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How Hemp Packaging Is Saving Our Oceans – with Ron Basak-Smith of Sana Packaging

Ron Basak Smith sana packaging

As the cannabis retail environment gets more competitive, retailers are looking for ways to stand out and make a statement.

Here to tell us more about this is Ron Basak-Smith, CEO and Co-founder of a new company known as Sana Packaging that’s providing cannabis retailers with sustainable hemp-based packaging solutions.

In this episode, Ron shares with us an inside look at Sana Packaging and how the company is working to fix the cannabis packaging problem and eliminate pollution.

Learn more at

Key Takeaways:

  • Ron’s personal background and journey in the cannabis space
  • An inside look at Sana Packaging and its mission to make cannabis more sustainable with eco-friendly packaging solutions
  • Sana Packaging’s two different packaging products, including 100% plant-based hemp plastic and reclaimed ocean plastic
  • Why packaging for cannabis retail is broken and how Sana is working to fix it
  • The cost of Sana Packaging’s sustainable products versus traditional packaging
  • Sana Packaging’s current retail clients and where Ron sees the company expanding in the years to come
  • Ron’s experience at CanopyBoulder, a seed-stage business accelerator that helped Ron start Sana Packaging
  • Ron’s insights on what the cannabis packaging landscape will look like in the next 3-5 years
Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi. I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview that insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That's C-A-N-N-A, Now here's your program.

As the cannabis retail environment becomes more competitive, retailers are looking for a way to stand out and make a statement. Here to tell us more is Ron Basak-Smith, CEO and Co-founder of Sana Packaging. Ron, welcome to "CannaInsider".

Ron: Yeah. Thanks for having me, man.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Ron: Yeah. So, I am in Denver, Denver, Colorado.

Matthew: Okay. Great. And what is Sana Packaging on a high level?

Ron: Yes. So, Sana Packaging, we design and develop sustainable cannabis packaging solutions.

Matthew: Oh, that's good. You've got your escalator pitch, boom, right down. It was very succinct.

Ron: Yeah. Yeah.

Matthew: Okay. Can you share a little bit about your background and journey, Ron, and how you got started in the cannabis business and specifically starting Sana packaging?

Ron: Yeah. Myself and the co-founder, we were really just disgruntled cannabis consumers, creating a ton of waste ourselves, and said there has to be something better that we can do for the industry from a packaging standpoint. And so, we were in grad school together, Sana Packaging started as a school project, class project, and, you know, it just blossomed from there. We continued through, once graduation. We went through CanopyBoulder accelerator, raised the rest of the summer, and then launched our first products in July of last year. And now this year we've officially left their pilot phase program and, yeah, selling product in the market.

Matthew: What school was that that actually started giving you real-world practical skills? I'm just always amazed when I hear it.

Ron: Yeah. So, James and I were in grad school getting our MBAs at CU Boulder.

Matthew: Okay, great. That's a good place to be in grad school. You might not even ever want to grow up if you go to CU Boulder.

Ron: Yeah. I was just trying to extend my not growing up. So, I said I could go back to school and hang out in Boulder for a couple of years.

Matthew: Yeah. Can you describe your two packaging products so people can get a sense of what they are?

Ron: Yeah, yeah. So, we have a pre-roll tube and a container right now. You know, we kind of looked at the industry and said, "What are big volume movers of plastic?" and, you know, obviously, there's the flower packaging and then pre-roll packaging. Just, you know, a lot of plastic there. And so, the container is kind of a multi-use box. It can be used for flower concentrates, edibles and, you know, the tube it's about 110 millimeters, so it's king-size pre-roll, smaller vape pens. And then we're actually coming out in June with a shorter tube as well, so that would be for big carts.

Matthew: Okay. So, we know what they are now, but can you give a sense of the aesthetic and the look and feel?

Ron: Yeah. Yeah. So, the two main products are made of two different materials. One of them is a hemp-based biocomposite, so it's a brown, very natural looking biocomposite, and the other one is an HDPE. It's a white, reclaimed ocean plastic. And HDPE is High-Density Polyethylene, similar to the plastic you'd find in, you know, milk jugs, laundry detergent, stuff like that. And our container, you know, from an aesthetics standpoint, it's, if you imagine like a Tupperware container, very similar to shape like that. And so, the idea there is that they nest inside of each other taking up a lot less space from a shipping and storage standpoint.

Matthew: Okay. So, they're eco-friendly but they also have the eco-friendly aesthetic as well. So, it's one of those things you pick up and you're like, "Hey, I know this is doing something better than the traditional trash that I have."

Ron: Yeah. You know, there's always that balance between something, you know, having a natural look and going too far in the natural direction where people are like, "Oh, you know, it kind of stands out too much," and then something looking very non-organic or, you know, like a synthetic. And so that is very much, you know, that finding that balance with our materials so, you know, someone will notice, "Hey, this looks different but it also, you know, it looks and feels like a traditional plastic as well." So, yeah, it's very, very important to us to have that balance.

Matthew: Well, kind of walk through the problem with the traditional packaging and why that is such a problem and how much waste it creates and where you see the inefficiency.

Ron: Yeah. You know, from a very high level, we're using a non-renewable resource to make our single-use plastics. And so, I think that just from a starting point is something we need to figure out as a society, right? Like, we just cannot continue to just extract fossil fuels to make plastics. We must find other ways. And so, that's really where we come in with a single-use solution and then, a plant-based single-use solution. And then the, you know, the reclaimed ocean plastic, you know, the biggest thing that we feel we can do as a company is help drive the wastes industry. And so that may be the reclaimed materials, recycled materials, you know, showing that there's an end consumer willing to pay the price that it costs to collect, clean, and sort of this stuff.

Matthew: So, let's talk more about materials. How do you go about sourcing and finding manufacturers to help with this, because this is, kind of, it's not a mainstream product yet? So, how do you go about that?

Ron: Yeah. So, for the hemp-based stuff, I have built a relationship with a compounder and, basically, you know, for the past two and a half years, you know, when I was in school, just called them and said, "Hey, I want to make cannabis packaging." And, you know, from that point on, they were making a compound with, I think, it had about 10% hemp. And I was like, "Hey, I want to like do... Let's see how much hemp we can get in there." We are now up to about 30% hemp. And so, all of our hemp is domestically sourced, then compounded and then we manufacture it, two manufacturing locations in Minnesota and Arizona. And, you know, once again, with these folks, I just, you know, reached out to several different manufacturers and said, "Hey, this is what I want to do. I'm not sure if you have the ability to do that or you're even comfortable with it, but, you know, it's going to be a thing in the future and if you want to get ahead of the curve, you can work with me." And so that's really how we started those relationships.

Matthew: And how about the reclaimed ocean plastic? Who goes out and retrieves that? How does that work?

Ron: Yeah. So the reclaimed ocean plastic, it's kind of interesting how we have we got in contact with those folks. Oddly enough, the summer before going into grad school, I read a book called "Cradle to Cradle".

Matthew: Yes. Great book.

Ron: Yeah, amazing book, Bill McDonough. And that, kind of, like set the framework in my mind for, you know, sustainable packaging and where we need to go with that. And I, kind of, had that, you know, just rattling around in my head all, first year at school and, you know, it was like, "Okay, sustainable packaging." And so, it was kind of strange when someone, a colleague from, you know, a previous conference, we were talking and he's like, "Yeah, I know someone who he's worked with Bill McDonough, they're doing some ocean plastic stuff. You might be interested in talking with them." And I said, "Yes, please, you know, please connect me." We got connected and, you know, I started saying what we were doing, learn what they were doing with reclaiming ocean plastic and creating a certified marketplace for it. And so, the company that's doing this is Ocean Works and they, you know, we basically said, "Hey, we want to try to do this with cannabis packaging," and they seemed excited about it. And so, we started going down that path, you know, by first seeing if the material will work in our preexisting molds and then, you know, Child-Resistant Certification and all that fun stuff. And so now we're, yeah, we're really excited about what the future holds for reclaimed ocean plastics in the cannabis space.

Matthew: You know, it's so funny that you mentioned that book. I read that about 10 years ago. The book itself is made out of a recyclable plastic that actually has a good tactile feel to it. It doesn't feel like something you don't want to touch. It feels like you do want to touch it. And he says you could drop the book in like steaming water and then turn it into something else if you needed to.

Ron: Yep. Yep.

Matthew: And I gotta say, that dude, Bill McDonough, he has just changed the way I think about things in terms of when there's a problem now he's like, "Let's just redefine that there's a design problem. There's a design problem. This needs to be redesigned." And he's just got almost just a...he's just got such a different way of looking at things that's so inspiring, that is just contagious.

Ron: Yeah. I mean, you nailed it there with, you know, kind of, with design problems, right? Like, when I looked at the weight system, I was like, "Well, this system is currently broken, right?" Like, let's not keep designing things for a broken system. Let's, you know, design things for a new way. And I always kind of have that mindset when looking at problems is critical. And so, yeah, very, very influential in my world and I know he's influenced a ton of people in thinking about how to develop products. And, you know, I think it's something I really hope we see continued through product development because that's, you know, really one of the biggest problems out there is with materials. are they designed to be repurposed and reused and easily repurposed and reused, and is it communicating, you know, to the consumer that they need to be repurposed and reused, you know, kind of all those things. And so, yeah, just bringing out that messaging with our products and always thinking that way is integral to Sana.

Matthew: It would probably be cheaper if these were made abroad but you chose domestic manufacturers. Is that because it's more consistent with your value system or is there another reason?

Ron: Yeah, yeah, totally. You know, we look at sustainability from a pretty holistic approach. You know, it's not just the materials used, where the materials come from, where they're being manufactured, who's manufacturing, you know. All those things really come into play. And, you know, also how far things are traveling, big, big impact on sustainability there. And so, what we want to do is we want to make materials in places and then people be responsible for those materials in those places. And so, I think that kind of circles back to, you know, the "Cradle to Cradle" idea. People, they know where things are coming from, they know where they should go, and they know that it's not just being shipped off somewhere to be someone else's responsibility. You know, we all become more engaged with that product. And so, it's important to us at Sana to manufacture where our products are being sold, and then also from a, you know, sustainability standpoint with biomass, we really want to do that all domestically for just...that's going to be the big hurdle for biomass and there's no reason to be shipping that material across oceans.

Matthew: And how many clients do you have now, and where are they located geographically?

Ron: Yeah, so we just did a customer count I think last week. We're just right around 65, I think. And, you know, we have a pretty broad geographic spread. That's been one of the, you know, most interesting things for us, just kind of seeing where people are looking for sustainable packaging and it seems to be all over the country people are interested in it. And so, yeah, California, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, all over. Really excited about that.

Matthew: Okay. Yeah. And where do you think this is going in the next three to five years with packaging? It seems like it's making leaps and evolving, but where do you see it going?

Ron: Yeah. I mean, we hope that it all moves towards sustainable packaging. You know, that's what our goal is as a company, we want to move the industry to normalize sustainable packaging and be that first industry that really grabs the bull by the, by its horns and says, "This is how we're going to do things." And so, you know, I hope that we keep seeing major shifts towards more sustainable packaging and I think we're also, you will see, you know, the way things are being done now, I think, are going to change as the industry matures and evolves. And so, that will be really interesting to watch, you know, as we move from just within state commerce to interstate commerce and start seeing what happens there as well when we start shipping products long distances and longer, you know, packaging kinds and all, and all that stuff. So, it'll be quite interesting.

