A new and evolving industry like cannabis also means new and evolving frameworks for businesses. Chris Day and Jill Reddish talk with Manuel Victoria, chief business officer at Frontier Spectrum about how they're building a nimble and adaptable multinational organization reaching from Colombia and Uruguay to Lesotho and the UK. Manuel tells us about their approach to spreading out risk while getting a foot in the door to emerging international markets, as well as their commitment to keeping connectivity between remote teams and partners on the ground.
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Hosted by Chris Day and Jill Reddish of The Global Cannabis Network Collective (GCNC), The International Cannabis Conversation takes a look into what's driving the global business landscape of cannabis. They discuss international cannabis challenges & solutions, and trials & lessons. Music - "Plantains and Bananas" by Noah Peterson GCNC's Website To reach the show: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill: Hello everyone and welcome to The International Cannabis Conversation. I'm Jill Reddish co-founder of the Global Cannabis Network Collective and co-host of our episode today. I'm excited to be joined by my co-host and co-founder Chris Day.
Chris: Hey everybody, thanks for joining us again for The International Cannabis Conversation as I try to remember to do every week I wanted to thank TRICHOMES.com for giving us a place to have some interesting conversations with cannabis companies all around the world. So make sure if you haven't subscribed yet that you hit that little subscribe button while you're listening in.
Jill: We have a great episode today. I'm very excited to be speaking with someone who's working with a company that's got a very truly global perspective. Our guest today is Mr. Manuel Victoria, who is the Chief Business Officer with Frontier Spectrum Medical Cannabis Company. They're based in Canada and have operations in Colombia and Germany and welcome Manuel so excited to have you with us today.
Manuel: Thank you very much Jill. Thank you for the introduction and thank you Chris. Yeah, as you said we were a Canadian company focused on the medical side of the business of pharmaceutical. So thank you. Thank you guys for having us here.
Jill: Yeah, glad you could join us. So just to kick us off could you give us a bit about your background and how you came to be in the cannabis space and wound up with Frontier Spectrum?
Manuel: Well, that's a very good question. My background is from a law firm. I graduated from a law firm in Spain. Since I graduated I always like to focus on the business side. I never actually went to a law firm or the law spectrum, but then I started to join different banks and then a fund asset manager and then I realized that was kind of my core thing, create things and be in business and have a lot of connection with people. So basically I ended up in the cannabis industry almost three years ago when I was in California visiting my girlfriend back then and I realized what a boom was going on in California. Before I went to California and read a lot of different things that we're going on in Canada with the stock exchange booming and all these great IPO's and then when I was on the ground with my boots there I saw the huge market this this is going to be and I started digging and then I just jumped into the cannabis industry. I got to say it's probably the only industry that I've seen that touches a variety of different other industries such as textile, biofuels, pharmaceutical industry and it's huge. I mean sky's the limit here.
Chris: Yeah. It's interesting that you came and sort of got your first taste in California of the space. I think a lot of people have seen California inspire other opportunities in different parts of the US. One thing that I have to ask about though is how did the vision for the global scale of what you're doing come to pass because that actually is pretty rare. We were just talking to someone on a prior episode out of Canada where the discussion was sometimes we have a hard time looking outside of our own province and yet you're working with a company now that has some pretty interesting global vision around cultivation, supply chains, medicinal markets, providing different pharmaceutical grade products. How did you jump from, hey there's this cool thing happening in California and take over the world.
Manuel: Well, I always say that if you're going to do something do it big and if you're going to think, think big. So it takes the same amount of time to do something small and the same amount of time to do something big. So the whole team that my partners I think we're very like minded and since the beginning we said like if we're gonna do this we're gonna do this as big as we can and I like what you said, we're trying to take the world and we're focused on a specific part of the industry where I don't know why and as you said everybody's thinking locally and probably getting into different trends but that's a huge of different soundings and misconceptions about the industry because the industry just being born. So you got to be very focused on what you're doing to actually see the results in the future years.
Chris: How would you describe your focus because I agree with you picking a specific focal point in the business does not need to be geographic. Obviously you've decided we're not going to focus on a specific geography, we're going to focus on a specific piece of the business. What is that piece and why did you choose it?
Manuel Well, first of all, I think it's very important to understand the different legal frameworks that nowadays the industry is moving on and since every month is passing and every year is passing now you legal frameworks are opening new opportunities. So once you understand how the industry from its space is being run then you can decide what kind of focus you want with a whole spectrum of the industry. So we chose the pharmaceutical side of the industry mainly because right now the biggest part of the industry's medicinal and inside the medicinal part of business there's the pharmaceutical side of the business. So this is probably a niche part of the industry which has less competition but has the biggest margins and it's very difficult to jump in but once you jump and you're actually going for the long run. So that's why we chose the pharmaceutical side and pharmaceutical is global. You don't have to be in one region.
Jill: Yeah, this one. I just kind of want to make sure that our audience can understand the type of operations that Frontier Spectrum does so can you just back up for a quick moment and give us an overview of where you operate and what it is that you're what you're focusing on right now.
