It’s clear that the U.S. capital markets are back to robust levels by any metric, closing banner year after banner year in which deal volume, number of IPOs, dollar amount raised, and so forth continue to rise by healthy growth rates. The combination of improving conditions for the US economy, still-record low interest rates, and the stock market’s steady rise to new all-time highs, has only added to the demand for more early-stage opportunities in the microcap and pre-IPO space from the investment community.
There’s no better example of that perhaps than the 2015 Marcum MicroCap Conference, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on May 27-28, 2015. This year’s event promises to be biggest and best yet. Since it launched in 2012, with the goal of providing a supportive platform for microcap companies to connect with Wall Street, the conference has grown leaps and bounds with the market itself. The 2015 MicroCap Conference even extended a second day to focus primarily on nanocaps and pre-IPO companies.
This year’s keynote speaker was quite a coup as well. Delivering the address will be the ever-controversial Dick Fuld, who is best known as the former CEO of Lehman Bros. during the financial crisis of 2008. Of course, there will be a number of compelling panels for issuers and investors attending the event as well.
Equities.com had the opportunity to catch up with David Bukzin, Partner-in-Charge of Marcum LLP’s national SEC Services Practice as well as the Firm’s New York City office and NY Assurance Services, to learn more about this year’s event.
EQ: In 2012, Marcum launched the MicroCap Conference to try to help alleviate some of the challenges in the microcap investment community. Since then, it’s become one of the must-attend events in this industry. What is it about the Marcum MicroCap Conference that keeps the quality presenters, attendees and sponsors coming back?
Bukzin: Part of it has to do with how Marcum is perceived in the industry. I think we are perceived as a top-quality service provider, and in everything we endeavor to do, we try to maintain that top-quality service at the highest level. It’s part of the entrepreneurial spirit of Marcum, which sets the tone for the event.
As you know, we started with 60 companies and 600 attendees for our first event in 2012. This year, we will have close to 180 companies, and probably in excess of 2000 attendees over the day and a half of the conference. We keep raising the bar to make it a bigger, better event that is relevant for the microcap community. The spirt with which we started was to have a really special, premium conference where companies in the microcap space could network with the investment community. That is still a need, and that need hasn’t been met by a supply of high-quality conferences on the East Coast where issuers have the opportunity to meet with multiple banks, rather than a sole sponsor.
EQ: As you mentioned, you're already on pace to surpass last year's record numbers. In addition to the presentations and the quality of the attendees, it's also about how they interact with each other at the conference. There’s great networking and deal-making happening there. What do you do to encourage and facilitate that kind of environment?
Bukzin: Our goal is to provide a forum for engagement. For example, our online registration system lets attendees schedule one-on-one meetings with management teams from presenting companies during the conference, and we set aside meeting space for them to do that. We also offer a diverse agenda of expert panels on topics that are relevant to specific aspects of the microcap market. Being in a place like New York, people have the ability to come and go throughout the conference day. Our goal is to make our conference “sticky,” so people may come to see a particular company, but they stay for an interesting panel. Then there's a great lunch served with a compelling keynote speaker, so they might as well hang on to see another company. Then maybe one more company, which leads to a nice cocktail party at the end of the day.
For our second year of the conference, we added high-level entertainment to the cocktail reception, but we found that people really just wanted to mingle and network The presenting companies want to meet the other companies, and they don’t want noise or distractions to take away from that, so this year the entertainment will be in the background. It’s one of the ways to facilitate interaction.
So overall we’ve arranged the two days to make them as engaging as possible. We are also sprinkling the agenda with a few fun items such as having some star athletes to sign autographs, and some other surprises to keep things interesting.
EQ: This year's key note is Dick Fuld, obviously a very well-known figure in this industry for his time as Lehman Bros.’s CEO during the financial crisis. What are you most excited about from his presentation?
Bukzin: He was a key figure in the 2008 financial crisis, and somewhat controversial because of it. What’s exciting is that we are now eight years removed from that, and he chose to use the Marcum MicroCap Conference as the forum for his first major public speaking appearance since 2008.
While he is a controversial figure, it is undeniable that Dick Fuld built Lehman Brothers into a powerhouse that was highly influential until its demise in 2008. Some of the lessons that he took away from those experiences are part of what he'll share at the conference. That could be one of the most valuable things any one of our keynote speakers has ever had to communicate to all these young, emerging global companies.
Also, acknowledging that Mr. Fuld is a controversial figure did not scare us away from inviting him to be our keynote. Instead, it made him more attractive to us because of the unique perspective he will be able to offer us.
EQ: You mentioned the panels, and the event is known for having great panel discussions on pertinent topics. How are those topics decided?
Bukzin: We survey our people internally, as well as our sponsors and other industry experts. We break the panels into two sets. The first day will always be focused on the issuers and the topics that are important to them. This year, we have three panels on Day One that cover very important issues for registrants.
- Uplisting to an Exchange: What Every Company Needs to Know Before, During and After Listing
- Best Practices in Corporate Governance, Legal and Accounting Matters: Key Issues and Hot Topics that Matter to Investors and Regulators
- Capital Raising in the Current Environment: Funding Options and Structures Geared Towards Microcap Companies
Day Two is the main event, and we’ve got six panels that day on topics of keen interest to investors in the microcap community.
- Blazing New Trails – Investing in the Marijuana Industry: A Whole New Sector of Public Companies Available for Investors to Consider
- Discovering Breakthrough Opportunities in Life Sciences: How to Evaluate Early Stage and Pre-Revenue Life Science Companies
- After Alibaba – The State of the Market for US Listed, China Based Public Companies: Industry Leaders Will Analyze Lessons Learned
- Cybersecurity Risks – A Threat to Publicly Traded Companies and the Capital Markets: Where Threats Lurk and the Role of the Board
- Corporate Governance in the Microcap Sector: Microcap Companies Can be Challenged
- How Liquidity Impacts the Value of a Microcap Stock: How to Identify Companies that are Effectively Building an Active and Diverse Shareholder Base
I think everyone will find the panels very interesting.
EQ: One of the exciting new features of this year's conference is the expansion to nanocaps and pre-IPO companies. What was the reason for this addition?
Bukzin: We realized two things, mainly. One is that there was a big demand for pre-IPO companies, and we didn’t have room to accommodate any more companies in the main conference. So we opened up the dates. At the same time, we realized that the pre-IPO companies and the very smallest public companies needed some time on their own to receive some focus. For our purposes, the demarcation line between Day One and Day Two was about $20 million in market cap, which covers most private and small public companies.
At bigger conferences, these small companies can get lost in the mix with companies that are actively trading in the $100 million to $200 million market cap range. We felt it would better serve both groups to have distinct programs at different times. That way, all presenters will have a fair opportunity to present to an audience that is focused on that industry in that segment of the market.
EQ: In many ways, the event is a microcosm of the market's evolution over the last few years, representing a lot of the growing investor interest into private and pre-IPO companies, and into nanocap opportunities. Before we go, is there anything that we might have missed or any final takeaways for our readers?
Bukzin: Just that next year's conference will be expanded to two full days. We already have dates lined up: June 1-2, 2016. We hope to see Equities.com there. As always, we expect to deliver a fully packed agenda of company presentations, expert panels and lots of networking, capped by a compelling keynote luncheon and an after-hours cocktail reception. Don’t miss it!
For event details and registration information, visit http://www.marcumllp.com/MicroCap/registration