The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Investing in Our Psychedelic Future
After a successful career in entrepreneurship and cryptocurrency, Ryan Zurrer turned his attention to the burgeoning psychedelic space. As he continued to learn more via research, attending conferences, and speaking with others, he became concerned about what he considers the “dystopian future” of psychedelic therapies – sterile doctors’ offices, $8000 treatments, synthetic drugs, no community or connection. Determined to help others harness the powerful benefits of plant medicines in traditional settings, he started Vine Ventures, a VC fund focusing on a future in which everyone who wants to access a psychedelic experience can do so safely, legally, and affordably. In this episode, Ryan and Paul discuss the importance of accessibility, Ryan’s criteria for investment, and the differences between a centralized and decentralized approach to therapy and legalization.
Ryan Zurrer is the founder of Vine Ventures, a $25 million venture fund investing in psychedelic companies. Vine is among the first venture funds dedicated to investing in psychedelics, and is focused on inclusion and accessibility rather than primarily profit. As an avid psychonaut, biohacker, and quantified self enthusiast for the past two decades, Ryan’s investing style is informed by his own deep relationship with plant medicines.
This episode is brought to you by the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, which just launched a great program for licensed medical and mental health professionals. In this year-long online course, IPI will train you to become a Certified Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Provider (PATP). This is an awesome opportunity for licensed therapists and counselors, clinical psychologists, doctors, and nurses interested in accelerating their therapy practice with the power of psychedelic medicine. Plus, as a member of the Third Wave community, you may qualify for course discounts. Just go to https://psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave/ and book a call to apply.
This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens, the daily drink for a healthier you. Whether you’re looking for peak performance or better overall health, Athletic Greens makes investing in your energy, immunity, and gut health simple, tasty, and efficient. With 75 vitamins, minerals, whole food source ingredients, green superfood blend, and more, Athletic Greens fills the nutritional gaps in your diet and improves energy, focus, and mood. Right now, they’re offering a free one-year supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase. Just go to athleticgreens.com/thirdwave and start making a daily commitment to your health.
- What Ryan’s participation in hundreds of Ayahuasca ceremonies has taught him.
- Striking a balance between helping people and making a profit as an entrepreneur.
- What Ryan looks for when investing in the psychedelic space.
- The benefits of a decentralized approach to psychedelic therapy.
- Which will be more in demand–synthetics or naturals?
- Ryan’s take on which markets will open first in the psychedelic space.
- The dystopian view of psychedelic therapies.
- Why people from both sides of the political aisle are on board with legalizing psychedelics.
- The overlap between cryptocurrency and psychedelics.
- Paul’s vision of the future of Third Wave.
- Combining the ancient wisdom of our biology with cutting edge technologies.
0:00:00.1 Paul Austin: Today we have Ryan Zurrer from Vine Ventures, a venture capital fund that is taking a fairly unique approach to the psychedelic space. And we brought him on the podcast today to hear a little bit more about his story about why he started Vine Ventures.
0:00:15.2 PA: Welcome to The Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes, as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go, and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
0:00:55.2 PA: Hey listeners, this episode is brought to you by the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, who recently launched a certification program for mental health professionals in psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Upon successfully completing this year-long online training, you’ll become a certified psychedelic-assisted therapy provider. Now, this program is run by a good friend of mine, Will Van Derveer, who has also been in the podcast before. Will has been studying integrative medicine for almost 20 years now, and some incredible guest faculty are involved, including Rick Doblin and Gabor Mate.
0:01:34.9 PA: So be sure to go over to psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave and schedule a discovery call to apply. Spaces are limited, so be sure to apply soon. This is a great opportunity for therapists, clinical psychologists, doctors and nurses who are interested in accelerating their therapy practice with the power of psychedelic medicine. You will also have the opportunity for a hands-on experience with Ketamine -assisted psychotherapy. Again, go to psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave and schedule your discovery call to apply. Today’s Third Wave Podcast is brought to you by Athletic Greens, the most comprehensive daily nutritional beverage that I’ve ever tried.
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0:04:32.4 PA: Listeners, welcome back to the podcast. Today we have Ryan Zurrer from Vine Ventures, a venture capital fund that is taking a fairly unique approach to the psychedelic space. And we brought him on the podcast today to hear a little bit more about his story, about why he started Vine Ventures, about Ryan’s philosophy, while investing in the psychedelic space and anything and everything that we wanna drop in about. So Ryan, thanks for joining us on the pod.
0:05:02.5 Ryan Zurrer: Cool, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
0:05:04.8 PA: For sure. Where are you calling in from today?
0:05:08.0 RZ: Today I am in Toronto. Locked down Toronto, Ontario.
0:05:12.7 PA: Is that home base for you?
0:05:15.3 RZ: No, I actually spend most of my time in Switzerland.
0:05:18.1 PA: Where are you originally from?
