The Calandra Report: Next billionaire companies, Inovio Pharma, Coastal Contacts

Thom Calandra
2 Comments|December 11, 2013

That little company show in L.A. will produce fresh billionaires. 
 
It's just that, like the gaming table on one of the patios of this Bel Air hotel, luck is the lady who holds sway.
 
The three-day LD Micro show gives tiny companies -- and some not so small -- a shot at luring fresh investors and creating fresh billionaires.
 
Fifteen years ago, when I stayed at the Sunset Bel Air, the breakfast patio was where Hollywood dealmakers came for their bialys and pickled herring. Now, it's the micros at Sunset and Church.
 
This crowd: cigar-smokers wearing yarmulkes and requesting kosher for Hanukkah; a 40-something Waco, Texas, futures trader, lovely 6-foot-3 former Duke girls basketball player in tow, convinced the yen will drop to 800 per dollar or worse (I mostly agree -- this guy is borrowing yen and using it to pay his monthly home mortgage); medical doctors who don't practice medicine; 29-year-old NYSE company CEOs; medical doctors who do practice medicine -- in Beverly Hills; oil drillers; Illinois turbine and big-gear makers for wind farms (Broadwind Energy (NASDAQ:BWEN, Stock Forum); small-cap bankers; bosomy IR execs chasing clients; lots of sharks, charlatans and some genuinely nice investors and professionals looking for the next billion-dollar company.
 
Few if any of those will become billionaires. Except maybe for the Texas futures trader. It's the CEOs and company founders who will.
 
Some 1,500 attendees this year: a record number for the organizers. About 235 companies in four tracks. The only rooms that were not filled to capacity at the Luxe Sunset Hotel: gold prospectors (Paramount Gold & Silver (TSX:T.PZG, Stock Forum) among them); diamond prospectors (Brazil Minerals (OTO:BMIX, Stock Forum); and the earliest-morning ones after a late-night martini fest at the tubular hotel across Sunset Boulevard.
 
Best prospects for catapult gains in a review of some 30 presenting companies: Coastal Contacts (TSX:T.COA, Stock Forum), albeit after some of the easiest money was made as the Canada eyeglass maker and seller approached consistent profitability this year; Inovio Pharmaceuticals (AMX:INO, Stock Forum) -- still a half-step before its catapult moment as it awaits Phase II results for a human papilloma virus vaccine to treat cervical intraepithelial neoplasia; maybe Sysorex Global (OTO:SYRX, Stock Forum)-- a California systems integrator whose shares are a question mark as it attempts to raise issue about 9 million shares at a price to be determined. See S-1 filing.
 
Coastal Contacts: Roger Hardy of Vancouver, Canada, started this one. I met him three years ago. COA is on track for chart-busting online and in-store sales of eyeglasses and contact lenses -- at gross profit margins of 40 percent or better. Its prices crush competitors' prices online and in its eight stores (Sweden, Canada). The quality of Coastal's brands and private-label ones such as Derek Cardigan and LOVE is world class for prescription lenses.
 
Roger's emerging retail outlets -- actual stores -- are climbing up the sales-per-square-foot charts; executives say Coastal's store on Robson Street is now approaching $3,000 per foot monthly; that is probably as good as another Vancouver phenom, LuluLemon. 
 
Inovio: This one has so many moving parts I wonder where to start. In a sentence: its vical DNA plasmids are shaping into vaccines and treatments for malaria, hepatitis, influenza, HPV and a range of cancers that include breast, lung, and cervical diseases (Breast and lung cancers are seen as the Holy Grail among cancer researchers). Dr. Joseph Kim, the Korean-American laboratory science PhD who started San Diego-based Inovio, is an understated powerhouse (Dozens of TCR folks requested our audio of his LD presentation).
 
Synthetic vaccines in general almost surely will depend on delivery methods for their success. Inovio's version of electroporation injection seems to have convinced Roche, Merck and other pharmaceutical houses to give INO a go. We'll know more by June 2014, thanks to FDA results for that Phase II trial, plus possible scientific papers.
 
By then, if these plasmids, designed using computing power, are the real deal, the shares already will have catapulted. Inovio has $47 million cash and no debt. Its $450 million market worth is on pause, and I just bought into INO at $1.98 USA.
 
I doubt Dr. Kim will be a flashy billionaire, say, like fashionable Roger Hardy might become. The compact doctor likely would start another sister company, or a research institute. Inovio is my next Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN, Stock Forum), another San Diego-area phenom that recast genomic tools in its own image.
 
Sysorex: This is a scrappy computer systems integrator and solutions provider that includes government agencies in its client list. It recently took over Lilien Systems, another California company, whose business has grown smartly in the past 20 or so years. That's thanks to Geoffrey Lilien, the founder, and the team he has put together. I know Geoffrey; he is a workaholic and a brilliant operator who deserves to be part of a successful public company.
 
I do not know the Sysorex folks, and to be honest, CEO Nadar Ali did not have much to say in his presentation or my one-on-one with him.
 
Mr. Ali says the shelf registration puts the company in a quiet period. I asked why anyone would want to purchase new shares when the existing ones trade sporadically on the bulletin board listings.
 
"Good question, one we get all the time," he said.
 
Sysorex has about 28 million shares outstanding, as I understand it -- with another 6 million in the process of being marketed to new or existing investors. I think.
 
Mr. Ali intends to purchase other companies with shares and cash, as he did recently with a company called Shoom. Sysorex depends on the price the new shares now being marketed will fetch: $1.50 to $2.00?
 
No idea.
 
And of course, the next sales report from a combined Sysorex, Lilien and Shoom. I am not a buyer at the current $2.50 market price.
 
Perhaps at $1.25 I would be.
 
Still, if you believe that solutions providers and their enterprise efforts will benefit from the wave of Internet-linked gadgetry out there: mobile, clouds, file sharing, security systems, complex storage, video; then this might be one to watch at the right price.
 
I do not think this is billionaire material. Well, maybe in yen, which is still an accomplishment.
 
Attached: Coastal Contacts founder and CEO (chief eyeglass officer) Roger Hardy at Robson Street store. 
roger.jpg
 
Your friendly,
Thom Calandra  
 
@thomcalandra

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cobalthead
Hey Thom ...bgm came out with thousands of assays this week . Earlier I had asked you for an educated interpretation . Will you do any follow up?
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December 11, 2013
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tcalandra
I think the key to success at Barkerville continues to be how quickly it starts pouring gold again, and the costs of extracting it. That is supposed to be in March, I am told. The overall price of gold will need to stay above $1,100, at any rate. Best, tc
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December 12, 2013
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