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Kanabo: The humble roots of the company with a seat at the top table

How an Israel-based company made history by listing on the London Stock Exchange

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Kanabo, an Israeli medical cannabis company, became the first firm of its kind to be listed on the London Stock Exchange in February.

Just two days later, shares were up almost 800 per cent.

After launching at 6.5p, they tripled in value on the first day of trading alone, with founder and CEO Avihu Tamir describing the response as ‘overwhelming’.

The news reflects the growing buzz surrounding medical cannabis, and Kanabo in particular, after it created the VapePod – a cannabis vaporiser and formulas specifically designed for medical use.

It’s a long way from Tamir’s first experience of cannabis – being taught to roll a joint by a nurse.

He says: “I never chose cannabis. Cannabis chose me.

“When I was younger, I suffered with migraines, and so my first experience of it was as a patient. You may not know this, but Israel has one of the best medical cannabis programmes in the world, and so my physician asked me if I wanted to try it.

Kanabo founder Avihu Tamir

“I agreed, but when it came to taking it, I was a little disturbed because the nurse there recommended that we take a ground flower, roll it and smoke it in a cigarette.

“So, I thought that there must be a better way.”

As Tamir found, while cannabis was being medically prescribed, previously patients would need to smoke flowers, a method which gives a different dose with each inhale.

This proved to be a barrier for many physicians in offering it – unsurprisingly, they are reluctant to advocate smoking as a medicinal delivery method, although it has been found that most cannabis users preferred method was inhalation of some type.

Now, for the first time, Kanabo has introduced a device, VapePod, that can deliver a metered dose that works for both the patient and physician.

Tamir explains: “It’s not just simply for the benefit of physicians; there are plenty of people out there who don’t smoke and have no intention of starting. You also have patients who are more reluctant to take pills or capsules – so there was a real gap in the market for a middle ground.

“I want cannabis to be accessible to anyone who needs it, and the VapePod is just that; a solution that everyone can feel comfortable with and get the right benefits from as well.”

The next step is to increase awareness, through marketing Kanabo to both physicians and potential patients, to capitalise on the incredible growth seen in the medical marijuana industry over the past few years.

Tamir highlights three key developments that have led to this growth, beginning with the changes in legislation.

“The main change has been what has happened with regards to regulation, particularly in Canada and America.

“Across the world, we’ve seen a revolution in the ways cannabis is viewed; it’s no longer an illicit drug, it’s a medicine and a consumer product.

“The second follows on from this, in the way that CBD has become part of the wellness movement; CBD in this respect is a very easy entry for people who do not want the psychoactive compound – it’s very easy to consume.

“Thirdly, we’re seeing some big players in the industry becoming involved. An amazing legitimate product being developed by big players from the industry. I would say it is a public market. Once you have public companies that are legitimising the discussion around cannabis, and creating more opportunities to raise money and invest, it removes that stigma that has traditionally been associated with cannabis.”

Tamir points to the recent deal between British American Tobacco and Canada-based cannabis producer Organigram for about £126m as evidence of how mainstream the cannabis market is becoming.

For Kanabo, floating on the stock exchange is just the beginning – and Tamir sees exciting developments on the horizon both for his firm and the industry as a whole.

Kanabo produces novel ways of taking medical cannabis

He explains: “I think two things will happen in future.

“Firstly, the CBD market will evolve beyond North America – 90 per cent of CBD sales happen in Canada and the United States. I believe Europe will become one of the major players, along with changing regulations increasing take-up in places like South America.

“Secondly, I think there will be changes and discoveries in the science, affecting the end product. In our labs in Israel, we’re looking beyond just CBD and THC to the more minor cannabinoids, and they are amazing and have such potential to help people.”

Key to the industry’s continuing success, he says, is collaboration – a need borne out partly due to the restrictions that still govern the licensing and sale of CBD.

“Collaboration is built into the industry. Take the United States; if you want to build a company that is operating in more than one state, you need to have another company as you can’t ship cannabis between states, therefore you need to have separate companies, and productions in each state working in silos.