Matthew: Yeah. I feel like Apple really changed the game with packaging because they, you know, created that religious experience when you get your iPhone and you open up for the first time, and now people are looking to packaging more than just as a simple container but something to create a response. And I know there's some company, I can't remember the name of it, that measures the emotional reaction of people with products, like the sound a FedEx delivery box makes when you put like an envelope in and close it. Like, is that a reassuring sound? How does it make you feel viscerally? Same as when you close the door of a BMW, like that thunk, like thunk, that feels like it feels very sure and it's like a confidence feeling compared to, say, some other brand of, you know, non-luxury car. And they like study that emotional response, and I feel like there's room for that in the packaging space. I mean, there's a visual response and then the tactile response. Does it reinforce it, and what is it saying as you touch it? You know, what's this product? Is this a premium product? You know, it's heavier or, you know, and what does that make me feel? Like, I should be paying more for this or that it's lighter and it's more eco-friendly then. Like, there's all these trade-offs mentally that go on without us really thinking about it.

Ron: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is the beauty of packaging, right? The way that consumers interact with it and then why it's designed that way. And I think that's, kind of, the big hurdle for sustainable packaging, right, is messaging in a way that says, "You know, "Hey, this product is still of really great quality, even though it might not have a shiny emboss on it," right? That then changes the recyclability of it or, you know, it has a plastic film layer. All the things that we do to packaging that make it so it's difficult to recycle and repurpose, you know, adding two different material types because it looks good, but then, you know, changing the ability to recycle it or adding colors that are not valuable to recycle. You know, there's just so many different things that we're doing, and that's really what we at Sana want to get across, is a narrative around sustainable packaging, really what that means, what we need to, what sacrifices we might need to make from a visual standpoint to get to the point of, you know, this is a single-use package. And what is single-use packaging, meaning, what value do we put on that from an environmental standpoint and from a consumer standpoint?

Matthew: Now you're an alumni of CanopyBoulder Cannabis Accelerator, where I'm a mentor. Can you talk a little bit about your experience there and what it was like?

Ron: Yeah, yeah. CanopyBoulder, integral part to Sana's story. You know, as James and I were in grad school, they were the first people...yeah, basically, the first people in the industry we were reaching out to to see, you know, "Hey, what do you guys think about sustainable packaging? And, you know, is that a viable thing?" And, you know, we had some great conversations with them. And then, you know, as we were looking at our options with Sana, we said, "You know, we're going to need some money to make this thing happen." And so, we applied to CanopyBoulder. We were accepted and, you know, much beyond the initial seed funding that we got, we got a place to work and commit our time and energy to Sana as we were finishing up school. And so, it's just a great space to really focus on this and have the community around us to really help get this thing going. And so, yeah, thanks. We always want to say thanks to Canopy for everything they've done for us.

Matthew: And where are you in terms of raising capital now?

Ron: Yeah. So, I think to date we've raised around 700...just over $700,000. We just completed a smaller bridge round. And, yeah, now we are gearing up for a larger round called a series A, next couple of months here. Ready to scale this business, increase our product line, and sell more packaging.

Matthew: Yeah. As you've gone through this whole process of being a startup and a co-founder or entrepreneur, has there been anything that's surprised you or any setbacks that you just, weren't expecting on a left field and you just feel like, "Man, I can see why not everybody does this," and how did you surmount that?

Ron: Yeah. Well, you know, first and foremost, this is's a passion of mine, so that keeps it engaging, keeps it fun, you know, just the idea of trying to solve a major global problem and, at least, bring some solutions to it, what keeps me up in, you know, it keeps me up at night, gets me up in the morning, all that. You know, obviously, the entrepreneurial journey has its ups and downs, its uncertainties, but that's all part of the game that we sign up for. And I think, you know, if that's what you want in life and you're good with uncertainty and you like to try to solve big problems, then this is all just, you know, the path to take. Yeah.

Matthew: Yeah. I'm not that good with uncertainty, but I just say I have 51% courage. It's like all I need is that just a little bit more than the fear.

Ron: Yeah. Yeah. I, kind of, thrive on uncertainty and like, you know, if I know it's coming up, it kind of feels weird. So, that's, you know, in entrepreneurship if you don't know what the next day brings, you're just like, "All right, we're just going to keep going, see what happens."

Matthew: So, it's this point in the interview, I like to ask a few personal development questions. You already mentioned the book "Cradle to Cradle", but is there any other book besides a "Cradle to Cradle" and "Hello Kitty" that you find meaningful for your life?

Ron: Oh, yeah. Lots of good books out there always, and find reading is one of the best ways to get distracted from the trials and tribulations in entrepreneurship. One that I really like is "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. Just really helps kind of figure out and look at why we make decisions the way we are making decisions. And I think that's kind of critically important to, kind of, understand how the inner workings of our brain works and why we do what we do and why we act the way we act.

Matthew: Yeah. So, much of it is some subconscious too.

Ron: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's all subconscious. It's built. Yeah, it's all there and you have to kind of work through why we're thinking certain ways and making certain decisions and going down the same paths or, you know, how do we find the right path and all that fun stuff. Yeah, it's a great book.

Matthew: Okay. What is the most interesting thing going on in the cannabis packaging industry?

Ron: Yeah. The industry right now, things that are fascinating me is, kind of, consumers' trends and understanding of the product and how quickly that's evolving. You know, as we went from an illegal industry, you know, so-called underground in many ways, just watching how people are talking about cannabis, the new products that are coming out, it's all very fascinating to me. You know, coming from, you know, someone who started consuming cannabis in high school and just, kind of, seeing, you know, how it was, you know, what our choices were and all of that, and now seeing where we are today and just, kind of, thinking about, you know, where we'll be in 5 years, 10 years is fascinating to me.

Matthew: You know, since you went through the CU Boulder MBA program, I have to ask, is there any class where you felt like, "Wow, I really use what I learned in this class a lot in my real life." Because, you know, most of college it's just, I don't feel like I use calculus ever and I took two calculus classes. So, I'm always really curious if there's something you feel like, "Hey, this was actually super valuable and I still use it."

Ron: Yeah. Yeah. Almost every single day in Sana, I am eternally grateful that I randomly took one class at CU Boulder that you are going to... If you plan on starting a business and doing entrepreneurship and you happen to be at CU Boulder, I would highly recommend taking VC law. And it is not a class that is in the business school, it is in the law school, but it's taught by Brad Bernthal and Jason Mendelson. And it is an incredibly important class to take if you are going to do any fundraising or, you know, just want to, you know. The VC world is a's complicated. It's a world that you're just, you're not exposed to in your everyday life. And so, finding that information and understanding the terms and what's going on and why things are written a certain way and all the decisions that you have to make as an entrepreneur. Yeah. That class was integral to everything going on and, yeah, just grateful that that existed.

Matthew: Yeah. Talk about intensely practical. That's really practical for what you're doing.

Ron: Yeah. I mean, it was crazy too. It was coinciding as we were going through CanopyBoulder, and it was just like an eye-opening experience and, yeah, I don't know if we would have been as successful as we've been today without that class.

Matthew: That's great.

Ron: Yeah.

Matthew: Ron, as we close, what is the best way for cannabis retailers, brands, and even the accredited investors to reach out to you and to find out more about what you're doing?

Ron: Yeah. So, you know, reach directly out to me or James. My email is and James' is We would love to talk to you. You could also just give me a call on my cell phone. If you want, I can give you that number. It's (203) 520-9607. Yeah, we'd just love to talk and answer any questions. You know, we are, first and foremost, always trying to educate people on the world of sustainability and sustainable packaging, so any questions are, or please come my way. Yeah.

Matthew: Are you okay if people just text you emojis with no questions or words too? Is that cool?

Ron: Yeah, you know, emojis are cool. I might not respond with much other than an emoji, completely random, but we can try, see what we can get across.

Matthew: Well, Ron, thanks so much for coming on the show and educating us about packaging. It's a really interesting field, and I feel like cannabis customers are more open to alternative packaging, so it's going to evolve and iterate and move in fun new directions fast. So, thanks for the update.

Ron: Yeah. No, thank you. Really excited to be on here and, yeah, just thanks for having me.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guest to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on "CannaInsider"? Simply send us an email at We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from "CannaInsider" or it's guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers, or companies featured in "CannaInsider". Lastly, the host or guests on "CannaInsider" may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle, jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening, and look for another "CannaInsider" episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

This Groundbreaking Biotech Technology Is Revolutionizing Cannabis And Beyond – with Cameron Keluche of KelSie Biotech and SUM Microdose

cameron keluchie kelsie biotech

Incredible biotech developments are starting to bring new and exciting products to the cannabis market that would have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago.

Here to tell us about it is Cameron Keluche, founder and CEO of sublingual cannabis tablet company SUM Microdose and president and CEO of KelSie Biotech, an innovation and intellectual property holding company in Boulder, CO.

In this episode, Cameron shares with us a breakdown of KelSie’s “Bubble Drying” technology and how it’s quickly revolutionizing both the pharmaceutical and cannabis industries.

Learn more at and

Key Takeaways:

  • Cameron Keluche’s personal background and journey in the cannabis space
  • An inside look at KelSie Biotech and SUM Microdose and their mission to bring cannabis into the pharmaceutical market
  • How KelSie Biotech is applying Bubble Drying – the same technology used to create a dry measles vaccine – to formulate the world’s most stable cannabis powder
  • Ways in which KelSie Biotech’s dry cannabis powder can be used as an inhalant for optimal bioavailability
  • An explanation of “excipients” and how they help the body pull in cannabinoids more effectively than oil constituents
  • Ways in which inhalants are superior to other cannabis delivery methods
  • How SUM Microdose uses KelSie Biotech’s Bubble Drying technology to create sublingual cannabis tablets designed for different purposes including mood and sleep
  • Ways in which KelSie and SUM are bridging the gap between the pharmaceutical biotech and cannabis spaces and Cameron’s goals for the years ahead

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, I look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That's C-A-N-N-A Now, here's your program.

Today, we're going to talk with Cameron Keluche, about the biotech advances in cannabis. Three things you'll learn in this interview is one, why vaping as it stands today may be replaced by a better biotech solution. Two, why it pays to play the long game when conceiving your cannabis company. And three, how intellectual properties becoming a larger part of many cannabis related businesses. I hope you enjoy this interview.

Incredible biotech developments are happening in cannabis that promise to bring new and exciting products to market that would have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago. Here to tell us about it is Cameron Keluche of KelSie Biotech, and Sum Microdose. Cameron, welcome to Canna Insider.

Cameron: Thank you, Matthew. Thank you for having me this morning.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Cameron: I'm in Denver, Colorado and about to head up to our labs in Boulder.

Matthew: Okay. And tell us a bit about KelSie. What is KelSie at a high level?

Cameron: So KelSie Biotech is actually an innovation and IP holding company that is not plant touching. We effectively continue to progress on a lot of work that was preceded essentially the creation of KelSie and different pharmaceutical arenas and have decided to apply that technology in a licensing model in the cannabis arena.

Matthew: Okay. Can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you came to get involved in the cannabis space and specifically in KelSie Biotech?

Cameron: Absolutely. So I have my undergraduate from the University of Denver here in Denver, Colorado, in cognitive neuroscience, and I specifically focused on psychopharmacology. So that's basically the interface of let's say drugs and the underlaying biological components of the brain. So I kind of always had an interest essentially in this side of things, but then shortly thereafter, I was whisked away to North Dakota during the oil buck and boom, assisted one of the Native American tribes up there with building a management information system to help monitor the production of oil. So tracking on highly-priced, highly-regulated commodity.

So when the downturn essentially occurred up there with the oil market, we decided to try and bring that platform back here to Colorado and exchange, let's say barrels of oil for essentially pounds of marijuana. The award had already been given to Friendwell for metric. So we kind of decided to pivot at that point in time to really do at data analytics on the back end, and kind of trying to work with them as to help with a lot of, let's say, machine learning in that capacity. So I kind of have a software background in that facet, and then slowly, actually was introduced to Dr. Robert Sievers, who is on faculty at university Colorado Boulder who was doing some research on just the industrial hemp side.

