Highlights from the 2019 Kensington Investor Conference
This year’s Kensington Investor Conference drew a record turnout of attendees including investors, key industry partners, portfolio funds and investee companies at The Globe and Mail Centre. The Kensington management team kicked the day off with exciting updates regarding the firm’s various investment activities. Next on the agenda was an insightful panel discussion about trends in private equity and venture capital followed by a series of engaging portfolio company showcases. In case you were not able to join us, here is a recap of the day’s highlights.
Stephen Diamond, CEO of Diamond Corp and Chair of Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors, riveted the audience during his keynote speech as he touched on the influence of technology and immigration over the last hundred years on the real estate development space. One of the emerging trends has been the push towards innovative and sustainable development solutions that will fulfill the needs of the rapidly changing urban landscape.
A key example is Sidewalk Labs’ proposed “Master Innovation and Development Plan,” an exploration of what an innovation-community by the lake might look like on Toronto’s eastern waterfront. Certainly, such ambitious projects face big challenges, among include the issue of data & privacy. Whether surveillance, for example, should be democratized in such communities is an issue that is receiving great attention. Stephen Diamond concluded by saying that, all things considered, the debates being sparked are healthy and necessary for positive urban planning in the years to come.
In our Trends in the Private Equity Market panel, Dan Dross, Jamie Elias, and Dennis Kavelman joined one of our managing directors, Richard Nathan, on stage as they discussed the most recent developments and facets of the private markets today.
All three guest panelists concurred that deal flow has certainly remained strong over the last few years, though valuations are increasingly becoming no doubt stretched. As a result, managers ought to continue improving their deal sourcing engines and maintain purchase price discipline. Moreover, sector selection is also becoming increasingly integral, considering the current bull market is on the verge of ten-year run and a potential slowdown could be right around the corner.
On a related note, Jamie Elias also mentioned the strength of the Canadian market, which generally does not cycle as hard compared to its American counterpart. Canada continues to remain an exciting and consistent area for deal flow, incentivizing many private equity managers such as Trivest to establish a Canadian presence in order to capitalize on the predominantly relationship-based industry.
The first portfolio showcase of the day was delivered by Richard Wilson, CEO of Agnora. Over the course of his presentation, Richard touched on what has helped Agnora, fabricator of the largest glass in North America and one of the top three oversized glass manufacturers in the world, remain ahead of its peers. The company’s key differentiator, according to Richard, is the management’s conscious decision to put exceptional, high-touch customer service at the forefront of its operations, rather than simply being a standard glass manufacturing company.
Agnora’s location in Collingwood, Ontario has allowed them to beat competition from China and Germany by 8 weeks in delivery time. Its geographical advantage, unparalleled commitment to customer service and exceptional product quality has made Agnora the preferred glass manufacturer for some of the world’s most historically selective companies, including Apple for whom they’ve now built over 170 stores.
“Size matters” was the running theme of our second portfolio showcase, as Bruce Young of Vaughn Mills Packaging Ltd., a private label food company with a focus on dry blending food production including formulation and packaging of private label oatmeal, took the stage. Its products are sold in various well-known grocery and retail stores in North America including Aldi, Walmart Canada, Metro and Loblaws. Bruce highlighted how Vaughn Mills is capitalizing on being nimble and flexible to cater to its customers’ evolving needs driven by changes in food packaging trends unlike its larger, inflexible competitors.
The last portfolio showcase was presented by Alex Barrotti, CEO of TouchBistro, a revolutionary, complete mobile POS solution on the iPad for the restaurant industry. TouchBistro streamlines and simplifies all aspects of running a restaurant — from order taking, payment processing, menu management, and accounting, to reporting, inventory management, staff scheduling, and customer loyalty. Consistently ranked the top grossing Food and Beverage app on the App Store, TouchBistro is used by over 16,000 restaurants in over 100 countries.
During his talk, Alex Barrotti shared that the company is focused on expanding from being a POS system to an all-encompassing software that empowers everyone involved in a restaurant setting — from diners to employees to owners. The end goal is to create an MS Office Suite for the restaurant industry with various solutions to improve operational efficiencies, access to financial services and implementation of predictive data analytics. The main challenge, and where TouchBistro intends to set itself apart, is ensuring a seamless integration across all these features. A focus on this is critical to not only capture but also address the real-time complexities of a restaurant environment.
We would like to give a big thanks to all the presenters for participating at our event. We would also like to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to join us this year. We hope to see all of you again next year!