Episode 103

For CEO Alex Shah, Intelligence Is Central

Apr 6, 2020 | Length: 39m 37s

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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This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Podcast transcript

Alex Halperin (00:07):
Welcome to WeedWeek. I’m Alex Halperin.

Donnell Alexander (00:08):
And I’m Donnell Alexander.

Alex Halperin (00:11):
This is the WeedWeek podcast. You can subscribe to our free newsletters WeedWeek, WeedWeek California and WeedWeek Canada. All at weedweek.net and you can find us on Twitter and Instagram at @weedweeknews. Got any feedback? Write to us at hello@weedweek.net. 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 were 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 hacker prodigy and now he’s working on a technology that’s very cool and sophisticated and probably with a broad 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 COVID 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 pretty close, that cannabis is an essential industry and 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 loans. This affects WeedWeek as well. Although we are not an obeisance cannabis business, it’s unclear whether ancillary companies such as ourselves are eligible for those loans. We’re going to be finding that out once the application period opens.

Donnell Alexander (02:46):
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 hypocrisies. You know, there’s really nothing they can do except soldier on. We’re at this weird point where 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 a leveling off in sales, definitely.

Donnell Alexander (03:29):
So, 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 look so far from the data I’ve seen, people are radically adjusting their consumption habits. So, now that we’ve caught you guys up on the inevitable COVID fallout, here’s a very different discussion, but a really interesting one. It sounds like this technology could have a very significant impact, not just on product security and counterfeit, but also for product marketing as well.

Donnell Alexander (04:07):
And here’s Alex Shah. 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 call this podcast too many Alexs. Donnell Alexander, Alex Halperin and Alex Shah. But 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, I’d almost say I got involved as a dare in college, but it ended up in getting recruited in as a leadership profiler. 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):
So, essentially starting my career back in the late ‘80s of all things, 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 the understanding of how 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 was just Southeast Asia, my mentor was covering a place called a rock and 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 I ended up working very closely through desert shield, desert storm, the Wall came down, the communism fell, Yeltsin on a tank. It was pretty turbulent times.

Alex Halperin (06:06):
Must 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 ‘90s.

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 wouldn’t say career. I finished my computer science at 13, and then I was a sort of a known hacker for quite some time. And then there was no Telecommunications Act and I basically had to testify in front of the Senate Subcommittee when I was 14 or 15. And at that point people tend to notice you, I guess. I was doing all that while going back to college where I was doing pre-med and chemistry. So, it was a bit of a crazy time in life.

Donnell Alexander (07:01):
Yeah. Crazy time. I can imagine. I did some crazy things in college, but I didn’t join the CIA. Listen, I have a question. Let’s say you’re 18, did you know that term deep state? Did it mean anything to you?

Alex Shah (07:14):
What was the term?

Donnell Alexander (07:16):
The term deep state.

Alex Shah (07:19):
Yeah, I understood. I know it’s a side conversation, but yeah, I understood it and you have to remember, hacker rebel, right? So, I wasn’t necessarily all about that. 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 different sources from many different radio stations, newspaper. I mean, it doesn’t matter what it is. And then figuring out what was real. And you look today, everyone 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 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 a fallacy and what’s not. So, I see the correlation pretty strongly. I look at everyone from gen Z to millennials and the rest of us, and I look at the news and I go, my God, 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’m not a red state guy if you want to say that, but I see that 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):
Well it depends, right? You don’t know who it is. I always say that the organizations are really massive. 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 no longer 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’m very conscious of that. In fact, one of the reasons our group existed in the agency was really simple. It used to be old days biographics. If you’re a Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan fan, that’s sort of his job. And one of the things that was important to note is that information is always used to corrupt populations. It’s just what we do.

Donnell Alexander (10:32):
How do you mean that?