0:05:20.4 RZ: Originally from Canada.
0:05:21.9 PA: Okay, okay. And what brought you to Switzerland then?
0:05:26.2 RZ: Crypto originally. We started putting Crypto projects in Zug, Switzerland, pretty early on, 2014 to ’15 period. It just is… Switzerland is great because if you want coherent forward-looking regulation in almost any industry, and I think you’re also gonna see it in psychedelics, look to what the Swiss are doing. And then obviously, taxes are extremely favorable and you’ve got just a threshold of a talent and educated people doing great things. So it’s a great hot bed for building and innovating in a variety of spaces and quiet and just a nice place to live.
0:06:12.7 PA: Beautiful nature and mountains all over the place, and you go hiking, and… Yeah, great food, and… All the things. I was in Switzerland maybe for a week, 2016 or 2017, and I had a chance to see that country. I spent a lot of time in Germany as well. There’s something about Europe that at least for someone who’s been born in the States and spent a lot of time living in big cities, Europe is really good for the soul. It has beautiful architecture, it’s quiet, it’s comfortable. Things seem to just make a little bit more sense over there than in North America.
0:06:44.2 RZ: Yeah, it varies greatly depending on the place in Europe, but certainly certainly Switzerland checks those boxes for sure.
0:06:50.8 PA: For sure, for sure. So your… Moved to Switzerland in 2014, super involved with crypto. Where then do psychedelics fall into the mix? Where do those start for you?
0:07:01.1 RZ: Yeah, so I actually met my wife at her Ayahuasca center in Peru a number of years ago. And she ran Pulse… And owned and operated the Pulse Tours Ayahuasca Center in… Just outside of Iquitos, Peru. And having spent enough time with her in her ceremonies… She does a lot of San Pedro ceremonies as well, that I’ve been able to conduct my own informal empirical study of how much the catalytic force of psychedelics can drive meaningful, durable change for people. It certainly hit home for me to… Accompanying a friend who at the time was on last options with respect to pretty debilitating addiction. And to watch him come through that and he’s now, I think five years sober from that catalytic experience.
0:08:09.7 RZ: It created a moment where you’re like, “Wait a sec, like something’s here… ” There’s efficacy that is here that can’t be denied. And so over the years, I’ve probably accompanied in some way or form, somewhere in the hundreds of the ceremonies of people going through these processes. And you just hear the same consistency in the stories of how clear-minded they come out of it with respect to challenges that they went into it, of the ability to deal with trauma and so on and so forth. And so I’m a venture capitalist and have been for a long time. And fundamentally, I believe that venture capital when applied correctly, seeks to create and then accrue value from solving big problems.
0:09:03.0 RZ: And there is no larger problem that for my money on the planet today than the mental health crisis. This shadow pandemic or in fact, the real pandemic is the mental health crisis that we’ve unleashed onto our society. And that was a problem before COVID, and then obviously COVID added rocket fuel to that issue. And so in about 2018, I started poking around the space. I noticed very early on that a lot of the best work was being led by non-profits. And then when I would talk with people at conferences or call startups up, they would often be very standoffish once they knew that I was a venture capitalist.
0:09:50.8 RZ: There was a certain aversion to the capitalists of the space, so to speak. And so a lot of the first checks I wrote were philanthropic checks. And a lot of the most productive checks that I’ve written thus far are some of those philanthropic checks. I’m a huge fan of the work that Max and Usona and the McKenna Foundation, who I actually just had a call with and some of the academics in the space are leading. But then from there, I really wanted to walk the talk in this space and I noticed that entrepreneurs were struggling with this balance between wanting to be mission-driven and values aligned and in it for the right reasons to help heal people and heal the world.
0:10:44.9 RZ: But then also looking for sustainability in their business models, and not wanting to just be a not-for-profit, which is in a never-ending cycle of fundraising. And so the way that we structured Vine, which to my knowledge is a novel venture capital structure whereby we take fully half of the profits of the management company and deploy that back into the industry and non-profit projects, has been really interesting. I dramatically underestimated the effect that that would have for deal flow and for excitement around entrepreneurs. And it’s because the Vine reciprocity pledge is portfolio entrepreneur-directed.
0:11:33.5 RZ: So it’s not me that gets to dole this money out into the projects and issues that I find compelling, it’s the portfolio of entrepreneurs that get to decide where this money goes. They… We’ll all sit around the table. And we’ve actually already had a couple of these meetings and been fortunate enough that Vines had some exits and we’ve been already been able to write some checks in this regard. A lot of entrepreneurs either want to know that a good chunk of the value that they’re creating will go back to non-profit projects in the space, or… Or and/or I should say… They have designs on being capital allocators themselves. And so this is an opportunity to be a capital allocator and think through how to deploy capital in an effective manner.
