Inner Spirit Holdings Ltd. (“Inner Spirit” or “the Company”) (CSE:ISH) is pleased to announce that a Spiritleaf cannabis retail store is set to open at 27 Princess Street in the historic Smith Robinson building in Kingston, Ontario on Monday, April 1. The store is being operated by Daniel Telio, one of the initial 25 cannabis retail lottery winners in the province of Ontario as selected by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario(“AGCO”), and is one of the first stores approved to operate in the province.
“We are very pleased Daniel is opening the first Spiritleaf store in Ontario in Kingston on the opening day for private cannabis retailers in the province. This initial store in Ontario is an important milestone for the Company, and we look forward to the opening of additional locations across the country to continue delivering on our national retail strategy so strongly supported by our customers, employees, franchise partners and shareholders,” said Darren Bondar, President and CEO of Inner Spirit.
“The collaboration between the Spiritleaf team and Mr. Telio to get the store ready and open for operation in just 75 days is a testament to our experience and ability to execute our business program. As the supply chain improves, we look forward to getting our first wave of 75 premium stores open across Canada and solidify our place as an iconic and leading Canadian cannabis retailer.”
Bondar also noted the Company will celebrate the Kingston opening by making a $5,000 donation to The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund for reconciliation efforts in the country, as part of Spiritleaf’s pledge as Legacy Space Partner with the goal of providing accurate information regarding Indigenous history and the journey of reconciliation. The donation will be made at a private event to Mike and Patrick Downie and Bear Standing Tall will be in attendance to bless the store and represent the Indigenous community at the ribbon cutting ceremony. The store’s official inauguration will be proclaimed by Kingston’s world champion Town Crier and Goodwill Ambassador, Chris Whyman, at 9:00 am ET on April 1.
Spiritleaf and Mr. Telio are preparing the Princess Street location and its staff to be ready to welcome a large turnout of cannabis consumers expected on day one. The store is a partnership between Inner Spirit’s wholly owned subsidiary Spirit Leaf Inc. (“Spirit Leaf”) and Mr. Telio, through a brand licensing arrangement approved by AGCO. Under the terms of the partnership, the Company agreed to issue 5,000,000 Inner Spirit common shares to Mr. Telio at a deemed price of $0.20 per share based on the original date of the agreement.
Inner Sprit has five Spiritleaf retail franchise stores open and operating in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Spiritleaf franchise partners are preparing to open additional locations across the country, subject to gaining final municipal and provincial approvals. Spiritleaf corporate outlets are also being prepared for openings throughout Alberta.
SOURCE Inner Spirit Holdings
Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund’s JUMPSTARTER Launches Global Pitch Competition
Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, a non-profit initiative launched by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., today kicked off the application process for JUMPSTARTER, its signature start-up event in Hong Kong. This year, JUMPSTARTER is, for the first time, hosting a global pitch competition, with pitching events in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, San Francisco and Toronto. The aim is to connect global talent, start-ups and entrepreneurs with JUMPSTARTER’s highly competitive Hong Kong Grand Finale to take place within StartmeupHK Festival on February 11-12, 2020.
The campaign will provide up to a combined US$5 million investment commitment and US$100,000 in cash to the top five JUMPSTARTER start-ups.
In partnership with InvestHK, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEX), Cyberport and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), JUMPSTARTER will not only provide capital to winning start-ups, but also offer networking opportunities with top investors, corporates and other start-ups. As a part of InvestHK’s StartmeupHK Festival, JUMPSTARTER provides a platform that brings start-ups, entrepreneurs, corporates and investors to build, empower and boost connections among different ecosystems and international tech hubs. Top JUMPSTARTER companies will also get access to the Alibaba ecosystem to help them gain valuable insight, experience and resources to expand their businesses. (See appendix for quotes from the global co-organizer and the co-organizers)
The third JUMPSTARTER is taking the event to a new level with the introduction of eight pitching events in Hong Kongand seven other international cities from August to November 2019. Each event is expected to host over 100 start-ups, and 40 finalists from these global locations will be given the opportunity to participate in the JUMPSTARTER Grand Finale in Hong Kong in February 2020. These events will attract rising stars interested in the Hong Kong and Asiamarkets and further enhance Hong Kong’s position as a start-up hub for the region.
