CONVERSATION’S IN CANNABIS 1
Golan Vaknin is the CEO and Founder of ESEV, a company which strives to “advance research and development of breakthrough cannabis-derived solutions to improve quality of life. An entrepreneur at heart he was formerly a senior buyer for the Israeli Ministry of Finance and a Procurement Manager for the Israeli Consulate in New York City before developing ESEV.
Based in the World Trade Center in New York, ESEV is collaborating with Israel’s leading medical centers and scientific institutions to organize and oversee clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of cannabis-derived compounds and assist in the development of proprietary technologies for specific medical indications and overall wellbeing.
I met Golan one afternoon over lunch in the West Village with a processor he was working with from out of state and we’ve since had a chance to discuss the industry from a myriad of angles, including what marketing meant to him at this stage in the industry. What struck me was the passion he derived from developing a standard of testing that will ultimately help define our experiences.
What do you see on the near horizon for cannabis:
Trends I see right now? It’s very, very complicated. I think the separation between recreational and medicinal is one thing to always consider, and I think supplements will play an important role there. The recreational market will shrink into quality boutique brands and the larger companies will try to sell mass categories of strains everyone is familiar with.
I think about this all the time, about who we are and what we do as a company. One path for us, is for companies to do whatever studies they want with us, we provide those services. I also want to be a supplement company to provide a better quality of life with cannabis.
I think cannabis can improve our everyday lifestyle and make our lives better, help us sleep better, be less stressed. If we’re less stressed, and sleep deprived we’ll be more healthy. We’ll be more happy and more balanced. We see that from our clinical research–it helps people to sleep better, balance anxiety and depression, this is all about our quality of life.
How important are the end-users in the process?
In the last few years, all the big pharma companies have been putting billions to improve quality of life issues. We live longer, but we’re more stressed, depressed and sleep deprived. Big pharma, with conventional drug development, is approaching this to stay relevant. They know they have to engage the end-user, and consumers today are very picky.
Now more than ever people want to understand more about what they put into their bodies. With cannabis we have that opportunity from every part of the value chain, to build a new strain, a new method of growing, there is an opportunity between the grower and the end user. The industry has barely begun to develop that relationship.
In our research and development work I’m excited to understand the end user, their needs and come up with a new supplement that provides a solution. I don’t necessarily want to reinvent the wheel here either, but define where cannabis can fit in to our use of supplements today. It’s a global trend, not just in America.
What do you see happening right now in the industry–what would you like to see?
With Cannabis you have to tell a good story. But today there’s more in the packaging then the real content. If you look at the big companies in Canada, what they’re selling is a potential. There is need to create headlines–we need to tell stories in order to create traffic. This is what symbolizes the industry right now—creating the best stories to attract investment, but we need to also go beyond that.
As a research and development company where research is about solutions, its synergetic and makes sense for us to be here, science has a story to tell.
What challenges do you see currently in the market related to marketing, branding and business building?
Today the big dark cloud of the federal government looms large, the uncertainty if you don’t know if you’ll be in business next week or next month based upon policy or a tweet is holding the industry back. Federal constraints is a huge challenge and it’s keeping the market from exploding.
To truly scale in the US companies are challenged, you can’t go to the bank for funding, you can’t cross state lines. The way to scale up is hard and it keeps a lot of investors sitting on the fence because you can’t truly predict the future for any particular company to truly scale.
I’m also concerned with people selling “dreams” rather than a real facts. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, companies can’t really scale up in this environment, and values are being assigned to a “dream” versus a quantifiable tested results.
More testing and data should accompany the category at all levels. For many it’s all about “selling cookies in Colorado” versus investing in studies about your ingredients. If companies invest in more studies instead of conferences, they’d be able to better define their brand offer and also help the consumer experience by educating the market.
We are still in the black market mentality phase, that needs to change, they’re not focused on the DNA of the product and its true efficacy, we need to bring more mature experts from every category of business into the market to execute and help define the experience for the business owner and the consumer.
If you could change one thing about the Cannabis category today, what would it be?
One thing that I look at from the scientific and commercial angle, are the levels of absorption viability and dosing Cannabis. If we can educate how much we can consume cannabis it will be a big step forward. Understanding dosing and absorption is the key here and needs to be implemented in state regulations. If you drink a beer, for example, or two or three–people know, about their body, their resistance to alcohol based upon proven science as well as intuition. Even in CBD you want to know what you’re taking. “How much of your product is in the blood and for how long” how much we want to consumer and how much we need to consume.
In pharmacology, bioavailability is the degree and rate at which an administered formulation is absorbed by the body’s circulatory system. It is used to determine the correct dosage of any medication administered non-intravenously (not directly into the bloodstream), through pills, patches, suppositories, inhalable products and also edibles.
How much Cannabis is entering your blood and how it enters your body is important–when I see people vaping or smoking all day its not necessarily a responsible way to take cannabis. I think research and developing controls for dosing is a crucial part to product development.
What’s your best advice to those already in the market to keep up; What’s the best advice you would give someone today:
I’d say build a long term vision and prioritize R&D on products, create a product that’s tested. Build something that’s sustainable, describe a company that can be generational, that you’ll want to bring your grandchildren to one day.
More about Golan here: www.esevrd.com
About Glenn Johnson
I am a Marketing, Branding and Communications Consultant w/ experience in high-touch luxury consumer marketing in the travel/hospitality, wine/spirits, fashion/beauty/grooming and Cannabis categories. My talents include Branding & Brand development, Business Building, Strategy and Brand Storytelling. I excel in working with Founders, funders, start-ups, and small brands.
Previously I was VP/Creative Director for a boutique Madison Avenue communications agency and co-founder & moderator for the Creative Mind Salon series hosted at Soho House NY w/ industry innovators, creatives & decision makers from fashion, film, photography, music and digital industries which provided IRL intelligent discourse amongst highly-curated leading edge creatives.
Marketing / Matters: Glenn Johnson
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Cannabis Column with a Marketing & Branding point of view, including Q & A articles I call “Conversations in Cannabis,” with industry innovators across the spectrum of start-ups, founders and brands doing business in the Cannabis category.