0:12:24.6 PA: So essentially, just to make sure I’m understanding this and tracking this correctly, you have… Let’s say 20 to 25 portfolio companies that you’ve already invested in, and as you’re determining… Let’s say from this point forward which companies you want to invest in, that’s not only up to you but more so it’s up to the CEOs of the companies that you’ve already invested in?
0:12:45.8 RZ: No. So let me back this up. So there is the portfolio of companies, and that is decided by me. I’m a venture capitalist, I have been doing this for a long time, so we make the investments.
0:13:00.2 PA: Okay.
0:13:00.4 RZ: But then of the 25 companies that exist in the fund at the end of the life cycle of the fund, which is scheduled to be seven years, but in reality will be much shorter because the timeline to liquidity, generally in venture has shortened, but also this novel industry we’re seen shorter timelines to liquidity. And that’s just because we build on the shoulders of giants, and so on and so forth. So at the end of the seven years, let’s say, or earlier, all of the entrepreneurs in the fund, the 25 entrepreneurs that make up the fund, will sit around the table and say, “Okay, we’ve got x millions to dole out.
0:13:36.6 RZ: This many will go into research and this many will go into indigenous projects, and this many will go into say education and so on and so forth. Who becomes a portfolio entrepreneur, that’s the part of my job that I actually enjoy the most. Which is connecting with entrepreneurs, finding great people that I’m super excited to work with, and then working with them in hopes of building a valuable company that matters to a billion people.
0:14:11.3 PA: And so how have you made those decisions so far? What are some of the example companies that you’ve invested in, and why have you chosen those specific companies in the psychedelic space?
0:14:20.7 RZ: Cool. So in psychedelics, there are four criteria that I look for. And that’s because of how unique this space is and also because I’m coming at this from a perspective of really wanting to make meaningful change in the world. The money involved in this fund… It’s a $25 million fund… This isn’t gonna change my life. I’m in this for actually the end goal of, if anyone in the world who wants access to psychedelic therapies, either for curing the sick or… Yes, it’s okay for betterment to the well, they can get access to that. I think the world would be fundamentally a better place. And so whether I’m a little bit richer or a little bit poorer makes no difference in comparison to how much better the world would be if we got that kind of set up.
0:15:09.8 RZ: The investment process and thesis around Vine is a little bit different than what I’ve done in the past. Fundamentally, we start with looking for entrepreneurs who are just good people doing this for the right reasons because they’re the ones who are going to have longevity. They’re gonna be doing it when it’s hard. They’re gonna be doing at night. They’re gonna be doing it when it’s not the hottest thing in investments. They’ll have that durability as entrepreneurs. And truthfully, I just resonate more with people who see this more as a mission that we can all work on together rather than a get-rich quick scheme. Secondly and probably most importantly, we look for, do these entrepreneurs… Does this team have the technical skills to pull off what they’re pulling off?
0:16:04.5 RZ: I will write a check to five medical chemists working on fundamental breakthroughs every single time over a check to five MBAs who are building slide decks and trying to raise more money on more money. I like supporting really technical founders who are building a specific piece of technology. And that specific piece of technology should be defensible. And that’s the third thing, is there defensible in this. And just to be clear, and we can dive into this. Defensibility should not come through a patent. Patent laws are grossly outdated, not… Frankly, not relevant at this point. I’m sure we’ll dive further into this. And then the fourth thing that we look for is, can this touch a billion people’s lives?
0:16:53.9 RZ: I’m not that interested in certain business models. So for example, because my wife was an early entrepreneur in psychedelic tourism, I’m not interested in psychedelic tourism startups. They’re great. They’re great for education, they’re great for building awareness, they’re great for a lot of things and they provide a lot of healing, but they’re not scalable, they’re hugely capital intensive, finicky business models. At the end of the day, they’re a travel… They’re a hotel. And I owned a hotel in Brazil before, and it’s a racket, to be honest with you. You could provide the greatest healing imaginable but if the soap in the bathroom is the wrong scent, you’re gonna get three stars on booking.com and then you gotta deal with that.
0:17:38.4 RZ: And so, there are are specific businesses that are scalable that we look for here. And those are the four criteria. It’s pretty simple. The playbook is not rocket science. The difficulty comes in this space in that the hit rate is very low. So the rate of investable assets and the rate of entrepreneurs that have the technical skill set to pull things off is really, really low, and that is just an indication of the maturity of the space, with prehistoric or pre-knee of the curve and it’s not yet set how the future will unfold. Whether it will be this hyper-medicalization or whether our thesis will unfold where we think that use cases for betterment to the well will flourish, that naturals will be an expressive part of the demand profile, and that liberalization will come faster than people think.
