The leadership of any company is an important factor for investors. After all, company leaders oversee and direct operations, they understand the how and why of a business, and they plan for the company’s future development.
Within the cannabis industry, this can present an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, you want a company that has expertise in cannabis and business, but investors can be wary of the so-called black market stigma. The idea that if someone operated outside the law prior to decriminalization, they will be that way inclined, even in a legal setting.
While this is obviously untrue, there are many examples of white market businesspeople in all industries breaking the law, it is something investors consider and as such something companies should be mindful of.
One cannabis company with an interesting take on how to convey leadership expertise is California’s Harborside Inc. Initially forming in 2006 with a dispensary in Oakland (credited with the first legal sale in the state) the company has processed half a billion dollars of cumulative sales to date. The company is overseen by two men; CEO Andy Berman and Chairman Emeritus Steve D’Angelo.
Andy initially trained as a lawyer before entering the business world in 2000. He worked at a number of communications companies during the subsequent years at a time when the industry was growing and dynamically changing with the emergence of smartphones and increasing demand for high-speed internet. Experience in c-suite positions at companies such as AOL, AirLink, and Sierra Wireless, saw Andy successfully guide companies through the tectonic shifts the comms industry went through after the millennium.
This experience makes him an ideal person to lead Harborside. The next ten years of cannabis development and retail in California, America and the world, will be continually changing and adapting as new products, services and ideas come to the fore.
Andy is a leader that’s able to see beyond what Harborside is today, to what it could be in the future while keeping one eye on the regulatory changes the next decade will see.
Steve D’Angelo is one of the true cannabis pioneers of the twentieth century. With over forty years of campaigning, patient advocacy and activism under his belt, Steve intimately understands the culture, consumers, and potential of cannabis. His strength as a leader comes not only from the obvious passion observed in his advocacy work but in the consistency of his actions. He was described by the former Mayor San Francisco as The Father of Cannabis and is seen as a genuine article in a field too often populated by greed-driven entities looking to cash in on the cannabis rush, without helping patients.
Aside from founding Harborside, Steve’s list of firsts runs on: Steep Hill Laboratory was the first laboratory dedicated to cannabis research, testing and licensing; ArcView Group were the first investment firm to focus solely on the cannabis market; The National Cannabis Industry Association was the industry’s first trade association.
Steve was involved with them all. His knowledge, insight, and personability have brought credibility to Harborside’s operations and helped to determine the path they take in developing their operations and the industry as a whole.
Between them, Steve and Andy offer an interesting duality. On the one hand, there’s the cannabis advocate who has always put the patient and the properties of the product at the center of what he does. On the other, a veteran businessman who brings not only great professional experience but also legal insight. Something that will be vitally important for operational planning in an industry that will likely see regulatory change over the next ten years.
Other businesses within the cannabis industry might promise future success in a white market based on illicit success in the black market, but there’s more to it than dime bags and blunts. You need business acumen, intimate product knowledge, and a well-established history in order to convey trust to investors.
With Steve and Andy at the helm, Harborside has all three in abundance.