Neil Patel

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In a world where success stories often seem reserved for the privileged few, the journey of Basem Hanna stands out as a beacon of inspiration. From humble beginnings as an immigrant from Egypt to becoming the CEO of a billion-dollar publicly traded company, Basem’s trajectory is a testament to the power of hard work, resilience, and unwavering determination.

Basem’s latest venture, Almega Capital, is a real estate development company that purchases, develops, and manages multi-family apartment buildings.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Basem Hanna’s journey underscores the transformative power of resilience and hard work in overcoming adversity.
  • Transitioning from a mediocre student to a high achiever, Basem emphasizes the importance of seizing opportunities for personal growth.
  • Basem’s ventures in real estate and cannabis showcase the value of exploring diverse industries and seizing emerging opportunities.
  • Through Omega Real Estate, Basem aims to empower immigrant communities by leveraging collective resources for strategic investments.
  • Basem’s story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to dream big, embrace self-belief, and pursue opportunities with unwavering determination.
  • Basem’s advice to his younger self underscores the importance of overcoming self-imposed limitations and daring to pursue ambitious goals.
  • From immigrant struggles to entrepreneurial triumphs, Basem’s journey exemplifies the limitless potential within each individual to defy the odds and achieve greatness.


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About Basem Hanna:

Basem is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful exits in real estate and cannabis. Companies built by Basem include Almega Corp, TerrAscend (TER.CN), and TREC Brands.

Basem draws on over 15 years of experience crossing multiple sectors, including real estate, cannabis, and capital markets.

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Connect with Basem Hanna:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Hello alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really amazing founder. You know that has been going from one industry to another and then I think that the story his story you know is quite inspiring. We’re gonna be learning about. Building scaling also exiting you know because he took one of his companies public and he did very well there they were like a 15 x for investors. So not bad. We’re gonna be talking about how he transitioned from bad student to good student trying to raise money especially in let’s say like a segment that is a little more limited in education. And misinformation like the segment of cannabis as well. As for example, taking the immigrant community to the next level so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today Basim Hanna welcome to the show us.

Basem Hanna: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be on.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born in Egypt but you were raised in Canada so walk us ah give give us a walk throughugh memory lane. How was life growing up.

Basem Hanna: Um, so thankfully I have 2 amazing parents who loved and cared for us throughout our whole childhood. Um going up as an immigrant coming from egypt to Canada is a little challenging as most immigrants will know. Um, you either struggle yourself or you watch your parents struggle and that was the very that was a story and a experience that resonates and that that I went through um, it taught us hard work. It taught us that material things are nice to have but not need to have. But more importantly, it gave me like hustle and grime like I knew what I didn’t have when I was younger I was very well aware of that and I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s everybody else. But um I always wanted what I didn’t have like I wanted more and I knew I wanted it and I knew the only way I was that I was going to get it. Was to like work hard. No one was going to give this stuff to me. It took me a little while to realize that. But once I did um I realized that I could turn that that passion that energy into fuel that can take you to very far places.

Alejandro Cremades: So then how was that for you experience of seeing your parents you know going through the struggle to ah being immigrants. You know the unknown for them. The uncertainty I’m sure that that shaped in who you are today.

Basem Hanna: For sure man like listen it’s tough. My mom is a doctor by training. My dad is an engineer and watching them come to Canada and start working jobs like factory line worker or cashier at Mcdonald’s it’s not easy to see you can see what it. What it does to them in terms of um, their psyche you know like they have a level of confidence that they come from their home country with and then you start to see them have to accept less. Um, but what that does for you is it teaches you hard work. It teaches you that. No job is beneath. You. You got to do what you got to do to get by but in that I also watched them take themselves from you know here to here I watched them go from factory worker at Mcdonald Or A factory worker at ah at a car car assembly plant. Um, to a licensed professional engineer doing what he used to do which was civil engineering I saw my mom go from mcdonald’s cashier to doing all of her licensing basically taking 8 years to become a doctor again and becoming a licensed physician again and watching the transition from you know here to here. Not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs that I just mentioned but watching them elevate themselves and like kind of go against the grain and work hard and like and set out and get do what they accomplish to do what they set out to accomplish. Um, it teaches you grit it teaches you mental strength.

