For CEO Alex Shah, Intelligence Is Central
From the onset of adulthood through 1995, guest Ashesh “Alex” Shah worked as a profiler for the CIA. Shah now runs Solo Sciences, a Boston company specializing in the authenticating weed products. He shares with Alex and Donnell the unclassified truth of his unlikely professional transition.
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Alex Halperin’s Cannabis Dictionary
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Alex Halperin (00:07):
Welcome to weedweek. I’m Alex Halperin.
Donnell Alexander (00:08):
and I’m Danelle Alexander.
Alex Halperin (00:11):
This is the weed week podcast. You can subscribe to our free newsletters: WeedWeek, WeedWeek California and WeedWeek Canada. They’re all free at weedweek.net and you can find us on Twitter and Instagram at @weedweeknews. Got any feedback? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org you can also subscribe and review or like this podcast at Apple podcasts, SoundCloud and Stitcher.
Donnell Alexander (00:32):
Joining us from Boston this week is Ashesh “Alex” Shah, CEO of solo sciences and a former CIA profiler, Alex Halperin. We’ve had some amazing thinkers and innovative people on our podcast, but I think he’s in the top tier.
Alex Halperin (00:49):
He’s really a pretty interesting and smart guy. There’s no question.
Donnell Alexander (00:54):
I just got out of his way. There was some, some issues I wanted to question and I did, but didn’t he say he was 13 when he graduated from college?
Alex Halperin (01:03):
He was clearly some kind of a like a hacker prodigy and now he’s working on a technology that’s very cool and sophisticated and probably abroad interest outside the cannabis industry as well as within it. But first we’re just going to say a little bit of a word about what’s going on with cannabis relief and the covert crisis. So one of the ironies of the situation we find ourselves in right now, or the industry finds itself in is that there’s been this endorsement from so many States and cities, not universal, but, but pretty close, that cannabis is an essential industry and should, should be able to continue functioning during this crisis. And at the same time, cannabis businesses are largely being excluded from the government relief that is being afforded to businesses all over the economy.
Donnell Alexander (01:55):
Why is that?
Alex Halperin (01:56):
Well, I mean, the main reason is because cannabis is essential, but it’s also federally illegal. One of the quintessential examples of this is that the small business administration, which is part of the treasury department, plans to give out at least $350 billion in loans to small businesses. Small businesses are basically any company with less than 500 employees. So that’s virtually the entire cannabis industry. But cannabis businesses aren’t eligible for those loads. This affects weed.
Donnell Alexander (02:29):
week as well. Although we are not obeisance cannabis business, it’s unclear whether whether ancillary companies such as ourself are eligible for those loans. We’re going to be finding that out once the application period opens. I read a piece this week that said cannabis has the potential to contribute to recovery and at the same time we’re shut out from these relief efforts. What do you think of that?
Alex Halperin (02:56):
I think for people who are in this industry, it’s nothing new. They’re pretty used to these kinds of glaring ironies and perhaps glaring hypocrisy. You know, there’s really nothing, nothing they can do except soldier on. You know, we’re, and we’re at this weird point where we’re, some businesses have seen jumps in sales, although it’s not clear whether that means that people are actually consuming a lot more or if they were just sort of hoarding at the beginning of the crisis. There does seem to be over leveling off in sales.
Donnell Alexander (03:29):
Definitely less optimistic than in those first days of quarantine.
Alex Halperin (03:34):
Yeah. You know, while there may be an uptake, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t look so far from from the data I’ve seen, like people are radically adjusting their, their consumption habits. So that’s good. So now, now that we’ve caught you guys up on the inevitable covert fallout, here’s a very different discussion, but a really interesting one. It sounds like this technology could have, it could have a very significant impact not just on product security and counterfeit, but also for product marketing as well. And here’s Alex Shaw
Donnell Alexander (04:27):
[inaudible] Alex Shah welcome to weedweek.
Alex Shah (04:30):
Pleasure to be here.
Alex Halperin (04:31):
Hey Alex, how are you?
