One of the things I love most about investing in the stock market is being able to travel across North America looking for new investment opportunities. In April, I was fortunate to be able to attend two major conferences in the United States (on top of a 5 to 7 cocktail in Montreal), all in less than three weeks. Although the last few weeks have been exhausting, it’s been worth it! Here’s a summary of my experience.
First of all, why go to conferences?
The value that microcap conferences bring to investors is, in my opinion, very underestimated. Although it is quite possible to uncover phenomenal investment opportunities in the comfort of your office, conferences are an additional tool that can be very helpful. Here are the top three reasons I attend about six conferences a year:
1. To discover new opportunities: This is probably the most obvious reason. When 50 to 250 companies are in the same place at the same time, it’s impossible to know them all. I will be exposed to some new companies one way or another.
2. To follow up with companies on my watch list: To make sure I know the companies I invest in better than anyone, I think it’s essential to talk to management. That allows me to understand the long-term vision and some of the key indicators to monitor. Yes, I could do this over the phone, but there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting!
3. For networking opportunities: This aspect is as much, if not more important than the two previous ones. The reason is simple: investors love to share their best investment ideas with one another. Some of my best returns have been made because of an advice from an investor in my network (after due diligence on my part, of course). Also, speaking with other people who have different investment criteria and styles allows me to learn and grow as an investor.
How I prepare
Preparing for a conference is a very important aspect. Given the costs involved (plane and hotel), I naturally want to make the most of it.
Conferences are usually split into two parts: public presentations and private 1on1 meetings. Although public presentations are simple and effective in order to get a quick overview of a company, I much prefer private meetings since I can access a company’s management team for thirty minutes to ask all my questions.
Therefore, I do my research prior to the conference and prepare five to ten relevant questions that I can ask in person. By the way, if you want to know more about how I interview company executives, I wrote a blog post about it last year. This methodology allows me to come back from a conference with several pages of very detailed notes and a contact with the company, which is useful to schedule follow-up discussions in the future.
Let’s now go over some of the highlights from both conferences. I decided to throw a bit of personal stuff in there to give you a good overview of the whole experience!
The MicroCap Conference: New York City – April 9-10
Philippe and I have attended most editions of this conference since its inception three years ago. Traditionally held on one day only, this edition offered us a one-and-a-half day program, a change made to accommodate the robust growth in presenters and participants.
To start the first day strong and feel energized, I decide to go for a five-kilometer run in the heart of Central Park. That’s the kind of morning I like!
The beginning of the conference is at 8:00am, so I have breakfast and head to the Essex House for registration. My schedule is relatively busy that day, with nine private meetings. In total, nearly 120 companies and more than 600 investors made it to the event. Here is what the main meeting room looks like:
I go on to have several interesting meetings during the day with companies but also spontaneous encounters with investors. Over the years, I have made many friends and acquaintances that I see almost exclusively when I travel to these events.
The day ends at 5:00 pm with a networking cocktail. Afterwards, I have the chance to go for dinner with the CEO and director of a company, as well as another investor. In a more informal setting like that, I can have longer discussions with management and get a better understanding of certain aspects of the business that are less prominent in official communications.
The next day is a bit shorter and is scheduled to end at 2:30pm. This time, my schedule allows me to take a few breaks since I only have four private meetings. However, Philippe and I have to get ready for an investor round table discussion we are hosting in the afternoon. The topic: “Investing in the Canadian microcap space”.
The round table was very pleasant, with seven passionate investors discussing strategies and their best investment ideas. A nice way to end the event!
Planet MicroCap Showcase: Las Vegas – April 24-26
Those who know Philippe and I are aware that we love Las Vegas, having played poker there quite a few times in the past. The Planet MicroCap Showcase is an exceptional event in itself, but it was not difficult to convince us to attend! This event spans two and a half days, a format that allows more time to meet new companies and do some networking.
The first half-day consists of a variety of educational panels on topics such as investing in Canada, cannabis, cryptocurrencies, accounting, etc. The day culminates with the Planet MicroCap Podcast LIVE, which is recorded live from the conference. In the picture below, you can see Philippe proudly representing Espace MicroCaps alongside three other seasoned investors.
The second day consists of company presentations only. This is the perfect opportunity to get short glimpses of various companies that I know little about, in twenty-five minutes. The day ends with an excellent dinner in good company:
From left to right: Myself, Simon Bédard (CFO, ATW Tech), Philippe, Simon-Benjamin Larivière (private investor), Ghislain Lemire (CEO, Urbanimmersive), Brandon Mackie (SmallCap Discoveries)
The third day is the most important for me, since it consists exclusively of private 1on1 meetings. My schedule is very packed, with twelve meetings scheduled. There are several companies that I do not know much about, and I hope to uncover a hidden gem.
At the end of the day, I am very satisfied with my meetings. I have a ton of notes and a lot of research work planned for when I get back home. A day like this is exhausting, but I get so much value out of it that it’s a no-brainer decision to do it a few times a year.
The last night in Las Vegas ends on a pretty special note. The Vegas Golden Knights (NHL team) begin their second round playoffs that night against the San Jose Sharks. You can feel the party atmosphere in the city, so I decide to go to the game with two other conference participants. The Golden Knights end up crushing the Sharks 7-0, what a game!
For those of you waiting for an update on our gambling activities, I will have to disappoint you. You know how the saying goes: what happens in Vegas … stays in Vegas!
During the two conferences combined, I ended up meeting with twenty-five companies and I’m now back in Montreal with several new investment ideas on which I want to do additional research. As for the companies profiled on our message board, I invite you to read some of my detailed notes that have been published lately (in French only). The next conference Philippe and I plan to attend is the MicroCap Conference in Toronto, which will be held on June 21st. This is one of the best events in Canada and we cannot wait to be there.
Until then, happy research to all!