Alex Shah (10:34):
So, in the old days the agency had three groups, military, political and economic resources, and they would evaluate a country, they’d say this country is capable, this company isn’t capable or this political party is communist or not communist or social front or the national front, whatever they’ve got. And what this group was doing was saying 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 the beginning, the hell was he doing going into Kuwait? It was crazy. It was an individual maneuver, but an individual, not a political party, not a Sunni, Shiite I think, it was under his own sort of mechanisms. And if you think about that, you have to realize that the agencies start to evolve, and they realize just how important that is. And if you look again, it’s sort of bringing it back to our world, how we think is a really important part of all the equations, right? Especially when we make generalized statements about that 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. 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 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 places in the marketplace where you could take your skills. 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 step stone 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 created the grocery loyalty card. So, let’s sort of go back in time. My mentor at the time, who’s actually now part of our company, Gordon Wade, defined and created what’s known as category management. It’s literally how 30,000 people, 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? Where should it be? Sort of on the shelf.

Alex Halperin (13:30):
Sort of like how a grocery store thinks about this?

Alex Shah (13:33):
Everything. Grocery store, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, cannabis companies. I mean, they should be thinking this too. Why do I need 2000, 3000 SKUs? For a major MSO. When a simple place like Trader Joe’s, which we feel has everything has 3,500, why do I need that many $20 vapes? So, the concept of category, why do I do need $20 vapes? I mean, they all have the same THC, they all have the same side label, so why do I need 50 of them? So, this whole construct of sophisticated data analytics started with something called category management back in 1993. And I was the kid who had to write the software behind it. We sold that to IRI and eventually it sold it to Oracle, and we authored that. As part of it we created the loyalty card, CVS card or you see a Kroger card, whatever it may be for the grocery store near you. I had a pretty successful career along the way. A lot of different things lead to different whole bunch companies.

Alex Halperin (14:38):
Hold on. So, 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. So, one of the things that everyone talks about is what we would call switching costs or what is really relevant that you should keep on your shelf. And most people today in the cannabis space think they can hire data scientists and they can invent this. This stuff has been around, I mean, we wrote all the formulations ages ago, but I’ll give you a couple of very simple examples. 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, that seems logical. Hotdog and hotdog buns. Well, it turns out that those two are not correlated. You usually have the buns and then buy the hotdogs. It’s kind of weird. That’s why there’s different numbers and it’s a complete nightmare. But it’s some crazy trick somewhere. It turns out that one of the highest correlations was Gatorade or sports drinks 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 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 drink. 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 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 said the solo world, I want to make sure we’re talking about solo sciences.

Alex Shah (16:34):
Correct. So, what happens is, when I look at this, years past, decades, and I get a phone call from a friend of mine from college and he’s rather famous, trademark and brand attorney. 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. And they were like, “Hey, I don’t know what this crap is, why don’t you go and shut them down.” So, he shut down Napster.

Alex Halperin (17:15):
Fun guy.

Alex Shah (17:16):
Well, you know, at the time no one knew how it was, just on CDs. So today he’s got everyone from J.K. Rowling’s to Amazon, to Zynga to HBO in the middle. And he calls me up and he goes, “Hey Alex, my younger brother went to Williams college10 years after us, but he’s really into cannabis. Do you think you could help?” And I was like, yeah, totally man. 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 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 Canna Care Docs. He’s got a quarter million cannabis patients under him. He went to Tufts Medical and he has 25,000 patients he has seen personally over the last five years, treating them at their sort of end of life, really last resort kind of way. And this is Massachusetts, right around the corner. 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 the others doing the research, I always think of Ben. Dr. Kaplan as being out on the front lines, he’s in Fallujah. He’s there meeting people who are like, look, I’ve just been diagnosed with four weeks to live. What should I take? And God bless this guy, right? I mean, he sat down, and he showed me this world and I went, wow, I really don’t know a lot, do I?

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, no, no, no. At the time, think of it as top secret, special compartmental clearance, no chance, right?

Donnell Alexander (19:07):
Yeah. So, no cannabis use in the CIA, really?

