Superlatives and self-congratulatory press placements do not make for real success in the European cannabis market no matter which VCs or even cannabis companies back them.
You must give it to Niklas Kouparanis and his sister Anna-Sophia. They certainly know how to raise money in the cannabis industry in Europe. Beyond that, their history has been one of half truths that has made many who work in the trenches grit their teeth given their success in the world of venture capital.
The reality is that, so far, despite glowing coverage including from self-deluded journalists working for Bloomberg, their pronouncements and claims are far from believable for people who actually work on this end of the biz as insiders.
Sadly however, the Kouparanis siblings might well represent the next phase of the European cannabis industry, leaving others not quite so well connected but more credible in the dust.
That includes me at this point. A moderately well-known voice at least in the industry, and credibly so from Germany at least since 2013.
Beyond being at the less successfully funded end of the biz for my tech and other start-up concepts (at least so far since 2013 while I learned German, got my EMBA and won my citizenship at the Supreme Court) I have been offered bribes to place stories about companies in the industry in High Times (for whom I also write).
This is depressing as well as maddening. Especially as I also just was responsible for getting the first African cannabis into the German market as an unirradiated GMP product that beats the prices of anything grown in Portugal (or anywhere else in Europe).
The reason I am publishing this is in part frustration. Because it is very hard to starve, almost get deported and still face homelessness in my new country and watch people less qualified than yourself make and raise money, while perpetuating rather than solving the very issues at the heart of lack of cannabis access in the country where you live.
A Bit of Background.
When I first encountered Nik (who has blanked out his Linked In profile), he was working with David Henn at Cannamedical, one of the first three cannabis specialty distribution companies in Germany. He left in circumstances which were not good. Henn has nothing good to say about him.
He subsequently landed with a distribution group in Frankfurt called Farmako. From the beginning, it was obvious that Kouparanis and Sebastian Diemer (literally his partner in crime) were great at proclaiming their “expertise” about the industry to journalists (who knew absolutely nothing) and who knew more about self-promotion than cannabis. Certainly “entrepreneurial” in intent, they infuriated many in the industry who encountered them (including several CEOs of the original Canadian public companies who came to Germany for the bid) because of flat out lies that stood out even in this industry.
This included perhaps the most outrageous misstatement in the industry (to anyone, by far, to date at least in Europe) that Farmako intended to import 50 tonnes of cannabis (first from Poland and then, to a Bloomberg TV reporter from Macedonia). That this statement happened just as the bid was decided was one thing. The fact that they deliberately lied to journalists was another.
I covered this with a sceptical eye simply because I knew the Macedonian company they were planning on working with, and because I was tired of being lied to, and figured that a story like this would alert the authorities (BfArM did investigate). Indeed, this all happened at a time when Kouparanis high tailed it out of the country to Portugal, and Diemer began to give press interviews admitting that mistakes had been made, but oopsie, in truth he did not really know about the business. Shockingly, a Berlin based tech company called Heartbeat labs invested in Farmako.
Imagine my surprise today when I learned that Curaleaf, along with some German firms, had invested in a “tech platform” developed by Kouparanis and his sister, while also launching Germany’s first private healthcare clinics devoted to cannabis care.
There is not a great deal one can say about Algea Care, frankly that has not already been said in the industry beyond those who, from further shores or perhaps unfamiliar perspectives think any of this is intriguing or vaguely impressive. For starters, it is essentially a private practice that partners with existing clinics, and further that only works with private insurance covered doctors that most German patients cannot afford to go to (let alone afford the cannabis downstream of this that they must buy in pharmacies, upfront).
Why is this so personal? Beyond cannapreneur and journalist, not to mention impat, I am also a cannabis patient. At present, after several conversations with the City of Frankfurt office, which is tasked with training cannabis doctors, I must travel 120 km next week, outside the state of Hessen, to obtain my first neurology appointment with a doctor who is known to write prescriptions and help patients get coverage under statutory care (which covers the vast majority of Germans – 90%).
Algea Care, the private clinic behind all this innovation, does not want to hire me, or even admit that people like me exist.
And that is exactly the reason I am writing this.
The cannabis not to mention venture capital community needs to wake up – and to where the real innovation is happening. Not backing clueless hucksters who have done much to contribute to the problems this industry has had so far, and at every level, rather than solving them.