“So, there needs to be this level of cooperation between companies specialising in different fields, working together on this one common purpose.”

And Kanabo are in it for the long haul, working to build a network around the world.

As Tamir explains: “It’s definitely about building those long-term relationships, and I’m planting seeds that will flourish in the future.

“Some of my best partners today are companies or people that I met many years ago, with discussions that don’t necessarily relate to business support, and they became my main clients or suppliers.

“It’s about getting to know people personally; ultimately as time goes on, those relationships can flourish in two different ways, and maybe we’ll work together, maybe we won’t – but we still have a relationship.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s always a roller coaster going up and down – even looking at the more famous examples, such as Steve Jobs.

“It takes a lot of time to build a huge company, which is why you need to build those relationships right from the start.”

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‘We’re still at the very beginning’: Cannamplify and state of the cannabis industry

We spoke to the CEO of Cannamplify, a brand management firm helping companies get a foothold in the complex sector.

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Cannabis Wealth spoke to Shaan Mahrotri of cannabis brand management firm Cannamplify to find out what goes on behind the scenes.

How did you get started in the industry?

I’ve worked in finance and investments for my whole career, after starting to do the books for my parents’ business while I was at school. I’ve been a CEO or COO for all manner of businesses – you name it, I’ve helped build it or destroy it.

In recent years, many of the businesses I’ve been involved in were early-stage investors in the cannabis industry in the US, landing all along the chain, from cultivation to extraction to consumer.

In 2017, I and one of my partners started to bring over interesting and mature CBD brands from the US, just when the industry was kicking off in the UK, and we ended up forming Cannamplify in 2019.

The business is a suite of different things. In the beginning, we functioned as the administrative and operative partner for companies coming to Europe, supporting them with everything from warehousing and logistics to setting up websites.

We then set up our B2C offering, Nabino, which is essentially a shop front for the brands we were bringing over.

We also act as a B2B wholesaler, supplying CBD brands to a number of outlets in mainland Europe, with some registrations in Japan, although the events of 2020 slowed that element down a lot.

We also have a The Bosky Agency, which is our marketing side, focusing on what and how we’re we’re allowed to advertise to consumers.

We always say we deal with everything from the end of the production line to when the product reaches the consumer’s hands.

The company was set up as a partnership between three different operations.

Where do you think the industry is at in 2021?

To be honest, at the moment the industry isn’t as big as anyone thought it would be.

We’re still at the very beginning, everyone is relying on the traditional, existing vertical supply chains – there’s nothing specially for cannabis, so it will take a while for the world and the industry to catch up with each other.

At Cannamplify, we focus on the end of the value chain as that’s where we see the value being, in the branding, movement, operations.

Outside of that, I sit on an advisory board of a high-risk payment company that focuses on cannabis and vape; banking in the sector is non-existent and it’s not long ago that everyone had to deal in cash.

I remember a farmer in Oregon once showing me his two barns; one was full of his crops and the other was full of his cash, as no bank would touch it.

The industry is starting to get legitimised now, but it’s still at the point where there’s a black market – CBD is very much grey.

The professionalism you see in other industries is still trickling down, but there are still too many bad actors, people jumping on the bandwagon – not just in the product, but also behind the scenes.

There are a lot of opportunistic things going on, so we need to inspire that trust – which will take time.

That’s why I believe that starting with a focus on the medicinal benefits of CBD is the right thing to do.

Much as I’d like to be able to walk down the street and buy some weed, it’s only right that we focus on the very real medical benefits of CBD for the time being. Look at Canada; they tried to do everything at once, and it’s just too much.

The cultural shift will take generations, which is why education is so important – for retailers, not just consumers.

What do you see as being the key developments over the past few years?

As there has been more acceptance of hemp, there has been more focus on using every element, with an awful lot of awful lot of R&D into ideas like using hemp for building materials and bioplastics.

However, like everything, it all comes down to scale – you need that outlay before you can develop a product, and it’s only then that you can begin to market it, which means it can be slow progress.

