Sam joined our team a few months ago as the Head of Product. By far one of the nicest people on the planet, Sam (and his perfect pooch) bring so much joy to Flow Kana.
Tell me about your journey – what were you up to before joining Flow Kana?
I’ve been an entrepreneur and technology product creator for much of the last 17 years, in and around Silicon Valley, working for both startups and public companies. I’ve always loved creating products that make people’s lives better, solving problems and working with amazing people.
Although I’ve operated in the technology space, for me, it’s always been about people. I studied psychology and journalism in school, and feel that my core strengths are built around empathy, listening and storytelling. I especially enjoy helping groups of people who face challenges due to changing industries or legislation. I love a good ‘power-to-the-people’ story.
Why did you decide to join the family?
I’ve personally seen the benefits of medical cannabis through watching a number of individuals close to me with serious illnesses find relief or experience remarkable improvements in conditions, including my wife who is battling stage 4 cancer. It changes people’s lives. When you witness the benefits of a medical optional that is so abundant, natural and inexpensive, but then see through perpetuated mis-information that it’s misunderstood, stigmatized and existing federal policies slow critical medical research, it feels natural and purpose-driven to do anything you can to support changes in public opinion and legislation.
Aside from being a part of social and cultural change, I joined Flow Kana for the people. I’m not sure I’ve met a kinder, more dedicated group, not only to their customers and partners, but to each other. I felt an instant connection with the team and after a great number of meetings, dinners and discussions, Mikey, the CEO, called and offered me the job on Christmas morning. I was so impressed by the warmth of that gesture. I mean, who does that?
Looking through your employment history, did you ever imagine you’d be working in the cannabis industry?
No, not necessarily. However, as I learned about Flow Kana’s mission, vision and the scale of what they were setting out to do, I found myself listening wide-eyed and immediately hooked.
Flow Kana isn’t just a company selling cannabis products, it’s a sustainable farming, value-creation model that could be replicated around the world. The origins of the concept and business are build on ethnographic levels of research and case studies of historical industry movements. Then add Flow Kana’s incredibly strategic purchase of a storied winery in Northern California for large-scale processing and manufacturing, and you have all the pieces of a truly incredible and unique opportunity. What the Flow Kana team have done here is not easy to assemble or replicate.
So what exactly does the Head of Product do?
I’m responsible for establishing a technology and data strategy that makes our entire business efficient and reactive. Day to day, my job is to ensure that our product and engineering teams are doing the right things at the right time toward establishing systems that help Flow Kana, as well as our partners and customers, make informed decisions based on real-time access to data and anayltics. Essentially, we develop one-part supply chain technologies and one-part marketplace building technologies for buyers and suppliers, all the while managing a ton of the nuances and ever-shifting challenges that are unique to the cannabis industry.
Flow Kana recognized immediately that we’re a medical cannabis business, but that we are also a data and technology company. This job offers, for me, an ideal blend of art and science. I’m absolutely loving it. I love working with this team.
What about working in this industry are you most excited about?
I’m certainly thrilled about the opportunity to work in an exploding industry that’s experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime rate of growth. But I’m also excited about watching the public’s perceptions change with respect to medical cannabis. Many people’s understanding is still comprised of images of someone smoking cannabis which they may not see as accessible for them. But when many people learn about the existence of high CBD-to-THC ratio tinctures (drops) or creams that do not have euphoric, psychoactive properties, but provide relief without the side effects of traditional pharmaceutical alternatives, then they are so often interested in learning more.
What is one thing you hope to see as the cannabis industry hits the legal market in 2018?
I hope to see the licensing regulations to become formalized in a thoughtful manner that gives existing cannabis businesses and farmers who are compliant with legal regulations an even playing field to compete, as opposed to stacking the deck only for the deepest pockets or specifically for new entrants.
What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
I used to do music and technology journalism early in my career. I got to meet and interview a lot of great musicians, but some my favorite moments were photographing Prince and getting in a good-natured bickering argument with Courtney Love during one of her concerts while I was in the press pit. This was a very fun time of my life.