We spoke to Alex Speiser, COO of Orthogonal Thinker: a Company with holdings including psychedelic science business Ei.Ventures. Having already raised $6m, Orthogonal is now fundraising once more to move its platform approach to psychedelics forward.
PA: Give us a brief overview of Orthogonal: how does your model work, and what sort of role do you play with the companies and projects you invest in?
AS: Aloha! Orthogonal is structured as a holding company with the thrust of our focus going towards plant medicine. Each of our core assets strive to rewrite the rules of old industries. From our psychedelic science business Ei.Ventures to our forthcoming CRO/lab to our brands, our mission is to give people access to nature’s most effective health solutions while setting new standards for transparency and quality.
We are amassing an accessible toolkit for consumers—some new, some traditional, and some ancient. Each holding is a separate tool, and the toolkit amounts to a holistic perspective on wellness.
PA: We’re particularly interested in Ei.Ventures, can you tell us a little more about your plans there?
AS: We like to say that Emotional Intelligence Ventures (Ei.Ventures) is the crown jewel of Orthogonal. The plan for Ei.Ventures is pretty plain and simple: to bring nutraceuticals and psychedelic compounds to medicinal markets.
We’re building a vertically integrated platform that includes a psychoactive medicine library, critical global infrastructure vis-à-vis contract research organization(s), and entities like the Ei.Foundation.
Over the next few weeks, we will be embarking on a fundraise. There are a number of factors that I believe make Ei.Ventures second to none in the psychedelic space. My favorite aspect is our portfolio which I believe is the most compelling in the field. This is particularly because of the fact that any formulation Ei.Ventures will bring to market starts from whole plants. Ei has a very strong commitment to act as stewards for the healing uses of plants and to act in symbiosis with the environment.
Note: If you’re interested in learning more about this fundraise, contact the PA team for an introduction.
PA: You also recently launched Ei.Foundation, in order to make the psychedelics space more equitable. What groups and communities will you be targeting and supporting?
AS: Ei.Foundation serves the impact interests and values of Ei.Ventures. As Dr. Ashley Lukens, our new Chief Impact Officer of Ei.Foundation, likes to say, our intention is to build “a vibrant mycelial network” of campaigns, individuals, and organizations that are working towards a safe and legal paradigm for accessing plant medicine. In concrete terms, we have not formalized the grant proposal that we will use to fund education, advocacy, and community organizing initiatives. Right now we are listening and learning.
For further context on Ei.Foundation, please check out an event we are hosting this Saturday, June 20th, “Women and the Future of Psychedelics.” Ashley will be structuring it as a learning circle. Shirelle Noble of the Auryn Project and Northstar Community, Shireen Jaffer who is the CEO of EDVO and an investor at Pay it Forward, along with Tawni who is an amazing writer and multimedia artist along with the founder of Hi WildFlower are all participating.
PA: How will the impact of psychedelics on people’s lives differ to that of the cannabis industry?
AS: This is an extraordinarily relevant question. There are a variety of parallels between psychedelics and cannabis, while at the same time deep differences. In both cannabis and psychedelics, there have been vibrant communities that unfortunately had to be on the fringe of societies due to their use of these plant medicines because of their stigma and misregulation. I truly believe that all companies in both psychedelics and cannabis stand on the shoulders of those that have fought for plant medicine reform. This is part of why we are so devoted to Ei.Foundation.
While cannabis is an absolutely transformational plant, it has not been studied as formally and significantly when it relates to serving as a mental health care solution. However, thanks to the extensive clinical work done on psychedelics over the 21st century, psychedelic medicines have emerged as a promising non-toxic, non-addictive way to treat mental health conditions.
Over the course of the next decade, I anticipate psychedelics emerging as a transformational mental health care solution tackling afflictions that affect millions and that have multi-billion dollar implications. Ei’s proprietary portfolio is poised to transform mental health along these lines. We anticipate significant demand from clinicians, licensed therapy professionals and the patient receiving psychedelic treatments treatment. As a medicine, Cannabis has not been formally applied under a similar therapeutic model with resulting clinics, etc.
PA: What would you say to those looking to invest in this emerging space?
AS: Honestly, I would have a variety of questions for that investor. Things like why are you getting involved in the space? What business models do you believe in and why? Perhaps after getting to know them I could delve into why Ei.Ventures is the company that I believe in most in the space and would pitch them on investing in us if it is a good fit on both sides.
At the same time, not to be too aggressive with the legalese, I am not an investment advisor and cannot provide investment advice. So I guess that’s why I would lean on getting to know the investor and contextualizing Ei from there.
PA: What’s lacking in the public discourse surrounding psychedelics?
AS: I’m hesitant to generalize about the “public.” But this question makes me think about a wake-up call I had over the weekend when I was talking to a former public official to get their strategic input on a decriminalization effort that I have been spending time working on with a group of local leaders. The public official and I hit it off immediately– we both studied similar texts in Buddhism that influenced our meditation practices. This made us fast friends. Anyway, when I began explaining Ei.Ventures, Orthogonal, and the decrim initiative, I was a little taken aback to learn that they knew nothing about the scientific evidence behind this psychedelic renaissance or that there was a renaissance going on. They loved the topic and loved the initiative, etc, but were completely ignorant of these breakthroughs before our call. This was the first call I had in months where someone was so uninformed about the space. It’s something that I would always take into consideration months ago, but I suppose I had naively neglected this fact recently and needed a wake-up call. A few friends, who are deeply involved in the movement, have similarly expressed conversations with friends or family that have brought them back down to earth.
I suppose this is a long way of saying that we are in a bit of an echo chamber within the “industry.” This is still such foreign territory to the public at large, which, I believe it’s safe to assume, has a long way to go before these therapies are in the norm.
PA: Do you have any plans to go public? If not, do you have any private placements in the pipeline?
AS: We are about to embark on a fundraise for Ei.Ventures. If any accredited investors are interested in learning more about it, please email email@example.com.
PA: How has COVID-19 affected your operations and growth?
AS: Since we are based in Hawaii, we are a “virtually” operating business with colleagues across the U.S. and in Canada. So the mechanics of working from home have not changed aspects of our day to day beyond the fact that our usual mix of colleagues, investors, and entrepreneurs visiting has completely stopped.
In terms of growth, there have certainly been some initiatives that slowed but all in all I’m beyond proud with how we have treated the obstacles presented by Covid as an opportunity to learn and make an impact rather than a challenge.
PA: To finish on a positive note: what are you most excited about for Orthogonal’s future?
AS: I am most excited to find opportunities to go to market. Every day, I am more inspired by our portfolio of medicines and our scientists. It’s going to be really exciting when “supply-side” opportunities open up and we can go to market legally.
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