In terms of collaboration within the industry, everyone is still finding their tribes at the moment, although there should definitely be more of a sense of working together than there currently is.

While admittedly it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone to some extent, there’s still a way to go.

Having said that, cannabis years are like dog years – you learn an awful lot in a short space of time.

Who is your business inspiration?

It might sound cliched, but definitely my parents, who are first generation immigrants, working as traders and businesspeople. I definitely get my drive for business from them; I started my working life doing their businesses books in the holidays, so it’s always been in me.

I never had any doubt that I’d go into business – I’ve always run my own things and never been a 9-5 person.

What are the key qualities you need to succeed?

I’d say that surviving on very little sleep is the main thing. The world has changed a lot; in the early days, you could switch off – there were no emails from LA or calls from India – so the stamina you need is very different today.

I also think it’s important to be reasonably good at everything and not excellent at one thing; for me, a business always needs someone looking at the big picture.

The best advice you’ve been given

Someone once said, you’re not a doctor, you’re not a fireman – nobody’s going to die because you made a mistake.

Whether an email went out with a typo, or the servers are down, it doesn’t matter – deal with it and move on.

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Potyque: The women’s health foundations of an emerging British CBD brand

We sat down with founder Michelle Rust to get the inside line on how the company came into being.

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Credit: www.potyque.com

Potyque founder Michelle Rust set up the firm in 2019 after using CBD to treat her menopause symptoms.

Cannabis Wealth spoke to her about why chose to put her experience in the pharmaceutical industry into delving into a whole new industry.

Why did you enter this industry?

It was through my husband initially, who, after lots of research, came upon it as a potential solution for the menopause symptoms I was struggling with.

Since we started Potyque, the industry has become quite congested, but I hope that the introduction of the novel food licence legislation will enable all those with the license to trade legally.

That is one of the main reasons why we started Potyque; coming from a pharmaceutical background we are very comfortable with prescription drugs and the regulations that surround the industry, while also remaining totally focused on consumers.

How long have you been part of the industry?

We started our CBD journey back in 2018 and it took until the end of 2019 to create the brand, and finally get Potyque to market.

How has the industry grown since you first started?

The industry has grown exponentially. This makes it very confusing for consumers understanding the differences between what type of CBD to purchase, what strength to start with and how to titrate to get the maximum benefit.

That’s why, as well as selling the product, our website has lots of information on how best to use CBD and where to start – we know from personal experience what a minefield it can be.

What do you feel are the three key developments or updates that have changed the industry?

I think the novel food regulation for CBD companies (which came into effect in March) can only make sure the industry is self-regulated, which will lead to better controls along with higher standards and levels of compliance.

Ultimately, this means consumers will have greater faith and trust in CBD containing products, which can only be a good thing for the market as a whole.

What do you think the future holds for the industry?

It’s a very exciting time for everyone involved in the industry, and it’s set to continue.

The CBD world is still very much in its infancy and our hope remains that there is a place for consumers to have the benefit of the full ‘raw’ plant.

We’ve already identified in excess of 100 cannabinoids in the raw plant, and I’m not sure anyone so far has really found full benefit from isolating each fraction.

At the moment, legislation looks to be heading towards refined, purified, isolated oils, but we’re not so sure that’s for the best for consumers – why mess around with what Mother Nature has given us?

How much of the industry relies on collaboration?

Collaboration is a key part of the industry, especially with it still being relatively small and new.

Any fledgling field relies on collaboration and cooperation amongst those companies that innovate, otherwise it will quickly run out of ideas and options.

Who is your main inspiration in business and why?

My inspiration comes from so many different directions. I read a lot!

I love learning about new start-ups, the customer experience and successful entrepreneurs… there isn’t just one and the list goes on and on – there is always someone to be inspired by.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in business?

I find too many people focus on profits or getting to the top, but the piece of advice I always remember is that people will never forget how you made them feel, so try to always be kind and genuine.

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Happease: The CBD brand that started on a beach in a Goa

We spoke to the company’s CEO about the long journey to setting up the company.

