?
We have our over-the-counter topicals, patent pending products that combine CBD and other active ingredients targeting skin conditions, pain relief, as well as for itchiness. We also have a line of premium cosmetic products for women. Those products are now being produced by two manufacturers: one in New Jersey for the US market, and one in Portugal for Asia and Europe. Sales will start in the second half of 2020. Eventually, the world will open up again, and there are lots of plans for the future, including additional distribution contracts for the topicals. In Canada, we are in dialogue with several companies to enable local distribution. We need to collaborate with a local licensed producer in order for them to manufacture, distribute and sell our topicals to the different provinces. And I can say that we are in the screening process of who is going to be our local partner there.
MORE CONTENT ON THE #HASHTAGFINANCE PODCAST Iris Bincovich on "Missile Delivery" of CBD Therapy to the Lungs – episode available on blog.thecse.com/pe-podcasts
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 29
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Kessel covers technology, cannabis and other market sectors for Proactive out of its office in New York. He previously worked as a fact-checker for both PolitiFact and Guideposts, covered higher education for the Columbia Missourian and interned at Rolling Stone magazine. Andrew earned his Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri in 2017.
COMPANY IN T E R V I E W
NexTech AR Solutions Evan Gappelberg’s latest venture is a big bet on the future of augmented reality By Andrew Kessel
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magine you are shopping online for a new couch. You find one you like, but it is hard to know if the colour quite matches the rest of your furniture, and the retailer’s website only has a 2D photo of it from the front. Now imagine being able to view and rotate the couch in full 3D and use your phone to project a volumetric image that you can place, pinch, zoom and walk around, right into your living room. That’s one example of how augmented reality is changing the way people shop, and shopping is just one of four verticals NexTech AR Solutions (CSE:NTAR) is pursuing in the sector. Chief Executive Officer Evan Gappelberg calls it “ARitizing,” and his company has done it to everything from furniture to firearms to human holograms. A self-described crazy entrepreneur looking for the next trillion-dollar megatrend, idea or industry, Gappelberg prides himself on identifying the next big thing. He has invested in dozens of successful ventures and led companies in the software and cannabis spaces, and three years ago he found his latest muse, augmented reality. Augmented reality is a new concept to most people. Tell us how NexTech AR was formed and why you became interested in the industry.
I spent 30 years on Wall Street, and on Wall Street you always have to identify the hot stock in the hot sector. In the 1990s, it was the internet. Then energy and real estate took centre stage in the early 2000s. And then in 2008 the iPhone kicked off a paradigm shift, with mobile phones creating an entire new industry and stock sector called social media. Then, in 2015, everything switched to cannabis investing. Now and in the 2020s, technology, and specifically AR, AI and IoT, will create new billion-dollar companies seemingly overnight. To be a successful investor I have followed the flow of money, which has made me kind of a generalist. If oil and gas is a hot sector, I do a ton of industry research and I become an expert in everything to do with oil and gas. Same for technology, healthcare, social media, etc. I research industries as I get deeper into them, and I start to understand how they work, which makes investing life interesting since I’m always learning something new. I identified cannabis as the next big wave in 2011. It took a few years, but I brought in seed capital for a cannabis company that went public in Canada in 2016, and in 18 months it went up by 40 times. It was about identifying the trend and getting in before the big wave, then riding the wave, although to avoid a round trip you need to be able to see if the sector you are in is about to go through growing pains or get disrupted. Most of my investments are not buy and hold, although I did take
a gaming company called Take-Two Interactive Software public in the 1990s, and today it has a $15 billion market cap. That was one I should have held. Not to say I haven’t had my fair share of mistakes, but I do have a solid track record of picking industries that really have the potential to be grand-slam-home-run investments. That brings us to augmented reality. I was introduced to AR in late 2017, and as soon as I saw it I knew that it was going to be the next big thing. To take advantage of the coming AR megatrend, I founded NexTech AR Solutions in January 2018. Our first product was ARitize, which is an app that went live in 2018. It’s a white label AR app that we are having a lot of success with. It can create AR experiences and allow us to demo augmented reality to our enterprise clients. So that is how we got started. As CEO and Founder of NexTech, I put my money where my mouth is by investing in my own company. I have invested millions in NexTech, and currently I take 100% of my salary in stock, plus I have made four purchases of the company’s shares this year alone. The only reason to do that is because I think the company is going to be worth a lot more over the following 12 to 24 months. How does your technology augment a user’s reality?
We were first to market with a webAR e-commerce solution, which we launched in early 2019. It allows customers, on any web browser without requiring an app, to just click on a web icon and view a 3D model in augmented reality. And if they are on a mobile device, the product shows up as an AR digital twin. We recently signed up an eyewear company, Clearly.ca, and are ARitizing seven different styles of glasses for them. We’ve created a special 3D/AR advertising platform where you can put your face up to your phone or up to your
Chief Executive Officer
October 31, 2018
NexTech AR Solutions Corp.