Manuel: Perfect. So well Frontier Spectrum was born as you said as a global vision where we have all the cultivation sites in Columbia. We're fully licensed in Colombia. We're focused on the pharmaceutical side of the extract, the API that it's called and then when you see the different markets and you understand that Germany is the biggest market to be in in the pharmaceutical side you point thing to not only have the all the licenses and certifications to be available to send your API and your extra to other markets. But also when you decide to go and focus on one side of the business then you understand that you have to do some strategic moves around the industry to be diversified, mitigate risks and that's why probably we chose and I'll get a little bit in the structure of Frontier Spectrum. We chose to be not exactly vertically integrated and we chose to have small business units all creating value to our holding company in Canada so that we can move very fast with the legal frameworks and we can be very flexible in order to adjust. This is a very changing industry so we have to be very flexible.
Chris: Yeah, that's a I feel like we are beginning the outline of a future Harvard review business study case. Talking about the holding company framework, the SPU's and being able to pivot those SBU’s so that if one piece of the industry starts to crater not serve its purpose the others still are intact and can be successful. It's really smart and prior to getting into cannabis worked in a lot of different Industries it feels like in a lot of ways helping to support the sophistication of the global marketplace in ways that aren't always super easy to find right now so kudos to that. We've talked about Germany, Colombia and some of your in Canada but I know you guys they're also sort of having a vision to other regions of the world as longer plays right? So it's not just the short-term piece you're also trying to do predictive analysis on long-term markets.
Manuel: That's right. We do a lot of research and kind of business intelligence kind of boot camp with the different markets and just before we run into different markets that we are analyzing right now like in the pharmaceutical side I know we were right now I'll prescribing medicines to patients in Germany and everything. What we have identified is that we can replicate our model in escalated very quickly and bring it to Latin America regions such as Colombia is a huge market Mexico will be another big Market which is right now kind of a almost popping and that has the stock market a little bit crazy and Brazil is the fourth biggest pharmaceutical market in the world. Nobody's saying that but we know that Brazil is going to be a huge market for us. So basically how we run things in Frontier Spectrum as I said we're like minded people, very passionate and we like to dig in and kind of put our boots on the ground and see the different legal frameworks that are going on. Africa for instance is kind of a huge market also, it could be comparable with cost reductions with Latin America, specifically with Colombia. But of course having an operation in Africa is not always easy so we kind of chose the right partners to be in that market which is our co-partners in our pharmaceutical company in Germany which is a UK company that has medicinal cultivation side in Africa that led us leverage ourselves only depending on one side of production and will take us strategically to overcome different other markets like the African market, Southeast Asia Market, we have huge markets there. So we have identified that you do Uruguay which is actually the first country to legalize everything and started the whole thing. It's kind of a small country and nobody looks right now to Uruguay or used to be looked for years ago. But then everybody just forgot about Uruguay but Uruguay has a huge advantage on the distribution side of the business. So we're working locally with all certified producers to kind of approach the pharmaceutical market of the flower from Uruguay. Columbia doesn't have out right now to explore the flower actually maybe with a new kind of law that is going on right now with the Ministry of Justice and the precedent that is now right now sitting here in Colombia. They will probably open the country for the export of flower but we don't know it's just speculation. So we're kind of moving very strategically to kind of address every corner of the pharmaceutical market. I want to say that one of the things that probably is a very competitive advantage of Frontier Spectrum is that we always not only analyze the market and the legal framework itself that we partner with local partners in the market to operate and to validate our business model. So that's why we did the same thing in Germany and that's one of the key facts that our business model works is that we have the pharma guys with us as partners and we know how to do the business.
Chris: I think the old phrase was think global act local, right? So always keeping in mind what those individual cultural aspects of business operations are in those regions. One side bar that I want to comment on when you mention Uruguay. At the Global Cannabis Network Collective we have a member that is tied to the Montevideo Free Airport and it is interesting to me how smaller countries like Uruguay another one is Malta in Europe rare finding their niche positions and those things that they can do really really well to help create commerce and not trying to be all things to all people and it’s clear that why is taking a position of trying to be a logistics and operational hub to help South America and thus facilitate export not only throughout South America but around the world. So that was another support point for what you were saying and it's nice to hear it from multiple angles.
Manuel: Yeah for sure. And actually, how you were talking about Uruguay and Malta I think that those small countries have a unique thing that probably bigger countries does not have is that they have to be kind of reinvention like every five years, every ten years to keep up pace and also to be competitive and in different Industries. I used to work as an asset manager in Malta and Malta developed a very strong financial structure to compete with Luxembourg, Switzerland and everything and nobody was looking to Malta. So they're always reinventing, now they're doing the same thing with a cannabis spectrum. They did that same thing with blockchain. So I think we have to learn a lot from those kind of countries and Uruguay is doing the same.
Chris: Yeah and I think the companies like yours that are looking for those places that are actively reinventing instead of just like some of the larger countries arguing about things in court systems for a decade. There are these other operators who are saying “yeah you all do that you argue, you do that thing, we're going to go build some businesses.”
