Cannabis technology partnerships are the focus of a new Canada-Israel-US initiative that hopes to connect North American growers with blue-and-white tech solutions for better consumption, yield, performance, quality of product, and packaging.
Can Innovation Finder (CIF) launched simultaneously in Canada and Israel in July 2018 to promote technology and innovation partnerships between licensed Canadian cannabis producers and the Israeli ecosystem.
“There are incredible partnership opportunities for companies on both sides, and Canadian Licensed Producers can gain a huge market advantage by tapping into Israel’s tech ecosystem,” says CIF CEO Sarah Tahor. “Our role is to highlight opportunities that the market may not know about and provide the platform to enable new partnerships and business ventures. With contracts in place with the LPs to introduce them to multiple Israeli companies, we save them time and ensure they have access to top Israeli cannatech (cannabis tech), agri-tech and biotech innovation.”
Indeed, Israel is a sought-after partner in the cannabis industry thanks to its renowned scientific innovation and tech expertise to grow consistent, high-quality, and varied strains of cannabis.
“There are tons of companies that deal specifically with technologies focused on growing and agriculture; some are focused on soil quality and climate control of greenhouses while others are focused on humidity and lighting,” Oren Todoros, CEO of CannaImpact branding firm, tells NoCamels. He says there are between 70-100 cannabis-related ventures in Israel. “Despite the fact that there is no external export, there’s a lot of growing technologies being produced here for the global cannabis market.”
Israel has seen an influx of hundreds of millions of dollars invested in its tech and academic ventures so far.
There is a $300 million agreement between Israeli cannabis firm Together Pharma and an unnamed Canadian company for a supply of cannabis. Tikun Olam has an agreement with Massachusetts-based holding company MariMed, to cultivate, manufacture and sell the Israeli company’s MMJ products in seven US states.
Kanabo Research, which develops clinical solutions for extraction and vaporization of medical cannabis, has an agreement with Constance Therapeutics, a US-based medical cannabis extraction company, to establish a cannabis cultivation farm as well as manufacturing capabilities of cannabis active compounds – THC and CBD.
OWC Pharmaceutical, a developer of cannabinoid-based therapies targeting a variety of different medical conditions and disorders, sent its management team to the 2018 MJBizCon (Marijuana Business Conference) currently underway in Las Vegas, to “hold meetings with investors, researchers and business partners as part of the company’s on-going product commercialization efforts in North America.”
The founders behind CIF say they launched their initiative to grow that list of North American-Israeli partnerships.
Yona Cymerman, CIF co-founder and executive vice president, tells NoCamels that the venture is the first initiative of its kind for the two countries.
Cymerman says Israel’s uncertain regulation on cannabis – and its wishy-washy export stance – does not have any bearing on CIF’s goals. She says they do not work with growers but rather focus on the tech companies developing cannabis-related technologies such as special inhalers, software, and sensors for agricultural cultivation.
For its first four months in business, CIF focused on Canada-Israel ties. Cymerman and Tahor signed 20 Israeli tech companies – which they prefer to keep unnamed — and a number of the top licensed producers in Canada to their roster. They include a company that develops cannabis-infused wellness products; a supplier of technology and data solutions for cannabis farming; a developer of clinical solutions for extraction and vaporization of medical cannabis, and developers of cannabinoid dosing solutions.
Cymerman says six of the companies are now in second-or-third tier talks with the LPs.
“We can open doors,” Cymerman says. “We introduce the Israeli companies to the licensed producers (LPs) in Canada. There are a lot of LPs out there. Each has a different strategy and approach and we work with each accordingly.”
To ensure a proper match, CIF hosts monthly meetings with LPs in Canada and the US to hear their needs then identifies Israeli startups and companies that can provide the solutions. Cymerman does due diligence on the Israeli companies and works only with those holding patents or original intellectual property.
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She says some LPs are looking to specifically fund clinical trials in Israel to get first rights on a technology or innovation while others seek medical validation. And CIF works to get funding for clinical trials in conjunction with Hadassah hospital. There are also LPs in need of Israeli agri-tech solutions (genetics, hydroplants, monitoring systems, sensors, etc) and others interested in cannabis-related commercial products (creams, ointments, vape products, inhalers).
The global cannabis market is expected to be worth $32 billion in 2022. And that is why CIF focused on the cannabis market – because of the possible opportunities.
“Cannabis is really dynamic. There is a huge opportunity to make money and also make Israel look good in terms of technologies that we can introduce,” says Cymerman. “There are people flocking to cannabis from completely different backgrounds and industries and it has made for a very creative market where people are open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. It is very fast paced. There are constantly new products, clinical trials, ideas, new developments. We love the creativity. It is fascinating.”
The CIF team says it stands out from other ventures because it has an in-depth understanding of the US and Canadian cannabis market as well as the Israeli tech ecosystem, and can navigate the different needs and cultures.
“The LPs want to work with us because we can overcome the cultural divide,” says Cymerman, a marketing expert who has worked in the UK, Canada, and Israel. “They appreciate having a go-between. They do know that Israel has good brain power and this is the place to run clinical trials…but Israelis aren’t very good at translating technology to marketing language.”
Indeed, the cultural divide, says Osnat Lautman, an expert in cross-cultural communication for the international business world, can be a break or make for Israeli companies.
Lautman, who has authored two books on Israeli business culture, says the Israeli way of improvisation and informality creates enormous fissures between North American and Israeli ways of doing business.
“It’s not about the English, as a second language, it’s about the culture, the way of thinking,” says Lautman. “The big question today is what price are Israeli companies paying because of cultural misunderstandings?”
As such, Cymerman and her team — Tahor is based in Canada, she is in Israel, and new addition Laurel Freedman, Head of US Operations, is based in the US – believe they can grow international collaborations with Israel because they understand the global marketplace.
“We begin top down. We introduce the tech companies to the decision-makers at the LPs, so that could be the CEO, CFO or the strategy officer. Once they’ve expressed interest, then we move into the technical and business development conversations,” says Cymerman. “Most people start in business development and work their way up. We work top down.”
CIF says it plans to also work with VCs and private investors.
“We’re at the start of relations with great potential. We’re supported by both the Canadian producers and the Israeli tech industry, who are both eager to establish viable, profitable relationships. We have a unique mechanism in place, with a level of comfort and familiarity on both sides of the table, with an excellent understanding of what both parties are looking for,” says Cymerman. “Since we only make introductions if there is interest from the Canadian growers, we ensure the introductions we make are relevant and highly likely to generate a transaction.”
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com