It rallied from $0.015 to $0.15 in the heart of the weed run late last year, but the story of what Calyx Bio-Ventures (CYX.V) is actually creating has been one that has remained a mystery during the time since.
So last week, despite Calyx being an Equity.Guru marketing client, I gave the company a gentle kick in the ass.
[CEO Roger] Forde says he’ll have me up to the space in the next few weeks but “can’t say anything at the moment for a variety of reasons.”
He’ll want to voice those reasons soon. The last CYX financing comes free-trading soon, so time will be of the essence if the company wants to encourage investors (myself included) to hold that paper. I’d expect (read: hope for) real news soon.
“I’m not a hype guy, you know this,” Forde said to me as he walked me into the Calyx board room Wednesday, adding, “Maybe it’s a weakness in my style, but I don’t want to put news out unless I have something big.”
It is most definitely a weakness in Forde’s style. Not that he should be tossing out claims of greatness every time someone Swiffer’s the break room, but the market expects him to be able to keep the code growing while also doing deals. That’s what I told him, in no uncertain terms, as I sat down to see what Team Calyx has built.
But first, some background.
Calyx was fakakta. A biofuel deal originally, with the intention of turning carinata seeds into jet fuel, the company (through a joint venture called Agrisoma Bio-Sciences) came out swinging, raising a bunch of dough and bringing in the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to lead the way.
That was the first mistake. As BDC dithered, Calyx’s share price drifted, then when BDC decided to invest a whole bunch more money into a program that wasn’t showing much success, Calyx couldn’t raise the cash to come in with their part. In came Forde to pivot the firm, ditching the carinata plans and quickly creating a seed-to-sale marijuana software platform (through a subsidiary called Cannigistics) that struggled to penetrate a market that wasn’t quite ready to spend money on compliance adherence.
After a while, Forde pivoted that into commercial real estate management software. Then, a small partnership with some coding guys brought about a new opportunity, which would be called LeafHub and, as far as we the investor knew, would be kind of like Slack but for weed.
Bottom line: Calyx/Agrisoma/Cannigistics/LeafHub is dismissed by many as not being a thing, but rather several things that nobody understands. Calyx has a branding problem. And Forde, timid to publicity as he has been, has a market awareness problem.
So I sat down and said so.
“Roger, all the investors see in your company is the stock went up,” I said. “For some reason, they’ve held the stock regardless. But they don’t want to know why they should buy more, they want to know why they should hold what they have.”
Forde turned on a big monitor and his tech guys pulled up the reason.
It doesn’t have a name yet, such is the true nature of irony with a company that has had more names than John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Earlier in the year we said it appeared to be a Slack competitor, with that being the tech world’s communication app of the moment.
Slack is a platform that combines email, messaging, dropbox, and more, and many organizations the world over (including Equity.Guru) use it to collaborate efficiently. It is, quite literally, the best. And beating it would be tough.
Here’s how Roger Forde might not beat it, but may slice off a corner of it: His product is Slack for industries. It’s Slack B2B.
His team walks me through the first pilot program for the software, and it’s no two-man operation. We’re talking a major provincial political party using the platform to communicate between riding associations, volunteers, candidates, advisors and more. They’re paying for the privilege – not an insane amount of money, but enough to have them take it seriously, and they appear to be doing just that.
The second group using the product is well beyond a pilot program. They’re a large media organization, and they’ve actually spent some dough turning Forde’s suite into a public-facing app that they expect to be a thriving business going forward. Serious dough.
The third group is a team of medical clinics, utilizing the software’s security to securely discuss patient information.
“Slack gives a company the ability to have their people talk in a secure environment,” says Forde. “What we’re building is something where, conceivably, every cannabis licensed producer could communicate between themselves, make wholesale deals, do business, keep it secure and limited access, go off into rooms and discuss possibilities… this is not bringing employees together, but bringing companies, or organizations, together, in a way that helps companies do business.”
I ask him to explain his business plan in 25 words or less. He can’t.
And that’s the problem.
“People can’t see what this really can be until they actually see it,” he said. “We talked to the CEO of a large weed company a month back and he’s a busy guy so he wanted the short version and, frankly, it wasn’t a long conversation. But when we sit companies down in front of it and show them the product in action, it all starts to click.”
To help on the marketing front, Forde has brought on some hired hands. They’ll also be making a push on the IR front, to tell investors what they’re holding. But Forde insists now is not the time to expose his hand to a wider audience.
“We’re still adding features, still engaged in dev sprints, and though the people using the software right now are loving it, they have their own needs and reasons to do so quietly,” he says. “If I go yell about all the features we have, and the back and forth adding elements, the Slack guys will have their coders on that the next day. We’d rather build out more and be something that is a big buy-out target down the road, rather than a little inconvenience now.”
What’s interesting about all this is how much Calyx, right now, isn’t a weed company, despite many being invested in the stock because it has touched that space. To be sure, there’s weed potential there, but there’s insurance potential and healthcare potential (“It’ll be HIPAA compliant shortly”) and lawyer potential and government potential, and that points to an interesting deal going forward.
This is a legit tech play – not a maybe tech play, not a ‘one day we’re gonna’ tech play, but a ‘code written, customers using, v2.0’ tech play, that more than justifies the current market cap.
I own stock in Calyx, and will likely work with the company in the weeks ahead on how to rebrand the thing so that people understand the opportunity going forward better. For now, I’m holding onto my stock, and waiting to see if Forde has come to Jesus on the whole IR thing.
Who knows, maybe we’ll even use it at Equity.Guru some day.
— Chris Parry
FULL DISCLOSURE: Calyx is an Equity.Guru marketing client and the author owns stock in the company.