Profiles by Cannabiz Social Podcast - Steven Looi
The latest podcast had Steven Looi, Director of Origination, White Sheep Corporation, speak with Dario Alvarez and Peter Pilarski to hear about his background, how he got to his current role, what White Sheep is about, and some challenges the industry currently faces, and thoughts moving forward.
Midway through university, Looi and a buddy left and flew to Shanghai for four years. Their main passion was video games, but it was challenging and competitive industry. “We exited out, and I got into urban agriculture. I helped design a facility north of Toronto, based on aquaponics, which is the merger of hydroponics and agriculture. Then I went off to B (business) school,” he said.
“The plant and the whole reason we cultivate it and bring it indoors, we replicate the sun and temperature, but that comes at great expense to derive the molecules out of it.
The self-proclaimed late-bloomer Looi holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Manitoba, and an MBA from Schulich School of Business. Due to his knowledge of the urban agriculture, all kind of U.S. people in the cannabis industry linked with Looi on LinkedIn. Upon completion of his MBA, he ran into Maclean-Watson Capital, joined them and White Sheep Corp. was formed. It was quite the career change and arc for Looi.
White Sheep: White Sheep Corp. is a cannabis company that operates facilities that cultivate, process, extract, package and distribute cannabis for medical and adult use, through the creation and marketing of proprietary brands. Their mantra is “Save time, save money, reduce risk.”
Their model is a marriage of two worlds. One side is venture capital, and the other is cannabis. Hamish Sutherland, President and CEO on the venture side, is the Founding COO of Bedrocan Canada. Bedrocan is one of the granddaddies in the industry. Hamish joined a group responsible for the design, buildout, and operations of a 52,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art automated facility in suburban Toronto, which at one point, was the largest medical marijuana grow in the world.
A big portion of Looi’s day is making contact and hearing from new companies. “There’s lots of folks doing interesting stuff and how it fits into our larger portfolio strategy, and hammering out the deals and developing strategies and keeping abreast of the industry. My favourite is a company that does cellular agriculture in terms of THC.
“The plant and the whole reason we cultivate it and bring it indoors, we replicate the sun and temperature, but that comes at great expense to derive the molecules out of it. This company does the same thing, but using a different host organism, which is the bacteria, they can program the bacteria that produces cannabinoids, at a fraction of the cost, almost pennies on the dollar,” he said. This helps tackle one of the biggest problems in medical marijuana, which is how to have that reproducible consistent dosage that is beneficial to you. It’s difficult to have consistent titration.
A big challenge for White Sheep is working in both the U.S. and Canada, and staying on the right side of regulations. “We have to be aware of the anti-money laundering laws. There are challenges in terms of managing cash flows back to Canada. Accounting in marijuana is really unique.”
Looi and a colleague published an article on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) treatment on marijuana. In terms of operation, this is a compliance industry first and foremost. A quality assurance person (QAP) is really important when you’re looking at these assets.
It’s a bumpy process around legalization, but Looi is optimistic. “I’m looking forward to legalization coming through. Really excited about the industry becoming legit and real money get poured into it. So much innovation and really excited to see the new platforms and devices coming in. We’ve come from recreational bud to so many sophisticated products, edibles, and consumables. Really exciting time for the industry and to participate.