“I found the sector very attractive to invest in, understanding that it is currently developing and that it is still lacking maturity,” said cannabis entrepreneur Facundo Garretón.
Paraphrasing Julio Cortázar, one could say: “Garretón/a model to assemble”. Born in the province of Tucumán, in Northwest Argentina, Facundo Garretón is a model entrepreneur. He’s a man who lives life in cycles that lead him to change his profession every so often. He likes to study, learn and expand everything he does.
He became a famous entrepreneur in the IT world when he created the site Invertir Online. And, in 2015, he ventured into politics and was elected congressman.
At the end of his mandate, he returned to what motivates him the most: creating a company. And not just any company: this time he ventured into the production of cannabis for medicinal use with Yvy Life Sciences, a company based in Uruguay.
But what triggered Facundo to invest in cannabis?
“For several years, I have been an angel investor in different high-risk ventures in sectors such as the life sciences and biotechnology. In 2017, while I was in Congress, I had the opportunity to work on the regulation of the cannabis industry,” explained Garretón, when interviewed by El Planteo, from his house in Uruguay where he currently resides.
From that moment on, he began to study comparative legislation and learn about what was happening in other countries around the world regarding cannabis.
“I found the sector very attractive to invest in, understanding that it is currently developing and that it is still lacking maturity.”
With an entrepreneurial sixth sense, Garretón discovered that a great opportunity was right under his nose.
“Latin America has a high potential, so as soon as I finished my term in Congress, I started to get involved in the sector and analyzed more than 300 cannabis companies,” he says.
He made his first investment in the dawn of 2020: YVY Life Sciences in Uruguay.
The production chain
Facundo Garretón invested in several companies, each of them focused on some segment of the production chain of cannabis.
YVY Life Sciences, for example, is focused on planting and processing: from seed, genetics, cultivation, flowering, harvesting, primary processing, flower separation, classification, drying, storage and flower export.
“I started Blueberries as the CEO and I am now the Chairman. Blueberries is a company that is fully operational and it is based in Colombia but is listed on the Canadian stock exchange” he told El Planteo.
Finally, he created a company called DrGea.com for the sale and distribution of cannabis-based products, which would be “the last link” in the production chain.
In February, 2021, Facundo Garretón announced on his Instagram account: “We bought (Susana Giménez’s) house @gimenezsuok to build a wellness center and a Cannabis development hub in Uruguay.”
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His post bounced all over the media because, on the one hand, it was the mansion of one of the most recognized showbiz figures in Argentina and, on the other hand, the venture was related to marijuana.
“The opportunity to buy this mansion belonging to Susana Giménez came up and we thought of giving it a twist to install a cannabis center with plantations, a boutique hotel, a spa and a restaurant specializing in cannabis food” says Garretón.
The model would be like the one offered by the wineries on the wine route in Argentina, where you can learn about the elaboration processes up to the tasting.
“It is a medium and long term bet, Uruguay is the first country in the world to regulate the industry, it needs to have a cannabis center of these characteristics and we are in the process of building the first cannabis center of this kind in Latin America (for sure) and probably in the world.”
The vision of an entrepreneur
“The cannabis industry is a developing industry limited by regulatory issues and we have a few years ahead of us to make this a real business,” says the entrepreneur from Tucumán.
“In fact, all cannabis companies lose a lot of money and are making an investment in the future”. Garretón relates the nascent cannabis industry to the beginnings of the Internet at the end of the 90s. “Everybody wanted to invest in .com but few could make money. In fact, for many years .com companies were losing money and hundreds of thousands of companies disappeared.”
However, the ones that remained “the ones that invested well, the ones that did things correctly are the big companies of today, ranging from Amazon to Mercado Libre.”
How do you see Argentina in the market?
We hope that the issue of medical and industrial cannabis will be well regulated, but Argentina is quite behind compared to other countries in the continent.
How do you think the country could consolidate itself in the cannabis industry?
Argentina should regulate the three verticals. That is, not only the medicinal and industrial, but also the recreational and get involved in the regulation of the entire production value chain, not only in pharmaceutical and medicinal products, but also in beauty products, food, beverages, wellness and all the basic parts from the fibers of the plant, flowers and seeds.
What would you recommend to people who want to start investing in the cannabis industry?
Know that it’s a complex, super-difficult, long-term business that requires big backs and deep pockets. In the coming years there will be a lot of companies that will be formed, a lot of companies that will close, thousands of entrepreneurs that will crash, so you have to be cautious and invest carefully and with people who know the industry and the business, who have the knowledge of the business and not necessarily the knowledge of the plant.
A personal relationship with cannabis
Facundo Garretón is a member of a cannabis club in Uruguay. Every three months, they harvest special genetics. “Simply to try different strains, something which I love, but the truth is that I am not a huge consumer of cannabis.”
However, he recognizes that “being linked to the industry I have access to a lot of very interesting products.”
He also says that his wife “takes CBD drops” and that his mother “uses some cannabis-based creams for neck pain” and that several members of his family “consume different types of cannabinoids.”
Photos by Lelen Ruete for YVY Life Sciences.