After two decades, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference continues to spotlight opportunities
by Greg Klein
Truly a testament to resilience, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference celebrates its 20th anniversary on January 18 and 19. Through all the market vagaries of those decades, the Cambridge House International event has grown to be the world’s largest of its kind, helping to keep investors informed about speculative opportunities. VRIC does that once again this year through something like 350 exhibiting companies, 50 speakers and a plethora of corporate presentations, investor workshops, panel discussions and Q&As.
“As always we’ve got a rock star speaker line-up,” says Cambridge House executive producer Jeremy Martin. A few examples? “We’ve got Frank Holmes and Rick Rule from the fund managers’ side. We’ve got Ned Goodman, a couple of recent authors, Gianni Kovacevic who wrote My Electrician Drives a Porsche and Marin Katusa, who has a New York Times bestseller called The Colder War. And we’ve also added some fun with Greg Remsburg from Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush.”
Other names include Chris Berry, Michael Berry, John Kaiser, Thomas Drolet, Brent Cook, Danielle Park, Eric Coffin, Lawrence Roulston, Jay Taylor, Tommy Humphreys, Mickey Fulp and, well, the list goes on so download an agenda. Workshops, seminars and panel discussions will address specific issues, including hot topics like uranium and diamond investment.
But while investors comprise a forward-looking group, this 20th anniversary calls for some reflection on the past. Ask Martin how Cambridge House came about and he laughingly explains, “Well, as my father Joe Martin says, we needed to make some money.”
“He used to own BC Business magazine,” Martin continues. “He sold it and started putting on Vancouver’s annual Howe Street Awards after he did the ’87 Murray Pezim dinner,” in which Hemlo’s backer got soundly roasted. Canada’s first diamond exploration rush inspired Joe Martin to stage a 1993 conference prior to founding Cambridge House.
He “got into the events space because he saw it as a living magazine,” his son explains. “The advertisers become your exhibitors, the columnists become your speakers, the distribution becomes your attendees. So he found it a very natural transition to launch these trade shows.”
“It grew tremendously through the late ’90s and then again from 2001 up to the 2008 crash,” Martin adds. “Throughout those years it really grew with metals prices and the overall stock market. The evolution followed the growth that was experienced in the different resources. In the last couple of years there’s been a lot of diversification within Cambridge House to showcase other venture opportunities like greentech and a few other things.”
Cambridge House now has five events in Canada and the U.S. scheduled for 2015.
“Five events for a team of eight—that’s a pretty full roster and keeps us nice and busy.” The tightly knit team includes Martin’s brother Jay, who serves as president.
“Already in the last 18 months we’ve seen some of our competitors go under. So I think what separates us from a lot of the others is our insight into the industry and a close relationship with our clients,” Martin says. “We really take pride in knowing our clients, knowing their stories, knowing the people and showing leadership when things happen. For example in 2011 when rare earth elements were taking off, we were among the first to present conferences on that topic. Up to a year later others were following suit. We’re always on the forefront of what’s happening.”
Apart from looking at potential opportunities, Cambridge House also examines other investment issues.
We’re diversifying into other topics about the systematic setup of the venture space. Understanding and addressing these problems is one thing that’s helped us weather the storm of the last few years.—Jeremy Martin, Cambridge House International executive producer
“For over two years we’ve been talking about the regulatory issues and problems in Canada around raising capital,” Martin points out. “We’ve had a number of panels about the issues retail investors face when trying to put money into public companies. We’ve been discussing rules about raising capital and the pressure on retail investors to spurn speculative investment for large bank-owned funds. We’re diversifying into other topics about the systematic setup of the venture space. Understanding and addressing these problems is one thing that’s helped us weather the storm of the last few years.”
Despite that storm Martin remains optimistic. “The upside will come when there’s a massive supply crunch,” he maintains. “That could take two to three years to happen but manufacturing companies are going to realize they don’t have sufficient access to all these metals and minerals, or prices will start going up dramatically because there’s just not enough supply. This bear has taken a lot longer than in the past. But when we do enter a bull market again I think there’s going to be a huge amount of upside because it’s going to happen quickly once metals prices start rocking and rolling again.”
As for the value of conferences to investors, “It’s like being a voter,” Martin says. “You need to be informed about who’s making decisions for you, especially when it comes to money.”