Seibo Shen – VapeXhale
“Having a tech executive talk about cannabis is far more impactful than a hippy looking college student so I felt that it was important for someone like myself to be a proponent of cannabis in order to normalize it.”
Seibo Shen + VapeXhale
Feature: Seibo Shen
Location: San Francisco, CA
Many years ago, if you had asked me if Silicon Valley heads would find their way into a then emerging concept of the cannabis industry, I wouldn’t have blinked twice, but times have changed.
In fact, it makes perfect sense. Taking talented, innovative technology heads and converting their love of math and science and applying it to cannabis couldn’t be more spot on.
Enter Seibo Shen, the co-founder of VapeXhale, which was founded on his principle that there should be “a vaporizer that is not only healthy to you, but produced a positive and pleasant experience for the end user.”
I caught up with Seibo and we discussed his business and tech background before getting into the cannabis industry, his love of vaporizing, the health benefits vaporizing has versus traditional methods, and where he sees the industry heading as a whole.
Here’s what he had to say:
Seibo Shen | Founder of VapeXhale
CM: Hi Seibo!! I’m glad we get to do this. I know we had been connected through other endeavors and a podcast, but your story resonated that we had to tell more of the journey for Cannabis Magazine, so that’s why we’re here.
Before we get into it, can we start by diving in a little bit more about where you’re originally from and your experiences growing up.
Seibo: I was born in Osaka, Japan in 1976 and before the age of one moved to the United States. Between the ages of 1-10, I had moved from New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and finally San Mateo, where I currently live.
Unlike most kids, I enjoyed moving and being in new places and hanging out with different types of people and trying different foods, activities, and events. Most of my formative years were spent in the Silicon Valley where I saw people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk change the way we lived with their inventions.
I knew that one day, I would like to also create a piece of technology that could positively affect people’s lives.
CM: I can imagine! Being around all of that innovation would definitely inspire a person to create. And speaking of innovation, I know VapeXhale started as an idea you got validated and then developed out.
However, before we get into that, can you tell me a little bit more about your backstory and what you were doing before you put VapeXhale together?
Seibo: Yeah, so in 2002, I was ready to go to law school and become an attorney that dealt with immigration issues. I quickly realized that the legal system that we live in isn’t necessarily about who is right and who is wrong and more about who had deeper pockets to hire larger legal teams, I became disenfranchised and unmotivated to pursue a career in law.
From there, I decided to pursue a career in the high tech sector and worked at early stage startups so I could become more business savvy.
I was lucky enough to work for 4 companies that either got acquired or went public. The experience of watching small companies grow, product lines being created, and the go to market strategy were all extremely interesting to me.
As I got older and began holding more senior positions in these companies, I began to become more confident that I could also run my own tech company one day. There really isn’t a magic formula, just hard work, an open mind, curiosity to keep learning, and surrounding yourself with the right team that can challenge your assumptions while still working seamlessly together.
CM: Amen! Having the right people around you and good hustle is what it’s all about!
Seibo: Definitely! So, after the third company went public, E2open, I began to sense that I was ready for the next phase of my life. I was extremely happy with the IPO but it wasn’t like the first two. I began to see that all software automates previously manual processes, and that each sale I made was reducing headcount at my clients’ company.
At that point, I had also purchased over 100 different vaporizers and asides from the health benefit, they were not very enjoyable to use. That is when I decided that I would create not only the world’s healthiest vaporizer, but one that also was the most enjoyable to use.
EVO by VapeXhale
CM: And take part in the Cannabis industry. Now, I know that the Cannabis is still really developing its identity. How did you decide to get involved in this industry?
Seibo: I had always been a huge proponent of cannabis. When I was a stuntman in Hollywood, it was the only thing that gave me pain relief without side effects. I always wanted to make a difference and cannabis had always been demonized when I was growing up.
To me, it didn’t matter whether or not cannabis was becoming more socially acceptable; it was time to do something that made a difference regardless of what the economic payoff would be.
CM: Well the timing couldn’t be better.
Seibo: Yeah, sometimes you have to do things that you think are right and in this case, the timing was perfect as cannabis started becoming mainstream with many states going medical. I also understand that from an optics point of view . . .
“. . . having a tech executive talk about cannabis is far more impactful than a hippy looking college student so I felt that it was important for someone like myself to be a proponent of cannabis in order to normalize it.”
Seibo Shen | News Feature on VapeXhale
CM: Good point (laughter). Now, I briefly read about your introduction to vaporization technology. Can you expand on that a bit? And why vape? Why go into this segment of the industry?
Seibo: In college, to make ends meet, I worked as a stuntman and background dancer. I incurred a lot of injuries and my doctor used to give me all sort of pain medication that were giving me ulcers. I did not like taking any medication that gave me side effects and finally my roommate had me try cannabis.
The pain relief I got was off the charts and instantly fell in love. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that you had to smoke it. I did tons of research and in 1997, I found the BC Vape from Vancouver and began vaping ever since.
CM: I feel like there’s a lot of people who would prefer an alternative method to smoking it. So, you set out to design your own then?
Seibo: Well, over the course of the next 13 years, I purchased over 100 different vaporizers in hopes to find one that would be as fun as smoking a joint or bong but I never found one that met my requirements. That’s when I decided to design my own.
The EVO by VapeXhale
I knew many people that consumed cannabis that did not smoke cigarettes. I am hugely against smoking and I find it odd that anything smoked could be called a medicine and that is why I decided to design the EVO to not only give you the cleanest and safest air path, but to ensure that it was every bit as enjoyable to use as bong or blunt or joint.