Since we are in Colorado, he was able to do some hands on research there, but was also interested in looking at hands off components. And the remainder of the cannabis plant almost in a longitudinal study fashion. So we started trying to look at how could we could actually empower, help them with tools so they could get a little bit better data analytics on what they were actually observing from different people that were trying to participate as they could not actually prescribe, or in fact, essentially dictate any sort of usage regiment. And then through that, and through discussions with Dr. Sievers learned of essentially a technology that he had developed previously that we thought would be a great addition to the cannabis industry, really got into some discussions decided to team up with him and his daughter, Christy Spencer Sievers, who is the vice president of KelSie Biotech, and that's actually where KelSie was kind of conceived. So KelSie is K-E-L, the last person three letters of my last name is S-I-E. So KelSie, so Keluche Sievers, is how that came into existence, and we really kind of almost merged two kind of entities into a new one, to specifically address this new exciting field of cannabis research.

Matthew: Okay. So you initially were funded or had some funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a dry measles vaccine. Can you talk a little bit about that, and where do you see possible applications there for cannabis as well?

Cameron: Absolutely. So as I kind of mentioned, Dr. Sievers had some pre-existing technology, which was, as you just mentioned, it was a $20 million five-year-grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that was through FNIH, so Foundations for National Institute of Health. And they did everything from preclinical all through clinical trials actually in India, 60, I believe, adult male participants for safety and everything like that plus pass with flying colors, no adverse reactions. But what we decided to do is very similar to the vaccine, so I just want to be...sorry, just to clarify real quick, so that grant was actually given to Dr. Sievers prior to the formation of KelSie and then that was kind of the genesis for the IP that we've carried forward and continue to innovate upon.

And so in that same facet, the interesting thing, when you actually look at taking, let's say something like a vaccination, we have to have a live attenuated vaccine, you have a very delicate what's called an API, so Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient. It's very similar to that in cannabis, where you don't wanna have high temperatures to essentially degrade or change that form factor. So what we effectively did was we both have patents pending, patents that have been issued and a number of different gimmicks, an IP, R&D innovation component surrounding to protect that technology and actually the delivery of cannabinoids and let's say the formation of cannabinoids through that process.

Matthew: Okay, so let's just break this down a little bit. So the measles vaccine is kind of like a dry powder that you could inhale, that's easier in third world countries where there may be refrigeration challenges and other challenges and it's more stable. And now, you're looking at ways where you can transfer that kind of inhalant powder and other form factors into the cannabis world. Is that right?

Cameron: That is absolutely correct. Yeah. So as far as stabilizing anything, it's actually much more stable essentially in a dry component and so you're absolutely correct. So what we really were looking at doing is taking cannabis just as another active pharmaceutical ingredient and cannabinoids, sorry, actually breaking out of its core constituents and then rebuilding and then actually stabilizing those is really where we started our let's say cannabis journey.

Matthew: Okay. And one of the words I hear thrown around a little bit is excipients. Can you just tell us what that is before we go forward in case you use that word so much so people know what it means.

Cameron: Absolutely because without fail well, so it's actually it's an inactive substance that's actually either like a services like either let's say a vehicle bulking agent, medium of some kind, to actually help with the transport and delivery of the active. So think of it as kind of the inactive components of what you're actually taking in. For instance, like let's say with Advil, it's not all Advil, there's a lot of different things in there that actually helping get that actually into your system.

Matthew: Okay. And talk about how particle can be small enough to bypass the lungs coughing reflex and why that's important in terms of cannabis delivery.

Cameron: Absolutely. So it's kind of like threading a needle when you're trying to do deep lung inhalation. That's usually about a three to five micron range. So I mean, everybody's always heard it, but it's a nanoencapsulation, nanoparticles especially it's been a big buzzword in the cannabis industry recently, which is actually not ideal for deep lung delivery just because they are too small and they seem to a glom rate and don't actually get delivered to the target site. So one of the things that we're able to do very specifically is actually formulate and essentially processed through our proprietary equipment, different targeted ranges, be it at the nano level through different micron ranges, specifically with response to cannabinoids, keeping them the three to five micron range and having certain, and here's another term for you, particle morphology.

So that's basically the aerodynamics of the particle to be able to actually get into the lung to help...the body actually is pulling that in rather than combating because as effectively as you know what to do, let's say, the lungs are not designed to absorb oil. So we try and use again, excipients that the body is more welcoming to then an oil constituent to actually pull in the cannabinoids rather than having some sort of like a combative element on the lung surface.

Matthew: Interesting. And it really is a lot of potential because everybody thinks to the gag reflex, but if it's so small that there is no kind of gag reflex when you're inhaling then it really opens up a lot of different windows here. I mean, I'm even thinking like you could spray
Vitamin D for people that can't seem to get it any other way, or they could get it to their body perhaps that way or there's tons of different ideas that come to mind when you think about being able to get a desired outcome through inhaling.

Cameron: There absolutely is. And that's one thing that we continue to, again, from KelSie Biotech standpoint, we continue to get different RPs either from the Department of Defense, different various things to look at a different delivery mechanisms for other actives. But we've really decided to kind of keep our heads down focused on cannabis during this window. But again, you're absolutely right, the technology is very broad and applicable in multiple different fields abuse.

Matthew: So we talked a little bit why inhalants are superior, they're more stable, they don't need refrigeration. Is there any other ways you consider them superior to other adult delivery mechanisms?

Cameron: Yeah, absolutely. Well, the interesting thing is actually, so just real quick, just because I use the term bubble drying is kind of what we call our specific technology. We're actually able to take so for instance, let's say we're trying to administer CBD to the lungs, and you were to grind it up really, really fine and say, Oh, I have a great fine white powder that looks very similar to KelSie's, you still as CBD being a crystalline structure, you've now just created smaller crystals. So through our process, which again, obviously, you don't really want to inhale a bunch of crystals into your lungs. So through our process, what we actually do is gain through the excipients, formulation, everything of that nature, we're actually able to take CBD without changing its chemical structures and actually make renderer at a more surface so that it is no longer a crystal and so it's actually more welcoming and less damaging to some of these delivery surfaces.

So like I said, there's other kind of...people say the devil's in the details, it's really I'd say the magic is in the details with a lot of the stuff that we're kind of actually trying to explore with because, you know, with the broad let's say ranging effects either be subjective or empirical that have come to light around the cannabis use in different kind of capacities. Be it through, you know, tinctures vaping anything of that nature, we're really just trying to keep our minds very open and trying to make sure that we have flexible, applicable technology to try and assist in trying to maybe take these to a more pharmaceuticals knock on wood level when that actually becomes a more, more efficacious way to deliver.

Matthew: Okay. And so, I mean, people are really into vaping. Like it's really been a product market fit and taken off in a massive way. What's kind of the pathway where people would start to transition to more like inhalants that are less damaging in your view? What's kind of the first step in doing that?

Cameron: Right, right. And so it's really got to kind of be more towards a tailored formulation model. We're not trying to replace vaping or anything like that, because of course, people will always, you know, have their, let's say, strain or essentially formulation that they like on that side, that's more of just a, let's say it's more of a recreational kind of component, even if it is being used for medical use. Really what we're focusing as essentially as tailored specific formulations for delivery. Again, with the bubble drying technology, we're able to keep the acidic form. So THCAs, we actually can still introduce that because generally with combustion, obviously that's the reason you're actually combusting the substance is you want it to turn to the THC to get that kind of psychotropic or let's, before we a feeling that's associated.

But we're actually able to keep a lot of those acidic forms in there as well as not degrade through formulation. So we're able to kind of go back and build from scratch tailored formulations as it becomes more pharmaceutical. So sorry to circle back to answer your question. It's really going to be as we see more evidence coming forth for different specific, let's say formulations for specific conditions, or ailments, or anything like that, that's really where we're kind of staying waiting in the wings to really watch that landscape and figure out how we can actually apply it been even third party formulations through our delivery technology and kind of really partner in that capacity. We're not trying to invent the wheel on the formulation front to try and beat the large pharmaceutical race. We're really more of a delivery platform more so than anything else.

Matthew: Okay, so that's kind of the PCC in the value chain for KelSie. You're taking pharmaceutical ingredients, but also techniques with ingredients, you're stabilizing them, making them more bioavailable, and kind of helping other companies and consumers get kind of the benefit that pharmaceutical customers get in the cannabis space.

Cameron: Correct. Yep, that is the ultimate goal. Again, right now, we're obviously very careful to make sure we're not making any claims or anything of that nature, but are trying to make sure that we're staying true to our kind of core values, for instance, everything that we use, I'll get on that excipients list on the FDAs, you know, grass list which is generally recognized as safe we are still trying to essentially stay as close to our core roots really in that science foundation, while participating in this very exciting new market.

Matthew: Is dosing more precise with inhalants versus liquids? And if so why and how?

Cameron: It generally is. So this has nothing with respect to specifically to cannabinoids, but the surface of your lungs about the size of I believe half of a tennis court. So as far as what actually is, you know, it's exposed to the outside world that is by far the largest surface. When you're able to actually deliver something to the deep lung, it has a very close absorption rate to almost intravenous application. So IV injection, so we'll put it this way, as like if you know let's say the doses that you're administering at know what the uptake is you're able to actually use a substantially less dose and still get the same blood quantum or the same quantity into the blood. But you're also able to like narrow that window of essentially variability that you may have with tinctures that obviously go through the digestive tract, everything like that and then it goes through called first pass degradation. So they go through the liver, and you're not only getting like a metabolite of the cannabinoid, another cannabinoid itself into your system. So there's a lot of variability that essentially guesswork that's kind of taken out by able to get that direct administration into the bloodstream.

Matthew: Okay, that makes sense. Now, let's turn to what you're doing with SUM. Can you give us a high level overview of what that is and why you started it?

Cameron: Absolutely. So SUM actually is an acronym for superior uptake microdose. So again, as I was just kind of mentioning, being able to actually deliver a less quantity but still get some, let's say, the benefits of it. What we specifically did as we actually have the patents around taking our same bubble dried technology that we would normally use for the inhalants and then putting that into a compressed sublingual wafer. So really what we've done there is we've taken, let's say, the benefits of the lung delivery but taken out the guesswork and everything and let's add the complexity of educating somebody on actually dry powder inhalation.

So the SUM product line effectively is a bunch of microdose tablets so rather than let's say putting 10 in a pack, we put 40 in a pack you still have like for the majority of our products you still get you know hundred let's say milligrams of THC per, so it is a THC containing product so it's just available currently here in Colorado, but we're quickly expanding our footprint. With the SUM specifically, what we've done is instead of the excipients being designed to help targeted at helping the lungs absorb, we've actually helped them with mukul adhesion. So when it's under the tongue, it actually helps hold the cannabinoids in place so that you can actually absorb them through that rich capillary bed that's under your tongue to also essentially get that into your bloodstream before it goes through any sort of first pass degradation through this, you know, stomach, liver, everything of that nature.

Matthew: Okay, that makes sense. And you have different versions of SUM like focus, calm, sleep, how do you make a specific mood or motion like this, how does that work?

Cameron: That's a great question. So what we actually did is went back and reviewed a large body of research to kind of try and look at what the balance are both let's say just the physiological response of low doses of THC, low doses of CBD. And then we actually went in and did some very fairly large sample audiences before we landed on these formulations as you know, we can't make any structure function claims or anything or essentially any claims really of that matter about these, but it's kind of guiding at least the let's say the even that the novice into trying to identify which of these modes that they would actually kind of aligned with better for their for their use. Really what we decided to go with was almost attacking the market if you will, from very good say almost needs based and then formulating for those need base for the initial four skews, the one that we don't I think have on here is energy instead of sleep. So sleep is out actually been brought to market yet it will be CB in containing, it will be out here fairly shortly. We're still doing final formulation on that. But with the first four, so that would be was that energy, focus, calm, and relief, we're really targeting different kind of user group experiences that people were actually striving for and then formulated for those. It was almost a reverse engineering and then we went back and looked at the literature to help support the final formulation.

Matthew: Now, what's going on in the KelSie office? Are people experimenting with these for firsthand use?