CSE Symbol NTAR
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 31
computer screen, and the glasses will appear on your face, so you can try them on virtually before you buy. It sounds as if the possibilities are endless. What does the business model for such an evolving technology look like?
It’s a SaaS business model. You can download the ARitize360 app for free, and then after that you pay for usage. It can cost as little as $40 to $99 for an AR scan, and the goal is to get it down to $10 to $20 per scan. If we can do that, we expect to see mass adoption. The cost has to do with human touch-up, as the less interaction there is with the asset, the cheaper it is. We are currently the only company that has virtually zero human interaction, so nobody needs to touch it. Businesses can then use those assets on our 3D/AR ad network, which launched this year. Most medium-sized businesses are spending $50,000 a month on ads, and we have proven that 3D ads generate a 300% increase in conversions. We have done testing on an e-commerce site we own,
vacuumcleanermarket.com, and the 3D ads we ran brought a 300% jump in sales. And if you can grow something 300% by switching to our ad network, you are going to do it. We get a percentage of those dollars, so it’s less about how much money we make on the 3D asset itself and more about how companies use that asset to drive sales for their business. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting companies in different ways. What has it meant for NexTech so far?
Well, we had a platform called ARitize University, which has morphed into our recently acquired InfernoAR virtual events and video conferencing platform, which is surging right now. InfernoAR is the only platform that offers virtual video conferences with augmented reality. So, if you’re watching a presentation and there’s a product on the screen, by using our ARitize app you can take your phone and scan a QR code, which literally pulls out of the screen whatever product it is you’re viewing and places it in the room with you. We see this as transformative new technology. InfernoAR is booming. Because so much has been shut down by COVID-19, governments, businesses, universities, healthcare providers, really everyone is looking for a way to communicate remotely, and we have the only immersive platform driven by our AR that allows you to create human holograms or to have 3D/AR product views, all built into this video conferencing platform. It’s funny watching people try it for the first time, because they will literally press their nose against the screen of their computer to get a closer look. I literally
see them move all the way in, because they cannot believe what they are seeing. We recently doubled our sales force, as we continue to sign up new customers, and we expect to double it again this year. Because we are in the fastest growing market sector, which is the technology sector enabling the work-from-home and shop-from-home paradigm shift, our business really has the potential to explode and grow exponentially, similar to the way that Zoom has grown recently. Zoom just reported that revenue grew 169% for their last quarter, while we reported 169% growth for last month alone, so similarities do exist. You clearly have unique products that ﬁt the times. How are sales going?
We had record revenue and record gross profit in the month of May. We saw $1.3 million in revenue and $800,000 in gross profit, which is a 169% increase year over year on the revenue side and a 290% increase on the profit side. We are firing on all cylinders right now. Virtual events, augmented reality, e-commerce – they’ve never been stronger. And we see that trend continuing. June should be better than May, and July better than June. We are projecting $15 million to $20 million in revenue in 2020, and possibly double that in 2021, up from $6 million in 2019. It goes without saying that a company such as NexTech is constantly evolving. What’s on your radar for the next little while?
There are a few things on the horizon. First is to continue to succeed with our virtual video conference platform and build up our sales force.
have the only immersive “ We platform driven by our AR that
allows you to create human holograms or to have 3D/AR product views, all built into this video conferencing platform. — Gappelberg
We also have our 3D/AR ad network that is starting to gain traction and show sales wins, so we are going to have to build a team around that and allow it to scale. Lastly, we are looking at acquisitions. We have made four acquisitions since we went public, and we continue to look for more. There are some exciting opportunities out there in the world of augmented reality. There are a lot of little start-ups that would fit right in with NexTech and help us to push our technology forward without having to spend time and money on development costs.
MORE CONTENT ON THE #HASHTAGFINANCE PODCAST Evan Gappelberg on the Intersection of Ecommerce and Augmented Reality – episode available on blog.thecse.com/pe-podcasts
PUBLIC ENTREPRENEUR ISSUE 2•2020 | 33
FINAL THOUGHTS We leave the last words to some of our recent #HashtagFinance guests EPISODE 117
VICTORY SQUARE TECHNOLOGIES INC. (CSE: VST)
VERY GOOD FOOD COMPANY INC. (CSE: VERY)
A lot of technology and innovation comes out of these types of times, and I think that this period today and over the next 12 to 18 months is going to spawn a whole new area of innovation built for what the new norms are.
When we first started there was a bit of blowback, because people had never heard of a vegan butcher before, but it actually worked great for us because of all the people talking about it...
SHAFIN DIAMOND TEJANI
But I think it’s becoming more and more common...
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Plant-based has really taken off.
EPISODE 122 VICENTE SEDERBERG LLP
We expected this year [in the cannabis industry] to be a year of consolidation, one where really good operators would be perfecting their operations... And we would see the cream rising to the top, and I think that COVID has made that happen a lot more quickly – it’s forced that.
JAMES DAVISON & MITCHELL SCOTT
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