Campfire conversations and investor confidence
As a video production student in 1998, Sam Hofer shot a short video of Dr. W. Wayne Lautt in his University of Manitoba lab talking about his liver research and type 2 diabetes.
“I think he just had one of his breakthroughs,” recalls Hofer, a Vancouver-based information technology product manager. “He was really excited to talk about his findings.”
It wasn’t Hofer’s first exposure to Dr. Lautt’s science. In his teens, he lived a block and a half away from the Lautt family in Winnipeg’s River Heights neighbourhood. As a friend of Mick Lautt (son of Wayne and SciMar’s CEO), Hofer spent a great deal of time in the Lautt home and at their family cottage in Northwestern Ontario.
“We used to sit around the campfire and Wayne would talk about his research, and the effects of type 2 diabetes,” recalls Hofer. “I remember him talking about the unique impacts of diabetes on Indigenous communities, which really spoke to me.”
Hofer, a member of the Temagami First Nation, has seen the impacts of type 2 diabetes in his community and in his family. His mother has the disease, so does his uncle, so did his late grandmother, and so does Hofer himself.
“I moved to Florida for work and my lifestyle changed. I ballooned to 330 pounds and became prediabetic,” says Hofer. “My doctor didn’t offer any interventions or advice; he just wanted to monitor me. By 2006, I had a diagnosis of type 2.”
Hofer has since lost 80 pounds and his disease is under control with exercise and medications, including medications to prevent heart disease that is often closely associated with type 2 diabetes. That said, he regrets that he didn’t get better medical advice and support when he was first diagnosed with prediabetes. “Whenever I look back, yes, that was a big misstep by the doctor,” says Hofer.
He soon returned to Canada and resumed his work, tackling major IT projects for B.C. Lotteries, Telus, EA Sports, and other major companies. He approaches his work not as a technology expert (which he is), but as someone whose job it is to create outstanding experiences for people. “Technology is just the tool,” says Hofer, 47.
To enhance his skills, Hofer enrolled in the MBA program at Simon Fraser University just a few years ago. Around the same time, SciMar was starting to seek investors to advance the company’s research and product development. Hofer was interested and decided to perform a formal six-step valuation of SciMar using his newly acquired skills. The numbers checked out, says Hofer, and the market was huge. But what really convinced him to become an early investor was the quality of people running the company.
“When you perform a valuation, you look at the company’s leadership and ask yourself if they are trustworthy and if they can deliver,” Hofer says. “Hearing Wayne’s passion for the science all those years and knowing Mick the way I did, I knew it was a good investment.”
To make sure he was making an objective decision, and not one only based on his respect for the Lautt family, Hofer invited two fellow MBA colleagues to review SciMar’s materials. They supported Hofer’s decision to invest. Nearly three years later, Hofer remains excited about the impact the company can have.
“SciMar’s products will help those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and provide better treatment to those who already have it,” he says. “I’m excited to be on this journey with SciMar to improve health outcomes and to potentially realize a significant financial return on my investment. Solving type 2 diabetes is very important to me.”