Cameron: Not in the office. But yeah, so we actually do have some focus groups and everything like that, that our CRO, then actually conducts, that we actually go back and redo reformulation, looking at number of different age groups, again, demographics, everything like that. He also has a degree in cognitive neuroscience, split the differences in statistics. So we actually are able to throw some pretty sophisticated statistical models that are looking at how we break down a lot of these different elements and then also use that information to kind of garner what our next ground of essentially, let's say improvements on our existing formulations as well as new product development. So he kind of steers that ship.

Matthew: Okay. And to talk about water solubility a little bit, I mean, that seems to be a big market if we can figure that out and how it works and how to develop products there with cannabinoids. Can you talk about that a little bit with SUMs?

Cameron: Absolutely. So water solubility is also a tricky thing that I think the term keeps getting misused quite regularly in the cannabis industry is everybody says they have a water soluble as they're near water soluble, but to date, we've not found a true water soluble element just because you have...just because cannabinoids in general are so what's called lipophilics, they wanna stay on oil solution, but that makes them hydrophobic, so they're scared of water effectively. A lot of people using emulsifiers and different things to keep them in suspension, or even in a true solution. But the water soluble thing is gonna be an interesting thing to try and crack.

The way that we've try to essentially address that with respect to the SUM product line is, again, through the excipients keep the cannabinoids spread out so that they don't clump together because they do like to clump back together. Keep them spread out, but then also I said like adhere them to the membrane so they actually have enough time to actually cross the barrier into the bloodstream. So we do everything we can from essentially a particle size and morphology, we then couple that again with the formulation from the excipients side to make sure that we're able to optimize the delivery for whatever the target site is. And in the case of SUM, that would be sublingual with the inhalants eventually that obviously the lungs which different formulations, but the principle is effectively the same is to use the lowest amount and get the highest yield enter the bloodstream.

Matthew: Okay. And tell us a little bit about KelSie and SUM. Where are you in the fundraising process?

Cameron: So SUM is a registered or is the trademarking process right now. It's wholly owned by KelSie Biotech. So it's very important for us to be able to with the, let's say, unique nature of microdosing and the unique nature of what we're really bringing to it to be able to control the messaging and the educational component. So what we elected to do at KelSie as part of kind of our licensing model was to also develop a product line that was a full kind of turnkey solution where we would actually supply the marketing material and the educational component be it for the bar tender, the purchasing manager everything all the way through. So we're able to keep that kind of cohesive experience if a consumer was to purchase here, you know, purchase here legally in Colorado and then one of our licenses, let's say in California, we're able to go purchase there and it's the exact same product. So we've done a lot from essentially a homogenization standpoint to make sure that those products would be identical.

Now, with respect to essentially where we are in the fundraising process is into KelSie Biotech right now, we are actually anticipating closing our series A round by the end of the month. We have some very strong players in the industry that have kind of stepped forward that we're working with that I unfortunately can't name right now. But that is we're effectively closing that series A round here, you know, hopefully in the next week or so.

Matthew: Okay. Well, you've got a lot of interesting stuff going on here, Cameron. This is really at the front edge of biotech pharmaceutical and cannabis, what kind of gets you most excited about this space?

Cameron: I think really the exactly what you just mentioned is one thing that we're definitely turning our majority of actually of our attention to now that we've kind of cleaned up and strengthened our patent suite is really exploring minor cannabinoids. So really starting to look at minor cannabinoids in different quantities that, you know, everybody's kind of heard about the, you know, they've been kind of let's say, you know, whispered about in different various threads be it from [inaudible [00:22:48], what have you, but really to actually get that down to as much of an empirical bottle as we can with addressing those and see how they actually interact with the other cannabinoids and other quantities.

So it's really going to be a true science push kind of on our side to make sure that we have a, again, a good strong library of information to draw from because we kind of, as you mentioned, really at the forefront, we've gotten about as far as, let's say, other peer reviewed articles, be it from Israel, Europe, you know, because they've been leading the charge there. We've kind of gotten to the edge of what we're able to glean from others, and so now we've really decided to internalize and really attack this miners market and minor cannabinoids. You know, more and more internally, they're relying on external, either validation or advocacy from other people's peer reviewed work.

Matthew: Okay. Cameron, I'd like to ask a few personal development questions to help the audience kind of get a better sense of who you are as a person, perhaps outside of work. Is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Cameron: It's actually super interesting you should ask that. Oddly enough, as I was like growing up I was actually diagnosed with a learning disability. That kind of actually related very strongly to reading. So I actually really, let's say you kind of faked my way through a lot of school where there's a lot of, let's say, reading elements and would really kind of in through that kind of developed other compensatory mecha...or so effectively other ways to work around it either through listening very intently, everything like that. So it's actually kind of it was interesting. So I have a very good short term memory, which I can directly probably a credit to that. But as far as I would say, a definite book, I would say that would actually is very difficult, again, because like I said, it was just really more actually an amalgamation. Being Native American, I was always having an oral culture. I was always around a large...through my father and through essentially a lot of our family connections. It was really more, again, almost like it's like a fable and oral storytelling element that kind of, I'd say really had the largest impact on my life. So it was kind of I guess, antiquated in that sense, but was I think gave me an interesting lens, an interesting tool set to kind of approach the world with.

Matthew: Okay, any other interesting kind of contrast from Native American life to, you know, non-native American life that you'd like to share?

Cameron: It's really been that holistic healing element, I would have to say that. So again, just kind of some background. So my mother actually has her PhD in mythology in depth psychology. So we also have it from that side. She's not native, but definitely has done mountains of work effectively in that arena. And so it was kind of an interesting, I'd say, dichotomy being able to run around in this kind of, it's Anglo society where it's very Western medicine, growing again, with the cognitive neuroscience, looking at brain biology, looking at interactions of specific chemicals, but then also having that kind of holistic healing element here from my youth or from, you know, just family interactions. So I think it's really helped when cannabis essentially came up, that was one of the things that we were most excited about because it really does have this whole holistic element to it, they're able to explore in this pharmaceutical lens or either vice versa, however you actually want to really think about that. But there is I think this is the first time in the United States, or either in western medicine in recent history that we've seen some sort of a marriage of a true holistic, you know, let's say, plants derived compounds that were actually shown to be efficacious or showing to have great effect in true Western medicine.

Matthew: Is there a tool you or your team use that you consider vital to your productivity?

Cameron: Absolutely. So come again, coming from the kind of software background model, we haven't reimposed it yet, we tried to start out with it, but there's a tool actually, that Atlassian puts out called JIRA. And so it actually is the best thing that you can use, in my opinion, for like an agile model background. So what we really do is we kind of divide the team into functional work groups so that you have, you know, people with different strengths and each group which really actually helps decentralize a lot of what we do, but also gives each group ownership of a task like from inception all the way through to completion. Which is great for a number of different reasons, actually. You know, again, let's say great pride of authorship because someone can really take it, you know, that's been their baby, literally from when it was, again, conceived all the way through to when it's actually brought to market or brought to bear under different capacity.

But it also gives us the flexibility with us, like I said, a new study comes out of Israel for let's say, Crohn's disease or something like that, we're able to take one of our teams and in an agile fashion, essentially allocate them to go explore, run that to ground, see what the core elements there are and how we can actually use those internally. So it's been an interesting, I'd say it's more of a function structure. But again, it does fall within essentially that SAS model that you would kind of see you in some sort of a software shop and in an agile environment.

Matthew: Okay, and what is one thought that you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Cameron: So that is actually a super interesting question. I'd be kind of pondering over that one. With respect to, I'd say, my vision for a lot of these different various things is, I think everybody right now is kind of off to a, it's a foot race right now trying to see how far they can get and actually playing a short game, I think in the cannabis industry specifically. Whereas we are really taking the approach of let's build up as large of a, let's say, kind of war chest and everything that of information, why we do have this kind of, let's say, gray period, where we're able to do some, let's say some things that would not be permissible in traditional pharmaceutical arenas, but it will actually help guide us directly. So my plan is essentially to get to an end goal during this before we actually reach a nationalization of legalization nationally program. It is to really address and trying to build up as much knowledge as we can during this time so that we can correctly address and be more informed when that day comes. And so actually, a lot of people are in this I think. That's probably the number one thing that I actually have some major, I say, conflict or ideological differences with people on.

Matthew: Okay. And Cameron, as we close, what's the best way for accredited investors and interested customers to find out more about what you're doing?

Cameron: So we have two separate websites and again, depends on kind of what space you're looking at kind of participating. And so the KelSie Biotech website is And so that's, again, our non-plant touching entity, the obviously very small view of any mentions of cannabis on there, but that's actually a real...that's the technology side of things. And then is the website actually for the product side of things that people are interested in and they're saying, the licensing side, that would probably be the correct thing would be to contact us on the MicroDose. If people are interested in more, let's say technological either investments or some sort of partnership to try and look at things in a more pharmaceutical light, that KelSie website would be the best contact point.

Matthew: Great. Well, Cameron, best of luck to you, you really in an exciting area here and please keep us updated. Come back and come on the show and tell us these things evolve, and there's big breakthroughs and how the products are doing.

Cameron: I'd love that opportunity, and yep, we'll definitely keep you apprised. And hopefully, a couple articles that came out in Forbes over the past months, we are continuing to gain some sort of national recognition here and so we'll definitely keep plowing forward. Thank you for this opportunity, Matt.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on Canna Insider, simply send us an email at We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from Canna Insider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertise your company's featured candidates. Lastly, the host or guests on Canna Insider may or may not invest in the companies entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another Canna Insider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

PRØHBTD Is Taking Cannabis From Black Market To Mainstream – With CEO Drake Sutton-Shearer

drake sutton shearer CEO of Prøhbted

Most entrepreneurs create a product or service before determining ways to build a customer base, but Drake Sutton-Shearer has taken a different route when he created PRØHBTD.

Each month PRØHBTD attracts over 2 million unique visitors and over 30 million video views. Drake’s new cannabis content distribution network allows him to market his own products while simultaneously bridging the gap between cannabis and mainstream culture.

In this episode, Drake shares with us how PRØHBTD’s unique business model uses entertainment to broaden the cannabis niche and create a diverse group of informed, loyal customers.

Learn more at

Key Takeaways:

  • Drake’s background in cannabis and how he came to start PRØHBTD
  • An inside look at PRØHBTD and the company’s content strategy
  • Drake’s advice on how to create informative yet digestible content that keeps people engaged and coming back for more
  • Obstacles PRØHBTD overcame to land groundbreaking partnerships with Apple TV and Amazon
  • Ways in which PRØHBTD is breaking barriers and reducing the stigma that surrounds cannabis
  • PRØHBTD’s capital-raising process and Drake’s projections for the months ahead
  • Doing business in New Zealand versus the U.S.
  • Drake’s goals for PRØHBTD and insights on the future of cannabis


Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at That's Now, here's your program.

Many entrepreneurs create a product or service and then look for a way to get traffic to land new customers. Our next guest has taken a different route, creating a content distribution network that will allow him to market his own products. I am pleased to welcome Drake Sutton-Shearer, founder and CEO of PRØHBTD, to the show. Drake, welcome to "CannaInsider."

Drake: Matt, thanks for having me.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Drake: Luckily, today I'm not on a plane. I'm in LA, so I get to be around my team and have a little personal life at the same time.

Matthew: Great. And what is PRØHBTD at a high level for people that haven't heard of it?

Drake: You know, we are a global consumer goods and content company. And we're focused on the cannabis and hemp sectors.

Matthew: Okay. And can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space and then how you came to start PRØHBTD?

Drake: Sure. You know, I had a relationship with the plant since I was very young, actually back in New Zealand. I've been in the States now for a number of years. As you can probably tell, my accent has waned. I was always very fascinated with cannabis, and I was very fascinated with North America, specifically the U.S. So, I came to the States when I was 21, I think it was. And so, with the exception of around 18 months in my life, I've spent my whole life as an entrepreneur. I've had multiple exits, a couple of misses, but essentially I build marketing and lifestyle enterprises from music to technology to products.

