Helix TCS Brings an Integrated Approach to Cannabis
Helix CEO Zachary L. Venegas and Director Scott Ogur have been working together since they met while attending NYU’s Stern School of Business. After business school, the two worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co., with Zachary covering the Middle East from Geneva, Switzerland and Scott covering private equity and insurance principals in NYC. After three years, Zachary left JPMorgan to found the successful frontier markets private equity firm, Scimitar. Scott joined as the firm’s first partner and they began focusing on opportunities created by global distress or dissonance, whether it be political, economic, or military.
The fragmented nature of frontier and emerging markets means that integrated companies can realize significant synergies across various parts of the value chain. For example, a grower of produce may also operate a supermarket chain and transportation business since there are no highly specialized competitors in any one area. The same business would struggle in the United States where it pays to specialize in one area to improve margins and service quality. It was in the frontier markets of Romania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Morocco, Ghana and others that they realized that integrated companies – or conglomerates – tended to thrive in inefficient, frontier markets, whereas hyper-specialized companies tended to do best in developed markets.
After building a successful private military company focused on Africa and the Middle East, and investing in the secondary private equity space, the two turned their attention to the legal cannabis industry, which exhibited many of the same characteristics as frontier markets – highly fragmented, capitally constrained, inconsistent legal and regulatory environments, and no hegemonic competitors. The two realized that this opened the door to building an integrated service provider – to take advantage of various synergies and work across the value chain.
Starting with a Backbone
Helix began with a focus on transportation and security since it touches all aspects of the cannabis industry. For example, these companies may be contracted by growers to transport products to dispensaries and may be contracted by dispensaries to provide security. The Helix leadership’s business plan was always to build robust operating companies and relationships across the value chain before expanding into a variety of targeted segments and ultimately defining new products and services.
The company has already become the fastest growing cannabis security firm in the nation and continues to build market leading business lines, technologies, and partnerships that form the bedrock of the legal cannabis ecosystem. In addition, the company has made several acquisitions to consolidate its leadership position, including its June acquisition of Security Grade Protective Services Ltd., a Denver-based firm focused on security-monitoring solutions.
Scaling into Other Markets
One of Helix’s execution strategies is to use transportation and security to finance its move into other market segments that are not viable on their own due to the nascent state of the market. The legalization of recreational cannabis in California, Nevada, and across Canada suggests that the industry will see further segment growth to support more robust ancillary growth throughout 2018 and beyond.
Over the past two years, the company has started building a presence in other areas of the market. In November 2016, the company entered into an agreement to invest in BioTrackTHC – a leading provider of cannabis seed-to-sale inventory tracking software for governments and businesses. Helix’s CannaBase property, which is a leading cannabis wholesale marketplace, also provides exclusive real-time inventory data to support real-time exchange transactions in the wholesale market.
Helix TCS Inc. (OTC Pink: HLIX) represents a compelling investment opportunity in a rapidly growing industry. By starting out in transportation and security, the company is building a foundation for growth that it believes will make it a market leader in other segments that Helix TCS targets using their competitive intelligence function and proprietary data fields. The early focus on transportation and security has also enabled the company to generate near-term value for shareholders, and a self-generated cache of real-time data fields that is unrivaled the industry.
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