Manuel: Totally totally. We're taking advantage of those kinds of things and also learning and applying some of those things to our own Frontier Spectrum and that's how we do and we run business.
JIll: Yeah, one of the things that I found so interesting about is you're talking about the small business units you really spread out over the globe. Can you tell us about your approach to keeping connectivity between all of your employees and all of your team's so that you stay cohesive. That's a particular challenge in and of itself.
Manuel: It is and also it's a multicultural kind of structure so I won't say it is easy. We all have different things but mainly I think that one of the greatest things that we have is that since we were born as a company, we're trying to do things differently and there's a new kind of business that it's happening right now within our eyes. We want to kind of do the leadership that kind of matters. So one year ago there were a lot of companies saying no you need to go to the office, you need to be here, you can't work from home and COVID has changed everything and we did it two or three years ago when we were with our first company here in Columbia. We built the company from 10,000 miles away from each other. So we kind of proved that it was possible that we fully licensed as we were speaking and working through Europe and South America and it was possible. So we kind of replicated the same thing as Frontier Spectrum was growing. We have to be very organized and have different meetings and very minded and very self careful of what you're doing and that everything that you do will impact others. So we have very sensitive and a lot of responsibility but that's how I think great teams work and that's probably the magic of Frontier Spectrum, different people joining together like-minded trying to do things differently.
Jill: Yeah whole new interpretation for how the world just gets smaller and smaller and of course, the value of paying attention to each other and what different teams need to be successful.
Manuel: Yeah, totally and also I want to say that from our company in Canada all the managing partners have different roles in the different operations that we are running right now. So we are also boots if not physically but all on a day-to-day basis, we are in Germany, we are in Colombia, we're Uruguay and we're moving around and evaluating new kinds of opportunities with other local teams.
Jill: Yeah, that's actually a perfect segue into one of the other one of the final things we were wondering about if you're looking out two to three years ahead. Where do you predict that the biggest part of your business will be coming from what's coming up next for you guys.
Manuel: Well, I think that for us, like in kind of a midterm it's going to be to replicate our pharmaceutical business model in Germany in other markets such as Columbia, Mexico and others and for sure we're going right now because we're doing master formulas for different treatments like epilepsy, ADHD and oncology but we are also doing a lot of clinical trials through all the patients that were prescribing right now. So in a couple years we can launch our own kind of pharmaceutical products worldwide without you doing any master formula and I don't know if I'm too big a dreamer or what but I'm definitely focused on trying to treat and cure cancer. I hope that with cannabis we can definitely do something like that and we will do all the clinical trials so we can achieve at least a small part of that.
Chris: Yeah, I think when I've looked at research in different parts of the globe one of the things that I have been most intrigued by is the scientific research specifically around cancer. I remember the very first conference I went to when I got into the cannabis industry was a science conference and there was a researcher from Israel that stood up and was talking about research they've been doing into breast cancer and it seemed as though there were some opportunities there. I went and saw the same person represent three years later and got a chance to see the amazing progress that was made there. I think the more people and companies like yourself around the world really actually dedicating time and resources and effort. There's some great potential for this industry to make huge impacts in a positive way around disease and pain and things that previously I think the pharmaceutical companies on the surface talked a good game but underneath didn't really want to solve. So I'm hopeful that the cannabis industry can step up and start helping to fill some of those holes.
Manuel: Totally and I think that we are seeing a new kind of pharma industry being born. A biopharma which will be a challenge for big pharma and we're definitely going to try to lead. I kind of a new uprising of the new pharmaceutical business and for sure we're doing a lot of research and a lot of breakthroughs on cancer actually with our partner the Charity Hospital with has run studies that already has a bigger kind of a success than the chemotherapy right now with CBD. So there are obviously a lot of tests and different studies that we have to see in the future but there's a possibility for us to kind of challenge the cancer disease on a big scale.
Chris: Well, I think the goal of curing cancer is a high note that we can exit this on for sure. Jill it occurs to me that with this discussion we need to do a session with researchers and really dig into the endocannabinoid system because that's the next layer of this discussion. It's the science behind the business.
Chris: Manuel, thanks so much for touching on that and the purpose that you guys have behind your business. I have great respect for companies who can articulate their mission beyond just the monetary aspects of it. So we're looking forward to talking to you more in the future and continuing to follow your team's work around the world.
Manuel: Thank you very much Chris and Jill. Thank you for having us and as you said we have a different perspective and kind of trying to do a new kind of business and regenerate the cultivation side and regenerate the environment not just being sustainable, kind of do business differently and I hope that we achieve all our goals. That's the main objective here.
Jill: Yeah and if we manage to make that happen, there's going to be a lot of people living much healthier lives I imagine. It's clear that Frontier Spectrum is a company to be following in the next couple of years. So thank you so much for your time and joining us today Manuel, we appreciate it.
Manuel: Thank you very much guys. Thank you very much.
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