Matthew: And can you give us a sense of how much traffic you get on your sites for original content and kind of size of your distribution network?

Drake: Sure. Well, we have know, on the consumer side of our business for media, we have a consumer facing lifestyle website at, which is And we see north of 2 million unique visitors there each month. We also built the first cannabis video content network in the industry. So, across 17 different digital video platforms, we see about 30 million video views per month for that content.

Matthew: So, this is kind of a...little bit of an unorthodox strategy, but it's really interesting and effective. So, you create this hybrid business that allows you to create unique content distributed to your nodes in your network, and then sell your own products. Can you about that a little bit?

Drake: Yes. You know, it's a little bit in reverse of that because, you know, we created an ecosystem, right, if you will, of enterprise level capabilities to build brand and products. And some of those capabilities are a video production division and a video network that engages consumers because ultimately then, you can have a direct connection to your customer. So, by doing that, you end up building a more defensible operation because ultimately, the content is the moat around the business. Because a lot of people sell products to consumers, but when you actually have a content layer to your business, you're constantly feeding your customers information, entertainment, etc., and they're constantly engaging with it where you can learn more about what they're interested in, which continues to help you optimize your product plan.

Matthew: What would be kind of a similar business model that we could look at outside the cannabis space that you can talk about that gives an example of exactly what you're doing here? This hybrid strategy.

Drake: I would say, you know, Red Bull, Disney, Amazon are all hybrid companies that certainly have elements that are inspiring. I mean, they are very big companies. I think, you know, in today's hyperconnected and multimedia product world, the companies who will thrive are those that have, you know, a direct connection to audience and also the ability to actually build brands and experiences for those audience as well.

Matthew: Right. So, I'm thinking about Disney here, like, Disney creates their own content and then they have ABC, which is the network they get distributed on. So, like, they create "Modern Family," and then they put it on ABC and they just [inaudible 00:04:47]. It's like they're vertically integrated all the way through. And so, that's very defensible, and that's, you know, kind of high-level strategic thinking. But there's not a lot of people that...there's not a lot of brands that can go out and think that big or create something like that. So, that's pretty amazing in many ways.

Drake: You know, it's like Red Bull, right? People think Red Bull is a can of drink, a beverage that's ready to drink. Actually, Red Bull and multimedia company that just happens to sell sugar water. You know, they have an incredible media capability that reaches and engages with consumers and, you know, they have a phenomenal sponsorship division as well that does deals with action sports groups on other places. And that just continues to push the brand into communities, right? And then they bottle that and package it and sell it. So, you know, that's kind of one way of also looking at it.

Matthew: Yeah. And you've mentioned before that you don't need dispensaries. What do you mean by that?

Drake: Well, look, I think dispensaries are...and you know, some people would disagree with me, but I really do think dispensaries are short-term solution for access to cannabis. I think it's just, you know, a real estate and management fee play, you know, in the near term. I think ultimately cannabis and derivative products will all be eventually direct-to-consumer via delivery. And also in the places people are already comfortable shopping. I mean it's very, very difficult to change consumer behavior. You know, and when consumers are looking for value, they will go to places that offer them value, which are typically big box retail. When they're looking for specialty brands, they'll go to, you know, specialty retail channels. But those people typically represent a very small segment of the overall opportunity.

Matthew: I agree with you there. I mean, I don't know if dispensers will go away, but I feel, like, people, for convenience purposes, want just delivery. And at some point, we'll just have an autonomous car come, and we'll have a biometric confirmation of who we are either by our eyeball, or a fingerprint, or speech, or a combination of the three and there'll be no one in the car, and it'll be all electric. So, it's like, really cheap to operate too.

Drake: Yeah, I mean, look, you know, they're already delivering pizzas by drones. So, I think, you know...

Matthew: I think the first one was New Zealand, wasn't it?

Drake: I think... Well, I'm not sure if it was New Zealand. If so, kudos to them. But I think it's... I mean, that's just the tip of the iceberg. You know, drone delivery is pretty clunky, but I think people will figure out a very efficient and elegant way to deliver services, for sure.

Matthew: Okay. So, listeners can get a sense of kind of the kind of content you create. Can you describe maybe some of the video content you've created that's, you know, have been well received?

Drake: Sure. You know, we have, I believe, and I should know this, but we have more than 12 original series, original digital first shows, that we produce in-house and they're going in network. I mean, one of the series is...subject is on cannabis companies, kind of bleeding edge companies. It's called "Modern Grower," and it does incredibly well in North America and internationally, as does the show "Pot Pie," which is more of a millennial-focused cooking show. Right? It's a kind of fun point of view on cooking with friends. And then our culture series, which is entitled "PRØFILES," has really great engagement. And that's where we showcase artists and people in culture who are doing interesting things with their lives.

Matthew: Okay. And what do you think the largest opportunities are with brand specifically? Can you talk about that? Because, you know, you've mentioned that in the past the brands are really big and you think that's the way to go. Can you just talk about why you think brands are so important?

Drake: Yeah. I mean, look, brands resonate with consumers. People love, hate, trust, and mistrust them. A trusted and loved brand can build an empire, and a mistrusted brand can also destroy one. You know, we started in cannabis with cultivation, right? Agriculture. Not me personally, but just the industry. It starts with cultivation, right? As an agricultural business. Then it moved into packaging the product in jars and bags, and then it was some access to retail and distribution which is continuing to expand. Now, we're in this phase of packaging this incredible ingredient into branded products to introduce to people. So, if you take an example, say of another agricultural product, say like the tomato, right? You could draw a parallel and say, "Well, we're now in the Heinz Ketchup and Tostitos salsa phase," right? Where they actually package the tomato as an ingredient and brand it, and now people are buying it and putting in...using it in their lives in a different way. And so, I think branded products give the industry an opportunity to engage with consumers in their own homes and make it part of their life.

Matthew: Okay. Now, you the beginning there of your answer, you talked about trust, we trust and not trust, and that's a key thing. So, how does a brand build trust? And I mean, how long can that take? How do you do that? I mean, consistency is obviously part of it, getting in front of the consumer, getting their attention and then having something to say that resonates and speaks to them and evoke something. I mean, how do you think about this? Because there's a lot of people listening and I just wanna hear how you walk through in your mind, like, what brand means to you.

Drake: Well, I mean, you know, trust means typically that you've done something, build something that people find useful in their lives or that solves a problem for them, personal or otherwise, right? And when you do that, it's typically the brand has some kind of utility, right? That tastes good, it feels good, it helps with pain, whatever it might be. You know, it could be an airbag, right? And when you have utility, and it's a consistent experience, then you build credibility. And brands that have credibility tend to last longer in the homes and workplaces and in people's lives in general. So, a lot of people that I meet in cannabis tend to build for themselves. You know, "I want to build a brand that I would like," for example, they will say, versus looking at a customer profile or a gap in the market or whatever it might be and building for that. But if you're gonna surprise and delight people, you better build something that they can use on a regular basis, ideally, and they can fit into their life.

Matthew: Yeah. I have a friend that's a professional chef, and he says, you know, "If people are gonna get a babysitter and come out to, you know, a restaurant and have a credible experience," like, "I need to do something out of the ordinary to make sure it was worth it for them." And he talks about combining fat with, you know, crunch, and you know, spiciness, and sweetness, and all these different ways and creating this just mouth carnival for [inaudible [00:12:07]. Yeah.

Drake: Yeah. It's great. I think what know, he's got the right approach, or she has the right approach because the first thing they're thinking is of the customer. And when somebody takes the time to go somewhere and visit your establishment, there is intent to do something. And so, if you're able to deliver on a promise to them and they have a great experience, then you'll grow your business usually. So yeah, that's great that they have that, that point of view.

Matthew: So, what products are you focused on creating now and, you know, showing in your original video content that is resonating or are you working on that you can talk about?

Drake: You know, we're creating where we're building across beverage, personal care, you know, topicals, etc., and transdermals, you know. Those the kind of the areas that we're focused on. I think when you make products, it's important to make products for your customers. So, we're kind of focused on customer profiles and making sure we're building with purpose and with reason versus just for ourselves.

Matthew: Okay. And then beyond just the immediate now, what are you thinking two to three years out, what kind of products?

Drake: You know, a good question. And if I knew, then I wouldn't be able to tell you either. But I think it really depends, you know, on the customer requirements that we build for. We have an innovation group in-house, and they're creating some pretty cool things. And, you know, that takes time. You know, it takes 12, 18, 24 months to build a brand from scratch with a lot of thought and strategy and tactics. But cannabis, you know, if you take two years to build a brand and launch it, the market would have changed. So, people are building and launching brands much quicker than that, finding the way in the market, and then, you know, changing as they go. I'm not sure that's the right strategy or the wrong strategy, it's just the market we have today. So, that's kind of the hand we're dealt with.

Matthew: You know, when thinking about original content and viewers' attention spans, it seems like it's getting shorter and shorter in one way, and then longer and longer in other way. Some podcasts are 3 hours long and then, like, you know, people look at animated gifs on Twitter for 10 seconds. But, I mean, ultimately, we'll probably just end up like in the "Matrix" where you have some, like, cerebral cortex that just tells you what you need to know when you need to know it. But I mean, how do you think about creating content that is the right, you know, digestible format for people's attention spans?

Drake: You know, a great question. We have a really interesting time at the moment where we have an overabundance of content and less time to watch or indulge in it. And at the same time, we have less time. We are using that time in very unstructured ways, right? So, attention span is dropped dramatically across the board and across demographics. Anyone that has three hours to listen to a podcast sounds like a great lifestyle. Lead me to it. You know, so I think it's really all about...again, it comes back to your audience, right? Like Netflix knows their audience so well. They know exactly what to produce for them, and they continue to be successful doing that because they're hyper data-focused. So, they were intelligent in the way that they produce, I think.

You know, then you've got pure creatives who create with passion and style and dignity, and who really believe in something, and they believe in the story. And so, they find a format that works for that, whether it's a short form digital series, or an independent movie, or whatever it is. And then they go create that, and they hope that somebody somewhere decides to distribute it, and then they hope that an audience actually sees it. And so, I don't think there's any, you know, real role there because companies have different reasons for doing it, right? And as do people of PRØHBTD. I mean, we're very focused on the future, at least building premium lifestyle content and also content that integrates branded products seamlessly with a call to action because that dovetails into our overall strategy.

Matthew: Okay. And so, you've got your videos on Apple TV and Amazon. Was that a...were those partnerships difficult to cultivate given that, you know, some parties still see cannabis as forbidden? You know, it's like... Can you talk about that a little?

Drake: Yes, yes, yes, yes, it was hard. It was hard. But nothing's easy. I mean, look, we've done a lot of firsts in the industry. You know, our mission as a company is to lead cannabis from the black market to the supermarket. And in order to achieve that, you have to do a lot of things right, but to get them right, you gotta have a few wrongs. So, you know, we have partnerships with 17 different digital video platforms, including, as you mentioned, Apple, and Amazon, and Roku, and many others. And so, that's one thing for content. But we also made exclusive global deals with "Entrepreneur" magazine to introduce business leaders to the mainstream business community, right? I believe there are incredible entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and really smart people and they're in a very challenging environment. And I think that it's important that people recognize that.

So, you know, we built the top 100 cannabis leaders with "Entrepreneur" magazines. That was that. You know, we have a global deal with Advertising Week who are the events leader in what's next in the marketing, media, technology, etc. So, we go around the world with them and speak about cannabis and help to educate CMOs and business leaders. You know, we recently partnered with Licensing Expo who are the market leader in licensing for trade shows. I believe that now we're in the phase of branded products, which will last for a long time, a natural next evolution of brand as to license and expand across different categories. That's the reason we have things like Baileys Irish Cream Coffee Pods, right, that don't have alcohol, or there's many examples of upgrade licensing programs.