Basem Hanna: Um, and also like it. It makes you realize that love and and and like love is probably the most important thing that you can have in a family and self-determination and grit. They’ll get you very very far.

Alejandro Cremades: So in your case, um obviously in high school you were not really pumped about going to class and being a good student but then there was a shift that happened there from high school to college. What was that shift first.

Basem Hanna: Um, yeah, and high school I definitely cared more about being a cool kid or trying to make friends or impress people. Um in my household of like ah as most at least most immigrants from my community will tell you going to university is not an option. You have to go or like some level of higher education. So but when it came time to apply I didn’t have the marks so I ended up getting into a school that maybe wasn’t my first choice the minute I got into university though I was like okay I real something clicked to me and I’m like I’m very close to becoming a real life adult. You know when you’re in high school. You’re like ah you know I don’t need to worry about my future. My career. Whatever. But when I transitioned into university I was like shit I’m very close to being like responsible for myself and I didn’t want to rely on my parents too much I saw what they’d already given me so much I didn’t want to be a burden on them after that. Um. Said you know what? I’m gonna start applying myself like up to that point I was probably a high a mid to high 70 student so like a b plus student I’m like I’m just gonna try I’ve never really tried I’ve never I’ve always been like if I try I’m gonna do well I’m like prove it. Do it. So. First university assignment comes in I try I got 100 % you know second one exam. Whatever I’m scoring Ninety Nine Hundreds I’m like wow like I got something here like is this all it took for me to like prove it to myself. My confidence gets higher I I start to realize I’m like.

Basem Hanna: maybe I don’t want to like maybe I maybe I can do more than what I had originally planned for myself and my university career was that opportunity for me or is that’s when I realized I’m like okay I want to do more I want to take I want to squeeze everything I can out of this life. Um, so I just shifted my mentality completely. It wasn’t about just getting things done. It was doing them the best that I could you know my mom always left me with this saying do your best and leave the rest up to god and up to that point I would always ask shoot always ask me if I didn’t do as well as I wanted should be like did you do your best answer that. Honestly. And everybody has to answer that honestly for themselves and once I started answering that honestly for me I realized I wasn’t trying my best I was leaving something on the table and I was like for what like if I don’t try like I don’t sometimes you don’t get the opportunity twice so like try your best and see what happens and when I did. I ended up leaving that school to go to ah a different business school and I graduated from that business school again I tried my best there and and I did really well I got a very good job in management consulting at a firm called Boston Consulting Group which kind of like. Platformed my career in a completely different trajectory than I was going in anyways and then from there I I started I realized that management consulting wasn’t for me I want to get into real estate I want to be an owner not a consultant so I made the transition into industry.

Basem Hanna: Where I started working at real estate development shops. Um I I worked for a publicly traded real estate company and then I worked for a real estate private equity company. Um, and then at 26 I decided to start my own business.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously you know like we’ll talk about the you know the the real estate you know business and because I mean that’s something that you’ve been doing for quite a while now 1 thing that that I want to ask you is during during your real state career. And we’re going to be finishing. You know this story today with with how that has transitioned to on the real estate side but before doing so I want to talk about that the break you know, kind of thing that you took ah or or or that different segment that you decided to tackle you know, besides real estate and that was cannabis. So. How did the whole thing around cannabis you know the whole idea the whole concept. You know, come knocking and and why did you think about taking action there because he was a completely unknown industry to you I mean you were doing real estate. So how did the whole cannabis thing come about.

Basem Hanna: Um, funny story. The real estate the real estate industry was actually the reason I got into cannabis so I started my real estate business in 2011? Um I bought my first property in 20112012 my 2011 my second in 2012 and my third in 2013 my third property I did a closing dinner with my lawyers um to celebrate my real estate win and I was just shooting like having conversation with them during dinner and and I was like hey what does your husband do for a living. Like actually he’s quitting his job in in the university health network which is like a big hospital system in in Toronto um, to get into medical cannabis I was like what’s medical cannics like you know like I was a weed smoker but in high school and and and university not that I condone that at all. Um. Not good for young minds to do that? Ah, but ah I realized I was like something sparked in me and I was like okay if this is real. This is once in a lifetime opportunity. You know so I went home I started googling them like legalization of medical cannabis in Canada. And I realized that Canada was going to be the first country in the world to federally legalize medical cannabis and they were well on their way to making it recreationally legal probably later in in their life later in in a few years and we are in 2013 and the legislation was coming out in 2014. So.

