Oren Shuster | CEO & Co-Founder, IM Cannabis

May 7, 2021
Oren Shuster is one of Israel’s prominent experts in the field of medical cannabis. Oren brings more than two decades of proven entrepreneurial experience in founding and growing companies in the med-tech and technology/software industries.  
Prior to co-founding IM Cannabis, Oren co-founded E-wave with a vision to create an international tech company that provides software solutions for enterprises in digital, IT, HR, and medical technologies and is now a global software house that employs 1,000 professionals with operations in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, India, and Israel.
In addition to a tremendously successful entrepreneurial track-record, he has also held executive positions at companies within the telecom and digital media industries. Oren brings deep experience and understanding about where healthcare, patient care, technology and innovation intersect.

What first got you excited about medical cannabis?

I experienced first-hand the benefits and the natural impact of cannabis on patients. I first considered going into this industry over a decade ago. As part of my due diligence purposes, I started delivering medical cannabis to patients and speaking with them in order to learn about the business from their perspective. On my first day, I made a home delivery to an elderly couple in a small town. The husband graciously spoke with me about his wife who has Parkinson’s disease. He told me that before his wife started using cannabis, she weighed only 40 kg and that cannabis changed her life and improved her health, with no side effects. He was crying as he was telling me this. I still carry this memory with me. 

What led you to founding IM Cannabis?

The understanding that cannabis is a true life-changer for many people and that the world is continuing to accept the concept and benefits of this product. It is just a matter of time until the legitimation of cannabis reaches the tipping point.

What is the focus of IMCC as a medical cannabis company? 

The focus of IMCC is to make the lives of our patients and their families easier and more comfortable, and to provide them with high quality products that improve their health and quality of living. IMCC focuses on both natural and clinically formulated, well researched products - whatever improves our patients’ quality of life.

What unique advantages does IMCC have as the first true multi country operator?

As a multi country operator, IMCC has many advantages. First, is our ability to bring high quality products to the market because of our global perspective and in-depth understanding of the different jurisdictions in which we operate. It is a dynamic and young industry and there are similarities in the development process of various markets. As a true MCO, we accumulate knowledge, understanding and experience of a mature market. We leverage these  to anticipate and prepare for processes in nascent ones.  Our decade-long experience from the Israeli market, a mature medical cannabis market turning into recreational, gives us a deep perspective. The proprietary data we collect about strains, indications, efficacy – enriches our perspective and knowledge that we can apply across markets and over time. 

Another advantage is the unique ability to leverage learnings and innovation from Israel for sharing in the other markets we operate. Israel has very advanced clinical research studies on cannabis that we are able to utilize and soon we’ll also have IP. In addition, we are working with and collaborate with other academic and research groups in Israel to push cannabinoid innovation further.

In Canada we are focusing on producing premium products for the Israeli market and later for the European market. We also have plans to export from Israel to other countries. Integration and transfer of know-how, experience, technology and physical products – that’s what being an MCO enables us to do seamlessly. The ability to operate and utilize several production facilities to serve multiple markets is a great advantage – as it streamlines coordination, production, distribution and sales.

Adopting best practices from our operations across markets is another advantage – areas of excellence are integrated into everything that we do and dictate high standards across the organization. Regulatory expertise from having to adhere to EU GMP standards, production excellence from growing premium products, strategic marketing and brand launching distinction, each market brings news learnings and upgrades our full package. 

Our perspective is also multilayered: Recreational market sets a consumer orientation as opposed to a medical orientation – so not only are we concerned with addressing the health practitioner and the patient’s needs, but the consumer’s needs must also be satisfied. It is a multi-dimensional perspective that results in an incredibly high standard of operation for success. Because we are  multi-dimensional, it is easy for us to enter new countries that operate under various regulatory frameworks - we can work easily in every environment with hands on experience from our existing markets. This, and the fact that we are highly agile – gives us significant advantage.

Can you share some of the traction IMCC has across Europe and Canada?

In Europe, we began selling IMC branded products in 2020 following a thorough preparation process. We put together a thoughtful marketing plan and a significant sales team. We successfully launched our brand leaning on all the clinical data from Israel. We built a distribution network covering the entire German market which is federated, and we also constructed a logistical centre in Germany to serve our international and European markets. Additionally, we diversified our supply sources by creating new strategic agreements with leading producers in the continent.

In Canada, we acquired Trichome Financial Corp, a producer of premium cannabis, led by a highly experienced team that now serves as our M&A arm in North America. This team has already brought in a new acquisition of MYM and Highland Grow - a premium and ultra premium LP, thus validating its expertise and contribution to business growth by strengthening our offering in the premium and ultra premium segments in Canada.

What are you looking to accomplish with your partnerships and expansion into Germany?

Germany is the hub for Europe. Germany is leading the cannabis industry on the continent and maintains the highest regulatory standards for cannabis, perhaps in the world. We have entered the German market to be able to meet this highest standard - not the easiest place to start, but if you make it there you can make it anywhere. We view the European market as having the highest growth potential in the coming years and is expected to be a largest market in the world. We have the advantage of being in the same time-zone as our Israeli HQ, helping us to work and coordinate closely with our team. Germany is a medical cannabis market where Israel is recognized and looked up to as a leader. With our Israeli roots, this also builds creditability and give an advantage.

Can you share why it was so pivotal for IMCC to list on the Nasdaq?

Nasdaq is the preeminent public platform in the world. As a leading cannabis company, we need to be trading on the leading market platform to reach a wider range of investors to support our growth objectives.

What are the plans for IMCC moving forward as you look to enter new countries and opportunities?

We plan to enter new countries in Europe and will so initially through our operations in Germany. We plan to start to export to additional EU countries this year as well as expand further in Canada as opportunities arise.

Where do you see the European cannabis opportunity evolving in the near future?

Europe is a market which is now becoming more evolved and developed. As a whole, Europe is progressing positively. There is a medical cannabis pilot in France, a pilot for recreational in Switzerland, a program for recreational cultivation in the Netherlands, a medical program in the UK and in Germany, the medical program is also expanding. As you can see, Europe is on the move and we will see significant changes in the this market over the coming years. We are constantly monitoring and evaluating opportunities. As per developments, we plan our entry into new countries by relying on our strong platform in the German market as a base and moving from there into other countries.

How does IMCC plan to reach more patients with medical cannabis throughout the world and what obstacles will you need to overcome in order to be able to fulfill that vision?

IMCC has significant advantages over its competitors in the medical cannabis world. Thanks to a 10 year track record operating in Israel, we have collected a tremendous amount of clinical data from Israeli patients. During this period, we have worked closely with researchers and physicians and are now sending medical and professional teams across the globe to apply these insights in different markets. Based on our scientific knowledge and clinical data, we have the ear of physicians and patients. In Germany we have built a strong team focused on physician education and sales. In Israel we are pursuing retail opportunities and increasing focus on pharmacists and patients. 

Overall, we successfully overcome entry obstacles into new markets by raising awareness and improving education, providing access to our clinical insights that help to tailor the right cannabinoid therapy. All these actions resonate well with physicians and patients.
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