Speaker Spotlight: Simeon Schnapper, JLS Fund
Simeon Schnapper, Managing Partner JLS Fund
Interviewed by Jen Coleman, CEO of My Elevated Experience
Q: You've shown a lifelong fascination with plant medicines and psychedelic therapies, which has been evident through your continuous learning and exploration since a young age. Could you share what initially drew you into this field? Was there a particular transformative moment that solidified your commitment to supporting this industry for the long haul?
Shortly after my bar mitzvah where I wasn’t very impressed with my Rabbi’s answer about mysticism in Judaism I came across a couple of books in our basement buried in bunch of boxes that I was asked to dispose of. The Only Dance There is by Ram Dass and the Dyadic Cyclone by John Lilly. Read them both until I fell asleep and when I woke up continued reading. I was hooked and had to get my hands on any and all related materials. A couple years later I started meeting some of the OGs in the space of Psychedelics and studying with them in tandem with participating in as many traditions as possible. I remember a day where my morning was spent at a Pentecostal Church on the south side of Chicago, my afternoon at a teaching with Tibetan lamas and the evening making it in time for Shabbos. But I digress obviously so many traditions also have a significant medicine and therapeutic component but that was the origin for me.
Q: Could you provide some insight into the inception of JLS and the inspiration that propelled its creation?
JLS hosted the world first Psychedelic Investment Summit at the beginning of this decade before the proverbial shroom boom/renaissance where we educated family offices and HNWI by bringing together leaders in the space from shamans to therapists, authors to artists, policy experts to attorneys as well as non profits and for profit companies that presented from the founder of decrim nature (well before Oregon and Colorado graduated a legalized regulated state framework) to the first Psychedelic company that would eventually list on the NASDAQ. Our timing was prescient and propelled by some direct investing with partners and spinning up several SPVs. Our success led many to ask us to invest their gains in a more diversified fund mechanism and JLS Fund I was born. Personally, I’ve also loved early stage entrepreneurship and capital markets and healing modalities for mental and neurological health (i.e. drugs and money) so it was really committing to being a life long learner about the space while living a vibrant business narrative the entire journey. I kinda have been waiting in the wings for this time in history which was a bit of a crapshoot based on the complexities therein but alas here I am responding to exactly that question.
Q: Given the current ambiguity surrounding regulatory frameworks and policies in this domain, do you have any insights or predictions regarding the future trajectory of the industry?
If this industry is a marathon it’s like 7 months before you start training, you're on the couch with the munchies easting a jumbo bag of Doritos, you’re morbidly obese and the thought of going to a gym ever is a joke but that’s really where we are. I revel in ambiguity which is why I like the challenge of this industry. I exited my dispensary in 2012 at a time I was operating under Prop215 in California but even then it was pretty clear how it would unfold and how it will continue to unfold. The Psychedelics industry is far more nuanced and complex because the TAM is humanity touching both polarities of curing sickness to optimizing wellness; which demands ever evolving regulatory frameworks many of which are in their infancy. I spend a lot of time with triple letter agencies, governors, AGs, heads of state, and in some jurisdictions royalty tracking not just policy but the intercultural zeitgeist to better inform our investment decisions, refine our thesis and mitigate risk. There are already several regulatory frameworks in place that are anything but ambiguous and many businesses will leverage the system we have and are already doing so while others will pioneer models as frameworks evolve driven by sound drug policy, education and community empowerment. It goes without saying that technology (life long geek here) will have far reaching ramifications for every industry but as we are seeing Machine Learning used in every portfolio company that focuses on drug discovery and development, to AI in our education companies, to VR in in our therapy investments as well as distributed ledger technology in some or our psychedelic adjacent companies including but not limited to all things neuro-tech the momentum in the not to distant future will have exponential ripples on how neuropsychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative disease states are viewed and interrupted and repaired.
Q: Would you like to share any additional insights or experiences from your financial, educational, or business journey in this field that could be beneficial or inspirational to others?
Don’t be afraid to fail. So much of my joy comes from working with startups as although I’ve had 2 successful exits as an operator I’ve had far more successful failures. We focus on early stage as everyone at JLS has been there and can anticipate the pitfalls and I would argue entrepreneurship is one of the most courageous journey one can embark on. Also, I spend a good amount of time on the intrinsic side of the equation working with non profits, underserved communities and indigenous; found myself in the second largest rainforest a few weeks ago in equatorial Africa and just returned from some time in Colombia with another tribe . There is much science on giving and participating where the return on investment is not money but impact. I’ve discovered there is always asymmetric upside in this case.
The Cannabis & Psychedelics Investment Summit Series showcases the best and brightest cannabis and psychedelic entrepreneurs and is the premiere summit for institutional investors, family offices, and ultra high net worth investors. Request an invitation to attend the upcoming summit taking place November 16, 2023 in NYC, NY www.kahnerglobal.com/request-an-invite. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for speaking and sponsorship opportunities.