Entrepreneurs Harvesting the Cannabis Opportunity
Events, High Technology, Innovation Posted Dec 7, 2018 by Gabrielle Kondracki
Technology’s evolution holds a strong presence in today’s world. At CHEN PR, we’re constantly learning and evolving alongside with it—so we thought.
That was until we attended this week’s MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Cambridge event, “Cannabis Technology: High Possibilities.” Greeted by at-capacity seating, we found our way to the back of the Stata Center auditorium to stand among the dozen others who also were not early enough to grab seats.
As soon as moderator Vinit Nijiawan, an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and academic, introduced himself and the panelists, he immediately asked how many members in the room were entrepreneurs—just about the entire room of stadium-seated attendees raised their hands. I quickly realized the cannabis industry, like many emerging sectors, provides unlimited entrepreneurial opportunities. Shaking off the stigma often associated with cannabis, this industry certainly isn’t a one-stop shop.
Whether stemming from medical use, recreational use or anywhere in between, innovation is at the forefront. With revenues projected to reach $60 billion by 2021, many people are asking—what can I do to get involved?
It was made clear there are many different paths to explore based on comments by the impressive panel of cannabis cognoscenti:
- Simon Espinosa, CEO, En Volá Cannabis HUB / Quema
- Mara Gordon, Founder, Zelda Therapeutics, Aunt Zelda’s, The Oil Plant
- Jess Leber,D., Head of Business Development, Small Molecule APIs, Ginkgo Bioworks
- Kevin McKernan, Chief Scientific Officer, Medicinal Genomics
- Marion McNabb, Dr. PH, MPH, CEO and Co-Founder, Cannabis Community Care and Research Network
The speakers shared insight into crucial questions facing entrepreneurs trying to trailblaze the industry. From marketing cannabis to studying the medical benefits, each panelist spoke about his or her personal role within the industry.
Simon Espinosa has been working on moving the plant away from its stereotype by use of digital platforms to create a space for the public to understand and engage in the growing industry. Mara Gordon is more interested in figuring out how this plant can cure diseases, such as cancer.
Marion McNabb followed up by explaining cannabis can be used as an alternative medication to help reduce opioid epidemics and alcohol abuse.
But that’s not all.
Jess Leber brought another business opportunity into the mix by designing cannabinoid microbes for customers in the market. He was a good example of how companies don’t have to be strictly focused on cannabis, noting that this organism engineering stretches far beyond cannabis. In fact, it’s just one of the many projects on which the company is working.
Kevin McKernan is pursuing cannabis testing solutions to help growers, dispensaries, and testing laboratories to ensure patients and consumers have access to safe, quality cannabis. Doing so helps the potential of over-the-counter cannabis medication become a comfortable and trustworthy choice.
Despite the different directions each panelist was taking, all agreed with Simon when he explained, “There are unlimited opportunities in the cannabis industry. It’s uncharted territory, and because the story has yet to be told, anyone can write it.”
Mara Gordon followed up by giving sound advice about getting involved. People think they need to jump in, so they don’t miss out on the opportunity,” she said, “but you won’t miss out. It’s only growing. You need to research where the long-term businesses will be and invest in those areas. It’s not about getting in quick and getting out quick.”
Closing the event, I walked away learning a lot about the budding cannabis industry. For the entrepreneurs who attended and are looking to get involved, the future looks very promising.