Interview with Brian Paes-Braga, Vancouver Entrepreneur and Business Leader

brian paes bragaBrian Paes-Braga is a Principal, Head of Merchant Banking at SAF Group, a structured credit and merchant banking group which builds, invests, finances and advises high growth companies.

While still in his twenties, Brian Paes-Braga partnered with Vancouver mining financier, Frank Giustra, to found Lithium X, a lithium resource company that he led and sold in March 2018 for $265 million, a little over two years after founding the company.

Today, Paes-Braga continues to follow his business leadership and entrepreneurial ambitions. In addition to his work with SAF Group, he serves on the Board of Directors at Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc., a Vancouver-based content production company, and on the Board of Directors for metals company, DeepGreen Metals Inc. Additionally, he continues to lead his private family foundation, Quiet Cove Foundation, which supports innovative solutions to large scale social issues.

You’ve had significant experience closing on business deals in a range of industries. Most recently, you closed on the sale of Lithium X. From your standpoint, what does it mean to execute a deal successfully?

Brian Paes-Braga: When I put together a deal, whether private or public, what I do is try to understand the needs of the other party, what my needs are, and then try to find a common ground. It’s about meeting the needs of two separate parties. When it comes to negotiating the sale of businesses, and in particular, public businesses, you, bar none, have to value the needs of your investors and find a way to best meet those needs.

From a professional standpoint, what drives you?

Brian Paes-Braga: Learning. Asking questions. Learning about different industries. Challenging norms. I think all of these things is what fuels me to do more in my career.

How has the role of a mentor helped change the trajectory and pace of your career?

Brian Paes-Braga: First, I was lucky to know what I wanted to do at an early age. Work and success became an outlet for me to have self-fulfilment. It gave me immediate satisfaction. I looked at my mentor, Frank Giustra, and plotted out his career. I asked myself, “How did he do it?”

I think the power of a mentor is what has helped me achieve things quicker than maybe someone else. A mentor needs to be selfless –putting someone else’s priorities outside of yours.

In hindsight, what is a failure that you’ve gone through that set you up for success down the road?

Brian Paes-Braga: There are many, but one that stands out in particular is my past involvement in an oil and gas company that took on mezzanine financing. Too much shale production came on, and there were other factors that drove the price down, and the project eventually went bankrupt. After experiencing that, I learned how to be careful in how to finance a project. You really need to be focused on your cost-of-capital and also understand the responsibility of finding and sensing the windows of when equity markets are open. Ultimately, my failures allowed me to found Lithium X and run it successfully. I was very fortunate.

What it’s like to sell a mining company for $265M on your 30th birthday?

Brian Paes-Braga: Well, it wasn’t an easy process. First, I want to make it clear that I didn’t sell Lithium X on my own. I had an incredible team behind me. I surrounded myself with the best people I could with what they were good at. The day I got the call that the sale went through, my 30th birthday, was professionally the most euphoric moment of my entire life.

You are involved in numerous philanthropic ventures including a program called Backpack Buddies, which helps feed thousands of children on the weekends who otherwise wouldn’t have access to nutritious meals that some of us take for granted. Why is giving back important to you?

Brian Paes-Braga: I’ve lived a very fortunate life so far. I believe it is our social responsibility to give back, and I want to personally help in any way I can. I encourage others to do the same.

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