How Disruptive Technology Is Affecting Emerging Business’s
I had the pleasure of interviewing Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, the founder and CEO of New Frontier Data, an independent, technology-driven analytics company specializing in the cannabis industry. She has raised over $15M in venture capital, more than any other female-led, cannabis tech venture, growing New Frontier Data’s team from three employees to over 30 across three continents in fewer than four years. All of this success in just a few short years has led Aguirre de Carcer to be honored as one of The Most Powerful Women to Watch in D.C.and New Frontier Data being namedone of just15 Blazing Hot Weed Tech Companies to Watch.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I have more than 20 years of experience in business execution, management and strategic development with an emphasis on emerging markets. Prior to New Frontier Data, I worked in investment banking with JPMorganChase, and served as a senior consultant in the defense, technology, and telecommunication industries for both the commercial and government sectors domestically and abroad. I have successfully launched and operated four data-driven businesses, including disruptive technologies such as the original patent application behind Progressive’s Snapshot and Verizon’s Hum.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
During my first pitch in November 2014 in Austin, Texas, I presented on the value of big data for an emerging market such as that of cannabis and someone in the audience shouted, “Can I smoke it?!” — Needless to say, I waited a bit longer before revisiting that particular angle to our value proposition.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When I set upon launching New Frontier Data, I wanted to address, if not resolve, some of the challenges and inconsistencies I had faced while trying to establish myself career wise. I wished to create a professional environment whereby one could be heard, grow, and succeed to one’s fullest potential based on true merit. It is of course easier said than done, but I am proud to say that I believe New Frontier Data has succeeded over the years by not being blindsided and seeing as many angles of the emerging cannabis market as possible. This was primarily due to our very diverse team across age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and even political affiliations; each unique perspective helped us see outside of the box, so to speak, and report industry changes in a more comprehensive manner. We have been quite fortunate to see team members find their talent and have endeavored to nurture those abilities purely based on the talent itself. I hope we can maintain that culture and philosophy as we experience relatively fast growth.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are dozens of people without whom we, and certainly I, could not have made it. However, one in particular is Kristin Fox. Kristin has an unparalleled story of success and overcoming adversity as a female on Wall Street when women were quite the oddity in banking and finance. She was the founder of 100 Women in Hedge Funds and went on to be a pioneer and true inspiration to many of us who were challenged by the mainly male-dominated sector. I met Kristin through another dear friend and mentor, David Friedman, also my first investor, and I was fortunate enough to have Kristin take a liking to me and take me under her wing. She is a mentor, an inspiration, and a dear friend. She also connected me to my most strategic and loyal investor, Mitch Baruchowitz, who leads Merida Capital Partners; like Kristin and David, New Frontier Data would not have evolved and grown to what it is today without Mitch’s guidance. Kristin was the first woman who went out of her way to help me, never asking for anything in return, a true testament to women helping women, and certainly a shift from the old school thinking I faced earlier in my career whereby women felt other women should ‘pay their dues’ just as they themselves had to.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Every day seems to kick off an exciting project in this emerging industry, but one dearest to my heart is our global expansion. The cannabis industry is booming with over 60 nations around the globe either decriminalizing or legalizing, which has created a sort of ‘land grab’ rush for those of us established in North America. I myself have always had a strong international affinity as my father was a diplomat, and I moved every 3 to 5 years growing up. I also studied international relations and trade during both my undergraduate and graduate studies, so it is particularly exciting for me to invest my personal passion into this endeavor.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am committed to giving back and helping others find success and promoting gender and ethnic diversity in the workplace is a particular passion of mine. I take an active role as a thought leader and advocate for women in business, serving as a member of the Forbes Technology Council, Ellevate Network and The International Women’s Leadership Association. At one time, I also ran the Women Entrepreneurship Reinforcement program in support of female entrepreneurs nationwide and served as the executive director of the Grassroots Innovation Network, a nonprofit organization focused on funding college students’ business ideas globally.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I do not necessarily believe that when it comes to business we have to read different books. If you are looking to succeed, you must learn to know yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your aspirations, and your fears, and proceed accordingly. As such, I think self-discovery books and self-help books are great, and those would differ greatly depending on each individual.
That said, there are books that I would recommend to any businesswoman or man, that I think are insightful and classics or basics to consider, including “The 48 Laws of Power,” “Pitch Anything” and “Blink.”