0:18:37.1 PA: And that’s where we’re aligned, as well. I’ve often been speaking out through the podcast or other sort of platforms, as well, just very skeptical of the FDA medicalization process. And the core reason that I come back to is the FDA and sort of that centralized approach is very much a relic of industrialism and nation states. And with psychedelics coming on to the scenes in the 60s, inspiring the computer revolution, which does inspire the Internet, blockchain, crypto, more or less, the further decentralization of power, we’re now reaching this sort of tipping point where it looks as if, in the psychedelic space, as well, decrim and state-by-state legalization will likely outpace the overly centralized approach of FDA medicalization. One, because we now haven’t done any research or clinical trials in the past year for FDA because of COVID. And I think two, I just always, as an entrepreneur, look at this concept of attractor points, right?
0:19:40.4 PA: So when Jobs and Bill Gates invented Apple and Microsoft, they saw in the future, “Okay, there’s this attractor point of the full digitization of society.” And I think the attractor point that we’re headed is basically decentralization with what Tesla is building, they’re building a massive plan to redistribute energy so that it’s less centralized. With what Bitcoin is building, they’re looking to re-distribute finance to make it a lot more decentralized. And I think with psychedelics, what psychedelics do is they decentralize medicine. They help individuals understand what it is that people need that’s best for them, and they’re supported and mirrored by therapists, doctors, and whatnot, but it’s much less prescriptive and sort of top-down than the typical healthcare model that most people exist in today.
0:20:28.0 RZ: Yeah, this is the future that I would love to see of decentralized access to guided psychedelic therapies. Our data shows that there’s approximately 4,000 underground psychedelic therapists in continental North America, which the first time we came across this number, was shocking to me. When you think about it, what bothers me so much about, say the model that COMPASS is trying to force feed in the US, is that it fails to recognize the professionalism and care and place that these therapists have in the value chain, that this is actually a really important component. And that if we can set it up such that people can have the accompaniment of a therapist and not be only accompanied by a medical doctor who, by the way, is not trained in therapy, and really, a medical doctor should probably not spend five, six, seven hours with a single patient accompanying them through their trauma. If we can have this more egalitarian, decentralized, liberalized approach to psychedelic therapies, I think it’s gonna be better for patients and better for the world. We’ll see 1,000 flowers bloom in the place of a long shadow of a hyper-medicalized patent-controlled system, which I fundamentally disagree with.
0:22:01.9 PA: I think you disagree with it, both on a philosophical but also a business level, which is why you’re making the investments that you’re making. What is it, how is it that you see the space rolling out in the next three to five to seven years? In particular, with the investments that you made in Psygen, which is creating the actual substances, what’s your take on sort of patent plays versus just generics versus just people getting grow kits and growing their own mushrooms at home?
0:22:27.9 RZ: The core to our thesis is that liberalization will come for curing the sick, primarily, to start, but very, very quickly after, we’ll recognize that recreation is not a danger to society, and use cases around betterment to the well will flourish much faster than we think today, collectively, is as industry. The other part component to the thesis is that naturals will be a significant part of the demand profile. A lot of people in the space think that it will be all synthetic, 100% synthetic patent-controlled. That is patently absurd, first, and second, dystopian future, in my view. If the only way that I could get access to, say like mushrooms or Ayahuasca is this poor, analog, this half-baked, synthetic version versus the actual real stuff, I don’t think that people will have strong demand for synthetics the way that today, if we look at the demand profile across Cannabis, I like to draw the allegory of Cannabis from time to time. There was all this money put in this, you know, synthetics, into Cannabis, and people are primarily still smoking flower. That’s still a huge part of the demand profile.
0:23:53.2 RZ: And so the recreational folks will have strong demand for the naturals, and then even in the case of not purely naturals, we’ll see, we will see the learning curve get to the point where we’ll have GMP production of natural substances, but with GMP-level quality and consistency. That was really the big bet on Psygen, is that these guys can get to GMP-level quality for MDMA, synthetic Psilocybin, and LSD today. And they’re developing a portfolio to be able to do that for a wider range of natural and synthetic psychedelics over time, and I think that that, fundamentally, fits into the industry, independent of how the future unfolds with respect to patent race.
0:24:44.9 RZ: And then obviously, you and I both agree very strongly with Tim Ferriss’ view that generics will likely flourish, and that a lot of the patents that are being attempted right now are either attempts at patenting something, re-patenting something that was already patented in the 70s and expired in the 90s, or patenting a molecule that’s exist naturally for thousands of years, which obviously, is not defensible, and I think time will show that. And again, that’s great because instead of having a single company dominate all the value and space, we have 1,000 flowers bloom, and entrepreneurs can be active all up and down the value chain, which I, as a venture capitalist, find much more compelling.
0:25:35.8 PA: And not only compelling, but much more resilient, right? I always think of Taleb’s concept of anti-fragility, right? If you’re looking to create an entire ecosystem, an entire movement, better to have all of, like you said, the 1,000 flowers bloom because that’s much more an anti-foil as a system than having a few unicorns who just totally take off, but end up trying to monopolize the whole thing because especially as it relates to psychedelic medicine, that just really fucks shit up, if I’m being blunt.