Donnell Alexander (04:35):
I’m going to, I’m going to call this podcast too many. Alexs. Donnell Alexander, Alex Halperin and Alex Shah. But Alex, Alex Shah. I want to ask what did you do as a CIA profiler and for how long were you at that?
Alex Shah (04:47):
I was only 18, got involved as a, I’d almost say as a dare in college, but it ended up getting recruited in as a leadership profile or my focus was on profiling world leaders that involved essentially taking a guess at what they would do and what kind of actions they may take. Using as much sourcing information and sort of psychographics as well to figure that out.
Donnell Alexander (05:11):
Psychographics, what does that mean?
Alex Shah (05:13):
Yeah, so essentially starting my career back in the late eighties of all things, um, and I was 18 years old, so I jumped into it. It was a dare from college. We were kidding around and I ended up becoming a profiler with an understanding of how do I look at and evaluate world leaders, key players in political situations within different regions. You know, luck would have it or luck wouldn’t have it that the area that I covered with Southeast Asia, my mentor was covering a place called a rock and a desert shield took place. And the next thing you know, I’m on a presidential task force. So it’s sort of what I’d call the field promotion of all field promotions. And, uh, ended up, um, working very closely through desert shield, desert storm, the wall came down, the communism fell you had Yeltsin on a tank. I mean it was pretty turbulent times.
Alex Halperin (06:06):
That’s been fascinating.
Alex Shah (06:09):
That’s a long story onto itself.
Donnell Alexander (06:11):
How long did you do it?
Alex Shah (06:13):
Quite some time. You start that position and stay for quite some time, I guess officially into the early nineties.
Alex Halperin (06:21):
How do you just get recruited into the CIA at age 18? Or is that confidential?
Alex Shah (06:28):
Some of that is confidential. I started my career, I, I wouldn’t say career. I was, I finished my computer science at 13, and then I was a, uh, sort of a known hacker for quite some time. And, and then, uh, there was no telecommunications act and uh, I basically had to testify in front of the Senate subcommittee when I was 14 or 15. And you know, at that point people tend to notice you, I guess I was doing all that while going back to college where I was doing premed Poliak and chemistry. So it was a bit of a crazy, crazy time in life.
Donnell Alexander (07:01):
Yeah. Crazy time. I can imagine. I did some crazy thing in college, but I didn’t join the CIA. Listen, I have a question. This an advent, let’s say you’re 18 did you know that term? Deep state? Did it mean anything to you?
Alex Shah (07:14):
I know. So what was the.
Donnell Alexander (07:16):
the term deep state.
Alex Shah (07:19):
Yeah, I understood. No, I know it’s a side conversation, but yeah, I mean I understood it and you have to remember hacker rebel, right? So I wasn’t, I wasn’t necessarily, you know all about that. It was more, I knew that information was a very important part of what we did. I also knew that understanding actually what was going on was really important as opposed to just the news that we hear. And most of my job though it may not seem very sexy, was reading an incredible amount of information by 8:00 AM and it translated from many, many different sources from many different radio stations, newspaper, astute. I mean it doesn’t matter what it is. And then figuring out what was real. And you know, you look today, everyone today has the skills I have, right? Because you halfway hope because we get inundated with social media and information at such a high speed that it’s quite difficult to really tell what’s real versus what’s fake. And you know, that sort of leads to what we do, right? If you look at solo, our whole function was how do I make it easier for an individual to take a look at information, the product they take, what they consume, and how do they actually understand what’s, what’s a fallacy and what’s not. So I see the correlation pretty, pretty strongly. Um, I look at everyone from gen Z to millennials and the rest of us, and I go look at the news and I go, my God, you know, I had the advantage of having the entire agency to look at what was disinformation. And here we get hit with it every second.
Donnell Alexander (09:03):
I want to talk to you about solo in just a second, but I just want to follow up on that question because I read the papers and I, I’m not like a, I’m not a red state guy if you want to say that, but I look in, I, I see, um, intelligence sources tell the New York times and the Washington post, I think that’s you guys, right? That’s you guys providing information.
