Co-founder and managing director of Ziel, a Colorado company that makes radio-frequency technology designed to reduce yeast and mold in cannabis
By Kristen Nichols
What was your biggest business “aha” moment?
In 2017, we watched the Colorado cannabis market zoom past $1 billion in just eight months. It took the almond industry of California, where we deploy our radio-frequency technology, 50 years to reach $2 billion. The speed of growth in this market is remarkable – and an enormous opportunity.
What’s been your biggest mistake?
Underestimating the maturity and size of the Canadian market. Our Canadian neighbors have impressive facilities, developed business processes and well-capitalized companies with a global strategy to dominate the market.
Knowing what we know now, we would have started developing our presence in Canada much earlier.
With that in mind, how are you targeting the Canadian market?
With vigor. Canada is an incredibly exciting market where we are allocating significant resources. There is a market reset taking place as gamma, which is radiation, is displaced by more benign and cost-effective technologies for mold remediation. Our radio-frequency technology was recently certified as an organic process in Canada, and we are grateful to have gained the trust of leading Canadian LPs (licensed producers) as they prepare for their rec market launch and are expanding their reach to the European Union.
What are your tips for evaluating possible business partners and avoiding bad actors in this booming Wild West of an industry?
It varies by country. In Canada, many of the larger licensed producers are already public and have strong balance sheets. Credit risk is minimal, and the legal framework is clear. In the United States, we gravitate toward operators funded by well-capitalized investors developing best-practice SOPs (standard operating procedures) to build sustainable business models. They also are future-proofing their business to meet stricter compliance.
Many cannabis-related businesses see their livelihood changed overnight based on new regulatory requirements. How do you get in front of those changes?
We play on both defense and offense. We keep an ear to the ground in our priority markets through regular dialogue with our customers, such as (Colorado companies) Los Sueños Farms and The Green Solution, who are on the front line. We also play active roles in associations such as the California Cannabis Industry Association, where we sit on the Quality Control Committee.
How do you see this industry changing in the coming years?
I have worked in Big Pharma and the global food industry, where Ziel’s roots lie. As we see it, the cannabis industry will adopt similar standards of GMP (good manufacturing practice) production and best-practice SOPs, overseen by a regulatory compliance framework. As compliance standards and enforcement rise, so will consolidation. ?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.