0:26:02.0 RZ: Yeah. No, absolutely. And I mean decentralization will matter, regionalism will matter. We back Psygen in part because Psygen attends the, what we call the “Cacao markets”. So I’m firmly of the belief that the markets that will open up and liberalize first will be Canada, California, Colorado and Oregon, and we call these the “Cacao markets”. These markets are gonna open up, but they’re not gonna open up to produces from France to immediately import into them. Regionalism will matter, and that’s why thinking about this in a decentralized approach where, again, 1,000 flowers can bloom, I think, is the path forward here, and will be how the future unfolds. It may not be how the future unfolds, but it’s the future that I want to work towards. So I wake up every day and I work towards that future because I find that more inspiring, more compelling than this dystopian view of psychedelic therapies being only controlled by a doctor in a hospital with a white lab coat, and you have to pay $8,000 a dose for this synthetic version of what you can find naturally in the Amazon forest. That seems like absolute nonsense to me.
0:27:18.4 PA: Yeah, and it feels like that may… You know, I think of my parents, I’m from Michigan, the Midwest. If my mom or dad, they’re in their mid-60’s now, if they wanted to go in and do a psychedelic, they might feel better if it was prescribed by a medical professional. But A, that doesn’t mean that they would wanna do it within a very clinical setting, and B, that doesn’t mean that after they have that first experience, that’s sort of certified by a medical professional, that they want, wanna do it otherwise or elsewhere at a retreat or with friends or whatever it might be. So I think it feels like with the medicalization, that’s a great first line of defense. It’s a great tool to have in the tool kit. It feels like insurance will cover it sooner rather than later. And it’s still more inaccessible. It’s not necessarily an ideal experience, as you and I both probably understand from our years of experience. It’s usually best to do this in groups, as well, not just individually by yourself with a couple therapists. It’s nice to have that connection, it’s nice to have the retreat, it’s nice to be in nature. Everything that we built with Synthesis was having that in mind, right? “What is the future of these ceremonial spaces? And how can we bring community and folks together to heal one another?” So that all feels very central.
0:28:35.0 PA: And Matt Johnson had a tweet the other day, which was something along the lines of, “You know, a lot of people are skeptical of the clinical approach,” for a lot of the reasons that you just mentioned. And what I responded with was, “Well, instead of saying, ‘Psychedelics can’t be used in a clinical environment,’ what if we just re-imagined the clinical environment itself where what they’re building in Oregon right now, if you have a licensure, like Synthesis, can host Psilocybin retreats in Oregon, as long as they have to license to do it? So it doesn’t necesssarily… And they can have people who have depression, who are clinically depressed, come to those experiences and come to those retreats.” So I think that’s where these worlds mix and match, is psychedelics will need to be used for healing, but like so much of that healing can be done from a collective, interconnected perspective.
0:29:28.7 RZ: Absolutely. I really like the movements that we’ve seen in Oregon. And this is the thing: You know, you’ve been in this industry for a long time. If we would have backed up, say 24 months ago, 36 months ago, and I would have come along and I would have told you, “Hey, by 24 months from now, three states would have decrim-approved and Canada would be treating patients, not only for palliative care, on one-off authorizations, but not only for palliative care, but now also, for non-palliative use cases, specifically PTSD and depression.” That probably would have seemed unimaginable. But when you look at this trajectory, it’s absolutely undeniable where we’re going at this point.
0:30:17.0 RZ: I think very clearly, by the time America gets around to its next election cycle, with presidential election cycle, you’ll probably see somewhere north of a dozen states with a decrim ballot as part of that cycle. And at that point, the door is opening much faster than most people realize, in part because of the path that’s already been paved by Cannabis. It has changed the perspective for both society at large and regulators, specifically, to be able to say, “Hey, that which was prohibited maybe didn’t need to be so.” And our fears around society descending into chaos in the streets if we allow what we consider to be drugs, but other people considered to be medicine, it allow a path towards access, it doesn’t create negative societal change. In fact, creates, by and large, a positive societal change.
0:31:31.8 RZ: Around Canada, the perspective of the change that the Cannabis industry has brought has been largely positive, and that’s why the regulatory movement is moving so fast because you get pressure from both sides of the aisle. Liberals see this as an important tool for dealing with the massive mental health crisis in our society, and conservatives see this as another compelling industry that can produce important tax revenues and fund projects. British Columbia has dramatically decreased the cost of its, or the price of its school tax because of the taxes that it receives from Cannabis. There’s real change for… Independent of what your perspective is.
0:32:24.2 PA: So we touched on this at the beginning of the interview. You started with crypto and Bitcoin and blockchain, right? That’s why you would move to Switzerland in 2014. That has grown now into Vine Ventures. You’ve supported a couple dozen companies through your venture fund, and you have a very, I would say unique thesis and perspective on how it’s going to roll out. How do those two worlds come together? How does crypto meet sort of the psychedelic space? And what does, specifically, Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, what technology is there that helps your vision to be that much more likely to come true?
