COLOMBIA - Health & Education
CIO & Co-Founder, Clever Leaves
Gustavo Escobar has held posts of leadership and great responsibility with proven results in the corporate environment and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colombia. As a co-founding member, for the past three years he has led the building process for Clever Leaves. Currently, as Chief Innovation Officer, he is in charge of designing and implementing the company’s innovation projects. He is a founding member of Asocolcanna (Colombian Association of Cannabis Industry) and President of its Board of Directors. He has a master’s degree in Business Administration from Los Andes University and a bachelor of engineering in Information Technology from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.
What does it mean to be a Colombian company in a market with a great deal of international attention and participation?
It means that we have big challenges and great opportunities. That is why in April 2018 Clever Leaves became the first Colombian company to be fully licensed in medical cannabis cultivation and transformation. With this, the company materialized its purpose and desire to bring top-grade medicinal solutions to millions of patients. We actively promote shared benefits for all stakeholders by abiding to fair business models. Colombia is a country where one needs to know how to move because regulations are complex. There might be many investments and projects by companies that have started abroad; however, they have to come here and understand the realities on the ground. They have to find the right partners to get up to speed and become competitive.
How does Clever Leaves work with the scientific and academic sectors to alter social perceptions and advance the field?
The main goal is not to change the perception of medical cannabis, but to build knowledge on medical cannabis’ impact on health. We are committed to doing R&D with universities from a medical and scientific perspective. The education of patients and physicians and research communities is also extremely relevant to us. We already have partnerships with medical treatment centers in the country. We also have R&D groups at universities. Our next step will be oriented to be pioneers on building our own medical treatment business model that focus on medical research.
What commercial strategies differentiate you from other players in the industry?
Clever Leaves is positioned to lead the production of low-cost, high-grade medical cannabis extracts. Everyone is talking about quality; however, no one is investing from the beginning in location, procedures, and certifications like us. We have invested in our own distribution model for Europe. Having control over distribution will help us truly stand out; everyone seeks to produce in large quantities, but only a few know how to sell. We need people who can combine pharmaceuticals along with the agro-industrial sector as well as regulatory people who know both the local and international markets, and business people who can develop a great strategy.
What can we expect from Clever Leaves in 2019 and beyond?
Clever Leaves’ objective is to become the world’s largest medical cannabis grower by 2023 with over 10 million sqft (100ha) of cannabis. Clever Leaves is in the process of a significant expansion and becoming the leading cannabis operator in the world. The company already has more than a 450-employee working team, 13ha of fields for production located in the Municipality of Pesca (Boyacá), an extraction and production lab located in Tocancipá (Cundinamarca), and corporate offices in Bogotá. We are expecting to close 2019 with 25ha and 600 employees. Clever Leaves has already developed and strengthened associations with different clients around the world, portraying itself as a company that is not only cultivating cannabis, but also adding value to the development of the industry.
How do you ensure high quality in your products?
Clever Leaves is a vertically integrated licensed producer of medical cannabis in Colombia. Our cultivation complies with good agricultural and collection practices and our laboratory was built under European Good Manufacturing Practices (EU GMP) standards, with a top-of-the-line extraction facility with a capacity to produce 3,000 liters of EU GMP compliant full-spectrum cannabis oil a year. Clever Leaves covers the entire chain of medicinal cannabis, starting from the harvest of the seed all the way to the patient. The patient’s well-being is Clever Leaves’ focus.
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