You likely have heard of the famous cliché that in a gold rush the one selling the shovels makes much more than the one who finds gold. This is the modern day “green rush.” Can you recommend to our readers 5 technologies or services that can potentially be lucrative “shovels” for the cannabis industry? Can you give an example for each?
The cannabis industry is primed for technology-based disruption, and we are already seeing some of these disruptions playing out in the market. A few that are going to be especially important in the next few years include:
- Product Testing Technologies:There have been significant advances in cannabis testing over the past few years, but with the limited knowledge of all the compounds in cannabis, it remains difficult to precisely predict how a specific strain will affect a consumer. The ability to identify a strain’s full chemical profile, and thereby predict its effects, will be increasingly valuable to consumers who want to tailor their product selections to specific experiences.
- Supply Chain Management:The cannabis supply chain remains largely rudimentary, especially for sales of flower products. Growers still connect to processors and retailers by text message and email, making the system both highly inefficient and opaque. Planforms that connect suppliers to processors, distributors and retailers will be vital to enhancing transparency across the supply chain and eliminating some of the inefficiencies that drive higher costs.
- Consumer Segmentation:For too long, the industry has classified consumers as binary — either medical or adult-use, ignoring the extraordinary nuances in why, when, and where people consume cannabis. Segmenting cannabis consumers based on their attitudes, preferences and behaviors will be key to developing and marketing new products in an increasingly competitive environment.
- Industrial Hemp Processing:One of the reasons commercial hemp has been slow to scale in the U.S. is the limited availability of commercial hemp processing technologies that can quickly and efficiently separate the plant into its usable constituent parts. Development of next generation hemp decorticators, which turn the hemp plant into fiber, will be key to the expansion of the hemp sector in the U.S. and around the world.
- Cannabis Effect Neutralizers:While much of the discussion has been focused on cannabis products, there is a nascent opportunity for products which undo the “high” of cannabis. The ability to neutralize the psychoactive effects of cannabis will not only benefit people who over-consume, it could also have significant applications for people who want to experience the psychoactive effects of cannabis for a finite period (ex. watching a movie or attending a concert) but who do not want the effect to linger after the event.
There are myriad other opportunities for disruptive technologies and services in this sector, and we are excited to see how these innovations will trend in the months and years ahead.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
One of the things that became quite clear early on in my entrepreneurial journey is that there are no true guidebooks to launching a business. Sure, there are steps and processes to draft a business plan, but it is one thing to think about a business, and another to actually launch one. My number one piece of advice (if I can presume to call it that) is to figure out what one loves the most, and become really good at it, and then start a business around it. While it is true we can all learn a new skill, starting a business is exhausting, lonely, and risky; in order to succeed, one must love putting in the time to constantly learn about it, and know enough about it to mitigate risk and properly manage it, with little support and often even less understanding form others. It may seem obvious, but I continue to see aspiring entrepreneurs leaping into businesses they deem to have great potential for success, without any consideration on how ‘they’ would be successful in them. I say this with the understanding, on the flip side, that there is no such thing as a sole founder, all businesses need at least two pillars to be well founded, so that goes for both founders (the seeker/CEO, and stabilizer/COO or CTO, as they say).
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
We have a motto in the company, we actually printed it for every office, I wish I could take credit for it, but I found it online, so not sure how to accredit it, but here is what it says: “Great Leaders Inspire, Teach, Protect, Remove Obstacles, Are Human. Lead and be unforgettable.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Elon Musk or Richard Branson! Hemp is currently a bit of the ugly stepchild of the cannabis industry as it does not produce the psychotropic plant element THC the way the female plant does. It is primarily used for CBD and textile production, the latter found in topicals as well as in primarily medical applications. Hemp however has massive potential uses in other mature industries such as automotive, construction, fuel generation, soil regeneration and even micro conducting. These applications are currently dormant as investment in the processing infrastructure required to realize the cost savings and quality improvements into these markets is non-existent. A catalyst is needed to shift not only the way we think of hemp, but to test and apply these potentially revolutionary applications. Mr. Musk and Mr. Branson have the power to be catalysts if they looked into these applications and emerging sectors; they are visionaries with the type of unconventional creativity, as well as unique foresight and expertise to not push, but pull these mature sectors into hemp. I would add that China is currently the largest producer of hemp in the world, what would happen to the world economy if China uncovered the secret hi-tech benefits of hemp before the U.S. or Europe does?
Jilea Hemmings is the CEO & Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme. She is running a series on the latest innovations impacting the cannabis industry.