London (June 25)
Following two successful Medical Cannabis Conferences, The Cannabis Society concluded our brief Europe run in London with a very exciting Investor Conference.
The Cannabis Society is dedicated to fostering the cannabis community through events, such as our investor conference. The purpose of this conference was to create a unique deal making session and to hear investors and other leading cannabis experts speak on what is to come in this emerging industry.
The London Investor Conference presented 5 panel discussions with some of the most knowledgeable and experienced professionals in the cannabis industry.
The first discussion of the conference touched on ancillary cannabis investments and was moderated by Sandrina Koemm-Benson (Editor-in-Chief, Leafly.de). Sandrina was joined by single panel speaker Karan Wadhera, (Managing Partner, Casa Verde Capital).
Wadhera spoke to the topic based on his personal experience, and answered questions such as “what is your background, and how did you get into the cannabis space?”, What “ancillary” means in cannabis and how does that inform Casa Verde’s strategy, and finally key criteria he looks at when considering an investment in a cannabis company.
Wadhera is the Managing Partner at Casa Verde Capital, the leading venture capital firm in the cannabis industry. He leads the team across investment strategy, fundraising, and portfolio management; he also sits on the board of 11 cannabis companies. During his tenure at Casa Verde, Karan has been responsible for raising the $45mm fund and deploying across 15 portfolio companies, which have collectively raised over $250mm in funding.
Koemm-Benson is the editor-in-chief of Leafly.de since the launch in May 2017. The 45-year-old trained editor with a bachelor's degree in marketing has a very close personal connection to the subject of medical cannabis. Since the launch of Leafly.de in May 2017, she has been an advocate for patients and a recognized contact for physicians and industry representatives. She has built up an extensive international network in all directions and has a lot of insider knowledge. Under her editorial guidance, Leafly.de has become the leading knowledge portal on cannabis as a medicine in the German-speaking European countries. With more than 300,000 visitors per month, the independent online portal is the number one source of information for physicians, patients and healthcare professionals.
Once again moderated by Ms. Koemm-Benson, the second discussion of the conference focused on marketing cannabis in the UK & Europe. Speakers included Chris Tasker (Cannabis Consultant), Emanuel Kotzian (CEO, Agentur Sowjet GmbH), and Michael Fisher (Owner of Teeside Cannabis Club).
Following brief introductions, the panel highlighted risks and difficulties faced when marketing cannabis in Europe. They discussed how marketing works with medical cannabis, what needs to be done to help people understand that cannabis is medically allowed in the UK and where is the biggest reluctancy to use more medical cannabis products.
Kotzian dedicates himself to the education about the effects of marijuana and lobbies for the re-normalization of this classic cultural plant. In 2000 he established Germany's biggest Cannabis-Magazine “Hanf Journal” and founded Agentur Sowjet GmbH, where he currently serves successful as its CEO. With more than 1 million fans, followers and readers on several channels, Agentur Sowjet is one of the leading marketing companies on the European Hemp Market. Its network of companies and branch offices extends from the Canary Islands to Kiev in the Ukraine and represents a unique platform for any market participant. Kotzian was born 1972 in Krakow and immigrated with his family to Germany where he became a professing World-Citizen.
Despite starting life on the wrong side of the law, Fisher battled his way through the impoverished estates of Teeside, to unleash his entrepreneurial streak. This first appeared in the form of a string of businesses in the local area before his father was unfortunately diagnosed with lung cancer. After witnessing first hand the medical benefits his late father derived from cannabis, and after treating his own Crohn’s disease with the plant, Michael became determined to challenge existing drug laws to ensure patients were no longer criminalized for the possession of cannabis. Since his father passing, Fisher has been at the forefront of Medical cannabis activism opening his own Spanish style cannabis social club to develop the first cannabis social club model to be backed nationally by the police.
The next panel introduced the topic of investing in startups. Speakers including Dietwald Claus (CEO, Cannamerx), James Linden (CEO, Greenlight Medicines), and Ed McDermott (Co-Founder & Executive Director, Emmac) dove deeper into the trials and experiences when raising capital. Arnaud Dumas de Rauly (Co-Founder & CEO, The Blinc Group) served as the moderator.
Among the startup related questions, the panel shared their thoughts and personal experience regarding topics such as the major hurdles in convincing conservative investment bodies that cannabis is a safe investment, how a startup or small company utilize the “over-valuation” model in place with the public companies to leverage more funding, and other options for startup companies to generate their own revenue streams.