One of the highlights of JUMPSTARTER is a start-up competition featuring young companies from four sectors – retail, fintech, smart city and advanced technology — viewed as key to Hong Kong’s long-term economic development. In particular, JUMPSTARTER provides more exposure for fintech start-ups. For fintech start-ups that apply for the JUMPSTARTER competition, they will also automatically be entered into FintechHK Global Competition, organized by InvestHK, in November 2019 during Hong Kong Fintech Week. (See appendix for the application requirement and timeline)
“Our immensely successful second JUMPSTARTER early this year attracted 10,000 attendees with over 600 business proposals. By substantially expanding the scale of the competition with start-up pitching events across the Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe and the U.S., we are truly putting JUMPSTARTER on the global stage, welcoming incredible young entrepreneurs from around the world and connecting them with amazing opportunities,” said Cindy Chow, Executive Director of Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund.
“We look forward to empowering start-ups, regardless of their home base, and are excited to embark on new journeys together with them leveraging the unique Hong Kong advantage. Through our third JUMPSTARTER, we join hands with InvestHK, HKEX, Cyberport and HKSTP, who share a common belief with us that Hong Kong is a regional powerhouse for start-ups. We hope to continue to foster an environment in the city that embraces entrepreneurial spirit and we are ready to unleash the potential of innovations and entrepreneurship around the globe,” added Chow.
JUMPSTARTER is open for applications from today. Interested parties can visit www.jumpstarter.hk for more information.
Appendix – Quotes from Global Co-organizer and Co-organizers of JUMPSTARTER 2020
Stephen Phillips, Director-General of InvestHK, said: “The two flagship events spearheaded by InvestHK – Hong Kong Fintech Week and StartmeupHK Festival – are a perfect tie-in with JUMPSTARTER. We look forward to collaborating closely with Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund in the coming months. The final pitch of the FintechHK Global Competition will take place on November 6, 2019 at Hong Kong Fintech Week, and the Grand Finale of the JUMPSTARTER Global Pitch Competition next February. With an increasing number of startups across the globe seeing impressive and explosive growth across all kinds of industries, we stand ready to support their journey in scaling their business globally via Hong Kong.”
Charles Li, Chief Executive of HKEX, said: “It is our vision to be the global markets leader in the Asian time zone — connecting China, connecting the world. We are delighted to be supporting JUMPSTARTER in helping them attract quality startups and talents to Hong Kong, and look forward to working with them in promoting Hong Kong as a world-leading centre for entrepreneurship, fundraising and IPOs.”
Peter Yan, Chief Executive Officer of Cyberport, said: “Cyberport is committed to nurturing youth, start-ups and entrepreneurs to grow in the digital tech industry by connecting them to strategic partners and investors. The Global Pitch Competition by JUMPSTARTER aligns with our aim to promote Hong Kong as a hub for innovation and technology that connects quality start-ups, corporates and investors, and empower Hong Kong’s start-up community.”
Albert Wong, Chief Executive Officer of HKSTP, said: “Hong Kong Science Park is of full commitment that we strive to co-create with various stakeholders to our ever-growing I&T ecosystem, and may this empower our start-ups continue to grow and succeed by crystallising ideas into solutions. With JUMPSTARTER that connects tech hubs around the world, it further promotes a message to the world of Hong Kong as an international I&T hub and destination for global companies and talent to seek new opportunities while bringing our home-grown companies and solutions out to the world.”
Appendix – JUMPSTARTER application requirement and timeline
If your start-ups fulfil the following requirements, you are eligible to apply:
- Less than 5 years old
- Have raised less than US$20 million in funding
- Start-up funding is between Seed and Series C stage
- Possess a ground-breaking and innovative product or service
- Desire to make Hong Kong part of your future plans
SOURCE Alibaba Group
Investment Priorities Set Digital Champions Apart
Companies focusing on upskilling their workforces and spending more on technology/IT are typically more digitally mature than companies spending less on these priorities, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) based on a survey of 1,800 companies in Asia, the EU, and the US. Among industries surveyed, financial institutions and telecommunications companies are the most digitally advanced, with more than 25% of those companies across the globe qualifying as digital champions. Energy and public sector institutions trail, with more than 40% of those companies dubbed digital laggards.
