The scene could come straight out of Dragon’s Den. A woman wearing a smart-casual dress and microphone headset makes her pitch. She is slightly nervous, but masks it with that chirpy, skittish sort of positivity that people affect at business meetings. The pitch itself is delivered in fluent corporatese: revenue streams, growth marketing strategies, 10 percent equity stakes, second round funding opportunities. There are slides with pie charts and graphs.
When the woman is finished, the four men on the judging panel fire off a round of questions about her proposed business model, the audience applauds and the next hopeful entrepreneur is ushered onstage.
This could be any slick, well-financed investor road show in the world. What marks this event out, however, is that all the products under discussion are derived from cannabis. Products here are discussed in terms of “revenue growth” and “developing human capital”. Outside, in east London, possession of some of these same products could land you in the back of a police car.
This is Canna Tech, the leading conference for the global legal cannabis industry. Held at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, it’s a slick operation. There are Ted Talk-style presentations, individual stalls for cutting edge companies, an open bar and a buzzy international crowd of American, Canadian, Israeli and European business folk. This event is aimed specifically at potential investors in the emerging cannabis market. It is sold out, with each of the 400 or so attendees having paid £299 to hear about potential opportunities ahead of the game. The organisers take pains to remind the audience that this is a strictly non-smoking event. You can’t score any weed here, but you can collect a lot of business cards.
Canna Tech is the brainchild of Saul Kaye, an Israeli cannabis entrepreneur and founder of the company iCan. I caught up with Saul to ask him about how this event came about, and what significance it might have on the global stage.
“My interest in this sector started from something very personal,” he begins. “My background is as a pharmacist and my mother had Crohn’s disease. She tried all the known therapies, which didn’t work and were incredibly expensive. Cannabis worked better than anything else we found, and it wasn’t expensive at all. This is a 70-year-old woman who’s never smoked a day in her life, and this is a therapy that’s helping her. That was the start. When you’ve seen – all around the world – mothers of very sick children and terminally ill patients demanding these treatments, it’s very hard to ignore.”
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