And I think cannabis and people that build brands that resonate with consumers will have opportunities to build brand platforms that extend beyond the cannabis products that they're selling. So, you know, we have that relationship too. So, there's a lot of things that we do to reach the mainstream into mainstream cannabis. And it's with consumers, and it's with business. So, that's kind of the way we view the world.

Matthew: Yeah. Even Coca-Cola is there like a licensing business. If you think about it, they have their distributors, then the distributors take care of the low margin piece, getting it out there and they just take...and they just deliver syrup, essentially, the high margin piece out to their network. So, a similar...different kind of network. But yeah...

Drake: It is. You know, it's funny because Craig Binkley who runs my...who runs ProWorks, which is a consumer brands division, he used to run the Minute Maid and Diet Coke business worldwide, and he was the CMO at Coca-Cola across their branded product portfolio in Mexico. And you know, he's seen a lot of that business, and he understands it very well, you know. And I think when you have people like that as well, that are in your brain trust and that are helping you to determine what next steps are in the business, it's very fortuitous.

Matthew: You've been raising capital lately. Can you talk about where you are in that process and what it's been like?

Drake: Well, raising capital is always a fun process for both investor and entrepreneur. You know, we've raised approximately 20 million, and we're just finishing up this next round. You know, we've got some of the most prolific cannabis funds and investors on that cap table. I'm feeling really good about closing the next couple of millions. So, I think after that, we should be finished with this round most likely.

Matthew: Okay. And just a quick New Zealand question, since you're a Kiwi, how do you feel doing business in New Zealand is different than the U.S.? I mean, I know you've been in the U.S. for a long time, but I'm sure you see the cultural differences and nuances.

Drake: Oh yeah. You know, Well, I love the U.S. I mean, it's been so good to me. I feel so at home here. It's a lot of the people and just the diversity. You know, like, there's... So, I think there's 4.7, 4.5? I should know, but I don't. More than 4 million people are there in New Zealand and a lot more sheep. And you know, the U.S. has 300+, 330 million people, right? So, there's plenty of differences just purely from a scale point of view. You know, the differences of the size of opportunities, difference around regulatory hurdles, you know, you look at even politically, you know, New Zealand just banned all the semi-automatic weapons, right? They had a shooting in Christchurch, which is where it was my stomping ground as a teenager. And you know, they decided that they're just gonna ban these things across the country. That wouldn't happen in the U.S. It's just a very different environment, for better or for worse, you know, when it comes to that. And there's a lot of people that had different opinions on that, right? So, I think, you know, small is great to enact change and to move fast, but large just has incredible opportunity. And, you know, the U.S. just has things that New Zealand will never have them. I just love it here.

Matthew: Except for hobbit homes, we don't have those in the U.S.

Drake: No hobbit homes. You know, it's funny, when I first came to the U.S., you know, "Lord of the Rings" wasn't a thing. I mean, it was a great book that I'd read, but people feel that there was a bridge from Australia to New Zealand, many people that I talk to, which I always found amusing. You know, because it's certainly not one. It's a pretty big bridge, you know. So, yeah. No hobbit homes. But when "Lord of the Rings" happened, tourism in New Zealand just went through the roof. And so, a lot of people went looking for Gandalf, I guess.

Matthew: Yeah. Well, let's move to some personal development questions, Drake. Is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or your way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Drake: So many books. I think there's a quote, right? "Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." And if anyone listening knows where that quote is from, then they'll know the book.

Matthew: Guess we got a little riddle in there. That's good. Okay. Now, is there a tool that you and your team use that you consider valuable to your productivity?

Drake: Yeah. Well, look, we use Slack for coms in our office and in our company communication, which is great. We use HubSpot for deal tracking and management for the brand partnerships team. And we use Asana overall as a company for project management. And then everything in between is like filled in by Google Docs, which is always great to have.

Matthew: Okay. Now, here's a Peter Thiel question for you. Another LA resident. What is the one thought you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Drake: That money does actually buy you happiness.

Matthew: Oh, wow. You're gonna have to elaborate on that a little bit. I just heard 1,000 socialists die. Hey...

Drake: You know, I didn't grow up with money at all, and certainly it led me to a lot of happiness. I think that, you know, money leads to freedom and freedom leads to choice and that often leads to happiness. And I think that, you know, I haven't met many people who are very successful in terms of the money because success comes in many shapes and forms. But folks that are very wealthy are certainly happy to me, you know. So, I do find that people who build their wealth definitely tend to be happier than those that are given their wealth. But again, you know, it's... Yeah, I just think the money does actually buy you happiness, and I think a lot of people would disagree, including many of my friends.

Matthew: And it's a... And sort of people that earn it, it's kind of like they've sharpened their knife against a rough stone, and in that process, comes appreciation and gratitude because they know what the struggle is.

Drake: Yeah. It sucks to go back, you know. I mean, I definitely had a few losses and more wins than losses, that's for sure, and it's painful, right? Some people are addicted to success and the pain. Yeah. I think that what you said is true. There's an appreciation for getting there. There's an appreciation for doing something good when you're there, you know, and not being an asshole. So, you know, helping people is definitely a part of the end result.

Matthew: Okay. Drake, as we close, how can listeners find out more about PRØHBTD, find your unique original content and if we have any accredited investors that are interested in reaching out to you, how can they do that?

Drake: Sure. You know, our company site is, Our Instagram handle is the same as that. Or they can go to the consumer lifestyle media site, which is and Instagram is the same as that. I'm also on LinkedIn. I think it's DrakeSS. I haven't checked for a while. You can hit me up there, but happy to talk to anybody who's interested in talking about PRØHBTD.

Matthew: Drake, thanks so much for coming on the show today and telling us about your business. This is really interesting, and I'm really gonna be watchful to see how big this empire grows in different ways so I can watch it on my TV and computer.

Drake: Thanks, man. I appreciate the time.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on "CannaInsider?" Simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsidercom. We'd love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from "CannaInsider" or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis for using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers, or companies featured in "CannaInsider." Lastly, the host or guests on "CannaInsider" may or may not invest in the companies entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention, this little whistle jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another "CannaInsider" episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

Dispensary Sales Are Booming Thanks To This New Tool – With Seed CEO Matt Cutone

matt cutone seed technolgy

Making dispensary customers feel welcome and informed the moment they walk into the store is vital, and the company that knows how to do this best is Seed Technology.

Providing dispensaries with educational kiosks that help inform customers, Seed helps to achieve a customer experience that results in bigger purchases and repeat buyers.

In this episode, Seed CEO Matt Cutone shares with us the incredible return on investment Seed is providing dispensaries across the US and gives us his insights on the future of interactive kiosks.

Learn more at

Key Takeaways

  • Matt’s background in cannabis and how he came to start Seed Technology
  • An inside look at Seed, including how the company’s in-store displays work and the experience they provide for the customer
  • How Seed helps dispensaries integrate interactive kiosks and the customization required
  • Ways in which Seed ensures an engaging customer interaction with little drop-off
  • Mistakes Matt sees dispensaries make with their interactive kiosks and how to avoid them
  • How Seed’s kiosks lead to larger purchases and more loyal customers
  • Matt’s insights on the future of AI and how it will improve educational kiosks with greater customization

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at, that's Now, here's your program. Today we're gonna speak with Matt Cutone. He creates interactive displays and kiosks in cannabis retail environments. The three big things you'll learn in this episode are one, there is a massive return on investment in creating engaging in-store kiosk. Two, kiosk and interactive displays don't necessarily replace employees. And stick around for number three, where you'll hear about the future of interactive kiosk and how it's going to be creepy, but also awesome. Enjoy this episode and let me know if you like it on Twitter @cannainsider.

Making dispensary customers feel welcome and informed the moment they walk into a retail environment is vital. Here to tell us the best way to do that is Matt Cutone from Seed. Matt, welcome to CannaInsider.

Matt: Thank you very much, Matt. Great speaking with you.

Matthew: Yeah. Give us a sense of geography, where are you today?

Matt: So Seed today is in about eight states in the United States, both in emerging markets and some of the more mature markets, we're in Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan soon to be, but the majority of the installation base today is in our backyard, which is Southern California, where we're headquartered. And we're just now starting to entertain and see some opportunities on an international level from some of the strategic partnerships that we've created. And so in time, the goal is to have Seed be providing cannabis education on a global footprint.

Matthew: Okay. And give people a little bit of an introduction, like what is Seed at a high level for people that haven't heard of it?

Matt: Sure. So Seed is an in-store kiosk or tablet that primarily is providing cannabis education. The idea is that understandably, with cannabis going legal on a state-by-state basis that you've got thousands of new customers being introduced and thousands of new products being introduced, and there's a lot of confusion there. And the goal and the real vision of Seed is to kind of close that gap, provide that education and help provide safe access and a safe consumption experience. Aside from providing education, we also have an interactive consultation. So through a series of questions, we walk an individual essentially down a path, and we present what would be the appropriate product in respect to their goals in consuming cannabis. So it integrates with the POS and inventory management systems and it walks them into that process of buying and so it helps to also facilitate the purchase. So aside from providing cannabis education, the next natural step is to give that individual the opportunity to make a purchase. So the kiosk is also a self-service ordering device within the store.

Matthew: Okay. Yeah, it seems like these interactive video displays or visual displays, not just in dispensaries, but you see them growing everywhere, and it seems like the experiences are just totally polarizing. Like, I feel like I have a great experience in general, or I get so frustrated, I wanna like rip the thing off the wall and rage monster it and, you know, smash it.

Matt: Yes, that's a super common experience. And one of the analogies that we utilize as we evolve the product and we think about the consumer is we're all familiar with, you know, the self-checkout at the grocery store. And personally, I'm a self-checkout person. I've traveled a learning curve on how to do that. It is not been a well designed, well laid out and it's not an intuitive process by any means. But in creating, you know, our interactive platform, we've taken that into consideration. You know, you're seeing a lot of installations of quick-serve restaurants, Taco Bell is on track to have 60,000 self-service order devices in their stores by year-end. So they definitely see this as the direction it's going. But you're exactly right. If you don't take the time to create an intuitive interface that is just very simple and natural for someone to navigate, it is a fail.

Matthew: Yeah. Well, give us a little bit of a sense of your background and journey, and how you got into the cannabis space and how you started Seed.

Matt: Sure. So I'm also the president and CEO of another company called Horizon Display. And Horizon Display has been providing interactive and digital experiences for retail environments for 10 plus years. So if you've ever been inside of a Tesla store, and use any of their interactive, rich digital technology, that's our technology. We helped accurate launch their NSX, which is their supercar, and created a car configurator that was 260 locations across the United States. And the real inspiration and the real kind of genesis behind Seed was working with a company by the name of Drybar, which is for folks like yourself and myself, maybe we wouldn't be customers. They have innovated in the hair salon industry, oddly enough. They created what's called the blowout. So a woman can go in and get a blowout, instead of a full wash and cut. It's about half the time, it's about half the money. And they've also created a really great experience and a great culture. They serve booze, and they play tunes, and they've got romantic comedies playing in there and etc.

They're at about 125 million in revenue and about 125 locations. And they've become quite high profile in recent years. And they brought us a business problem, which is a big part of what our passion is, is using digital and interactive to solve business problems. And their business problem was that they had a very linear business model. You know, they could open up a salon with X number of square feet, X number of stylists, and it was a very much a one-for-one return. And then their goal is to get to a billion in revenue and they weren't gonna do it with a business model like that. And so they came up with a hair care product line. The average cost of goods was $2, the average sale price is about $28. And what we created for them was an interactive consultation that through a series of seven questions, essentially prescribed the appropriate hair care product for a woman.