“It’s clear that prioritizing investments correctly is one of surest ways to become digitally mature,” says Michael Grebe, senior partner and technology expert at BCG. Michael Ruessmann, BCG senior partner and expert on digital transformation, adds, “The laggards need to pay close attention to how industry leaders allocate their precious investment resources if they are to remain competitive and not lose ground.”
“Digital Acceleration Index” Measures the Degree of Digital Maturity
The study was based on BCG’s Digital Acceleration Index (DAI). BCG asked managers and executives to assess their companies’ digital maturity against defined criteria on a scale from one to four in 35 categories. The firm then aggregated those raw scores and assigned values to their responses from 0 to 100. Companies with a DAI of 67 to 100 qualified as champions, while those with a DAI of 43 or less were categorized as laggards.
Where Do Digital Champions Come From?
The survey was conducted across nine industries in three regions—Asia, the EU, and the US. The best performing industry was the financial services industry in Asia with a DAI score of about 60. In both the EU and US, telecommunications was the leading industry. Particularly interesting was the strong performance in Asia of certain industries that are lagging elsewhere. Consumer companies in Asia rate their digital maturity higher than they do in the US and Europe. “This was our first year including Asia in our survey, and the Asian companies came out strong. Their digital maturity across industries is high compared with global peers,” says Michael Ruessmann.
Digital Champions Achieve Breakthrough Performance in Three Key Ways
The study identified three boosters that champions rely on to become digitally mature. First, they spend over 5% of OPEX on digital projects. Notably, the share of US champions investing at this level (90%) is substantially higher than peers in Asia (75%) and the EU (65%). Champions everywhere also tend to devote more than 10% of their employees to digital roles and digital projects. Here, Asian champions (54%) are slightly ahead of US peers (51%) and more noticeably ahead of EU (44%) peers. This workforce focus helps Asian companies score highest for “new ways of working.” Finally, champions also scale up digital solutions more broadly than laggards and aren’t as likely to get stuck in use-case pilots. “After three years of conducting our survey, these digital boosters have been consistent, and have reliably helped to set champions apart,” says Michael Grebe.
Digital Champions Have Sharp Investment Focus
Champions plan to grow their digital workforces and spend more on upskilling their workforces than laggards. The study found that three out of four champions plan to grow their digital workforce more than 20%. Looking through a regional lens, over 90% of champions in Asia plan to grow their staff at this rate, while EU and US champions are less ambitious—70% and 65%, respectively.
But champions also have an internal focus. Half of champions plan to upskill more than 20% of their staff with digital capabilities, while fewer than a third of laggards do. Interestingly, champions invest 22% of their total digital investment in technology/IT, while laggards spend 16%. But this incremental investment contributes to a much higher DAI score in technology/IT, 78 DAI vs. 29 DAI, and implies that the gap between champions and laggards is likely to grow.
Asian Champions Are Leading the Way in Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Globally, around half of champions dedicate more than 10% of the digital workforce to AI, while a substantially smaller number of laggards (29%) do so. Asian companies have the most people working on AI. The study found that twice as many Asian companies dedicate more than 10% of their digital staff to AI compared with the EU and US. Asian companies are also further along in AI adoption, with 87% of Asian companies having some level of AI adoption vs. 78% in the EU and 74% in the US.
SOURCE Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Bleckwen Raises $10m and Appoints David Christie as CEO
Bleckwen, a provider of real-time analytics software for fraud detection & prevention in payments, has come out of stealth to announce a $10 million first funding round. The funding will be used to support Bleckwen’s international expansion and the continued development of the company’s exciting software capabilities in AI-based fraud detection. The company’s expertise is strategically focused on the wider anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) context. Bleckwen recently spun-off from Ercom, the French cybersecurity firm. The round was led by Ring Capital, a Paris-based venture capital firm and existing investors, including TempoCap, Bpifrance and Ineo, alongside senior management.