Alex Shah (09:24):
right? You don’t know who it is. I always say, uh, the organizations are really massive. Uh, the, the, today you’ve got Homeland, you’ve got so many different bureaus and groups and organizations and people like to say they’re one thing or another. I mean, this is 30 years ago. I’m talking to you about things that are fully declassified or of just, you know, no longer, uh, you know, relevant. But I think people use information politically all the time. And I think we have to be very careful when we use our words or when we make statements that everyone will twist them. And I, I’m very conscious of that. In fact, just watching, you know, one of the reasons our group existed in, uh, the agency was, was really simple. I mean, it used to be old days by graphics. If you’re a Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan fan, that’s sort of his job. And, uh, one of the things that was important to note is that information is always used to, to con corrupt populations. It’s just what we do.
Donnell Alexander (10:32):
How do you mean that?
Alex Shah (10:34):
So, you know, in the old days that the agency had three groups, military, political and economic resources, and they would evaluate a country, they’d say this country is capable of, this company isn’t capable or this political party is communist or not communist or social front or you know, the national front, whatever they’ve got. And what this group was doing was saying, people matter that people and the individual matter. And guess what, as a result, if I have an understanding about this individual, they may not care Sunni, Shiite or any of this, they may just be pissed off that somebody knocked off their sister when they were younger. Right? You have no idea. And when you look at Saddam’s actions in, uh, in the beginning of the girl called for how was he doing going into Kuwait? It was crazy. It was an individual maneuver, but an individual, not a political party, not as soon as she, I think it was under his own sort of mechanisms. And if you think about that, you have to realize that, you know, the agencies start to evolve and they realize just how important that is. And if you look again, you know, it’s sort of bringing it back to our world, how we think is a really part of, of all the equations, right? Especially when we make generalized statements about, you know, cannabis should be legal or it shouldn’t be legal or it’s going to do this or this terpene does that, or this cannabinoid will make you feel paranoid or whatever it might be. Right. All those things always drive back to an individual. So there is a sort of theme, I think one of the questions someone was postulating is that how do you link the two together? I said, I think I just had a general quest that individuals should try to get in control of their own information and their own selves.
Alex Halperin (12:25):
It sounds like there are many, many places in the marketplace where you could take your skills. Uh, how did you become involved? How did you become interested in and involved in the cannabis industry?
Alex Shah (12:41):
Well, you know, that actually goes back to, I’m going to give you a StepStone in between. So shortly after the agency, I helped create a couple of companies. I had four IPOs, probably by 97, and one of the companies was actually creating, created the grocery loyalty card. Okay. So let’s sort of go back in time. And my mentor at the time, who’s actually now part of our company, uh, Gordon Wade, uh, defined and created what’s known as category management. It’s literally how 30,000 people, uh, who are specialists in this all look at consumer packaged goods. What should I sell? What should I price it at? What items should I promote? Um, and, uh, you know, where should it be? Uh, sort of on the shelf,
Alex Halperin (13:30):
sort of like how, how a grocery store thinks about this.
Alex Shah (13:33):
Everything. Grocery store, Procter and gamble, Coca-Cola, um, cannabis companies, right? I mean, they should be thinking this too. Why do I need 2000, 300 skews? Um, for a major MSO when simple place like trader Joe’s, which we feel like has everything has 3,500, why do I need that many $20 vapes? Right? So the concept of category, why do I do $20? I mean, they all have the same THC, they all have the same side label, so why do I need 50 of them? So, so this whole construct of sophisticated data analytics started with something called category management back in 1993. And um, I was the kid who had to write the software behind it. Uh, we sold that to IRI and eventually it sold it to Oracle. Um, and we authored that as part of it. We created the loyalty, see CVS card or you see your Kroger card, whatever it may be for the grocery store near you. And, you know, I had a pretty successful career along the way. A lot of different things. Let a different whole bunch of companies, you know,
Alex Halperin (14:38):
hold on. So, so just to, just to be clear, you were giving people sort of loyalty cards and discounts and in exchange you got real insights into their shopping habits.
