By Risha Groner
Psychedelics entrepreneurs find themselves in a very interesting space. On one hand, these compounds are medicinal, and as such work within a sphere of FDA approval, investments, and business infrastructure. But psychedelic medicines also carry their fair share of indigenous sacredness, cultural history, and in many cases, stigma. There’s a lot going on in this space that doesn’t exactly conform to ‘business as usual’. Here are three questions for entrepreneurs in the psychedelics world to think about.
Start with ‘Why.’
What do I want to get out of this? What do I want other people to get out of the work that I do? How will this benefit specific people, and society in general? Who else is out there who can support me?
Simon Sinek’s business advice for innovators is important for anyone, but more so in a new space like psychedelics. Starting with strong intentions helps attract collaborators to ensure success, as Timothy Ko of biomedical startup Entheon recently told PsyTech. In a similar vein, David Champion, CEO of software platform Maya Health told PsyTech in an interview, “Begin authentically. Identify what it is that fascinates you about the field and begin to engage intentionally with the community.” These established psychedelics entrepreneurs highlight the importance of knowing exactly who you are and where you are going, setting the stage for strategic decisions down the line.
In the early stages, the goal is not to take everything on yourself but to align with strategic partners. Each contributor in this unique space has something to bring to the table, shaping a radically different therapeutic model than we’ve ever seen before. Establish yourself and facilitate growth by working together with indigenous partners, medical researchers, data experts, healthcare specialists, and experienced therapists. Ask yourself what you need to ensure success, based on your original intention. Find the experts that have the skillset or experience that you lack, and work to complement each other’s talents. Then go forth and make the connections you need, always coming back to the original ‘Why’.
What is my business model?
Can I create a new business model that may not yet exist? How creative am I prepared to be, and how flexible in terms of early revenue expectations? Can I start rethinking old models and creating something new?
Psychedelic-assisted therapies won’t follow the traditional product-for-purchase model. Instead, companies are finding new ways to create scalable models that take into account medicine supply chain, set-and-setting, integration, and all the other unique components of this field for effective treatment. Incorporating a business model that includes not only a medicine or drug but therapeutic support throughout treatment requires creative thinking. Each organization that enters into the space can help by providing a separate piece of the integrated organism.
In an interview with PsyTech, Nicole Howell, a legal partner at Clark Howell LLP, noted that “the idea of a psychedelics ‘industry’ is not one that we totally subscribe to… there are lots of us who really want to see something very different happen with psychedelics.” And at PsyTech’s recent summit, Nicole presented a talk about “using the psychedelic experience to inform a new role for capitalism and profit in the hierarchy of things that businesses and organizations should consider when working with psychedelics.”
Conscious psychedelics entrepreneurs can leverage the creative insight gleaned from working with psychedelics to reframe business possibilities. A sustainable and beneficial industry might present profits measured in ways that involve societal impact as well as financial revenue.
Am I committed to doing business consciously?
What is my ethical responsibility as a psychedelics entrepreneur? Am I aligned with those who were here before me in bringing these medicines to people for healing and treatment? Am I listening to the traditional stewards of the medicines, community activists, and original researchers?
Working with psychedelics is a delicate space. Being in the business of literally changing people’s minds is a sacred practice that has been held carefully for millennia. Treading this path means asking how you might respond to the tension between patient therapeutic needs and shareholder demands.
David Champion of Maya Health told PsyTech, “Before taking any action, listen to the community at large, including indigenous healers, advocates, practitioners, guides, and everyone in between. As the community grows, we’ll all need to continuously remind ourselves to embody the teachings of these compounds.”
For many entrepreneurs in this space, the work of psychedelics-based therapy is a social and ethical commitment as well as a financial opportunity. Bringing out the healing potential of these compounds requires a conscious business model and a broader focus than profits. Focusing on how your business will align with and support these many-tiered goals is vital for sustainable growth and success.