Built with banks, for banks, Bleckwen’s real-time, dynamic behavioural analytics & explainable AI-engine is well placed to detect the surging fraud threats in payments, such as authorised push payment fraud or the “human hack” which is growing by circa 60% year-on-year, driven by the surge in real-time payment networks globally. The platform also protects banks from the emergent risks of open banking under PSD2, where banks will no longer have full control of the end-to-end user experience and security perimeter, presenting a completely new threat dimension.
Over the last year, the company has also strengthened its management team with the hire of David Christie, a 20-year veteran in financial services, previously the COO of Euronet’s money transfer business, which included the brands Ria, HiFX and XE. David is also Chairman of VitessePSP and investor in Shieldpay, bringing with him a wealth of experience implementing and operating both fraud and AML systems in payment businesses.
David is also joined by Matt Knowles, who was recently appointed Chairman of Bleckwen. Matt was previously CEO of HiFX, and together he and David successfully scaled HiFX into a world leading international payments company prior to its successful sale to Euronet.
David Christie, Bleckwen’s CEO, commented: “Nearly $4 trillion is stolen and laundered through banks annually – circa 3% of global GDP. Existing technologies are just not cutting it in the fight against this scourge of society. Something else needs to be done and at Bleckwen, we have made tremendous progress over the last two years as part of the Ercom Group, developing solutions to bring the fight to these criminals.”
“This fundraising is confirmation of our ‘scale-up readiness’ and the support from Ring Capital and our existing investors is testament to our expertise in productising class-leading AI-based analytics in the fight against financial crime for banks. Using Bleckwen’s software, we are seeing false positive ratios drop by over 95%, the time taken to resolve alerts fall by over 50%, and a reduction in fraud loss ratios by over 60% – as compared with incumbent legacy-based rules systems.”
“Working very closely with our customers, which include a tier-1 global bank, we have developed a market-leading, payment-type agnostic, real-time capability to meet their fraud detection and prevention requirements at industrial scale. Bleckwen’s software can also dynamically adapt to ever-changing customer behaviours and profiles. We have also significantly strengthened our senior management team and operational infrastructure and will be opening offices in the UK and the US in 2019.”
Matt Knowles, TempoCap Partner and Bleckwen Chairman, commented: “Having co-founded and scaled an international payments company that processed $20 billion annually, I have extensive real-world experience of the challenges faced by both fintechs and banks in of the domain of fraud detection and AML. I have been deeply impressed by Bleckwen’s advanced use of machine learning technology to radically increase fraud detection over current solutions, but, as importantly, substantially reduce the volume of false positives (which build friction and cost into the customer journey). We see significant potential to commercialise this technology across banks, fintechs & other multi-national enterprises to help combat fraud and AML risk across all payment types.”
Nicolas Celier, co-founder of Ring capital, commented: “Bleckwen has appeared to us as the unique combination of state-of-the-art AI technology, built by a leading French data team, together with top international management with a solid track record of scaling up Fintech companies worldwide. Ring knew Bleckwen before the spin-off and has contributed to design this deal in order to help Bleckwen grow and scale.”
Thierry Sommelet, Managing Director at Bpifrance Growth Capital – Head of Technology, Media, Telecom, said: “Bleckwen is uniquely positioned to help the fast-moving payments ecosystem improve clients’ protection and transaction efficiency, thanks to a leading-edge AI technology and experienced management. We are very happy to see David Christie and Matt Knowles join this adventure, as well as Ring Capital. We are confident that they will collectively thrive in driving the company on its new phase of growth.”
Bleckwen was recently awarded Fintech of the year at the EBAday 2019, an event run by the Euro Banking Association – an expert-led forum for the European payments industry with nearly200 member banks. Selected out of a category of 16 other finalists, the company received the prestigious award based on the innovative and dynamic nature of its market-leading AI-powered platform.
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