Alex Shah (14:52):
Absolutely. Right? So, so one of the things that everyone talks about is what we would call a switching costs or what is really relevant that you should keep on your shelf. And most people today in the cannabis space don’t think of, they think they can hire data scientists and they can invent this. This stuff has been around, I mean, we wrote all the formulations, um, ages ago, but I’ll give you a couple of very simple examples. Um, back in the day people used to say, what two things wouldn’t you ever discount? At the same time might be spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, right? That seems logical. Hotdog and hotdog buns. Well, it turns out that those two are not correlated. You usually have the bonds and then buy the hotdogs. It’s kind of weird. That’s why there’s different numbers and it’s a complete nightmare. But I mean it’s, it’s some, some crazy trick somewhere. It turns out that one of the highest correlations was Gatorade or sports strings and 10 pound bags of pet food. Usually because the person said, I have no desire to go carry this stuff, honey, why don’t you go out boil it all doesn’t matter, honey. Why don’t you go out and after you work out and are walking the dog, go pick up the really heavy bag of groceries. And on the way out they pick up the sports drinks. That’s turned out to be the highest correlation. Now you couldn’t figure this out unless you knew what was in their basket. So just if I had the register receipts, I needed to know that that basket was one basket. So basket analytics became really important as you look at sort of, you know, fast forwarding into the solo world or the kernel world, what happens is this is the kind of data analytics that we’re starting to think through.
Donnell Alexander (16:28):
You say the solo world, I want to make sure we’re talking about solo sciences, correct?
Alex Shah (16:34):
Yeah. So, so what happens is when, when I look at this years past decades, dare I say, um, and I get a phone call from a friend of mine from college and he’s rather famous, uh, trademark and brand attorney. He, uh, give him a shout out, Dave Kaplan, Dave is a legend. He became famous because he was the kid when this weird digital music stuff was happening, right? And, uh, they’ll like, Hey, I don’t know what this crap is. Why don’t you go like shut them down. So he shut down Napster. Okay. Fucking fun guy. Well, you know, at the time, well, no one has CDs, right? So he, so he, he’s today, you know, he’s got everyone from like J K Rowling’s to Amazon, to Zynga to HBO in the middle, right. And he calls me up and he goes, Hey Alex, you know, my younger brother went to Williams college, uh, 10 years after us, you know, but he’s really into cannabis. Do you think you could help? And I was like, yeah, like totally mad. And I swear to God, I thought it was an intervention. Like that’s how naive I was. I literally thought we were going to like hug it out. I was super excited. And he goes, you’re obviously still a nerd. You clearly haven’t changed. And he goes, no, he’s the chief medical officer of cancer care docs. He’s got a quarter million cannabis patients under him. He went to Tufts medical and he has, you know, 15, sorry, 25,000 patients. He’s seen personally over the last five years treating them, you know, at their sort of end of life, really last resort kind of way. And this is Massachusetts, right? Right, right around the corner. Um, and I said, Oh, okay. I felt rather stupid. So I sat down with dr Ben Kaplan and I always say that if you think of susis Lee and the others doing the research, I always think of Ben, right? Dr Kaplan as being out on the front lines, like he’s in Fallujah, right? He’s, he’s there meeting people who are like, look, I’ve just been diagnosed with four weeks to live. Right? What should I take? And God bless this guy, right? I mean, he, he sat down and he showed me this world and I went, wow, I really don’t know a lot. Do I? Right.
Donnell Alexander (18:55):
And I have to ask, were you a cannabis user at this point?
Alex Shah (18:58):
No, not really. I mean, I just, yeah, no, no, no. At the time, I mean, think of it top secret, special compartmental clearance, like no chance, right?
Donnell Alexander (19:07):
So no cannabis use in the CIA really.
