Canadian entrepreneur Brian Paes-Braga is a merchant bank executive, a mining industry leader, and a dedicated philanthropist. As principal and head of merchant banking at SAF Group, Paes-Braga advises and finances high-growth companies, providing long-term capital solutions to leading public and private corporations.
With the experiential equity built up from more than a decade in the financial sector, Brian Paes-Braga founded Lithium X Energy in 2015, a lithium resource company that helped small-cap natural resource speculators gain exposure to electric vehicles during the consumer electric battery boom. Lithium X Energy was awarded the 2017 TSX Venture 50 as the mining sector’s top performing company. Paes-Braga and his team raised more than $50 million before selling the company in 2018.
Paes-Braga also sits on the board of directors for two of his portfolio companies, DeepGreen and Thunderbird Entertainment. DeepGreen is a supplier of environmentally-friendly battery grade metals sourced from polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor. Thunderbird Entertainment is a Vancouver-based production studio creating animated programming for digital platforms as well as Canadian and international broadcasters.
In 2017, Paes-Braga co-founded Quiet Cove Foundation, a humanitarian foundation with the intent to support charities and seek innovative solutions to large scale social issues, including homelessness and local childhood hunger. The foundation’s New Leaf Project is piloting a socially innovative approach to homelessness, working in partnership with the University of British Columbia and other Vancouver organizations. In addition, Quiet Cove’s Backpack Buddies Program supports weekend food distribution programs for children in Vancouver who rely on school meal programs.
Q: You spent more than a decade in the financial sector before becoming an entrepreneur and leading Lithium X Energy. What attracted you to the company and the mining sector in general?
Brian Paes-Braga: As an investment banker, I helped resource companies raise money for various projects, so I had knowledge of the sector. When I decided to start my own business, lithium seemed like a good choice as it had the supply-demand outlook I was looking for. Lithium X filled a need in the resource sector with investors in the small-cap resource sector gaining exposure to electric vehicles through the growing lithium battery industry.
Q: You were successful in raising money for Lithium X and were even more successful in selling the company for an impressive price tag. How did you convince investors to come on board?
Brian Paes-Braga: My experience in investment banking was helpful. I knew how mining companies raised money. While I was raising funds myself, I got help from my business mentor Frank Giustra. Frank thankfully jumped in as the lead investor in Lithium X’s first round of financing. This kind of major endorsement raised confidence in the project and made it a stronger sell to other investors.
Q: In your current role as head of merchant banking at SAF Group, you deal with entrepreneurs like yourself on a daily basis. What do you look for in a company when you’re evaluating whether or not to come on board in terms of financing and the other supports you offer?
Brian Paes-Braga: When I’m working on a deal, I try to understand the needs of each party and find common ground. The best kind of deal is when everyone leaves something on the table. As for other entrepreneurs, I’m always looking at traits like vision, intelligence and confidence. Having a winning attitude is very important. You also need to be able to reach out and pursue alliances with other entrepreneurs and business executives. It’s important to be resilient.
Q: You’re the co-founder of Quiet Cove Foundation, which seeks innovative solutions to large scale social issues. That’s a challenging mandate; can you talk about the types of issues the foundation is tackling?
Brian Paes-Braga: With Quiet Cove Foundation, we are looking at major social issues, such as homelessness and hunger. The New Leaf Project is a non-profit organization working on a socially innovative approach to homelessness that preserves dignity by offering choices to the newly homeless. Another project we’re dedicated to is Backpack Buddies, which provides weekend meals for children enrolled in school-based meal programs from Monday to Friday. On Friday afternoon, backpacks full of food are delivered to schools in Vancouver for kids to take home for the weekend. I believe in social responsibility and want to give back to the community as much as I can.