Alex Holmes

Forty Under 40 winner 2014:  Founding partner, Oxygen Capital Corp., 38

Whether it’s the technology or mining sector, it’s comparatively easy to raise money in a bull market.

It’s the bear market that really tests the skills of money men like Alex Holmes, one of four partners in Oxygen Capital Corp., a three-year-old mining house co-founded by sector wunderkind Mark O’Dea.

Despite a dearth of risk capital going into junior mining and exploration companies, Holmes and his partners have been able to raise $300 million for new mining ventures in West Africa’s Burkina Faso, as well as in Nevada and Ontario.

“We had to be creative,” Holmes said, when asked how Oxygen has been able to raise that kind of cash when risk capital has all but fled the junior mining and exploration sector.

Even in his first job, Holmes demonstrated an ability to find money.

Born and raised in B.C., he earned a bachelor of commerce from the University of Victoria and then went to work as a business analyst for WCG International Consultants, which ran JobWave, which runs programs designed to get people off welfare and into the workforce.

The company was paid by the government only when it was able to demonstrate that clients had left the welfare rolls for employment. But when no money was coming in, Holmes discovered what he felt was a flaw in the government’s reporting system. He came up with some modelling that demonstrated he was right, resulting in a $1 million payment to the company.

In 2001, he and his wife, Karen Boriss, moved to England, where Holmes earned a master’s degree in investment management from the Cass Business School, then spent eight months with a small boutique investment banking firm.

In 2010, Holmes joined a boutique investment bank in Toronto, NCP Northland Capital Partners Inc. Then, in November 2011, O’Dea – who had sold his mining company, Fronteer Gold Inc., to Newmont for $2.3 billion – approached him with an idea for a “shared-services, incubator mining house” that would find and finance new mining ventures. O’Dea needed an in-house banker with a talent for finding money, so Holmes joined Oxygen as one of four founding partners. The company now has a portfolio of three junior exploration companies.