0:33:00.2 RZ: This is really interesting. I find myself in this conversation quite frequently, that the Venn diagram of crossover between crypto and psychedelics is… You know, there’s a lot more overlap than one would think. Typically, and when I started, when I made the decision to get into psychedelic investing, I created Vine to have distinct separation of church and state between my family office, Dialectic, which does my crypto investing; and Vine, which is specifically psychedelics and conscious health and wellness. But I confess, there’s a huge percentage of our LP base who made their money in crypto, almost, well over half. I’d say close to two-thirds of the entrepreneurs that we talk with have some connection to crypto themselves or there’s a lot of overlap. We see this, people asking about payments. We see, for example, our portfolio company, which we’re super excited about, TRIPP, led by the amazing entrepreneur Nanea Reeves. I think you’ll see probably something with respect to crypto crossover with her on VR app over the next little while.
0:34:24.8 RZ: And it’s something that I have been trying to deny or to force to be mutually exclusive for myself because like, “Ah, no, you gotta focus on one.” One is like bioscience and other things. And crypto is programmable money. What kind of crossover do they have?” And it’s just like it’s an undeniable force. There’s just this overlap between the two, and there’s this connection between the two. In part, because they’re novel emerging industries that have emerged in the last five, six, seven years, depending on when you wanna strike the timeline with the academic renaissance with psychedelics and obviously, the growth of crypto, when you kinda chart the knee of the curve on that one. And I’m finding myself today more and more open to entrepreneurs that are discussing co-mingled opportunities, whether it’s payments or whether it’s using NFTs in novel ways to support trips, or whether it’s like data platforms and things like that. I think you are going to see a lot of crossover.
0:35:39.9 RZ: And then also, what you’re continuing to see, and I hope that this grows more. And in fact, I would love to exchange some ideas with you on how to promote this, is we’re starting to see a lot of crypto wealth go into psychedelic research, that’s important. We’re still very early in the research trajectory. There’s a lot of projects that need to be funded, highly capital-intensive. For better, for worse, we could get into, we could talk all day about the inefficiencies of the university system, and I myself try to shy away from university philanthropy and try to find and fund private researchers, instead of university-backed researchers ’cause it’s just such a mess with schools. But we are seeing a lot of not-for-profit capital flow into psychedelics from crypto, which is also good. And so I fought the fight of trying to keep them separate for years, and I kind of have thrown up my hands at this point, and just accepted that there’s just a lot of love between the two spaces.
0:36:53.0 PA: Well, and that’s… The deeper implications is probably a whole podcast in itself between cryptocurrency and networks states and new city states and sort of the re-localization of governance. And going back to Switzerland as a model, Switzerland has cantons, and then the cantons have quite a lot of agency as it relates to the larger nation state, right?
0:37:12.6 RZ: Oh, absolutely, it is the model for decentralized governance. And you see this play out. For example, we’ve seen it play out with covid where every canton, every city state will have its own policy, and they have their own tax policy, and it’s interesting because you get closer to the ground on issues, you get more thoughtful, personalized decisions. This goes back to what I’m talking about with respect to… Respecting the underground therapists, when you get support that’s close to the ground that’s individualized, that’s localized in your community regionally, attune, you generally get better outcomes. And so we see this in decentralized governance and crypto, where the people who are deepest in the weeds and projects, are the ones who should be making the decisions, and they’re the ones who are most active in governance quite often, and usually you’ll delegate into a liquid governance in this way.
0:38:20.3 RZ: And I would like to see the same type of thing happen in psychedelics, but again, it requires us to recognize that the FDA path is neither the only path to success, nor is it a foregone conclusion that we need to think about other things like religious exemptions and decrim, liberalization and war on drugs questions, and whether any drug should be illegal, and so and so forth. We need to think about naturals and about local cultivation and these types of things. Now we’re starting to see entrepreneurs look at it in this way.
0:39:07.5 RZ: Look I think the rubicon has been crossed with respect to the obvious power of decentralized technologies. Certainly, if COVID has done anything to bring us into the future, it’s brought us into that future. We’re recognizing the importance of decentralization at times. And so I’m starting to get really excited when I’m seeing pitch books and entrepreneurs talking about how to solve the problem of access to psychedelics in this manner, recognizing decentralized models, whether it’s through a decentralized network of churches or whatever, and kind of close to the ground decisions localized decisions, being the ones that win out rather than some faceless person in a capital making decision that affects people that they don’t understand.
0:40:07.2 PA: Yeah, that sense of being held and supported, that personalized interactions, we’re building this out with Third Wave where we’re going public with the directory fairly soon of retreats, clinics, therapists, coaches, where we’re essentially saying, “Okay, we’ve built on all the education,” now, a lot of folks are asking, “Okay, now that I know about psychedelics, well, where do I go find a trusted provider?” And so if you’re in Oakland, that’s different than if you’re in Vancouver, which is different than if you’re in New York, which is different than if you’re in Amsterdam. So essentially, one question that I’ve continued to come back to is if the integration of psychedelics are to be successful, particularly outside of the peer clinical framework, what technology, what education, what platforms need to be built to ensure that it’s successful?
