The Kemball Group is built on an accumulated knowledge built over 25 years since the late 1980s when Peter co-founded Acorn Partners in order to provide non-dilutive growth capital to Canadian entrepreneurs whose needs were beyond the banks but not suitable for venture capital. The Kemball Group now extends Peter’s expertise to high-growth rate entrepreneurs who need to succeed in today’s quickly changing capital markets.
From a base of $100,000 a year serving Ottawa-based SMEs selling only to the Federal Government, Acorn Partners became by 2007 a $35,000,000 a year enterprise meeting the needs of high potential firms from coast to coast. Peter profitably repositioned the business twice, once in the early 1990s and again after the credit crunch of 2007. Along the way Acorn under Peter’s leadership designed and introduced non-dilutive capital financings beyond purchasing invoices such as advances against pre-filed SR & ED refund claims and future revenue streams.
During his career, Peter acquired six specific insights into the reality of SME existence which he applies in his consulting work:
- it is not about risk reward but coping with uncertainty; a lesson that North American society at large learned post September 11, 2001.
- event dependent financing structures are a better fit for high growth rate firms’ cash needs than the more common time dependent ones with their monthly payments regardless of revenue receipt timing;
- the scarcest resource in high growth rate firm’s is not cash: it is the CEO’s time;
- the key to initial competitive advantage lies in accurate and insightful observation, time to reflect and more time to do the hard work to create a competitive strategy and more time to undertake essential but episodic attention thereafter;
- disciplined growth decade after decade is the key to retaining a competitive advantage; and
- all good deals get funded: investment opportunities with a well-articulated business model and a strategy for entering the market are good deals and are funded in today’s capital markets. Investors believe there is more money than there are good deals to fund.
Lack of “good deals” is the product of the CEO’s lack of a) understanding that they are asking funders to hire them to manage the funders’ money based on a promise; and b) knowledge of who is interested in and funds different types of promises. Regrettably this lack leaves many a worthy opportunity to generate wealth on the table. This outcome is this unfortunate for founders and their customers who would have benefited from the products and services. Worse this outcome is bad for Canada: the contribution of such ideas in the hands of new entrant, high growth rate firms, is essential to Canada’s ability to compete in the world.
Peter holds the view that the operation of the market place for entrepreneurs seeking growth capital is improving rapidly and will be substantially improved over the next decade by current developments. But, the benefits or more readily accessible capital will require both funders and entrepreneurs to know themselves and know the other far better. Then the supply of “good deals” in the eyes of those from whom funds are sought will increase dramatically. More deals will be done as a percentage of opportunities presented and more will succeed.
In the middle of the first decade of this century, Peter began to articulate his views in Words Heard and Our Take™ and to produce policy recommendations to governments on SME financing initiatives to increase the survival rate of Gazelles. He continues to do so in the expectation that more “good deals” will result.
Immediately prior to the 1990s, Peter designed and implemented a tax efficient financing structure and secured the seed finance for a firm offering an innovative experience for those involved in close quarters combat and police operations. The firm sold its product and services worldwide. At Armiger he was responsible for investor relations for five years. Investors earned a five to one return on their funds.
After graduating from McGill with a B.Eng (Mech), Peter worked for a variety of organizations in Canada and the United States including Dupont of Canada, BDC, then IDB, and after receiving his MBA, The Treasury Board of Canada. He then spent the next decade and half in consulting with Operations Research Inc. in Washington DC serving the US Federal Government followed by Price Waterhouse Coppers, then Urwick Currie in Canada.
He has been the principal representative of Acorn Partners in The Canadian Association of Venture Capital Companies, a Founding Member of the National Angel Capital Association, The Revenue Capital Association and was a Board member of the Capital Angel Network in Ottawa, Ontario.