Alex Shah (19:13):
I’m sure there is. But there’s a whole bunch of guys in Afghanistan, I’m sure that you know, now knowing what I know, today I could tell you for a fact that 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 when you think about it, I had no clue. And you have to remember, pre-med, sat on Harvard Medical’s advanced research board, deep kind of understanding, I completely realized I’m missing something. This was by the way three and a half years ago. In cannabis years is like centuries or something. But I sat down and I went and I called up a very good friend of mine, Katie Flannery, and I said, “Katie, look, I know you’ve got an FDA consulting background, Stryker, all this stuff.” We met when we had sold another company and 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 because I wanted to see how they were selling this stuff. And I sat there and by the way, there was a pretty epic spread and I remember looking at it and I said, holy shit, how do I know? Where’s the kosher symbol? Where’s the GIS certificate? You know, my Indian diamond roots came out at that point. Where’s the UL symbol? How do I know what’s real, what’s fake? And she goes, “Yeah, funny you should say that. Half the stuff was from dispensaries, I had friends get it and the other half is from my dude.” I’m like, excuse me? She goes, “Yeah, whatever, is where the PAX pot comes from.” And I realized there’s no way that we could tell what’s real, what’s fake, what’s good for me, what it’s going to do to me. I have no idea. That was one of the first times in a while that I’d actually used, other two times probably were bachelor parties in the Netherlands, but I sat there and said, wow, 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, which was, if I could go in at that moment and I can weave my hands over any industry that was nascent and I said, do it right from the beginning, let’s go back to that category management thing. If at that moment I came in and said, I could fingerprint every single package that existed and I’m not talking about like by batch, I’m talking every box. You have three Kingpen vapes. What if all three were fingerprinted differently? Then two things could happen.

Alex Halperin (22:16):
You mean different SKUs or just different.

Alex Shah (22:18):
No, no. I mean every box is different under the same SKU, under the same batch. Imagine you have five cans of Coca-Cola out of your six pack and all five cans are different, all five cans have a little mark on it. That’s different. 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 and as Katie would say, I kind of blended everything together and the idea was that 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):
For pharmaceuticals?

Alex Shah (23:16):
Yeah. November 2018 that is when the it 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 stuff.

Alex Halperin (23:30):
Again, that’s 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 realized that the beauty was that labeling was changing every five seconds. If we could somehow not require a hologram, not require 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, 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. 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, not that I had one, but let’s just think about this. A hologram is obviously difficult to fake if anyone spends the time looking closely, you took out a jeweler’s loupe, you’re a forensic graphologist and you decided, I’m going to look into this sucker, but nobody does. You buy the package, you see the hologram so it must be real. That doesn’t work. The second thing that doesn’t work is a QR code. I did a demo, we looked at both Kingpen and the California Cannabis Association. The CCA has this QR code in the window to make sure that things are safe for you, that this is legitimate. You do know that we can basically hack the two websites, create 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 CIA, correct?

Donnell Alexander (26:05):
Oh, well. I mean solo.

Alex Shah (26:08):
So, what was the purpose of that?

Alex Shah (26:11):
To show that these QR codes are 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 tautology. It is what we would call, yeah, it is true because I pointed you to something that says it is true. Is a mean jack, it goes back to the same data analytics from the CIA. 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 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? Makes no sense to me, cero sense. And everyone’s like, oh, it’s built into my phone and I’m like, yeah, so I can aim at the thing and it will take me to Joe Bitcoin mining site.com and they’re like, but it shows you the URL. I said, oh, because I can’t hide it behind really nice friendly website.com, right? So, the point is, we knew we couldn’t do that, and 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 does it look like? What does the fingerprint look like? Is it strings of numbers?

Alex Shah (27:41):
No there’s no number, if you go to getsolo.com, you’ll see the way the fingerprint works, 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. We filed for the trademark and we’ve got other registrations. 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, 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. 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 that changes inside is 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 out there? How are you coping with the present conditions?