Basem Hanna: All of like my business school knowledge like first mover advantage and like ah um, being a market leader and all that stuff start to click in I’m like man I think this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to get in at the ground level of what is gonna be a really big industry. Um, so i. I took that factory that that industrial building that building that I bought 2013 and I talked to my investors and I’m like hey we were supposed to do self-torage here I know it’s crazy. But what if I proposed that we do a medical cannabis factory here you know, like here’s my business plan and here’s what here’s why I think we should do it. Um, and thankfully they said yes, reluctantly they said yes, but they said you know what? like if we believe in you and there’s obviously merit to this to this idea if it’s real so we’ll we’ll we’ll go along for the ride. So we took that factory and what we ended up doing was building 1 of the first medical can one of the first cannabis production facilities in the world. Um of scale. We then like as most people know in 162017 the market started to boom in cannabis especially in public markets. Um, so we we decided to take our company once it was licensed and we took it public and then we started to scale the operation and it absolutely took off. You know what I was 28 when I started that business and by 30.

Basem Hanna: I was the Ceo of a billion dollar publicly traded ah medical medical and recreational cannabis facility that operated in both Canada and the us and it was it was a wild experience and and what we thought was best for us as. Myself and our investment group was to bring in professional like more professional more senior seasoned management at that point to take the realm from me because I was honestly a little bit I was in a little bit over my head I was making decisions and at. Orders of magnitude that were starting to get a little bit scary for me. So I thought you know what I could use the help right now and this is probably a good time for me to take a step back and and just enjoy the win. Um, and so that’s what I did in 2018 I sold the controlling stake of our business to a Us private equity firm led by a gentleman named Jason Wild who’s an amazing human and still a good friend. Um, and and he took the company from here and took it to the next level I think at um to give you numbers all of us and all of our investors got in at around like. 40 to sixty cents a share um when we took the company public it popped to like 4 or five bucks a share and then under Jason’s ownership where we still owned our shares it went up as high as $18 a share. Yeah so.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow wow that is home boliev. What do you think? a you know propelled, you know that crazy right? because I think that at the a peak of the evaluation. It was like about two point five billion so that’s pretty amazing. So.

Basem Hanna: It was a good ride.

Basem Hanna: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: What do you think propelled for for that to happen like that for.

Basem Hanna: Um, it was probably the news cycle. Um, there was a moment in time in 2019 when people were very confident that us federal legalization was going to happen. Um, and if and when that happens I’m confident that. Terracend which trades at probably around a billion dollars right now will go back up to two and a half 3 4 $5000000000 it’s it’s like just to give you context terraend is probably a top 3 global cannabis producer. It does roughly $300000000 us of. Annual revenues on like 50% margins. So there’s a real business there but like the the the hype. The the thing that made it go super high was the fact that people thought that that the us government was going to legalize sometime soon. Um, and since then you know like ah the the republicans got into power. They’re not super into legalization of of cannabis the Democrats haven’t really done anything with their with their with their presidency right now. So I think it’ll continue. At some point it will go back up when when federal legalization becomes a real thing but I think that’s what originally propelled it to to its like it’s super highs.

Alejandro Cremades: So then eventually you know you end up in doing the transaction and now you have obviously you know some liquidity in your pockets which it never hurts in 1 thing that going back to what you were saying earlier. You know you did real estate in all types of shapes and forms.

Basem Hanna: Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: And you started you know on your own initially with a real estate fund and that has kind of like developed more into now what it is a more on the residential you know, ah development of high-rises. So So can you talk to us like what that. Sequence of events have happened there on the on the real estate side too with this other company.

Basem Hanna: Yeah, for sure so in omega, what? what? we originally started off as and maybe I’ll preface as to why we started because I think the why is is is important. Um I come from an immigrant community and what.

Alejandro Cremades: Over him.