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Cannabis Wealth spoke to Cedric Val, founder of Happease, to find out more about his journey from a beach in India to CEO of an international CBD business.

Beginnings

“My cannabis journey started in 2014, when I left my job as graphic designer in France, feeling life was not as exciting as it could be.

“Firstly, I went to Mumbai, India, before travelling by bus to Goa, where, on a beach, I experienced one of the most joyful times of my life – I couldn’t stop smiling.

“You see, in Goa and India as a whole, cannabis is freely grown for spiritual purposes, making it very different from Western culture and society.

“This is where I learned about the full possibilities of CBD and how it can be used, and it became my mission to work in the industry in some way.

“After a short spell picking fruit in Australia, I ended up in California, where I continued my quest to work in the CBD world; that’s why I chose San Francisco, as it’s one of the cities with a more vibrant cannabis scene. 

San Francisco was one of the stops on Cedric’s journey

“For a time, I was homeless, going from place to place to ask for work – it was my first experience of being seen as an immigrant

“However, one day got lucky and got the chance to work on a farm run by two Israelis, although in the end, it wasn’t really what I was looking for – too many hippy vibes.

“However, it was there that I was introduced to Tim Littlefield, who’s pretty famous is CBD industry – particularly after his arrest was featured on the TV show Pot Cops.

“I spent six weeks with him and learned so much – one thing he taught me was to stop calling cannabis weed and should call it medicine instead. 

“Tim set me on my way to becoming a real cannabis entrepreneur and to believe in myself; he gave me the last drop of knowledge I needed to be complete.

“After that, I moved to the Czech Republic – where Happease was born in 2018.

How it started

“I launched the first pod at Prague’s Cannafest, but it was totally unsuitable.

“To be honest, I’d spent a lot of time on the branding but not enough on the product.

“However, the show did give me the opportunity to show the world I exist and get the name of Happease known. It was also at this festival that I met Gabriel, my current business partner, of Simply Green in Amsterdam.  Because partner at early stage.

“We went back to the drawing board and spent six months designing and testing various products, eventually deciding on creating a CBD vape, using CCELL cartridges.

“We relaunched in Berlin in June 2019 and, just one month later, Happease was invited to the World CBD awards in Barcelona, where we won the prize for best the best vape product.

“However, the very next month, the press (in the US particularly) was full of headlines about how vaping CBD can kill, which led to a number of our investors backing out.

“But I firmly believe that ad things happen for good reasons, and so we looked at branching out into different products, before shifting our focus to oils.

How it’s going

“Now, the Happease brand comprises vapes, oils and extracts, with formulas heavily influenced by all the places I’ve visited on my CBD journey.

Happease now has a range of CBD vape products.

“I’m so proud every day of what we have created, and every day is a fresh reminder of our success, whether that’s looking at our facilities or closing a new deal – as well as the Happease brand, we also make white label products for other companies. 

“I do think there are still a lot of battles ahead for the CBD industry, but we’re making headway. We’ve brought the public onside, and they’re now starting to understand the benefits of CBD for health and wellbeing.

“The plant has potential to heal the planet from many things, and I’d love to see the medical community starting to look at more natural alternatives, as opposed to relying so heavily on prescription medication. 

“CBD is only a small part of what I want Happease to be; I’m looking to bring in a lot of ayurvedic plants, to bring back this ancient knowledge that can really be efficient for so many elements of modern life.

Plans for the future

“That’s why we’re keen to establish Happease all over Europe, through the website and through creating social media accounts in each language. 

‘The novel food regulations will also open a lot of possibilities; we’re currently working on formulas for drinks to offer a mix of mood-enhancing combinations. 

‘This is as well as looking to launch a line of CBD+ products, adding CBD to a range of ingredients and compounds to create different effects.

‘One thing my experience has taught me is that we are here for a limited time and we need to make the most of it.

“We don’t want to make a fortune or climb to the top of the tree; our business is all about enlightening people, to show off the potential of the plant and the product.”

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