ENTREVESTOR: Atlantic Canadian startups eyeing the stock market like never before

by | Jun 27, 2019 | Appili Therapeutics, IMV Inc., News, SONA NanoTech

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The stock market is looming larger in the Atlantic Canadian startup community than it ever has before, as several leading companies are choosing public markets as the best option to secure long-term financing.

Just in the past week, Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Dartmouth announced that it will seek a listing on the Canadian Stock Exchange, with a goal of raising more than $10 million. And shares of Halifax-based drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics began trading on the TSX Venture exchange.

In fact, stock markets have been a fruitful source of funding for the region’s high-growth innovation companies for the past 18 months, and the moves by MTI, Appili and others will only add fuel to a growing trend.

Atlantic Canadian companies raised more than $24 million by selling shares and derivatives on the stock markets in calendar 2018. That’s almost as much as the $29.4 million raised from angel investors, which invested at record levels in Atlantic Canada last year.

There are not a lot of transactions by the publicly listed companies, but the recent ones have been noteworthy: Last August, Halifax-based Sona Nanotech listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, choosing the alternative exchange rather than the TSX Venture exchange. The company raised $2 million during the listing. Kraken Robotics of St. John’s closed a $2.3 million sale of shares and warrants to its customer Ocean Infinity in June last year. The company then raised further capital in December when it sold $6 million worth of shares. In February 2018, Halifax-based IMV announced that it had closed a bought deal to raise $14.4 million. In March 2019, IMV closed another share sale, which raised an additional $26.7 million.

And other companies like BlueDrop Performance Learning of St. John’s and Exeblock, a Halifax blockchain companies, are also listed.

The driving force behind this interest in public listings is the longevity and strength of the current bull market. Eleven years have past since the financial crisis and the stock market seems like a dependable and profitable place to raise capital. Of course, a market crash and/or recession would likely put the brakes on further companies move toward the public markets.

In recent years, Canadian tech shares have performed well and investors are looking for small tech companies the way they used to look for penny stocks in the mining and oil and gas sectors. And IMV, after years of a languishing share price, has finally been resurrected and is leading the way for other Atlantic Canadian stocks to test the markets.

For Appili Therapeutics, which has 30.3 million shares outstanding and a market capitalization as of the close Monday of $24.2 million, the public listing is a crucial step in its mission to find cures for antibiotic-resistant diseases.

“According to both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there remains an increasing need for innovations to combat the mounting threats of infectious diseases,” said CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement. ”Our public listing marks an important inflection point in our ability to deepen our reach into this market and demonstrate that it is possible to invest in a compelling and attractive social mission and business opportunity in parallel.”