Basem Hanna: I realize is that most immigrants especially first and like 1 1 generation and 1 b generation which is me um, like I came with my parents when I was 5 I’m technically an immigrant but I’m very canadian what I realize is that we are incredibly unorganized. Um, like in the way that we treat our financial literacy and our financial capacity. There’s so many of us. But we never pool our money together. We never do anything to propel us to the next level. We’re always guys but investing in rsps or or money managers or whatever but we’re not doing the the. Private equity style deals. You know which is something that I got accustomed to seeing when I worked for really big real estate companies and private and real estate private equity firms. Um, so my original pitch for omega was hey community. We don’t do this right? but I work for people who do. And there’s nothing stopping us from doing this ourselves. But for organizations. So why don’t we pool our money together and start buying bigger real estate assets than we could do alone and let’s see what kind of returns we can earn as a group versus what we can earn alone so when we originally started we were jumping we were trying to like jump off the ground floor. So um, we would buy all apartment buildings. We would renovate them and we would hold them for cash flow and we did that from 2011 all the way up until 20 and what we ended up doing was demonstrating or proving our thesis. We said we bought property. We earned our cash flow we distributed cash flow to ourselves

Basem Hanna: And then we 2 and 3 X our money over that time period depending on when we sold the individual properties so we showed that it worked. We showed that that real estate as a group Works. We showed that we have the power and the ability to organize ourselves and and level up. Um, and then we took that. And with a little bit more money in her pockets from from the Cannabis transaction because it was the same group that did the real estate with me that did the the cannabis transaction and we said okay, well the next layer of thing that we can do in real estate is to start doing development right? like buying and buying old apartments gives you a certain spread. Doing development gives you a bigger spread. Um, and again it was the same thesis. It’s like we have the ability in-house to do these things. We just have to believe in ourselves and we have to be organized, um to my immigrant community and to every immigrant community out there like. Our goal is to establish roots and to set ourselves and our next generations up so that we can be successful in the countries that we immigrate to that takes differentiation from probably the models that our parents had in their heads when they came In. You know, most people come in and they’re like I’m just gonna protect my little s nest egg and I’m gonna do whatever the idea of working together and doing big like corporations and being the biggest and baddest usually doesn’t enter their head because they’re just trying to survive right? But I I am fortunate because I get to see I Saw my parents do that but I have hunger and I have drive.

Basem Hanna: And I believe in what we can do if we work together. So that’s the lie. So.

Alejandro Cremades: So 1 thing that I wanted to ask you here. You know is say also the you guys have raised a quite ah quite a bit of money I mean you guys have raised close to 50000000 and as you’re talking about the why too I want to ask you? you know if you were to let’s say.

Basem Hanna: Um, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: Go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision you know what? you guys are up to is fully realized you know with really taking the immigrant community to the next level. What would that What would that world look like.

Basem Hanna: The.

Basem Hanna: Um I think from a metrics perspective. We would be the largest owners and operators of real estate in whatever communities we sit in the we would have.

Basem Hanna: We would own. Ah we would own and operate rental buildings. We would own and operate commercial Plazas. We would own and operate industrial buildings where we are collecting rent and making passive income while watching our real estate appreciate and at a scale that would be hard to replicate. If you pulled out all of the immigrant dollars that make these things possible. That’s truly what I think it would look like that’s the vision I have and more importantly I think once you put money in that type of person’s hand you will watch your economies grow because um.

Basem Hanna: There’s a certain like I said like you know the mentality that I saw growing up that that is not unique to me that is every person that has watched their parents struggle or has been through a struggle themselves So you combine that and you pool that and then all of a sudden you’re saying Okay, here’s a release valve here’s some money now. Like you’re going to watch your economies grow 2 3 X like what they are now because these people are hungry right? So like I think it’s it’s better for us as a community. It’ll be better for you as an individual. It’ll be better for us as communities and it’ll be better for the countries that we live in as a whole.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then in this case, you know I want to ask you to like how is it different now that they you’ve been able to raise money in two different industries completely different right in Cannavis I mean you you guys raised like about eighty million bucks prior to the ipo and then here.

Basem Hanna: Um, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: You know you you you you raised close to 50000000 what have you gotten from raising money because I mean now you’ve done it in different industries. So what? what? what is your take.

