Clever Leaves Company Profile
Cultivation: 15ha GAPC Compliant; Boyacá Extraction: GMP compliant 15m ml cannabis oil per year capacity HQ: Bogota
Even the bold entrepreneurs who bought up the first wave of Colombian cannabis licenses have been taken back by the explosive growth and international interest in the medical marijuana sector.
Gustavo Escobar, CEO of Clever Leaves, with 13 years of experience in the Colombian healthcare sector having advised insurance companies, IPSs and laboratories, entered the industry in its early stage and believes “the scale of the opportunities in the medicinal sector is hard to comprehend. Its developing far faster than anyone imagined”.
As the 2015 regulation came into play, Escobar, thanks to a combination between entrepreneurship incubators, connections in the regulatory arena and some phytotherapeutical labs, created Clever Leaves. The company’s partners had also previous experience in the healthcare sector, and Clever Leaves was able to strike up a partnership with Labfarve, a local laboratory specialized in phytotherapeutic medicine. Later, in 2016, following receipt of the license for transformation of cannabis for medical and scientific grounds, Clever Leaves was officially born. Using the possibilities allowed by the regulatory frame since its beginnings, the company began to investigate the adaptation of different plant varieties with thermic floors and the cannabinoid profile development of the plant. Then, they decided to establish the cultivation operation in Boyacá and the extraction and formulation operation near Bogota.
Since the definition of the initial business model, Clever Leaves has focused on high quality products and prime materials that provide alternative solutions for patients suffering from diverse pathologies and develop the medicinal cannabis market at a local and international level. “You can’t just plant a large-scale production when regulations specifics are still missing and developments are still in process”, says Escobar as he explains why the market has to be properly studied. By March 2018, the infrastructure equivalent to 1 hectare, of the first 5 hectares to be established in 2018, was built, now Clever Leaves is in the gradual process of cultivating with research and commercialization purposes. The firm plans to produce cannabis from 100 hectares in the next five years and have decided to triple the original planned size of the laboratory.
As other local players have found out, international investors were very interested in a toehold in the market. “When we set out our goal it was to create a minimum-viable product, test the market and when the investor realizes the product is good, then he invests,” says Escobar, “but in these business models it works the other way around; investors value companies pioneering in licensing processes and building initial operational basis with solid and experienced teams”.
In 2017 the firm signed a deal with NYC based Northern Swan venture capital group, with an investment ticket de inversion around 15MM U$. Escobar says his firm had received a number of proposals but recognized Northern Swan, a firm with significant overseas experience, as “the smart money” since it allows Clever Leaves to become part of a platform of companies focused in the cannabis industry at a global level, and thanks to the synergies it can bring in the future. Proof of this is Clever Leaves, in March 2018, signed an agreement with Namaste Technologies to import product to Canada.