Brian Paes-Braga is a Vancouver financier and entrepreneur, known for his notable work in founding and developing the lithium resource company, Lithium X. The company raised roughly $50 million and just two years after going public was sold to NextView New Energy Lion Hong Kong Limited for $265 million in March 2018.
Today, Brian Paes-Braga serves as Principal, Head of Merchant Banking at SAF Group, a leading structured credit and merchant banking group which builds, invests, finances and advises high growth companies. He is also on the board of directors at Thunderbird Entertainment Group and DeepGreen Metals and an Advisory Council member of the International Crisis Group, as well as supports a range of charitable organizations through his Quiet Cove Foundation.
You’ve been a successful entrepreneur for a number of years and have worked in several industries outside of the resource sector. From your experience , what are the ingredients to successfully financing and building strong companies like Lithium X?
Brian Paes-Braga: I think it starts with people and who you hire and whether there is synergy among your team members. I know we had that at Lithium X. It’s also important to respect the share structure of the company, and that means being honest with your shareholders while you continue to raise capital. Luck plays a part and we certainly were lucky in terms of timing and lithium prices when the company went public.
On the subject of Lithium X, the company was sold just two years after going public and you managed to maximize shareholder return. Was that always the plan for Lithium X or did a buyer appear at the right time?
Brian Paes-Braga: I established this company based on the belief that we need to wean the world off fossil fuels. That was the mission of Lithium X. We were confident that the buyer, NextView New Energy, shared the same commitment to developing the lithium sector. True, the $50 million we raised to secure lithium-development projects paid off when we sold the company but that wasn’t our main objective.
You pitched business mentor and renowned Vancouver mining financier Frank Giustra on the idea of building a lithium company and you also attracted another top mining figure, Paul Matysek, who had previously served as CEO of Potash One and Lithium One. How did you manage to convince Giustra and Matysek to join the project?
Brian Paes-Braga: My background as an investment banker helping resource companies raise money for projects led me to believe that lithium had the right supply/demand outlook for getting into business. I did my research on the lithium sector and the demand for lithium-based batteries in China. I think that both Giustra and Matysek saw the potential in the lithium market and were equally excited about the project. Mentors have always been very important to me. Frank Giustra was someone I had looked up to from a very young age and I’ve learned a lot from him.
You are a believer in giving back to the community through your work with various charities and your private foundation, the Quiet Cove Foundation. Can you talk about why charitable giving is important to you?
Brian Paes-Braga: At the center of my work in the business world is the desire to remain philanthropically conscious. I have now travelled the world on various mission trips close to my heart, including working with Syrian refugees in Greece and building schools in Peru. I wanted to devote more time to philanthropy and projects I cared deeply for and that was the reason we created the Quiet Cove Foundation. It focuses on supporting innovative solutions for large scale social issues. We encourage charities to think big, take risks, and disrupt the status quo.