Joe Martin sees a fundamental transformation coming to junior financing
by Greg Klein
The old system’s not only broken, it can’t be fixed. The world of finance for mineral exploration is changing and juniors must learn new rules and master new tools to survive. That’s the message from Joe Martin, a former business journalist, the founder of Cambridge House International and a prominent advocate for investment regulatory reform.
Well, better scratch that last designation. He’s no longer advocating reform. “There’s no sense trying to change the existing rules because no one at the executive level wants to,” Martin says. “So we have to look at new opportunities emerging, primarily through electronic media.”
The reform movement failed, he says, despite encouraging response to an open letter by the Venture Capital Markets Association last August. The status quo prevailed—and for that, Martin blames political indifference, bureaucratic intransigence, the self-serving agendas of Canada’s fragmented securities commissions and banks that wield power over the TSX Venture. “Nobody wants to take action and we don’t have the money to fund a multi-million-dollar campaign,” he says.
Now he’s addressing the juniors, not the regulators, and he’s urging them to recognize new financing opportunities in crowdfunding, peer-to-peer transactions and the U.S. JOBS Act.
Crowdfunding has already prompted considerable buzz, especially with the arrival of Australian mine-funder Mineral Intelligence in late 2015, followed by Canada’s Red Cloud Klondike Strike after Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia laid down a regulatory framework in January. Investors register with Klondike under the ordinary, eligible or accredited category.
Klondike’s first listing, Banyan Gold TSXV:BYN put up a $750,000 offer on March 2. The company closed a more conventional private placement of $200,000 the previous January. By press time, Banyan had yet to update the progress of its online offer.
Following that company by six days, Radisson Mining Resources TSXV:RDS offered up to $1 million on Klondike after completing a $324,000 private placement in December. Radisson expected to complete its offer by April 8. But it wasn’t until June 6 that the company announced closing of the second and final tranche, with a total $675,010 raised.
Klondike’s biggest involvement so far might be IDM Mining TSXV:IDM, which raised a total of $10.85 million in April with Rob McEwan participating. But IDM didn’t divulge how much crowdfunding contributed. The company had said a portion of the placement would be brokered through a syndicate of Klondike, Haywood Securities and Medalist Capital.
Current offers listed on Klondike come from GoviEx Uranium CSE:GXU (up to $2 million), Sarama Resources ($2.25 million) and Brixton Metals TSXV:BBB ($1 million and $1.3 million).
Martin foresees a fairly gradual transformation but a definite change nevertheless with crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and the U.S. JOBS Act “all blending together to bring in a new world of financing. P2P, for example, is becoming very big in England.”
With last month’s Tier III enactment of JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups), American crowdfunding has “opened up big time,” Martin says. “Less than 1% of Canadians are accredited investors who can take part in private placements.” The new U.S. regulations allow crowdfunding participants to invest a portion of their income or net worth, up to a percentage that depends on the individual’s financial circumstances.
“Those rules are changing. Canada isn’t changing, so we may be going to the States for financing.”
Martin also sees hope for Canadian juniors on foreign exchanges, as well as the Venture’s rival. “The CSE is doing a pretty good job. They’re a lot easier to deal with.”
Having despaired of fixing the existing system, he sees new opportunities elsewhere—provided juniors adapt. “You’d better get in this game and learn the new rules,” he emphasizes. “But don’t try to change the old ones because we’re not going to get it done.”