Article by High! Canada
Alan Gertner is the co-founder and CEO of Tokyo Smoke, a modern lifestyle business that is inclusive of Cannabis.
A lover of technology, design and everything in-between, Alan most recently led a $+100M organization at Google in Asia. Alan is a proven leader in strategy and operations, including as a founding member of Google’s first Global Business Strategy team while based in Mountain View, California. Alan was formerly a Management Consultant at Oliver Wyman in New York and graduated Dean’s list from the Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada’s leading business school, in 2006. As a youngster, Alan spent every moment he could interning at wild and weird startups – from building flashy flash websites to developing and selling the garbage bin billboard.
An angel investor and advisor outside of Tokyo Smoke, Alan supports programs that empower the greater startup community, the cannabis movement and future generations of people pursuing their passions, including his own Time On Project (www.timeon.org) , dedicated to “self disruption, mindfulness and winning at life”.
Tokyo Smoke was created to bring design, education, and emotion to cannabis. Ultimately, we believe in changing the world through iconic cannabis normalization.
Then Vice released a video highlighting Toronto cannabis lifestyle brand Tokyo Smoke’s newest pipe and bong line. The video quickly became a international pr nightmare as the Vice video interview managed to insult cannabis lovers, designers and the intelligence of people in general some would say. High! Canada sat down with CEO Alan Gertner to discuss the video and backlash dubbed ‘Dragongate’
How did the bong video come about?
Alan-Vice has long covered the cannabis industry and we have been lucky enough to have been talking to them over the last coupe of months about the possibility of doing something. They thought this would be something their viewers would be interested in so we said “Great!”. We are a small business, so imagine for a small business you have the opportunity for Vice to come in and talk to you you’re excited, you take it.
What did you learn from the video? There was a bit of backlash from the community.
Alan- We learned so so much. It’s been a really eye opening experience for us and me. We and I have apologized to the community. The response was certainly not what we intended or what we were trying to achieve. You know if anything it was the opposite. We were excited about sharing our work with those who love cannabis as much as we do. We made some mistakes in how we messaged that and we made some mistakes in how it ended up appearing, in addition to how we messaged that. It affirmed to us, in a great way, the passion of the cannabis community and it’s one of the things we love the most about it. We were lucky to then have some productive conversations about developing the nature of the industry with people in the industry which we have now had the privilege of talking to as a result of the video. The talks for us have brought something to light which is incredibly critical and that’s that, ultimately I think we all want the same thing. We all want an open and inclusive community and the opportunities that come with that. Now, more than ever, we are focused on working more closely with the community and its managers and representatives to continue and to help grow the landscape. I think its fair to say that one thing we stand for and we want, that the community believes in is free standing recreational retail dispensaries and anything we can do to support that because we are incredibly lucky to do that. This has been an opportunity to get closer to that and talk to people in the community more and make sure that we are supporting that vision.
Is there anything else you want to say to the community?
Alan- This is who I am, not the video, a cannabis consumer. It’s who I’ve been my whole life and who I’ll always be. I’m so greatful that I get to be part of the community and will continue to do whatever I can to represent the community and the interest of the community the best we can as Tokyo smoke and the best I can as Alan.