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Lee-Chin urges businesses to grasp entrepreneurial lessons from Musk

The Portland-affiliated companies led by investor Michael Lee-Chin aim to grow through innovation amid global uncertainty, with focus on areas such as cancer treatment and nuclear energy.

Citing the businesses owned by Elon Musk, Lee-Chin said they hold possible lessons for entrepreneurs seeking to scale their operations during periods of uncertainty, an issue he delved into in the chairman’s message published in the Portland Alternative Mutual Funds annual report and released to the Canadian Securities Exchange this month.

Lee-Chin is a director, executive chairman, CEO and portfolio manager at Portland Investment Counsel Inc, of which Portland Alternative Mutual is an affiliate.

“During a period of upheaval, Elon has provided much-needed communications support through Skylink to the embattled Ukrainian army in the face of the Russian invasion; has reinforced his commitment for a manned interplanetary expedition to Mars; continued to drive the push towards electrification of transportation through Tesla vehicles; and is working to ensure that Twitter, ‘the public square’, is free of bias, misinformation or wanton censorship,” said Lee-Chin on Musk. “What does Elon see that others may be missing? Is his success entirely predicated by luck? Could this be replicated by other entrepreneurs? Let us examine.”

Lee-Chin described the past year as being influenced by events surrounding climate change, the population rise to eight billion, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, the passing of British monarch Queen Elizabeth ll, the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, inflation, and political turmoil. From a business perspective, central banks have inched up interest rates to “stave off rampant inflation”, resulting in an overall more challenging environment for households and businesses alike, he said.

“Financial markets, while seemingly climbing the famous wall of worry for a while, were eventually subjected to meaningful volatility, marked notably by a down-rating of the tech companies and punctuated by what it appears to be, as I write, a broad-based implosion of the cryptocurrencies’ infrastructure. Meanwhile, the businessperson most often in the news has been Elon Musk, the planet’s wealthiest individual,” he added.

Musk’s wealth expanded amid the pandemic as the world began the shift towards electric vehicles and technologies such as satellite internet.

The billionaire investor, often seen as a contrarian, has major shareholding and executive positions in Tesla, Twitter, Skylink, SpaceX, The Boring Company and others. The size of his wealth fluctuates with the price of Tesla shares on the stock market.

“Insofar as Elon’s success is concerned, would you agree that his open-mindedness and curiosity allows him to predict trends in how people will travel or communicate, and that his assiduous work, learning and planning prepares him to take advantage of opportunities, while his consistent pursuit of execution excellence allows him to build on his past success?” Lee-Chin posited.

Portland Alternative Mutual Funds, with US$18 million in net assets, is one of several funds held by Lee-Chin’s Portland group. The innovative fund, which is relatively small, invests in medical technology stocks, exchange-traded funds, financial stocks, and communication stocks, in that order. Lee-Chin harped on breakthroughs in cancer treatment during the year that could augur well for the fund.

“We don’t know what the future may hold, and we don’t have a crystal ball, but we recognise that some of humankind’s highest unmet needs, namely cancer care and clean energy, need to be tackled,” he said in his chairman’s message.

“During the year, we continued our work on identifying some of the most promising new approaches involving precision oncology, specifically geared towards developing cancer therapies using alpha-emitting radio-isotopes.”

He also indicated the need for cleaner energy and a revisiting of nuclear energy as an effective alternative to fossil fuels, issues that Portland Holdings Inc’s new partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, CNL, is meant to advance.

In the march towards net zero emissions by 2050 by countries around the globe, “Canada and CNL’s competencies in the field of clean energy, environmental remediation and medical radioisotopes, including expertise in hydrogen and alternative fuel sources, play an essential role in ensuring the transmission of critical technology and intellectual property to entities and countries with net zero aspirations,” Lee-Chin said.

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