Jon Cooper is the CEO of Ebbu, a cannabis producer with the goal of creating consistency among products in the industry.
What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?
We are playing “long ball”. We believe that over the next 5 to 10 years, brands will begin to dominate the market. In order for this to happen, cannabis products must become consistent and predictable. Ebbu is a leading R&D company in the cannabis space that is tackling this problem through cutting edge pharmacology, chromatography and genetics. And while we are launching some of our own products, we believe we will become the “Intel Inside” of the industry, providing the necessary consistency and predictability to allow large brands to enter the space.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
I was asked to look at the space. And frankly, it initially did not appeal to me, as I did not trust cannabis products. Then one day I started imaging the possibility of capturing the sensations or benefits I wanted from cannabis in a product and regardless of the store I walked in, I could get that exact same thing—every time. The idea of doing this really intrigued me, so off I went.
Walk us through a normal day.
Ha. It is a funny question because I am not sure there is such a thing as a normal day in this space. With that said, as an example, today I started with an investor call at 7 am, responded to about 50 emails at around 8 am, held a staff meeting at 9 am, jumped on another investor call at 10 am, hosted a 2 hour investor / potential partner meeting at 10:30 am, was visited by a top 5 consulting firm at 1 pm, reviewed and responded to a large expansion deal offer at 3 pm, had a quick side bar reviewing a strategic proposal from my CFO at 3:30 pm, drove to Denver for a meeting with an investor at 4:30 that went till 6:30, went home to help put my kids to bed, and then was on the computer working from about 8:30 to 11 pm.
What has been your biggest lesson about working in cannabis, and in business in general?
As an entrepreneur, I am typically fairly optimistic and aggressive in nature. I found that in more stable industries, this was not much of a problem. The cannabis industry is still far too unpredictable. It seems like anything can change on you without a moment’s notice. I also think that a lot of the normal business rules and approaches don’t work, or are not allowed in this industry. It has really made me start acting more conservative in nature. It has also really taught me to simply deal with the problem of the day and get ready for the next one that follows. A friend of my shared with me the best analogy of what we go through on a daily basis. If you recall at the end of 'The Martian', Matt Damon is teaching a class and shares that you need to focus on and solve one problem, then the next problem, and then the next problem, and if you solve enough problems, you get to go home. That is a great representation of what it is like to be a leader in this industry.
Biggest lesson in business in general—that is an easy one. Do something that you are passionate about. Do something that makes you happy. Life is way too short. If you feel like you have a job, you probably have the wrong job.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
That is a tough one as we have a few big opportunities on the horizon. But if I was to pick one, it would probably be to help make cannabis mainstream. The work that we are doing to deliver consistent and predictable (trusted) cannabis solutions will soon allow major brands to come into this industry. I predict that over the next 12 to 18 months, we will see a few major brands outside of cannabis come into the market and I strongly believe we will be a part of some of those opportunities. I know some in the industry won’t like that concept, but it is inevitable. And I think that is a good thing as it will exponentially grow our industry. This means less people on opioids. This means healthier alternatives. This means a happier society.
Do you have any thoughts or concerns about Sean Spicer’s statements indicating the Administration’s intention to crack down on recreational cannabis?
Like most people in the industry, we are keeping a close eye on the local and national legislation and policies, but it’s really a “wait and see” game. As a company, we have a duty to continue to move forward, to build our brands, and to continue to enhance our capabilities. We also have a duty to our investors to do our best to grow their investments, but most importantly, we have a mission to make cannabis predictable, consistent, and reliable so it can be enjoyed by everyone. Our commitment to that mission has never been stronger.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
Questions like this are always difficult to answer. I guess the quick answer is that I am not trying to run in the same direction as everyone else. I have been purposely positioning Ebbu for what the cannabis industry will look like in 5 years, not based on what it looks like today. I strongly believe in real brands and real medicine will allow mainstream consumers to start enjoying the incredible benefits of cannabinoids.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today? That is a difficult one as there are a ton of things that frustrate entrepreneurs in this industry. But if I had to pick one, it would be probably be how the lack of acceptance on a federal level makes every aspect of this business so much harder to do. But it is also the opportunity.
What would you say to those who are considering investing in your company?
I would say that if you are willing to play long ball with us, I would happily argue that Ebbu is just as well, if not better, positioned than any other company in this space to take advantage of the future of this industry.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?
Breathe. It is not always going to be a smooth journey. In fact, I promise you, it won’t be. But be patient. Every problem has an answer. Just work the problems. And deliver a solution that you are passionate about.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
First, branding in this industry is no different than any other industry. Brands establish trust with an end consumer. They should always deliver a consistent, predictable solution. If you don’t have that, you don’t really have a brand. Be sure to solve that problem first. I am not convinced there is a real brand in the space today, but that will soon change. Second, consumers want a real connection with a brand. They are not going to buy a product just because it has someone’s name on it. Third, be prepared to battle in a very crowded, very competitive space
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?
I believe cannabis will go more mainstream. Meaning there will be major brands coming into this space. The experiences will become more consistent. And I think there will be broad acceptance of cannabis for both adult use and medical purposes.
Do you consume cannabis? And if so, what's your favorite way to consume?
Yes. However, since we launched our formulated products, I stopped using anything else. Honestly, I prefer our experiences, and frankly I trust our products to deliver the exact experience I am looking for every time. I was a vape guy, but with the launch of our aqua drops, I have been switching over to cannabis drinks using our solution!