In early 2017, we did a 10-store pilot that went so successfully, that I knew we could repurpose that architecture and that methodology for other retail environments. So we looked at craft brewers, we looked at the winery industry, and we looked at cannabis. And within about 30 days of market research, we realized there was a real problem in the cannabis industry, and that's a lack of education. So we built that proof of concept, we brought it to the marijuana business conference in Las Vegas in November of 2017. Just to see if our hypothesis was even somewhat accurate, and fortunately, walked out of that show realizing there was a problem that we could help solve through digital and that is, again, you know, helping to create confident and comfortable consumers in the world of cannabis. And so we've got years and years and years of experience of putting interactive and digital into the retail environments. And we're introducing that to the cannabis industry with Seed Technology.

Matthew: Okay. So we can give listeners a sense visually what your displays look like. Can you give an example of an existing dispensary where your displays are working now and what that experience is like for a customer walking in the door?

Matt: Absolutely. So, one of our I guess if you wanted to say maybe more of our flagship installations, a lot of the installations and deployment we've seen has been in Southern California. For obvious reasons, we're here, this is the largest cannabis market in the world. So one of the more successful larger and busier dispensaries in Southern California and Orange County is called People's OC. Some people may be aware of it. It's a very large building. It's got two stories, there is kind of a process that you go through even just to go into the byproduct and part of the process is as, you know, check in and you wait for your opportunity to speak to a budtender, is that you're introduced to our platform. It's a kiosk, it's a countertop kiosk, and it gives an individual an opportunity to be productive while they wait. As you may be aware, you know, the amount of time customers are waiting, whether that be in a waiting room or actually inside the dispensary is quite significant in certain environments.

And one of the goals that we look to accomplish is giving people the opportunity to be productive while they're standing around. So our kiosks are specifically located within that queue so that people can interact with the platform, get some education, gain an understanding. But even more specifically, for me, BB or more and avid user who may be education is not as critical for, they can immediately begin to interact with the menu, you know, integrating with the POS and inventory management system allows us to provide an interactive menu. They can begin the shopping process right there. So that's in Southern California. And then there's another installation that's happening in Massachusetts soon to be open. I'm very excited about the emerging markets. There's a lot of great things happening east of the Mississippi, a dispensary by the name of Happy Valley. And they really embrace technology. So we're exploring some very exciting things with them and think they'll be opening next month.

Matthew: Great. And how do you initially orient dispensary owners on why they need the displays at all? What's that conversation like?

Matt: So it's been interesting because they think that most of the dispensaries understand that to some degree they need certainly technology, right? And a lot of dispensaries have adopted digital menus and are communicating product availability via the digital menus. And what we would consider that to be as a very one way, correspondence for them. You know, all of our technology is interactive, there are touch screens, there's asking you questions, they're walking you down a path, we really want it to be a journey. We consider that to be much more conversational. So the dispensary owners that have already kind of embraced displays, we really try to create some quick comparisons on the benefits of what interactivity provides, and the ability for people to discuss and share what it is that their goals are in using cannabis.

So it really, it's a little bit shorter of a learning curve for the dispensary owners who have already seen the benefit in technology, in displays, and have embraced that. Those folks usually have seen that this is working successfully in traditional retail environments and this is something they're trying to introduce. You know, today's consumer walks into most stores quite informed, you know, between the homework that they're gonna do at home, on their laptop, their tablet, on their phone, and as they walk in, they also expect a similar experience. And that's one of the things that we try to make them really understand is that, you know, the consumer today is more educated than ever. And cannabis is, you know, an area where there's a lot of room for improvement as it comes to education. And so we show them, you know, the importance of that. Fortunately, most dispensaries understand that how critical education is. Without successful education, we don't get successful adoption. And without successful adoption, we're not gonna see these kinds of numbers that are being communicated. You know, I think the latest number I saw was like 65 billion, you know, by 2021, or something along those lines, and that does not happen without successful adoption and displays interactivity, technology really does help provide that education that is gonna be critical for that adoption.

Matthew: And for the dispensary owner that already knows like, "Hey, this sounds like a great idea. I wanna get Seed displays in my retail environment." How do you get them started putting something that will be useful for the customers out of the gate without taking them down a path that just takes too long where they kind of fatigue out?

Matt: That's a great question and I'm glad you asked that. You know, one of the benefits that we have, and this is something that we have been able to present to the cannabis industry is, you know, the dispensary owners have a tremendously unique challenge. And that is the fact that this is not legal on a federal level. So all of the things that they need to monitor and put their time and attention to, that the traditional retailer would not, really creates a lot of problems and a lot of challenges. We have taken the time to engineer the Seed platform to really take ownership of what we call the last mile. We've recently had a dispensary owner, one of our new clients call us up after they had purchased the Seed kiosk. And they called up and said, "Hey, I have to ask you a question. Was it a strategic initiative of yours to make this truly plug and play?" And I said it was. We take the time to actually reach out to the dispensary client prior to the kiosks shipping out to them. We get the name their Wi-Fi, we get the password of their Wi-Fi, we can figure that appropriately.

So literally when you plug the kiosk in, it turns on, and it's up and running, and it's ready to go. So, to answer your question, the onboard process is literally nothing. We've taken all of those things into consideration as we've designed and engineered the solution. We vetted various hardware solutions and the enabling hardware that is required for this platform to work successfully. And we've taken a lot of time and spend a lot of money to make sure that as far as configuration and turning it on, making it successful for the dispensary owner is with literally within a matter of minutes. So that's something that we really are proud of. And fortunately, the feedback from the market is that it's working successfully. These dispensaries have a lot on their plate. And the more that I can do to, you know, make this a successful integration, the better off we all are.

Matthew: Yeah, compliance is a big one of those things they have in a play.

Matt: Big time.

Matthew: So how much customization is required. Do you have some like out-of-the-box templates that you say, "Hey, let's start here for we're not sure what to do." And then how do you marry that up to what inventories actually in stock? Is that connected to like the POS system? Or how does that work?

Matt: Absolutely. So minimal amount of customization, again, something that we've really made sure that we've engineered into the solution in the platform upstream. And so there's kind of two areas of customization that the dispensary client is looking for. One is branding. So often, you know, this is working with a multi-state operators that have, you know, large and robust marketing departments and branding is very critical and important to them. So we work with the marketing department, our designers work with them to make sure that our platform mimics and looks exactly as their website may or their mobile app or this congruency across all their digital platforms. And so it's very, very simple. We load up their logo, we load in all of their pantones and the various colors. We also load in some of the messaging that's important to them. And we've built the platform to make that a very simple and easy process. It's literally just doing some quick updates.

And then from an integration standpoint, more from a technology perspective, we now integrate with nine various POS systems, we also integrate with three of the primary loyalty communication platforms. So the idea is that by the time that this product shows up at the dispensary as our platform Seed shows up, it's fully integrated, it's ready to go. We've done all of that testing, we've kind of, if you will, operate it in the various sandboxes, to make sure that we're getting the appropriate data. We have the right visual assets, every bit of that is done. And we've really built the platform architect of the platform so that's a simple, super simple process.

Matthew: So everybody has a short attention span these days. How do you design the interactions, so they're stimulating still simple educational, have a low drop off and then get to a purchase point or place where A, the customer's comfortable and then they're comfortable purchasing or making that commitment right on the display?

Matt: That's a great question. And that's something that...that's probably one of the most challenging parts of creating an in-store interactive experience, you have a limited amount of time. So consuming information with inside the store is very different than if you were to consume information at our home on a mobile device, on a tablet. You know, you can kind of like curl up on the couch, you know, as if you were reading a book and as we say, drink from a fire hose. That's not the case inside the store. Fortunately, we spend years really studying the science and psychology of the buying process and how to do that successfully inside the store. So we've had to curate the education, curate the content, and deliver it in a way that is very bite-size, very digestible and almost to a degree predictable. And if you can do that successfully, one, you can create this foundation of education in a way that people find to be of value. And they can, it's almost like, what we tell our dispensary clients is that we want somebody to be at the kiosk, and you almost wanna watch them observe them and they're nodding their head. Like, "Oh, okay, now I understand. Okay, I've heard of what indica is, now I understand what indica is. I've heard of a cannabinoid, now I really understand what that is."

So we've really had to design the entire platform in a way that is super intuitive and it walks you down a path, it's more of a journey than if we're just a click on various pop-ups or various pages. And we fed that information to those individuals again in a very digestible, bite-sized kind of way. If done successfully, we find that it's around 9 to 11 minutes and an individual will interact with our kiosk, including a purchase, and then the way we have designed it very naturally walks you into that purchase process. From going through the consultation, being presented with the appropriate products, you can throw that into a shopping cart. You can't transact at our device, but it does prompt to the POS system and it would be fulfilled as if it were a traditional online order.

Matthew: Okay. So I'm sure there's a spectrum of like super successful installations that, you know, exact fit out of the gate. And the ones that are not done the optimal way, maybe because the retail owner has some resistance about something and they're not listening to suggestions, or there's some other problem. Can you just kind of mention one or two of the biggest things so listeners can sidestep this?

Matt: Yeah, 100%, and you bring up a good point. I mean, what's very interesting about the cannabis market, in general, is that, you know, as we look at the market, we've kind of, you know, split it in half and that's the emerging markets versus the mature markets. Mature markets are certainly west of the Mississippi, Colorado, upper Northwest, parts of California and etc. So there's already some, I guess, behavior and attitude within those markets that can create some challenges. A lot of the dispensary owners, a lot of the dispensary staff feel as though their customers are already well educated and that they don't need these kinds of tools. And so they don't embrace it in the way that we would hope. Sometimes it's something very simple as just placement, where the kiosk is located prompting people to use it. And that is something that our customer success team has to work very, very closely with. In the emerging markets, one of the benefits is to be quite honest, is that they're mostly medicinal markets, medical markets, and they have a waiting room. And so, you know, being in a waiting room, we're all familiar with it, whether it's going to the doctor or the dentist, or whatever it is, and traditionally is very unproductive time.

We're trying to create a platform that allows that to be very productive. So the kiosk often is located in the waiting room. And we position that in a way that allows individuals, sometimes we have some clients that have several kiosks in the waiting room, because they do have people waiting for an extended period of time and it gives, you know, various people the opportunity to make that time productive, to begin that shopping process before they even step inside the dispensary. So some of the challenges are, you know, placement of the kiosk, getting the staff to really prompt people to use the kiosk and kind of getting them on board. The customer success team that we have here has been working closely with them. And also, just other kind of unique challenges.

Eastern Mississippi, most of the dispensaries are building out new facilities, renovating facilities starting from scratch. That's a great opportunity for us to literally get the blueprints, look at the store footprint, look at how the customer flow's going to be and how do we introduce this technology successfully? You know, west of the Mississippi, they have a building, they've had a building, they had a waiting room, they're tearing down the wall of the waiting room, etc. So it's a little bit more convoluted, but we've really had to work closely with those folks to make sure that they can overcome those challenges and is a successful installation for them.

Matthew: So when I put on my business owner hat or my investor hat, I'm thinking, "Okay, this sounds great. It's probably gonna drive sales to some degree. But is there a way I can measure ROI? Or is there a benchmark on return on investment that could be helpful in thinking about here?"

Matt: Absolutely. That's a great question as well. And so, and even to give you some background on how we've had to evolve the product, the platform in itself, is that we were very, very focused on education early, introducing this to the market. And we realized that we needed to be a bit more sensitive to the dispensary owner and their bottom line and the overall profitability of that business. And we've evolved to now really helping to take education in translating that into the profitability of the business. So for starters, self-service devices do create operational efficiencies in the store. You're not gonna eliminate staff and you really shouldn't purchase the Seed platform to look to eliminate staff, but can you free your staff up to be working on higher value initiatives or higher value responsibilities 100%.