Alex Shah (19:13):
I’m sure there is. Right. But I mean, there’s a whole bunch of guys in Afghanistan, I’m sure that you know, now knowing what I know, I mean today I could tell you for a fact that, you know, looking back at it, I’m sure I should’ve gone to the guy and been like, dude, I know you’re up with the Afghani Kush people bring it directly. But, uh, no, but you know, when you think about it, uh, I had no clue. And I, and you have to remember like premed sat on Harvard Medical’s advanced research board, you know, deep kind of understanding in the way, completely realized I’m missing something. Um, this was by the way, three years ago, right? Three and a half years ago. It’s this like in cannabis years is like centuries or something. But um, but I, I sat down and he, I went and I called up a very good friend of mine, uh, Katie Flannery and I said, Katie, look, I know you’ve got an FDA consulting background, Stryker, all this stuff. You know, we, we met when we had sold another company and I S I told her, I said, Katie, I need a crash course in marijuana. She goes, first of all, it’s cannabis. Second of all, let me introduce you to future weed. And she laid out the smorgasbord of stuff, all this packaging cause I wanted to see how they were selling this stuff. And I sat there and by the way, like there was a pretty Epic spread and I remember looking at it and I said, Holy shit, how do I know? It’s like, where’s the kosher symbol? Where’s the GIS certificate? You know, my Indian diamond roots come out at that point. Where’s the, where’s the UL symbol? Like what, how do I know? Like what’s real, what’s fake? And she goes, yeah, funny you should say that. Half the stuff was from like dispensary’s I had friends get it and the other half is from my dude. I’m like, excuse me. She goes, yeah, whatever. Like, you know, sort of the PAX pot comes from and I realized there’s no way that we could tell what’s real, what’s fake, what’s, what’s good for me, like what it’s gonna do to me. I have no idea. And you know, uh, that was one of the first, first times in a while that I’d actually used other two times, probably were bachelor parties in the Netherlands, but, you know, but, but, uh, I sat there and said, wow, like, how does anyone understand this?
Donnell Alexander (21:32):
I’m wondering, is this the first time that you come across the idea of the cryptographically secure cannabis product, authentic education system?
Alex Shah (21:39):
Yeah, I mean, I essentially realized at that moment that there’s this amazing opportunity, um, which was, if I could go in at that moment and I can weave my hands over any industry that was nascent and said, do it right from the beginning. Let’s go back to that category management thing. If I at that moment came in and said, I could fingerprint every single package that existed and I’m not talking about like by batch, I’m talking like every box, right? You have three King pen vapes. What if all three were fingerprinted differently? Then two things could happen. One is I can make sure.
Alex Halperin (22:16):
we can use or just different.
Alex Shah (22:18):
no, no, no, no. I mean every box is different under the same skew, under the under the same batch. Like imagine you have five cans of Coca-Cola out of your six pack and all five cans of different, okay. All five cans have a little Mark on it. That’s different. Right, right, right. This was the, this was the sort of brain shop. I had a couple of patents that I had in my pocket from somewhere before I had this background in category management. I had an understanding of how people think about it and as Katie would say, I kind of blended everything together and the idea was, Hey, we could actually make this industry safer and better than any other industry out there. We could literally do what all the other folks took forever to do. In fact, the FDA, just to give you an idea, required serialization something akin to what I’m talking about. That mandate only happened in November of 2018.
Alex Halperin (23:14):
Alex Shah (23:16):
Yeah. November, 2018 that’s when the date went down. So if you think about what we came up with and what we were doing, the full mandate only happened in November of 2018 and they can’t do the cryptologic.
Alex Halperin (23:30):
just for pharmaceutical drugs, right?
Alex Shah (23:33):
Just pharmaceutical, FDA, prescription drugs are serialized finally after decades because they realize that when you want to do a recall, when a vaporizer goes bad, when something goes sideways, it’s not about which batch you need to get down to exactly which boxes you need to know what happened, where they went. That whole ability to interact with a package like it is your loyalty card is huge. So yeah, the short answer is we came up with it then and we, we realized that the beauty was that labeling was changing every five seconds. If we could somehow not require a hologram, not required QR code. I’ll talk about that in a second. If we could focus on a new Mark that was just ink with little variations that had no way to be decoded, um, except, uh, you know, except if we use our app then it would be fantastic. Let me describe it. Solo code was our answer to the fact that holograms and QR codes are inherently bad news. And I’ll give you an example. What a hologram is. Bad news. Because people look at a package, they see a hologram and they’re supposed to believe that it’s safe because it has a hologram. Nope. First of all, you could buy holograms on Amazon. Second of all, if holograms were so secure, then nobody would have a fake ID. Right? I mean, come on, let’s, let’s, not that I had what, but I mean, let’s just, let’s just think about this. Hologram is obviously difficult to fake. If anyone’s spent the time looking closely, you know, you took out a jeweler’s loop, you’re a forensic graphologist and you decided, I’m going to like look into this soccer, but nobody does. You buy the package, you see the hologram, like yeah, must be real. So that doesn’t work. The second thing that doesn’t work is a QR code. You ever. Sort of. You know, I did a demo, we looked at both kingpin and the California, uh, state, uh, cannabis association, right? They have the CCA has this, uh, uh, QR code in the window to make sure that things are safe for you, that this is legitimate. You do know that I can just, I’ve, we basically hack the two websites, created a complete clone websites and I can literally issue a QR code and it will tell you that it is a legitimate dispensary.
