Author: Clarence Paller
Mosam Ventures founded in 2004 is a Venture Capitalist Firm specializing in providing early-stage financial resources, investment expertise, engineering, marketing, administration and investor relations services to its client companies. The firm has secured deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is rapidly growing. President and Founder, Marc Levy explains how he began from humble beginnings to becoming a powerhouse of Venture Capitalism. Marc is always one step ahead and excelled in every industry he has invested in from finance, mining and now cannabis and block chain crypto-currency.
To find out more about what drives Marc and what gives him the ability to understand the pulse of the economy, check out his responses to his one on one with Clarence Paller.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into finance in the first place.
Since a young age I was always interested in the stock market, and even put my life savings into stock during the crash of 1987. I took all my hard-earned money from working every summer and invested into TD bank, Cineplex Odeon and Inco Mining and watched my investments soar 40% in one month after the crash. I was addicted from that point onwards to the markets.During my younger years, I worked in the computer and technology industries and developed a solid reputation. I decided to move to Vancouver 20 years ago and because of my good reputation, I was given many opportunities and offered many high paying jobs. The job I took however, was the one that paid the least. There was a very important reason for this, and that is, I reported directly to the President. I was mentored and this was the most important aspect, even over money! I was originally trying to work for Jim Pattison for free, but only if I could be in the room when he makes a deal. Knowledge is power.
- How did you acquire the capital to kick off your career as venture capitalist?
From my savings of working in the technology sector and making investments in the stock market.
- What drives you: quest for monetary rewards, desire to help people succeed, or both?
I have an insatiable desire to succeed and love to learn about new industries and businesses. My belief is to create wealth in order to help people and focus on philanthropic opportunities. I’m heavily involved in Cystic Fibrosis, Chabad and Westminster House. Last year we donated Seven figures to charity and I’m extremely proud to say we directly funded and helped save two infamous twin girls (Faces of Fentanyl) lives from the streets of the fentanyl crisis in BC. I have never spoken of this story in public before and all newspaper articles refer to an anonymous benefactor. Receiving email updates from their father and his sincere thanks for saving his girls makes me extremely happy and shows I actually make a positive difference in this world.
- Are your investment patterns being reflective of your values and beliefs?
My investments are generally motivated by creating extraordinary returns for me and my investors and also in my belief of helping people. For example, through my investments we brought two small towns in Peru, who for 100 years fought and killed each other to now working hand in hand for one of the companies I founded called Norsemont Mining (sold to HudBay Minerals for $520mm). Another example of my investments reflective of my beliefs is helping fund to make public one of the largest medical marijuana companies in the world Aurora Cannabis (TSX: ACB $6bn Market Cap.), I believe cannabis is a miracle medicine when used properly.
- Venture Capital Movement is focused on helping startup founders connect with existing venture capital funds. When you first started out, information on funding was a lot less accessible. How did you manage to get investors in your initial stage? Do you have any advice to how to attract investors or on attracting the right kinds of investment?
Initially, I went to a lot of trade shows and delivered many presentations and speaking events in order to attract an audience. As well, I focused my energy on road shows in Europe and raised a large amount of funds from UK, Switzerland, Germany and Australia too. My advice is to focus on raising capital outside of your own backyard and focus on value added investors that can help your company grow in one way or another. Also, always invest in the people, not just the company or asset.
- Can you go over your portfolio from where you started to where you are today?
In 2004, I founded a company called Norsemont Mining and built an amazing senior level team which caught the attention of one of the world’s largest mining companies, Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO). I executed a deal for a major copper deposit from them as I believed copper was undervalued and had many growing uses (homes, cars and infrastructure). We took this company from 5 cents to $5 and sold the company for $520 Million, making a considerable profit for all our shareholders or what we call a grand slam. At the same time, we took a major investment in Petaquilla Minerals and placed some of our management on their team. We eventually saw that company sold to Inmet mining for $320 Million, netting another major win. During that time, we initially funded a coal company called CoalHunter, which was sold for $57 Million to Cardero Group. In 2013, our focus shifted to the Cannabis sector, and we began funding and took public Aurora Cannabis (TSX: ACB). Our investors put money in the stock between 10 cents and a dollar in the early days and now the company just hit $14 a share and a $6 billion market cap. Another deal we recently invested at 25 cents in Vodis Pharmaceuticals (CSE: VP) and our most recent company we helped take public and finance NanoSphere Health Sciences (CSE: NSHS) which will be our next blockbuster deal I’m betting big on.
