Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Jeffrey Samuels of Alpharoot.
Meet Jeffrey Samuels
Capitalizing on successful roles in mobile tech, social media, enterprise SaaS, and now cannabis, Jeffrey has immersed himself in the startup ecosystem.
Building impactful relationships has always been central to Jeffrey’s mission, leveraging a strong network of entrepreneurs, investors, and friends to create collaborative opportunities.
As General Manager of AlphaRoot, Jeffrey continues to work with innovators in the cannabis and agriculture space by providing the best in insurance coverage expertise to protect rapidly growing businesses.
In our interview with Jeffrey Samuels, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about Alpharoot, and what it’s like being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Jeffrey Samuels, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you both do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for Alpharoot?
Jeffrey Samuel: AlphaRoot is an insurance brokerage and technology platform providing custom insurance solutions for cannabis businesses.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business? Or how did your idea evolve?
Jeffrey Samuels: As an early employee at Founder Shield (foundershield.com) our goal was to provide a new-age view on ensuring startups using technology to create streamlined experiences. As we built out our expertise in the broader startup landscape, NY had just launched the compassionate care act, and cannabis was a hot topic. Canopy Boulder had just launched their first cohort, and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the early founders.
It quickly became evident that there was a need for an insurance business solely focused on the unique risks in the cannabis space. While my team and I have been working with cannabis companies going on 5+ years, I launched AlphaRoot October 2017 to focus on the industry full time.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends?
Jeffrey Samuels: I am in insurance which is conservative by nature. At the same, I’ve worked in and with startups for the past ten years, so my family and friends knew I liked working in emerging markets. It took some time explaining to my parents how the industry was evolving and this was not the Grateful Dead hippies that were once the face of cannabis (P.S. I love The Dead)
One of the coolest things as of late was taking my wife, Carly to a party at Baker’s new office in downtown Denver, watching her interact with so many clients and friends in the space was really special for me. I always say, “if I knew in high-school what I would be working on when I was 30 I’d…laugh hysterically and then I’d give myself a high-five.” Definitely full-circle for me!
DCN: How is your organization/business positively helping the cannabis industry?
Jeffrey Samuels: I believe insurance is something that legitimizes the industry and is a best business practice regardless of what business you are in. We are providing protection for an entrepreneur’s most valuable assets – their business. When things go wrong, my team is the first call you make.
DCN: As we go into 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Jeffrey Samuels: The most significant accomplishment for me is the amount of knowledge and breadth of clients we were able to establish across the industry. We work with the some of the most prominent companies in the business via ag-tech, canna-tech, large-scale cultivation, extraction, dispense, distribution, Venture capital, and Hemp.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Jeffrey Samuels: For insurance one of the most significant challenges was finding markets and underwriters who wanted to take on these type of risks. Hours of meetings, breaking down business models, risk analysis, and ultimately establishing the right relationships allowed us to overcome.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Jeffrey Samuels: We are fortunate to be bootstrapped and at the same time have support from our parent company, Founder Shield.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today? What did you have to sacrifice?
Jeffrey Samuels: My last role I was in was at IBM so job security, lofty health & benefits, matching 401ks, cash. The biggest sacrifice has been my reputation, putting myself out there in the space can have potential negative effects on my career longterm some may think. I personally don’t believe that!
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Jeffrey Samuels: Be targeted, be specific, be compliant, and be cautious. This is not a get-rich-quick business contrary to what many say. There are still huge gaps in the market, and if you can network with the right people, stay up on the news, and remain hungry, you can succeed.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Jeffrey Samuels: I am fortunate to have the support of the FS founders. Operating a subsidiary and a very targeted business has been challenging simply from the fact that I wear so many different hats on the day-to-day. All sales, business development, social media/marketing, conferences, blog posts are run through me!
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Jeffrey Samuels: What surprised me about the industry was the number of people willing to help you! Super collaborative and open industry.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Jeffrey Samuels: Focus, empathy, stamina
DCN: How do you stay balanced? Any hobbies outside of your work?
Jeffrey Samuels: Massively important! I’ve played hockey for over 25 years and still play once a week. During the game, I feel like a kid, after can get a bit painful. I am a huge music head. Anyone who knows me would confirm I proudly have an eclectic taste in music. Anytime I can get to some live music in NYC, my wife and I always jump at the chance. As of late, I’ve been getting back into drawing, which I can see becoming a life-long hobby.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Jeffrey Samuels: Tough 1! Nike – another great read, ShoeDog, was really amazing as to how Phil Knight was able to break into the ancient shoe market. After I finished the book, I remember looking around my apartment (which was a mess that day) and seeing sneakers, sweatshirts, a basketball.. all Nike. The boom in the sneaker culture and the reach that Nike has outside of just sports is amazing to me. I love their marketing campaigns on Instagram which are super innovative.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Jeffrey Samuels: One of my favorite things about the industry is the collective demand for inclusion. Ensuring the future of cannabis is a level-playing field which can benefit the best and the brightest no matter what gender, race, sexual orientation, geography. That is huge to me. If we can continue putting that message out front, I think the cannabis industry will do great things.
DCN: Thank you, Jeffrey, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice! It was so great being able to feature you as this week’s entrepreneur of the week!
For those looking to learn more about Alpharoot, please check out www.alpharoot.co!