One of the companies drawing a lot of attention at at this week’s Weedstock Cannabis Investor Conference in Denver is O.pen Vape.
Described as one of the largest brands in the legal cannabis industry, O.pen Vape manufactures pen-like devices that vaporize hash or marijuana oil and allows the user to inhale them with little to no tell-tale odor.
O.pen Vape CFO Steve Berg, who according to his company bio has over two decades of work experience in investment banking, capital markets and venture finance, spoke with Benzinga shortly after his Weedstock presentation.
Your company’s vapor pen is an unusual concept, and you are known for your marketing. But how do you get the word out about alternatives ways to ingest cannabis?
Well you know there are limits on what you can do with respect to cannabis advertising. You can’t take out a TV or a radio ad, so the traditional channels are not fully available to a company like ours. Therefore the role of social media and local papers ends up being incredibly important to us.
How are you using these alternate means of advertising?
There is what could arguably be termed a “cannabis culture.” Some would describe it as a subculture; we think it’s becoming more mainstream every day. And the culture of these people and our customers is very passionate, very strong and growing. And so the word-of-mouth quality of our advertising and people experiencing our product, seeing the media that we can put out there, tends to really penetrate these circles.
We also do events. We just did a pool party here in Denver; we’re interested in doing music events – and a lot of musical artists are interested in our product, and interested in finding some kind of partnership with us. And so it’s through these arguably non-traditional means, and the fact that our customers are so passionate about what we do, and believe it’s part of a social movement, really allows us to energize our marketing effort and spread.
How does that social movement part of marijuana intersect with the business side?
Well, it has been said that the legal cannabis markets exist by virtue of the intersection of advocacy and entrepreneurship. So these are powerful drivers for us. Most companies and most products are not really tapping in to a social movement. But so many of our customers really believe in social change and basic rights, the freedom of choice and so forth. And that’s something that’s very important to our corporate culture, as well as to our customers.
Now, that’s not important to everybody in the cannabis industry. Some folks are only about the money. Some consumers are only about the effect; they’re never going to carry a picket sign. But I think we do a pretty good job of appealing to all constituencies.
Talk about your company’s “march to the IPO” you mentioned in your Weedstock presentation; the challenges you’re finding?
It’s a difficult framework for most cannabis companies in terms of the prospect of going public. Those that have gone public are really ancillary companies. They’re not companies that directly touch the plant, and that really isn’t feasible at this moment, nor will it be until the moment of federal legalization.
But as far as the dynamic of the companies that do trade now, there was a tremendous exuberance – an “irrational exuberance,” if I paraphrase Alan Greenspan – about public cannabis companies that were out there. And some of these stocks zoomed up to just impossible levels, only to come crashing down when they were found not to be able to deliver on the promise of what investors were thinking – and in the wake of the SEC warnings, that there are a lot of stock promoters out there that are not really advocating solid companies, but rather trying to make a quick buck.
We stand in sharp contrast to that, although certainly we have to contend with some of those dynamics. Our premise is that, if we can show the markets that we have real assets – a real history of revenue and profitability, a real history of accountability in terms of saying that we deliver against what we said that we were going to do – that that will lay the pathway for a truly creditable cannabis in the public markets, and that’s right where we’re going.