'I Left My Dream Job at Google to Join the Marijuana Revolution'
Higher considerations from Alan Gertner, CEO of Tokyo Smoke.
"Not everyone has woken up to the cannabis revolution," Alan Gertner tells The KIND over the phone on a Friday afternoon. This is something Gertner hopes to change.
More though, Gertner has woken up to the marijuana movement. And that awakening wasn't covered in sweat or like being shaken from a nightmare. After a realignment of his priorities, Gertner left his dream job at Google to found Tokyo Smoke––a lifestyle brand built around his passions: Coffee, cannabis, and clothing.
In an essay published in February in The Globe and Mail, Gertner details his escape from the tech giant and acknowledges the precursors that were already firmly in place and would eventually lead him to the pot world.
Which is a path he seemed destined to embark upon.
Image via Le Weekend Blog
From The Globe and Mail:
"Fashion and design have shaped my life. My grandfather founded a women’s clothing company called Mister Leonard. My father, Lorne Gertner, an architect by trade and lifelong entrepreneur, co-founded Cannasat Therapeutics, the first publicly traded cannabis company in Canada, more than a decade ago. My mother, a designer, has been a huge creative influence in my life and pointed me in the direction of branding and retail."
We also have developed a set of proprietary cannabis strains, which provide consumers four distinct and consistent experiences."
Coffee, clothing, and cannabis are indeed lifestyle staples of this generation. And intellectual property—i.e. proprietary strains of weed—has been described as being a crucial aspect of legal weed’s future, as more entrepreneurs such as Gertner enter the space.
The KIND phoned Gertner at Tokyo Smoke’s flagship store in Toronto for a glimpse into this lit new cannabis future, and to talk about what it takes to walk away from one dream, in order to pursue another.
Image via AJ Fernando
The KIND: What role does the creative class have in shaping the future of the cannabis industry?
Alan Gertner: If we look at other industries, they’re emerging as aspirational parts of society and having aspirational brands. I think the creative class will play a major role in legitimizing and building acceptance and excitement around the cannabis revolution.
The KIND: In your essay, you say you believe that "cannabis is the new Internet." How do you see Internet technology being leveraged in cannabis? There is speculation that blockchain tech will play a role in the industry’s future.
Alan Gertner: Cannabis is a major social revolution that will impact all of us. It’s very exciting to be a part of such substantial and broad change. I agree with that assertion, I think there is a role for the blockchain. Cannabis will push forward exciting new payment methods, in addition to providing a new industry in which to test out new types of technology. Which is one of the coolest things about a new market emerging, with an existing user base—that opens up the door for a lot of unique opportunities.
Image via Tokyo Smoke
The KIND: So how do you see Tokyo Smoke fitting into all of this?
Alan Gertner: I want to really focus on providing delightful and beautiful experiences for our customers. I want to integrate technology in any way I can, in order to do that. Whether it's making the process more seamless, or building a better understanding of cannabis through design—I would like to do that.
The KIND: What about intellectual property? You mention Tokyo Smoke owns proprietary strains that elicit predictable and consistent effects.
Alan Gertner: I think IP will continue to evolve. That’s what happens in a new industry. To go back to the parallel of cannabis representing the Internet: The Internet came with all kinds of fascinating legal challenges and legal issues. I think cannabis will have a similar impact and outcome.
The KIND: Do you see this landscape as being more favorable toward entrepreneurs and "startups"? Or do you think the space will end up with a heavy corporate presence? The largest drugstore chain in Canada is already exploring its entry into the cannabis industry.
Alan Gertner: I honestly don’t know. Thankfully, one of the nice things about the cannabis revolution is that it comes from a place, where we have a lot of “craft.” There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time and put a lot of love into building great products. I hope this element of the industry—the craft element—will continue to thrive.
The KIND: Are there any similarities between working in technology, at Google, and working in the marijuana industry?
Alan Gertner: I think people are really excited about what they do—in both places. It’s one of the amazing things about technology and the cannabis revolution. People are really excited about the future—it seems like in both industries, everyone is always talking about "the road ahead," or the amazing revolution that is coming. Whether this is artificial intelligence, or the legalization of cannabis, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities. Both worlds are so full of them.
The KIND: And the most notable difference?
Alan Gertner: Everyone has woken up to the technology revolution. Not everyone has woken up to the cannabis revolution.