0:40:54.1 PA: And the thing that I keep coming back to is, it’s psychedelic literacy, it’s like if we had a whole country that didn’t know how to cook, or didn’t know how to write, or don’t know how to read, we have a whole, basically, globe that really doesn’t understand psychedelics whatsoever, and it’s just starting that path, so how do you develop that skill…
0:41:13.6 RZ: And then half the country thinks that books are insanely dangerous, ’cause somebody told them when they were six years old that books were dangerous. It’s like… Imagine. So that’s the part that we’re starting with re-education, and that’s why I have to say the Third Wave itself is amazing, and we’re super grateful for the very important work that you do in this space. The number of people who have gone through your psychedelic guides and made a first choice of what’s best for them, whether it’s Salvia, or Peyote, or Mescaline, or whatever else, or people who have thought about microdosing and heard about microdosing, especially in the cult bubble that is Silicon Valley.
0:42:03.1 RZ: And have referenced your guides on microdosing. This is really, really important stuff, and so kudos to you and very grateful for the work because obviously this wasn’t built overnight, you’ve spent many years to develop this stuff, aggregate the information, and so and so. Actually, on that point, where do you wanna take ThirdWave.co? What is the grand vision of what it can be and where do you wanna build it next?
0:42:40.2 PA: Yeah. I really see it as like the golden goose, so to say. In 2018, we spent off synthesis from Third Wave, added a few emails to our list and had something… We’ll roll out a CPG line pretty soon that we haven’t announced totally publicly yet, but it’ll be microdosing supplements, prep integration boxes, we can roll that off. So Third Wave, it’s a brand, it’s a community and really like I want that to continue to maintain that sort of hegemony as the trusted public platform in the psychedelic space. You have a question about psychedelics, go to Third Wave; if you you need to find a provider, go to Third Wave;, if you wanna find a coach who can help you out with X, Y, and Z, go to Third Wave… Just start there. It’s that front door into psychedelics.
0:43:18.5 PA: And the way that we’re navigating then is, I come back to this phrase, community led platform, there’s this guy I follow on Twitter, his name is Greg Eisenberg, he built this app called Islands that he sold to WeWork. He’s built a few other community-led platforms. And so I love that idea, we’ve taken the opposite approach of most companies in the space and most businesses in generally ’cause we built the audience and the community and the brand first, and we basically said, “Hey, we’re going to figure this out together as we see where the psychedelic space lands.” And so what we’ve continued to focus on is trust within that, ’cause trust is central to it, creating stuff that actually helps people, and then looking at as more opportunities in the space arise as microdosing supplements become a thing, as grow kids become a thing.
0:44:10.2 PA: Well we can easily spin that off because we have the community to support and amplify and elevate that. So what I see it becoming is really Third Wave will be that sort of main island of the psychedelic archipelago, and then we’ll continue to spin off other sub-entities from that because the trust is there with the platform, the brand, and then as things become more feasible, we can simply spin up new things. So that’s more or less where I’ve landed. I think training and education are key and central to that, and generally providing a framework outside of clinics for folks to learn about finding book experiences and then feel supported with our membership site and community as they’re going through this.
0:44:57.2 RZ: Cool. Have you had a surge in visits to the website? ‘Cause I imagine people all scared about the Third Wave of COVID, go on Google and type in “third wave”, and then maybe find their way here and find better solutions for conscious health and wellness rather than…
0:45:20.3 PA: Rather than psychedelics, or whatever. That’s an interesting part of the approach, it’s like we’ve been very psychedelic-focused, so how do we… Clearly, there’s something to psychedelics themselves, but these are also relevant to so many other areas as people are searching for mental health solutions, as people are searching for “think outside the box” solution, creative solutions. What I love about psychedelics is it’s not so much about the mushroom or the Ayahuasca or whatever it is, it’s much more about how all of the entities and organization and infrastructure that we’re building. How it has that psychedelic component.
0:46:00.2 PA: And I think what I consider to be the psychedelic component is really the interconnected component. So all of a sudden, how are we bringing interconnectedness into commerce, into business, into education, into relationships, into everything, right? I love Charles Eisenstein and his philosophy of Story of Separation, to story of interconnectedness, and how are psychedelics helping to birth this new model. I love Buckminster Fuller’s quote about, “Don’t fight the old model, just build a new model that makes the old one obsolete.” And I think that is the opportunity that we have with sort of the convergence of psychedelics, crypto, blockchain, all these technologies of decentralization are this new emergent interconnected model that will ideally help humanity to overcome its current existential crisis, if you will.
