Jeff Mesina
IMPACT INVESTING

Jeff Mesina

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Director, Originations – Cortland Credit

Coaching – Jeff Mesina

“I think that for for us investors if we can’t necessarily get in to make an investment, we should really take it upon ourselves to just see who in our network could help out. Whether from a funding perspective or provide some level of advisory, something to that effect. I mean that’s the only way we’ll see today’s early-stage entrepreneurs grow into successful entrepreneurs.”

ABOUT

Jeff is presently a Director (Originations), at Cortland Credit Group Inc., as well as a Director and Audit committee member of TSXV-listed Brockton Ventures Inc. Previously, Jeff worked at a Toronto based asset management firm and venture fund, specializing in the review of investment opportunities. Jeff has also worked at other asset management firms such as Front Street Capital and CI Financial. In addition, Jeff spent some time in the investment banking sector, working for firms such as Haywood Securities, Macquarie, Toll Cross and Alternative Investment Partners.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Jeff Mesina

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
All right welcome everybody we are at Ask angel and today we are with Jeff Messina and very excited to have this conversation, we chatted a bunch of times, we met at a few events, our event a while back, and I just love all of what you’re doing – especially in this space. Anybody that’s giving money to people that’s exciting for me just makes the world go different. So one of the things I want to jump into right away but I guess you can start it off by giving us an idea of your background. Where you came from, what you’ve been up to, and then kind of where you’re going and that’ll uh help stage kind of the next questions.

Jeff:
Yeah absolutely thanks JP. And thanks very much for inviting me, for hosting this event. I mean some of the topics that we’ll probably cover — some of the questions that will be raised will be very relevant especially during this uh crucial period during this pandemic. But you know just going back to your question, I’ve been in the investment space for roughly over 15 years. Basically started off in the investment banking world working out a few boutique shops, Haywood Securities being one, Macquarie being another. And so eventually I started in that general space before moving over to the investment side so I was working for a few firms like CI financial which is one of Canada’s largest asset management firms, Front Street Capital was another one. They were more of a hedge fund and then I was working for another company that’s based in Toronto called AIP which had a bit of a VC spin to uh their platform. And today, I work as a director of originations at Cortland Credit Group also based in Toronto, and our focus is largely more on the fixed income side as well as early stage investing but from a non-dilutive capital financing perspective.

Jeffery:
Awesome so how did you get — what was your interest that got you moving forward in this early stage space?

Jeff:
I think you know when I was working in the investment banking space, when I first started off… A lot of these companies were not blue chip names, they were private companies, some of them were small cap, micro cap, public companies and you know I mean I guess I’ll be quite candid – the main draw was just sort of the upside return on a lot of these potential investments. But later on I mean that was when I was younger and just getting an appreciation for the overall space, as I started to switch over from investment banking into the asset management VC buy side environment, I was sitting across the table from a lot of these early stage companies that were looking to raise capital and to me I was just drawn by the passion of these entrepreneurs hearing their stories, looking at how they were looking to transform their space, the world what have you, and so it was at that moment that I developed a greater affinity for this particular for this particular space.

Jeffery:
That’s awesome so you got you’re in a room you’ve got these younger companies coming in, they have no idea what they’re doing, so you kind of just start to guide through, is it more on the business side that helped you generate the value back for them which is because you guys were lending finding different ways to give them funding? Or were you kind of starting off and saying hey I think I can help you from over here and maybe I can throw some cash at you myself and I’ll get you guys more ready and then when you get a little bit further on then I can bring you back in front of what we’re doing?

Jeff:
Yeah I would say initially it was more so the former. So I think the immediate contribution was on the funding side. But you know as that relationship started to build, and as I started to become a bit more familiar with VC financing, and then knowing some of the other potential participants or some knowing some of the participants in the space and developing those relationships, you know I think one of the other aspects that I was able to contribute to some to the conversation that I had with early stage entrepreneurs was that if we couldn’t necessarily fund them ourselves, there were other people that I could happily make those introductions. And it may not necessarily be on a funding perspective, it could be with respect to helping to build their board, or if they’re looking for a lawyer with respect to any IP that they want to explore or secure, or even from a elementary level just having a bookkeeper or a CFO to help them with the financials.

Jeffery:
That’s awesome. So you became kind of like a rolodex for these young companies.

Jeff:
It’s a small community and you see some new startups that’s true, but at the same time too you’ll see several serial entrepreneurs and you know they’ve already got that track record. They may be venturing into new space that may be different for them so if I could sort of lend that level of expertise or network then by all means. I think we should be willing to help and develop that ecosystem and help entrepreneurs build their ventures.

Jeffery:
No I love that you mentioned earlier that you spend a lot of time in venture debt, and trying to find different ways to help companies with financing, can you give us a bit more background and understanding of how that looks or how that would look in the the new world I guess with where you are today?

Jeff:
Yeah so venture debt, I mean typically we’re looking for some form of collateral. And so typically for some early stage companies they may not necessarily have a certain collateral base that more conventional lenders are looking for, but you know we like to think outside of the box, and one of the forms of funding that’s accessible to early stage companies are the grants or funding programs that the government is able to provide whether it be SHRED or IRAP. If you’re in the CleanTech space you might be following an application for SDTC or you may have already qualified but you’ve completed phase one and out of phase three so additional funding may be coming through. So for us you know we’ll take a look at some of those opportunities and help provide companies with that immediate working capital until they get to collect some of those funds. So that’s that’s just speaking on behalf of the platform where I work, but you know from a personal perspective, I’ve been engaged in the VC space for some time now so I’ll personally invest equity into various companies it all depends really on the story and and who’s running the show right. And there are other factors too that will attract an equity investment but you know what, we could get into that a bit later in the in the dialogue.

Jeffery:
Oh for sure. So in this and there seems to be quite a few companies nowadays that utilize the SHRED or the IRAPS, the government grants to be kind of that flagship into the co