Donnell Alexander (26:03):
So when you say we, you mean the CA.
Donnell Alexander (26:05):
Alex Shah (26:08):
so what was the purpose of that? To show that these QR codes are very, very dangerous to people? Why is it that we think that just because I put a QR code up there and I send you to a website, which you have no idea where you’re supposed to be going. Why can’t that website just mine Bitcoin on your phone? That website could tell you whatever it wants. It’s a self referential to tology right, is what we would call. Yeah, it is true because I pointed you to something that says it is true. I mean Jack, it goes back to the same data analytics from the CIA. Right. And when I think about it, I always wonder why someone would use a technology from 1994 which is a QR code that was designed for automotive motive parts in Japan. Just so everyone knows that’s what they designed those QR codes for. And why is that suddenly a way of creating safety or product transparency? Yeah. Makes no sense to me. 0 million cents and everyone’s like, Oh, it’s built into my phone. I’m like, yeah, so I can like aim at the thing and it will take me to, you know Joe Bitcoin mining site.com and it has, you know, and they’re like, Oh, but it shows you the URL. I said, Oh, because I can’t hide it behind really nice friendly website.com right? I mean, right. So the point is, we knew we couldn’t do that. So we built our own version of a fingerprint size of a dime. That changes on every single instance, except here’s the beauty. Nobody knows what the next one is.
Alex Halperin (27:38):
What is the fingerprint? Is it strings of numbers?
Alex Shah (27:41):
If you look at, if you know, there’s no number, if you, if you look at solo, uh, you know, go to get solo.com, [inaudible] dot com you’ll see that, you know, the way the fingerprint works, uh, what we call a quasar or this four point graphic. What’s interesting about it is that inside the graphic, which is our trademark, it’s a solo inside it. Um, we were able to register the trademark. We were able to, uh, sorry, we filed for the trademark. We’ve got other registrations. Um, we’ve got the trademark copyright, we’ve got the patents behind it. So the funny thing is if you draw the shape, that little four point star that you see, um, if you draw that shape, that’s ours. So even cannabis companies can actually protect their brand because if they put our Mark on their package, they can Sue them. Right? We’re not a cannabis protection system. We’re any kind of product protection system. And what’s exciting about that is inside it, we make little tiny variations in the color and the image and the spatial acuity, all that stuff has changed and we do that and the camera detects the changes, but the pattern changes inside. It’s completely random. So from one to the next to the next, I have no idea what it is. Nobody does.
Donnell Alexander (29:03):
You’re based in Massachusetts, right?
Alex Shah (29:06):
Correct. But I spent a lot of my time in LA.
Donnell Alexander (29:09):
Okay. Well what’s business like that there? How are you coping with the present conditions?