Basem Hanna: Um, um, what is my take My take is That’s a tough question. Ah my take is that there if there is a will There is a way. Right? when we when in every industry that I’ve gone into I’ve been met with opposition and resistance at the very beginning and you can you can power through that right with every individual conversation that I have um that. I Start to realize the strength of what you can do as a person and what we can do together. So My take is that things that used to scare me before don’t scare me anymore. Big numbers. Do not scare me and to anybody listening they shouldn’t scare you either if you have a big bold vision. Um I will I will give you a saying that one of my mentors tells me all the time when I tell him crazy Ideas. He’s like well you know how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time right? So Just do the thing in front of you that you know you can do that’s in your control. Don’t worry about everything else for right now. That’ll come later but just accomplish like break it up into little goals and then and then do it but my take is anything is possible if I can do it literally anybody in the world can do it. That’s what I believe.

Alejandro Cremades: So so then now you know like we’ve been talking about the future too earlier and I want to talk about the past but do so with a lens of reflection if you were to go into. Let’s say a time machine and go back in time you know maybe to that time where you were.

Basem Hanna: Yeah, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: You know about to make the switch here and and get to and get to become an ah an entrepreneur at 26 let’s say if you were able to have a chat with that younger you know self and and give your younger self one piece of advice for launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Basem Hanna: Ah, the piece of advice I would give to myself I 26 was don’t be afraid of scale. Um the when I first started I I was my own. I hindered myself more than anybody else did to me you know the reason I didn’t buy 5000 unit apartments was not because I I I couldn’t or I couldn’t raise the equity I probably could have but it was because I thought well I need to rate I need to do it small first and then do it big right. I I would to me to myself I probably could have saved myself a few years and made ah and made and instead of raising 50000000 at ah at year twelve or thirteen whatever we’re at right now I probably could have been like 2 or 3 x that but I it was in my own head I I kind of psyched myself out. So. I would say to my younger self like don’t sweat it the difference between you and the guys that do it at a big scale is is not much if anything except for the fact that my perception of them was higher than my perception of myself which is no longer the case.

Alejandro Cremades: So what? What?? What’s that shifting What does that look like because I mean I’m sure that there’s a lot of people that are listening and and I could I couldn’t agree more with you I mean I find that ultimately you are your own challenge right? like that person that you’re looking in front of the mirror is who is stopping you. So How how do you? avoid that from happening I mean what does that shift look like.

Basem Hanna: Um, I’ll tell you for me I learned it the hard way right? I when it was it was actually the cannabis business that changed my perspective right? because the cannabis business in real estate. There are giants. There are guys that have. Billions and trillions of dollars under their under management and like to to try to compare yourself to them from where I was standing. It was very hard but when I got into cannabis everybody was on ground level and when when I was competing against guys that had maybe done successful that had been successful in other industries and were trying their luck at cannabis. And we were at the same level and I found myself winning or competing or staying the same with them and then I I became the guy that had the billion dollar company I became the guy that that was like the the one that people were looking up to and asking to reach out to and whatever I was like I was like and then I started meeting my peers and my counterparts. I’m like we’re all the same man. Everybody’s struggling everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. Everybody has stresses at work. Everybody has stress at work. No one is perfect. Everybody has like their own like ah nuances and then quirks that that that make them insecure the winners. Are the ones I know how to put that away and believe in themselves right? They believe like when it’s time to perform you perform and then you go back to being that your same normal weird self that we all are but when it’s time to do the work when it’s time to like take the chips off the table. They are confident in what they do, they’re like okay.

Basem Hanna: Give me this This is mine and I will fight you not literally. But I will I will fight to protect what I believe is mine and I think once you have that mentality that switch whatever way that you get it. You become unstoppable.

Alejandro Cremades: I Love it So ba some for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so. So.

Basem Hanna: Ah, you can reach out to me on any of the social platforms on Instagram my handle is bassom underscore Hannah on Linkedin you can find me Bassem Hannah um those are the 2 fastest best ways to to reach out to me I respond very quickly like. Definitely within the day if not within the hour um otherwise I don’t find me on the streets. Yeah I’ll say I I promise.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing way hey buy some thank you. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

Basem Hanna: The the pleasure was all mine. Thank you so much for having me.


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