- How do leverage your ventures from one to branch out to the next?
We create exits for our investors so they can join us in the next deals we do. We are consistently looking for new trends in the capital markets and business opportunities with driven management teams.
- Provide a background into Mosam Ventures, it’s operations, the customers it serves, and the philosophy and values behind the business?
Mosam Ventures Inc. is a venture capital firm founded in 2004 which specializes in providing early-stage financial resources, investment expertise, engineering, marketing, administration and investor relations services to its client companies. We identify novel opportunities in the areas of medical marijuana, technology, energy, agriculture and resources, that generate high return-on-investment and maximize the value of assets through a disciplined process of assessment, execution and go public strategies (IPO, RTO and mergers).
- Tell us about the Entertainment coin you are working on and how this works?
BlockFusion ICO Corp. will be launching the WonderKoin, which will be a token Initial Coin Offering (ICO) which anticipates to raise $25mm to $50mm USD and will be focused on the entertainment industry, which is currently being disrupted by technology and the blockchain. WonderKoin will finance a portfolio of content and production for an exclusive and disruptive big name movie channel with over 80mm viewers, can’t same the name until the deal is public. As well, our coin holders will have exposure to a new publicly traded film production company and others. Our WonderKoin holders will get access to red carpet events, movie set walk ons, exclusive merchandise and influence the creation of movies and selection of actors or scripts. As well, it will become a profit center for funding movies, distribution and several additional areas of the entertainment industry. Our ICO will give retail investors access to cutting edge technology projects that are normally reserved for venture capitalists and also democratize film financing with built in crowd decision making and influence.
- Do you have any companies in mind that you will be supporting with the funds being raised?
Wonderfilm is a public disruptive and cutting edge film production company, headed by a seasoned movie mogul, which we plan to have significant exposure and partnerships with. Also potentially a movie fund that has a successful track record of growth over the past few years.
- How much are you raising?
Minimum $25mm USD and targeting up to $50mm USD, if the appetite and timing is right we could shoot for the moon and raise $100mm.
- Can you tell us about your current focus being Blockchain/Crypto Currency and Cannabis? What makes these industries highly coveted?
We got involved in the crypto currency and blockchain sectors early, which is defined as 2013. Blockchain will revolutionize several businesses around the world, as the internet has done. Also, cryptocurrency sector has been on fire and there is much demand for investments in the sector as the world attempts to move away for traditional fiat currencies. We are invested in BlockFusion Inc. group of companies, heading by Kant Trivedi out of Toronto, Canada. We are cautious on the ICO space, love the crypto mining space and making investments in all areas of blockchain.
- How do you sense opportunities to invest and what are the indicators you look for in startups and industries that determine if you will invest or not?
We try to be early adopters of new technology trends or any large-scale trends, relying on discussions with our teams (which include technology leaders), analysts and smart money managers. We expect these trends to become transformative or revolutionary.
- What do venture-capital firms look for when they back entrepreneurs?
People who are hungry and driven to the point they are obsessed, nothing can stop them from achieving their goals. For us, the people in a company are the most important ingredient to create a success.
- I understand you are doing some advising for Wyner Enterprises, how has that been going?
It’s been going very well and exciting times. Also, it has been a great learning experience for me as well, with regards to the entertainment industry.
- What value do you bring as an advisor?
My expertise in the areas of corporate finance, structure and business development strategies.
- What do you think of the current startup landscape in North America? Are there enough capital and good ideas on the market?
I believe we are seeing huge innovation coming from North America with regards to various industries such as technology, agriculture and resources being led by Canada and USA. There is never enough capital, but definitely the money is flowing into startups at an aggressive and almost scary pace, which we urge some caution. There are way too many great ideas out there but very few people or teams which can properly execute and access capital, both financially and human!
- What skills/talents do you think young entrepreneurs need for becoming successful? In this respect, what do you think about higher education in Canada?
