The Snowball Effect

At just 33 years old, Narbe heads one of the world's largest cannabis private equity and venture capital vehicles.

“I did always want to be a CEO of a company since high school. I’m happy with how it turned out,” he says.

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. And, when cannabis was legalized in Canada just over two years ago, Narbe, a CPA, CA, wasted little time rising to the new challenge.

As President and CEO of RIV Capital (formerly Canopy Rivers), he now oversees one of the world’s largest cannabis investment portfolios spanning the entire industry, from seed to sale.

Narbe Alexandrian , CPA, CA

His ascendancy at such a young age probably shouldn’t come as a surprise—after all, Narbe is no stranger to success.

At 24, he became one of the youngest instructors at York University. Last year, he was awarded a CPA Ontario Emerging Leader award.

He credits a lot of his career success to his designation, which gave him the skills to map out customer journeys, connect with people, and align business goals.

“It’s a great foundation that allows you to become multidisciplinary,” he says. “The success of a lot of businesses is based on the story they can tell [and] the networking component. The CPA really opened my eyes to it.”

So, having trained to be an accountant and having worked for Deloitte, Telus and the OMERS Ventures, did he ever dream he’d become a cannabis investment pioneer?

“Never in my life,” he says. “First off, cannabis was illegal during my education.”

And how did he transition from strategy consultant to emerging market-defining venture capitalist?

He got his taste of the start-up environment helping some of Toronto’s budding startups, volunteering at North America's largest urban innovation hub.

“On the side, I started working with tech startups within MaRS Innovation. I would go there during lunch and after work to help companies,” he says.

Narbe Alexandrian , CPA, CA

Some of those companies eventually grew, and what started out as pro bono work soon turned into paid consulting.

“I had a book of business that was eclipsing what I was making at my full-time job for much fewer hours,” he says.

He noticed the growth potential in cannabis, and he went for it. His experience growing startups didn’t hurt, and nor did his VC experience at OMERS Ventures.

Six months after joining RIV Capital in July 2018, he was promoted to president. Six months later, he was appointed CEO as well.

Outside of RIV Capital, Narbe continues to teach at the Schulich School of Business at York.

As a teacher, he has some advice for aspiring CPAs: “Set a goal up for yourself and keep chipping away at it. Read a couple articles a night. Show up to work every day and persist.

“Don’t underestimate the snowball effect.”

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