Alex Shah (29:14):
It’s shut down. I mean, I will tell you right now, from the cannabis side, things were pretty incredible coming up into March 18th. In fact, some of the strongest weeks that anyone has ever seen that that week was up anywhere from 10% to 20% depending on medical, cannabis or recreational. So, the numbers are, just from the kernel side of the analytics, unbelievably powerful from the current local environment. Stay at home orders. We have so many folks in the biotech and medical fields. So, the essential worker list is really high. Just to give you an idea, Massachusetts General Hospital and partners, Healthcare/Harvard group, 85,000 people in Massachusetts are all healthcare workers, just to give you the size of it. So, we are very mobilized as an entire state. I’m about a mile from NETA, if you know NETA, that it’s one of the most successful places as a cannabis dispensary and one of the most profitable, it usually has 2,500 people a day. It is just one of the most massively successful dispensaries, netacare.org. But Neta 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 reserve online, you put it in to get the packages ready. But medical sales are continuing, are still considered essential, which I think has been one of the biggest victories for the entire industry, that that has been seen as essential services.

Donnell Alexander (31:08):
So, what do you do now? I mean, you are sitting dormant. What are plans for you in the company?

Alex Shah (31:13):
Well, we’re not dormant at all. I mean, for us it’s interesting. We’ve got so many different brands and different organizations working together. One of our biggest announcements was a company called 14th Round. Solo made a partnership at the end of last year with 14th Round. Most people don’t know who they are, but they’re behind everyone from Dosist to Cura Select, 40% of the vaporizers that you use or see, or are out there are produced by this company.

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 Dosist and Cura Select?

Alex Shah (31:54):
When you use a Dosist pen, Dosist vaporizer that was manufactured by 14th Round. In fact, the founders of Dosist are still there 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 is produced by 14th Round, that’s a big deal.

Donnell Alexander (32:24):
That’s crazy.

Alex Shah (32:26):
So, the reason that is 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 an 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, I think it was a huge validation from them. That it is an absolute essential. And that release 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 in waves. We are implementing the roll out of that. This will be millions and 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 because you can use it for checkout, you can use for everything. So solo code to us is 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, whereas from the consumer safety perspective, I’m sure you’re going to disagree with me and that’s fine, but from a consumer safety perspective, it almost seems like overkill.

Alex Shah (34:14):
Well, no. Think of what you could do from the consumer safety side. Remember these vitamin E acetate pens, people finally 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 banned vape sales completely and then you had to take all this stuff. Where do you think the stuff went? It went out the back door right into the black market. 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 that if you have a recall, anyone who’s scanned it with our app or anyone who’s tested the item, we can immediately send them a push notification saying, “Hey, the vape, the vaporizer that you just purchased or used or tried may have a problem.” You can’t even do that with lettuce. You can’t even do that with FDA drugs right now. You have to go to a website and look it up.

Donnell Alexander (35:39):
I 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 should we know about where you are headed from here.

Alex Shah (35:49):
So, I think the next step is 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. If you remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you had a golden ticket. Remember every box that has a solo code is different. With every single box you could turn around and make one of the boxes a 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 package with five of your friends in the same location. We can check that your 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. So, we can do incredible amounts of interactive marketing for the brand folks out there with this, all the stuff that Coca-Cola has been trying to do for ages, all the stuff that the other consumer folks are doing 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 last week hundreds of thousands of codes have already gone out.

Donnell Alexander (37:28):
Hey Alex, thanks for joining us. It has been super insightful.

Alex Shah (37:31):
Thank you.

Alex Halperin (37:32):
Take care.

Alex Shah (37:32):
Really appreciate the time guys.

Donnell Alexander (37:34):
Alright, good luck.

Alex Shah (37:35):
Take care.

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 starting this week, Jesse and I are going to be hosting a weekly news brief on Zoom to quickly catch folks up with the latest developments in the industry, sort of like a sports center kind of thing on a smaller scale of course. But 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 on 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 us on Twitter and Instagram at @weedweeknews or email us at hello@weedweek.net 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 Donnell 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):