I think persistence is a definite trait for successful entrepreneurs, as well the ability to sell oneself and their ideas, thought leaders. I believe education plays a key role, but as they say, you are either born hungry and driven or you are not! Education plays a good role in preparing oneself for business and making some good contacts for the future. As well, build yourself a personal advisory board or mentorships to help guide you.
- What’s happening to the world of venture capital? Tools like AngelList make it easier to find deals. Young people are going out and raising funds. Is the industry changing?
The younger generation is embracing change at a rapid pace, especially with regards to technology. Our world is being driven by teenagers, leading the charge. I think all these new options of accessing deals and capital online and via crowd funding / sourcing, is just the beginning and first generation. Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) is playing a major new role in raising capital and has surpassed all VC capital raised in 2017. BlockFusion Technologies is one of our companies that will be launching various coins (tokens) which have emphasis on Cannabis, Entertainment, Crypto Mining, Blockchain investments. This is the new era of capital raising and it’s a younger man’s game!
- Number one indicator of success in a company?
The number one indicator we always look for is the jockey, not the horse. We always bet on management and the CEO.
- What would be your most important advice for venture capitalists?
Back the right teams and always chase value added money. This strategy has worked very well for us at Mosam Ventures. We built a world class mining team with Norsemont Mining and then attracted the likes of one of the largest mining companies in the world, Rio Tinto, in order to acquire a world class asset. Team, Team, Team!!!
- In your experience, when is the best time for an early stage startup to raise capital?
Most early stage companies raise money from family and friends, which is effective and makes sense, but bringing in value added money and experienced board members can make a huge difference in making it a success.
- What is your management style?
I like to empower my team and not overly micro manage people, especially when they are senior and have a good work ethic. I like to have team meetings on a regular basis to keep projects moving forward and address any potential issues or delays.
- What’s an average day in the life of a VC like?
My days start at 6am watching the pre-market (opening of the stock market), to see where the general markets are heading and then which industries are on the rise or heading down that day. We work in our offices typically from 830am till 6pm, but I also do meetings every weekend as well. It’s not really work, it becomes a lifestyle. It’s not for everyone and it can consume you too much at times. There is a lot of high stress situations, especially when you are dealing with large sums of monies, and daily wins or losses, it can be really tough on a person.
- Give me an example of 1-2 times in your life when you failed. What did you do about it?
There is one technology deal which we funded for several million, that provided emergency services to various cities (911), however we didn’t manage the team close enough and let all their timelines slide. Delays in sales and execution on the sales and marketing team caused the company to run out of cash and eventually we had to sell the company at a discount to a larger firm that went bankrupt during our transaction, which caused a major loss for me and my investors. Fortunately, I was the largest investor and personally took a 7 figure loss but I managed to get most of my partners money back, live to fight another day and do the right thing for my funders and partners, allowed me to come back to them again and again, but this time with many successes!
- In your experience with angels and venture capitalists, what makes them decide to invest in one company versus another?
I think angel investors can be better in the earlier stages of a company than a VC. Usually they will decide to invest due to a team and a clear vision to solve a problem or a much needed market for a product or service.
- Everyone seems to talk about the best ways to pitch an investor, but not about what to do afterwards. What is the best way to follow up with an investor?
Persistence always pays off! Also, strike while the iron is hot and take the money quickly, if you let it wait too long, investors get distracted with another deal or the next hot thing.
- In your experience, how does a founder pick the right investor for their business?
If an investor can add value to your company, by bringing in industry leaders or veterans, opening the door for a major sales contract or by always making time to advise the team. Investors that can also mentor and guide young CEOs is very valuable.
- How venture capitalism can help with poverty alleviation and what you are hoping to accomplish with your work from a humanitarian aspect.
I believe everyone should give back to society from their successes and set the examples for the whole world to follow. I’m personally focused on charitable initiatives geared towards our children, because I believe they are our future. I heavily support Cystic Fibrosis, Young Women’s Shelter, BC Children’s Hospital and Chabad University of BC, amongst many others. Mosam Foundation and myself have donated several million dollars to charities. Even I was responsible with the help of Westminster House and a team of friends of saving two young girls lives, which is one of my proudest accomplishments ever.