The year 2014 was a busy one for Wes Burk; he co-founded not only the Emerald Conference, but also instrumentation supply and distribution company Emerald Scientific, and popular proficiency testing scheme The Emerald Test. As part of our coverage of the 2020 event, we caught up with Wes to discuss the evolution of the conference – and the field.
What led you to set up a company in this space?
My professional background is as far from cannabis science as you can imagine – I used to work in real estate! But my longtime friend and co-founder, Ken Snoke, has a background in immunology and is a strong advocate for cannabis medicine. Like me, he has an entrepreneurial spirit and we both saw an opportunity emerging in the cannabis industry. We realized that quality assurance would be critical to the evolution of this industry; if this was going to become a legitimate product we had to prioritize safety, reliability, and predictability for consumers. Unfortunately, even after several states had ended prohibition, the corporations that supply the precision equipment needed for quality assurance would often refuse to deal with cannabis laboratories. We spotted a gap in the market for an organization that would act as a middle man between the manufacturers of high-quality analytical products and cannabis laboratories that provide safety data to consumers and regulators.
What happened next?
We went on a fact-finding mission to a major analytical conference, Pittcon, where our concept was met with delight by manufacturers keen to tap into the cannabis market. We also had the fantastic good fortune of meeting a professor from Penn State University, Frank Dorman. We were discussing the chicken and egg problem of setting up a business in this space; you can’t get customers until you have something to sell, and vendors won’t sell to you if you have no customers. Frank mused that he had seen a startup in a different niche gain recognition by launching a proficiency testing scheme and a technical conference. At that moment, the Emerald Test and Emerald Conference were born!
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