So aside from driving some level of operational efficiencies, we have seen that it improves transactional velocity. We've also seen that it has increased the ticket size. And so those are areas of where we measure because we grab all this data, all the interactivity creates some phenomenal data. There's a dashboard that the dispensary owner can review and gain some customer insights and etc. So we grab all that information, we feed that to them on a regular basis, and show them how embracing this platform is creating sales. If we have a retail client of ours today, that has several dispensaries where they've introduced our technology, they are seeing a sales lift of 54%. I just got that statistic last week from a CFO that works there. And so obviously with that kind of data, it's proving and it's proving out to really provide return on investment. And now we're looking at how to package that up and share that with the rest of the marketplace. And make them understand from a business perspective, how would they can really feel comfortable about making this kind of an investment.

Matthew: I'm glad you mentioned that you don't necessarily want to lose headcount. That's not it. You know, most people say that's immediately, that's what they guess but it's really about getting that customer journey of the customer the attention, connection, commitment, where that's how they make the purchase, is what you want to get them to commitment as fast as possible. And to do that, you need their attention, whether that's display or, you know, one of the sales people or the dispensary owner or, you know, a budtender. And then the connection is where you feel like, "Hey, you know, this kiosk is making me feel like it understands where my mind is at, like the questions I have, or the budtender does, and then we can go to commitment together and so it's accelerating that process. And then depending on your age, some people see a person when they walk in the store and go, "Oh, I just wanna deal with this huge app. I mean, this kiosk." Right?

Matt: Yes, exactly.

Matthew: First, it's too much hassle.

Matt: Yeah, yeah, no, 100%. And that's the thing because you're not gonna eliminate the staff and I don't ever think that should be the goal. But I do believe that you're gonna always have your high touch customers and you wanna be able to properly service them, and what you're talking about there, Matt, is really the customer experience and how to utilize technology, embrace technology, to enhance the customer experience, address the needs of the various customers, and really, that drives brand loyalty. You know, that's how you get people to come back to your store on a consistent basis. That's how they'll share with their friends and family that this dispensary has really helped me feel comfortable in providing me with great products and they have technology, but they also have the people and the staff there to make this a positive experience.

Matthew: So what are some of the challenges for you personally running this business? You know, as the business owner, you're dealing with a physical product and a service and the expectations of customers. I mean, what's it like?

Matt: You know, so, this is the third business that I've been partnered and the second I've found, and this is by far the hardest business I've ever built. I mean, all the, you know, I don't need to get into all the facts as it relates to it not being legal on a federal level, I think most people understand how that creates its own unique challenges. For us, you know, as you go to market, right, every single state is different. And so we've had to really look at every single state, understand the compliance for every single state, make sure that our product fits appropriately. We've actually had to turn off states as we would say, Louisiana, Connecticut, Minnesota, those are states that the compliance in those states are so challenging that introducing our kind of a platform would be so difficult that it would probably not make sense, but having to really look at every single state as a different market and address that market differently and create different messaging and approach it, has been a big problem. You know, that's something that definitely gets in the way of being able to scale, to move fast and certainly been a big challenge.

You know, the other part is getting some of the more mature markets that have already have infrastructure in place to understand the importance of technology and how that can benefit them. And in really getting them to listen and learn, and that's been a bit of a challenge. But I would definitely say, you know, having to treat every single state as if it were its own individualized market is a huge challenge.

Matthew: You know, when I think about the business here, and specifically I think about the movie, Steven Spielberg movie "Minority Report," and how Tom Cruise switches eyeballs with another guy and then he walks around a mall and the mall thinks he's the other guy because it's scanning his retina and giving him customized ads as he walks around the mall. Do you remember that?

Matt: Totally. It's always been the go-to, for instance, I've been in digital for probably 12 years now interactivity, and everybody goes back to that "Minority Report." So, I know exactly what you mean.

Matthew: And so, you know, I used to think, well, you know, you don't wanna give your retinal scan for anything because then that digital signature is in a database somewhere can get hacked. But now I think these cameras probably can scan your retina remotely. I mean, it's creepy in a big way. But that in some ways, it's like, man, the ability to dial in information about you as you're approaching, you know, about your age with people that kind of looked like you in the past liked and so it gets much closer to getting an optimal display experience. I guess, I mean, you can't get one without the other. You can't get the creepiness without like the wow.

Matt: I agree. You know, working with the various dispensary owners and being a little bit concerned about people's privacy and where do you wanna be careful about not crossing that line, oddly enough, most dispensary owners, their feedback has been that you've given up your right to privacy the second you step into the dispensary. There's cameras everywhere. So let's start with that. If you're in a medical market, there's an intake process by where they clearly know who you are, that you're there, how often you'll be, you know, you're going to that dispensary, exactly what you're buying, and etc. So I think most folks need to probably, you know, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, get comfortable with the fact that they are kind of to a degree giving up their right of privacy. But at the same time, I think there is a benefit to it, right? And so really getting an understanding of who these customers are, what's important to them, our platform, you know, specifically, you can begin the engagement and interactive process in two various ways.

So as we do integrate with the loyalty communication platforms, the Spring Biggs of the world or the Baker's of the world, you can immediately log into the platform. And so just with putting in your phone number, it may welcome you back. And it already knows who you are, so it knows you're there, it knows that you're back and knows what you purchased last time. But if you haven't signed up for one of the loyalty platforms, we do ask some quick frontside demographics. And that starts to make us, help us understand a little bit more about who you are, what bucket, if you will, you might fall into. And that becomes very important for the dispensary to understand who's coming into their store, what are the things that they're looking for, what's important to them from an educational standpoint, what products are they reviewing and etc. So yeah, it's a creepiness thing, I totally agree with you. Personally, where I'm at as an individual is that I'm pretty certain that everything and every move I'm making is being watched, you know, a digital platform, a digital footprint is being made with my every move. I've just come to embrace it. So it's unique.

Matthew: What other choice do you have? Right, I've come to agree with you.

Matt: Yeah, exactly it.

Matthew: So is there an opportunity here for Seed customers to then, you know, get kind of anonymized data on what's working for your other Seed customers so they can kind of share information, and, you know, adopt best practices from other dispensaries or you to kind of act as the curator there and just kind of tell them like, "We've seen this work. We've seen this work," or what happens?

Matt: Absolutely. Well, yes. You know, part of our vision and strategically our goals are, is the data play as they say? And yes, we're capturing, we're harvesting a tremendous amount of great data. We have kind of put that, I would say, on the back burner. The only reason I say I put on the back burner is because we need to be so laser-focused on solving for the operator, the dispensary owner and solving for the customer that the data piece to a degree has been a little bit secondary. But yes, on the product roadmap. Well, for starters, the dispensaries, they receive a dashboard, right? So they do get analytics and insights. Down the roadways, we'd actually like to help summarize the actual analysis around that and create summaries for them and give them insights as we see from the activity that's happening within their source. But yes, if you're a, say, you know, you're a California entity and you're looking to get into the Ohio market, you could, you know, aside from some of the other various data platforms, you could come to us and say, "Hey, can you give me some insights? So what's going on in the Ohio market, we're looking to make some investments there." So 100%, you know, the data that's there will be leveraged appropriately for our clients.

Matthew: Man, I'd like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are.

Matt: Sure.

Matthew: Is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or your way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Matt: Yeah, you know, it's funny, a lot of people, most of the companies that I've been involved in and owned have been technology companies, everybody said, "You must be a tech guy." And I'm like, "I'm really not a tech guy. I'm actually very deficient when it comes to technology. I'm a business nerd." And there is a book that's called "Big Bang Disruption." And it really talks about how businesses can evolve, grow in the age of innovation and how businesses can look very, very different. I mean, we're seeing this on the forefront now in a way that we've never have before. And, you know, whether or not I'm a fan of it is a different conversation. But, you know, just these influencers, that all they have is a phone, and the opportunity to be able to take the pictures of themselves at various restaurants or hotels or destinations. And utilize that and monetize that in a way, it's very interesting comparatively how you used to build businesses back in the day and "Big Bang Disruption" really gets into how businesses can operate differently. And that's something that I look to, for example, Seed is a SaaS solution. And so, there's a reoccurring revenue model there. We build around an annualized basis.

One of the things we eliminate when we do that is receivables, accounts receivables. That's something that all my prior businesses had, it was something that we had to put stuff on it, we had to have insurance around it, we had to have, you know, something we needed to focus on. And in the age of innovation as you evolve and introduce new businesses, you can eliminate some of the traditional components of a normal business, and that's a book that I've now read several times, I go back to and it inspires me as we architect this organization, as we build this business, I told my engineering team, "I do not wanna have to add a tech support person for every 25 customers. To me, that's an engineering failure. How do we architect it with really thinking through that we don't need to add tech support people for every 25 customers? Let's design it in a way that's intuitive. Let's design it in a way that it works and tech support is not needed." And the "Big Bang Disruption" really kind of gets into that. How can your business look and smell different than traditional businesses, the '70s, the '80s, and even the '90s?

Matthew: That's great. I haven't heard of that book. I'll check that out.

Matt: Yeah, definitely.

Matthew: Is there a tool that you and your team use and consider valuable to your productivity that you'd like to share?

Matt: So there is a very unique tool that we do utilize, and I had the fortune of being a part of a personal and professional development group called 10X CEO for about four or five years. It's really about accelerating development, accelerated effectiveness on a quarterly basis, I got together with a coach, an executive coach, as well as three to four peers. And there was a tool that came out of that process called an X-ray. And it does exactly that. It's a document that you utilize to X-ray your business, it forces you to really break down all functional areas of the business and measure your key initiatives. Where are you at? You know, you rate them using colors? And are they, you know, in a good spot? Are they in a bad spot? It forces you to measure all of your processes. It forces you to measure your team and grade your team on a quarterly basis. And then really identify what are the things that are creating challenges? What are the obstacles that you're facing? And so aside from just having to, from a department heads perspective, or a functional area head perspective, sitting down and really writing those things down and having that provide some honest feedback for yourself, then you share it with the peers, and each of us share it on a quarterly basis with the various functional areas of the business and those department heads.

And you have to have thick skin, you have to show up with thick skin, you need to be prepared to, you know, I don't want to say defend, but discuss where you're at, where things are at, where things are going and that's been a phenomenal tool for us that's been very unique. And I've seen it to really have some great effect on the business.

Matthew: What's one thought you have that most people would disagree with you on? This is a Peter Thiel question.

Matt: I would say that people used to disagree with me on this for several years and it's not so much the case and if it's okay, I'll share it, expose a little bit more about the personal side of myself, but I am born and raised in Boston. I am a huge sports fan. And for years I was, you know, the constant debate on whether or not, you know, the Patriots are the greatest team of all time, not just the, you know, not just in football. I'm talking about every single sport that's out there. So, you know, for years people used to disagree and argue with me and, you know, would be this team, that team and etc. But in the last couple years, that arguments have been subsided because they just continue to succeed. And so it's not something that's more so people like to just disagree with me for the sake of disagreeing with me because everybody's sick of the Patriots and their success.

Matthew: Yeah, I think it would be a good idea if you just like went to like Bryant Park or something in New York City, just sat down on a chair and put up a sign that said, "The Patriots are the best football team ever, disagree with me?"

Matt: Yeah, you gotta change my mind, right?

Matthew: Yeah, change my mind.

Matt: Exactly.

Matthew: Good, good. Well, man, as we close, how can listeners find out more about Seed and connect with you?

Matt: Sure. For starters, our website is, you know, And I love connecting with people. That's a very important part of being active in this industry, I'm very serious about creating a network. So, anybody who wanted to email me directly and ask me questions, if I could be helpful, it's I'm, of course, on LinkedIn, so just search me up and connect and anything I can do to help with anybody. This is an industry that I find to be very, very unique and very refreshing in a lot of ways. And I've had a lot of people helping me over these last couple of years. So if I can help out anybody else, whether that learning more about our product, or just in general about, you know, technology in the cannabis space, I'm happy to do so.

Matthew: Well, thanks for that, Matt, that's very generous. And good luck to you in the rest of 2019. This is a really interesting business model, and I'm curious to see how it evolves.

Matt: Hey, thanks so much, Matt. I appreciate your time today and thanks for inviting me on.

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