Alex Shah (29:14):
Uh, it’s shut down. I mean, I will tell you right now, um, from the cannabis side, things have, uh, obviously been, were pretty incredible coming up into March 18th. In fact, some of the strongest weeks that anyone’s ever seen that that week was up anywhere from 10 to 20% depending on medical, cannabis or recreational. So the numbers are just, you know, from our, from the kernel side of the analytics, uh, unbelievably powerful from the, uh, current local environment. Uh, stay at home orders. We have so many folks in the biotech and medical fields. So the essential worker list is really high. I mean, just to give you an idea, uh, mass general hospital and partners, healthcare slash Harvard group, that’s 85,000 people in Massachusetts are all healthcare workers, just to give you the size of it. So, so we are very mobilized as a, as an entire state. Um, I think in terms of just from the cannabis side, uh, you know, it’s pretty like I’m about a mile from Netta if you know that other, it’s one of the most successful places, uh, on the, uh, as a cannabis dispensary. And, uh, one of the most, um, profitables usually have 2,500 people a day. It is just one of the most massively successful dispensaries. Any right, not a care.org, but Netta, uh, right now has been shut down to all recreational. It is only open to registered medical patients and only through reserve ahead. So you go in, you, you, you go on reserve online, you put it in to get the, uh, packages ready. Um, but medical sales are continuing, still considered essential, which I think has been one of the biggest victories for the entire, uh, industry that, that has been seen as essential services.
Donnell Alexander (31:08):
So what do you do now? I mean, you’re sitting dormant. What are plans for you in the company?
Alex Shah (31:13):
Well, we’re, we’re not done at all. I mean, for us it’s interesting. We’ve got, uh, so many different brands and different organizations working together. One of our biggest announcements was a company called 14th round. Uh, and solo made a partnership, uh, at the end of last year, 14th round. Most people don’t know who they are, but they’re behind, uh, everyone from doses to, uh, select right Cura select, uh, 40% of the vaporizers that you use or see, or are
Alex Halperin (31:46):
they are the manufacturer of the hardware,
Alex Shah (31:49):
hardware and the packaging.
Alex Halperin (31:50):
What do you mean? It’s behind doses and carousel rack
Alex Shah (31:54):
when you use a doses, pen doses vaporizer that was manufactured by 14th round. In fact, the founders of doses are there. Um, and when you look at that packaging, it was produced by 14th round. And when you look at the packaging for all of the brands that you know, that represent 40% of the California vaporizer market by volume, all of it’s produced by 14th round, that’s a big deal.
Donnell Alexander (32:24):
Alex Shah (32:26):
I have those. So the reason that’s important is they announced with us that they believe solos technology isn’t a nice to have, but it is a need to have very much like a airbag is. And what they’ve agreed and what they’ve mandated is that every brand and every package that they produce will include the solo technology in it by default, just like a car manufacturer has an airbag by default, you don’t go in and say, Hey, I want to like save on the airbag. Right? So unlike a lot of folks who think of anti counterfeiting or the kind of stuff that we’re doing as a nice to have, um, I think it was a huge validation from them. Um, that it is a absolute essential. And that’s release was a, was a really big thing. And now what we’re working on very hard is as you know, people buy in waves, right? They buy their packaging and stuff and waves. Uh, we are implementing the roll out of that. I mean this will be millions upon millions of packages. We’ll have this as effectively the standard. And you’re right, it could be used like the ultimate UPC or SKU code, right? Because you can use it for checkout, you can use for everything. So solo code to us is the, is in a way that you could do recalls. It’s a way that you could do consumer information. It’s a way that you can communicate with that consumer and it’s a way to obviously make sure that the consumer has full transparency.
Alex Halperin (33:51):
The real sort of killer app for it right now would be in counterfeit prevention, um, rather than, whereas from the consumer safety perspective, I’m sure you’re going to disagree with me and that’s fine. But, but from a consumer safety perspective, it almost seems like, like overkill.
Alex Shah (34:14):
Well, no. Think of what you could do from the consumer safety side. Remember when people said these vitamin E acetate pens were, were finally they figured out that was the additive, right? That that was one of the biggest reasons for the problems. How do you do a recall? Well, in Massachusetts we had a complete nightmare. The band vape sales completely right. And then you have to take all this stuff. What do you think the stuff went? Went out the back door right into the black market, right? People can’t go out of business. Stuff got dumped and they didn’t seize it. They just said it’s no longer for sale. If they’d been using the solo technology, we could have effectively turned off those boxes remotely, giving people a warning. And when they tested which ones were real, we could have turned them back on remotely because no data is stored inside our fingerprint. It’s all stored in a central location. So the beauty is that we can actually regulate the authenticity remotely. It makes it very powerful. So it means if you have a recall, I can suddenly anyone who’s scanned it with our app or anyone who’s, you know, tested the item, we can immediately send them a push notification that, Hey, the vape, you know, the vaporizer that you just purchased or used or, or, or, or tried, um, may have a problem. You can’t even do that with lettuce. Yeah. You can’t even do that with, with like FDA drugs right now. You have to go to a website and look it up,
Donnell Alexander (35:39):
but want to make sure you’ve told us all we need to know about the product. And that last bit of news was particularly interesting. What’s we know about where we’re headed from here.
