Microdose psychedelic capital conference graphic

Psychedelic Capital: Financial Media, Boardroom Equality

Microdose held another successful iteration of its Psychedelic Capital conference on Monday. 

Microdose CEO Patrick Moher and Conscious Fund CEO Richard Skaife started the conversation by telling attendees that Microdose conferences would soon be moving out of the virtual and into the real world, with a live event in the works for November 2021 in Miami. 

“We’re 99 percent there” Moher says. Skaife added that they’d be taking steps to ensure guest safety, and are looking forward to taking their conferences into a live space in an industry where so many events and relationships have been forged entirely through online interactions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Company presentations at this month’s conference included Psyched Wellness, Circadian Wellness Corp., Nextage Therapeutics, and Aphrodite Health, whose presenters unveiled their all-female biotech firm at the conference.

Financial Media Panel

The financial media panel, moderated by Henri Sant-Cassia of the Conscious Fund, featured Ariadna D. Peretz of London-based financial communications firm Buchanan, Bryan McGovern, a senior editor covering cannabis at the Investing News Network, and James Hallifax, a retail investor and stock analyst operating as The Psychedelic Investor. 

The panel began with the discussion of different outcomes for companies at varying levels of fluency and interaction with financial media. 

“When it comes to psychedelic medicine companies,” Peretz began, “what I’m seeing a lot of is companies focusing on niche platforms. These are all very important to build a community and connect us, and they have a vested interest in psychedelics and mental health. But it’s the companies that level up, move beyond the niche, and get in front of generalist or institutional investors that see an impact not only in their share price but in the general understanding of the sector. It’s the companies that are in Bloomberg, or in Reuters or the Financial Times. We see a lot of companies being talked about in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but they’re more in the lifestyle or science sections. They need to be in the stock pick columns and the market reports. It takes time. There’s a lot of education involved.”

Responding to a question about the relationship between media coverage and share prices, McGovern answered, “readers are looking to know what’s going on with these companies. Sometimes it’s a trap. Sometimes you keep seeing the same name, but it’s just these same companies pumping out press releases to get in the news any way they can. Journalists in the market will often look for stories we can latch on too, that have some weight. Within our field, there is a duty to report on the day-to-day, the ups and downs of the market, but also to look for real stories to be there. There is the sense that sometimes people just want to cheer for the company they’re already invested in. Our job is to find real stories that have value for our readers.”

Hallifax, who focuses on the science behind emerging companies in the space, was asked if he was seeing companies “whitewashing, hyping, or covering up a lack of scientific gravitas.”

“Over the past few months, we’ve gone to about thirty different companies that are publicly listed,” Hallifax responded. “If you go to their websites you see them promising things, saying ‘we’re going to solve this disease with this substance, by the way, we’re not running any clinical trials and have no money’. For me personally, until I see the real roadmap, the plan for these trials, it’s like a nothing-burger to me. You can say all the nice things in the world, but it’s all just noise until you actually start doing it.”

Equality in the Boardroom: Psychedelic Edition

The day’s second discussion panel focused on issues of equitable representation at the higher levels of psychedelic companies. Speaking were Kelsey Ramsden, CEO of MindCure Health, Vestaen Balbuena, Founder and Chief of Staff of Aphrodite Health, and Susan Chapelle, Chief Operating Officer at PurMinds BioPharma. The panel was moderated by Richard Skaife.

Skaife began broadly, asking if the panellists felt psychedelic medicine as an industry was moving in the right direction in terms of building out equitable access.

“In the cannabis space there were a lot of women CEOs right off the bat,” said Chapelle. “It’s amazing how quickly we are exited and lowered into positions because of capital markets. We’re very directly told that women have a difficult time raising money. Just like cannabis, psychedelics is having difficulty scaling women into positions. It’s not just cannabis and psychedelics. In Canada, the boards of publicly traded companies are only 21 percent women. Even less in the c-suite. There’s a lot of work to do, not just in equity and diversity, but in getting corporate social responsibility policy into these companies. I don’t even think that’s a conversation yet in psychedelics.”

“One of the things when I look across the industry is that if we look to the people upon whose shoulders we stand, to the people who brought this forward, and reflect on how many of these people are female vs male, we see a very different representation than we see in psychedelics today in the capital side of things,” adds Ramsden. “I think there’s this idea that we can be informed by that history. I’ve never been a believer in hiring because someone is wearing a bra, or otherwise. Let’s be honest, I was twice named Canada’s top female entrepreneur, which was an honour. But I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I was just named Canada’s top entrepreneur?’ It behooves us to think about how we choose to represent the interests of the sector. Can we reflect the people who built it?”

Responding to a question about how she’d been received in the industry as a pioneering female investor, Balbuena answered, “I’m a bit biased because I entered through TCF, and it’s been open arms in that regard. When it comes to my work outside of psychedelics as a nutritionist and a biomedical scientist, it’s been predominantly male-heavy, and it’s a different structure, with different conversations. There’s some censoring, there’s a degree of doubt. That’s something we’ve unlocked, and that’s erased to some degree with our [Aphrodite Health] all-female founders team. Initially on my end, I doubted, wondering if by being all-female we were also excluding. We decided to have a sounding board that’s male, so that we can have that conversation.” 

“When it comes to our decision-making, we’re in a place of feeling more secure and safe. It opens up new avenues. We arrive at conclusions quicker. There’s a momentum here,” she concluded.

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