Claus is a public affairs professional with deep expertise in the Canadian food and agriculture regulatory system, as well crisis communications, standards development, and trade policy.He has worked for industry associations and consulting services since 2000. In 2016, he decided to combine his experience in dealing with highly regulated industries with his background in agricultural economics to create Cannamerx, the first fully automated B2B trading platform for the legal cannabis industry inCanada and internationally.
Linden achieved his PhD in Biochemistry in the Department of Ophthalmology, Queens University Belfast. After a year of researching Alzheimer’s Diseases as a Post-Doc in Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, he left the academic world and moved into pharmaceutical sales. After gaining sales experience he then went on to form his own generic drug company in Ireland called Éireceutica Ltd. Here he learned many skills and attributes which he has carried forth into his latest brain-child, GreenLight Medicines. As a scientist and a pharma veteran, Linden had the perfect skill set to build GreenLight’s world-beating research network and also to identify which products should be developed and which markets they should be developed for.
McDermott is an experienced capital markets professional with 15 years’ expertise in the management and financing of growth companies internationally. He has been pivotal in raising over £500m in equity for growth companies and is currently a Director of AIM quoted FastForward Innovations Ltd, a VC that has a track record of successful investment in the medical cannabis sector. He is also Non-Executive Chairman of Emmerson Plc, a Moroccan Potash development company listed on the London Stock Exchange. He has been actively involved in the medical cannabis promotion and discussion with UK and European policy makers and advocacy groups.
Dumas de Rauly is currently Co-Founder and Co-CEO of The Blinc Group. He is a proven leader of multiple start-up companies who simultaneously leads, guides, directs and evaluates operations through international marketing, communication & public relations. Bilingual in French and English, fluent in Spanish and has worked in France, China, Dubai, Tunisia, Spain, UK and the USA. Frequently serves as a keynote speaker at international vaping and cannabis shows across the globe. Arnaud holds an Executive MBA & a Masters of Engineering Degrees.
Following the discussion on startups and raising capital, James Linden served as the moderator for the fourth panel of the afternoon on going public. Joining him on the panel was Andy Morrison (Chairman of Spinnaker Opportunities PLC), Christian McFadden (CFO, Harmony), and Melissa Sturgess (Chief Executive Officer of Ananda Developments PLC).
These industry professionals shared their opinions on matters such as the length of time it has taken for Europe/London to emulate Canada in the cannabis sector in public markets, how companies should think about which exchange to list on, and the biggest challenges of the IPO process.
Morrison is Chairman of Spinnaker Opportunities PLC, which is a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) or cash shell quoted on the main board of the London Stock Exchange. In September 2018, Spinnaker extended its investment strategy to include acquisition targets in the emerging European cannabis industry. In February 2019 the Company announced its intention to acquire Kanabo Research Ltd, a company engaged in the formulation of cannabis oils using technology originated in Israel and their application through medically approved vaporization devices. All being well, the transaction will close later this year, thereby creating one of the first publicly listed operating cannabis businesses in London.
Christian is the CFO of Harmony, an international wellness company using hemp as a tool to bring real harmony to people’s lives. With 40 employees and a distribution network of more than 3100 retailers, Harmony transforms the potential of nature into beloved products all over the world. Christian earned his AB in Economics from Princeton, and his MBA from Stanford. He is an expert in European CBD regulation and cannabis business valuation across various markets and company sizes. Christian has invested in deals worth more than €750m throughout his career.
Sturgess holds a BSc and an MBA and has more than 20 years of experience as a director of UK and Australian Stock Exchange quoted companies, mainly involved in the acquisition, structuring and financing of natural resources deals across Africa. UK. Miss Sturgess’ interest in the cannabis sector started in 2017 with a trip to Israel to review the Medicinal Cannabis research that is happening in that country. She subsequently founded Ananda Developments to invest in the space and is its largest shareholder.
The concluding panel at our Investor Conference focused on raising capital. Moderated by Nic Easley (CEO and Managing Director of Multiverse Capital), the speaker lineup was composed of Michael Garbuz (President & Co-Founder, Materia Ventures), Alex Brooks (Senior Analyst Canaccord Genuity), and Marc Brandl (European Representative, The Arcview Group).
Topics discussed included the level of institutional interest in cannabis in London, What makes London a good place to raise capital against other locations, and what types of companies and firms are investing in the EU cannabis industry right now.
If you’re interested in being a speaker, sponsor, or attendee at The Cannabis Society’s upcoming conferences, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.