CM: So, let’s talk VapeXhale. Can you please tell us a little bit about the company, how it started and its core mission/purpose?
“Vapexhale is a cannabis company focused on health and wellness. I have always been an athlete and martial artist my whole life and while cannabis greatly augmented those activities, smoking did not.”
Since I began consuming cannabis in 1997, I had primarily used vaporizers but have also tried joint, blunts, gravity bongs, pipes, you name it, I gave it at least one try and I couldn’t deny that bongs were always the most fun and effective tool to use.
I would always try to convince anyone that I knew to switch from combustion to vaporization but whenever they tried my vaporizer, they would not be very impressed.
I knew that there had to be a way to make a vaporizer that was not only healthy, but could give massive inhalations, and enhance the flavor of the flower or oil that you put into it. We found that most devices that were healthy to use just did not give a good hit and the ones that did give a huge hit, typically were awful for your lungs
CM: And you found that balance?
Seibo: Well, we wanted to make it easy for people to have good habits and not compromise their cannabis user experience in order to be healthy.
Now that medical marijuana has more or less gained mainstream acceptance, we want to show people how to use cannabinoids to enhance and improve their lives. How to delineate what is proper use and when you are abusing the plant.
VapeXhale Tip of the Week – HydraTube 101 (Source: YouTube)
CM: You’ve since extended your line of products to not only be vaporizers, correct? Can you tell us a little bit about some of the products and why you started to incorporate more?
Seibo: Many people coming to our website are new to cannabis and are looking for a more curated shopping experience.
“We have been finding different products of high quality that we like to personally use and will enhance the cannabis experiences of our customers.”
CM: Well said! So, being early mover in this industry as it still forms its identity, what are some of the obstacles you’ve faced in bringing your products to market?
Seibo: Early on, it was difficult to get bank accounts, to find suppliers, or even to procure the services of engineers to help us figure things out. A lot of this still exists as cannabis is still federally illegal but things are beginning to relax and loosen up.
“While a lot of this has slowed down our progress, at the same time, it has allowed me to truly appreciate how far we have come despite being handcuffed and not being able to run like any normal company.”
CM: I saw a video by Mandee Lee of Green Flower Media and she was reviewing your product. She walked her audience through the hydratube and I thought it was interesting to see its benefits.
Can you walk us through the importance of the hydratube and how it helps the experience?
Seibo: When I started experimenting with cannabis, utilizing the waterpipe was one of my favorite ways. Not only did it filter out the particulate matter, but it also allowed for the user to take in substantially larger inhalations.
The Hydratubes are essentially mouthpieces that also cool and moisture condition the vapor from the EVO. It is a convenient way to get all of the benefits of using the waterpipe with a much more ergonomic and user friendly set up with EVO.
CM: What has been some of the feedback from customers? (i.e. health benefits, experiences, etc.)
Seibo: Feedback from our customers has been the thing that has kept this company growing despite spending very little on marketing.
Many of our customers call use the EVO a “life changing experience.”
“A large number of our customers are also farmers and extract artists and for them, it is ‘like tasting my product the way it should be for the very first time.'”
We also have so many athletes that use the EVO as their daily driver but due to the leagues they play in, cannot be public about it. But I can tell you that we have a LOT from the NFL, MLB, NHL, UFC, and NBA.
The cleanest air path for the health.
The purest delivery system in terms of taste.
The hardest hitting device with the least amount of negative impact on your lungs.
CM: What’s your favorite vaporizer?
Seibo: Outside of my own, I like to use the Mighty and/or Crafy from Storz and Bickel. It is by far the best convection based flower portable vaporizer on the market. Until we release the Vapexhale version (Big smile).
Mandee Lee of Green Flower Media | Review of VapeXhale’s EVO Desktop Vaporizer
CM: How important do you think the Internet and Social Media will play in the shaping of this industry as it moves forward?
Seibo: The current cannabis consumer is very, very social media savvy. It makes sense, most of them are in the 18-35 demographic but the larger growing segment will be the 35+ group.
For them, Snapchat isn’t quite as important as Facebook so it will be very interesting to see how the existing brands adapt on how the new companies launch their marketing/branding efforts.
We will be putting a lot of effort into developing content and broadcasting it on as many outlets as possible to educate this new cannabis curious group. We saw how powerful social media was with this presidential election so the power to educate through this medium needs to be harnessed properly and effectively.
VapeXhale on YouTube
CM: Will you be speaking at any events this year?
Seibo: MJ Biz Conference, Archview, New West Summit and SXSW
CM: Awesome!! We’ll have to catch you at an event! How do you see the vaporizer market growing in the next 3 to 5 years?
Seibo: I think that vaporizing will grow very quickly in the next few years. Many people that would like to consume cannabis do not smoke cigarettes so giving them a viable alternative will be important.
“I think we will see more hardware companies teaming up with farmers and extract artists to produce a good of a user experience as possible for the customer. We will be looking at devices that are healthier, easier to use, with much stronger industrial design.”
Cannabis Business Expo | Source: Imperiousexpo.com
CM: What do you think are the three top segments of growth in this industry over the next 3 years?
Seibo: Compliance, legal and distribution.
CM: Boom! Fair assessment! Seibo! This has been awesome! Thank you for sharing your journey with us thus far, as well as the development of VapeXhale! Stoked to see what comes of the company moving forward!
Seibo: This was awesome! My pleasure for sure!!
Seibo Shen | VapeXhale