Alex Shah (35:49):
Yeah. So I think, you know, the next step is really, I wanted to get rid of those loyalty cards. So what I always thought is, wouldn’t it be amazing if you’ve serialized all of the products? If you could make the product, the passport for that brand. We’ll give you a simple example. Uh, if you remember, uh, Charlie and the chocolate factory, you had a golden ticket. We’ll remember every box that has a solo code is different. Every single box you could turn around and make one of the boxes of golden ticket because every box also is designed to act as a little passport. It’s yours. You could even do something like puff, puff, pass, right? Hey, share this, uh, share this package with the five-year friends in the same location. Um, we can check that you five friends scanned it and we’ll give you some swag. We’ll give you some rewards, bring a package to Coachella and we’ll let you in the VIP lounge, right? So we can do incredible amounts of interactive marketing for the brand. Folks out there with this, all the stuff that Koch has been trying, Coca-Cola has been trying to do for ages. Um, you know, all the stuff that, that the other consumer folks do for ages. We can do all that while at the same time giving the consumer safety side a huge up and we can make sure that there’s transparency.
Alex Halperin (37:07):
Are you beginning to sell this or is this available with mainstream brands as well?
Alex Shah (37:13):
Very big mainstream brands. I can’t give you the launch announcements of the brands who are out, but I can tell you that just, uh, last, uh, uh, last week, uh, hundreds of thousands, uh,
Donnell Alexander (37:28):
Hey Alex, thanks for joining us. It’s been super insightful.
Alex Shah (37:31):
Thank you. Really appreciate the time guys. Alright, good luck.
Donnell Alexander (37:36):
And that’s our show for the week as usual. Alex has a tweet.
Alex Halperin (37:40):
Well the tweet is from weedweek, Canada editor Jesse Staniforth that’s @jbstaniforth. And I’m starting this week. Jesse and I were going to be hosting a weekly news brief on zoom to quickly catch folks up with um, the latest developments in the industry. Uh, sort of like a sports center kind of thing, you know, on a smaller scale of course. But um, Jesse and I are both pretty well informed and we’ll be keeping you posted on the latest developments. You can sign up for that and zoom and the link is in the show notes and it’s free. Of course. It’s going to be every Friday live at 10:00 AM Pacific time, 1:00 PM Eastern time. And then the recording will also be available after that.
Donnell Alexander (38:27):
That’s great. And I’m doing something on Friday, this Friday only because I try not to get locked into a whole bunch of things, but there’s an Instagram Live session that we’re going to be doing. If you follow us on Twitter or even Facebook, you have an idea. This is coming out. We’re letting go of some content, some stuff that only a handful of people have actually had the opportunity to listen to, and we’re going to get you up on it before it’s released. It’s fun.
Alex Halperin (38:51):
As always, you can find this on Twitter and Instagram at @weedweeknews or email us at email@example.com For lots more news. You can sign up for the Canada and California newsletters or my original five-year-old newsletter. All at weedweek.net.
Donnell Alexander (39:06):
if you’ve gotten this far into our episode, it only makes practical sense that you immediately subscribe and review or like us on Apple podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever you happen to be. Hearing us.
Alex Halperin (39:17):
I’m Alex Halperin.
Donnell Alexander (39:18):
and I’m Donnell Alexander.
Alex Halperin (39:19):
Our show is produced by Donnie Alexander and engineered by Larry Buhl. Alicia Byer wrote our theme music.
Donnell Alexander (39:25):
We’ll check you out next week.
Alex Halperin (39:27):