0:46:54.3 RZ: Yeah. Actually, this brings me to a question that I ask a lot of, say, OGs in this space, like yourself. So the way that I look at it is, I mentioned at the top, the catalytic moment of psychedelics. Because for me, a psychedelic therapy, it can be this catalytic moment that then sets somebody off on a journey of exploring novel modalities of health and wellness. And what you see next very frequently, and again, my own sort of like pseudo-empirical informal study of this, has been from that catalytic moment, people often will find mindfulness, and that’s potentially meditation, but it’s potentially other things. They’ll start to think more deeply about biohacking, about alternative diets. And you have these movements that are counting the tens of millions of people of which psychedelics is, again, an important catalytic component, but not the whole thing itself. And I’ve been searching around for a name to call the general category, ’cause this is like the general category of the investments base that they occupy. That, yes, psychedelics is an important part, but it also includes biohacking and then quantified self, and a big part of the demand side will come from communities like the California Sober Movement, and Burning Man culture, and biohackers generally, and people who are searching for novel churches.
0:48:43.6 RZ: And there’s a huge community here in Toronto around Inward, which is this almost religious-like community around hot-cold therapies combined with breathwork. So you know, and what that can mean for people either recovering from things or just looking for new healthy entertainment options that aren’t going to the bar, right? That they can be in a community and have a social event on, say, a Friday night, ’cause it’s then like, “Tonight, I’ll go over to Inward and be with some people there.”
0:49:22.8 PA: Tell Robbie I say hi.
0:49:24.5 RZ: Yeah. [chuckle] Will do.
0:49:25.9 PA: Loves that.
0:49:26.9 RZ: And so this whole category, I’ve been kind of searching for a name. The name that we typically use internally has been conscious health and wellness that encompasses all these things, but we’ve also heard TransTech in the past. And I’m wondering if you have a name for this general category that includes psychedelics, but is not limited to only psychedelics, kind of more about these new modalities of health and wellness.
0:49:55.1 PA: I have a few different that I’ll share with you. One could be the Yoga Bourgouise Movement, these yuppies who have the wealth, who are getting into mindfulness, who see it as the next trend or the next thing, but don’t necessarily go as deep as they could into the shadow side, and the healing, and the trauma. But there’s still definitely that movement of the yoga bourgeoisie. Another way that I think about it, and this is much more personal to even my experience, when I first started dropping acid, I was 19. I’m 30 now, so about 11 years ago. I started to do LSD, and Psilocybin mushrooms and in higher doses. And the experiences that I would have in those moments, in those many hours was an experience of, A, total freedom, and then, B, coming to an awareness of how do I need to integrate this to have more and more freedom in my every day life? And what I landed on with one component of that, was the more that I can re-wild myself, the more that I can strip off the conditioning of modernity, and like allow myself to be fully free in what it means to be a homo sapien and a human, right?
0:51:02.7 PA: So I love… So that’s when I started to get into CrossFit, and paleo, and functional fitness, and even meditation and mindfulness, and spending time in the woods. And everything that I’ve even built through Third Wave, the framework that I’ve seen things through is how are we marrying the ancient wisdom of our biology, and how fundamentally true that is, with the accessibility to cutting edge technologies like hot cold thermogenesis and breathwork, or neurofeedback, or things related to the Quantified Self Movement. So it’s really this beautiful marriage of this ancient wisdom that’s been baked into our DNA, the rewilding aspect and element, which we see a lot in the Austin, Texas scene where people are now going… Taking mushrooms and going hunting on three-day excursions, then bringing it back and starting homesteads and all those sorts of things. But we’re also seeing it, like you said, in many, many other areas where folks, after they have these opening experiences, these catalytic experiences with psychedelics, they are looking to feel that sense of connection. So anything that helps them to get back to that sense of connection, whether it’s meditation, whether it’s time outdoors, oftentimes it’s a specific diet, because as probably.
0:52:20.9 PA: You know just as well as I do, when you clean up the diet, all of the noise drops away. And I think what many of us are attempting to get back to is where is the signal? We’ve collectively lost the signal as a species, because there’s been so much distraction. So the more that we can strip away, the more that we can de-condition, the easier it is to tune into that signal, which some people would call truth, some people would call God, some people would call a mystical experience, whatever you wanna call it, and then how are we building in practices afterwards to continue to revisit and sort of dip from that well knowing that we can’t just blast our face off with five grams of mushrooms once a week. We have to sort of space that out a little bit. So I don’t know if I’ve landed on a specific phrase. I think there are a few things that I hear tossed around, but it has something to do with that marriage of ancient biology and the truth of who we are, with the ability to leverage cutting edge technologies to essentially, facilitate enlightenment on-demand.
0:53:26.8 RZ: Yeah, kind of this, almost, ancient future medicine, both ancient and futuristic at the same time, in a strange paradox. But yeah, I resonate definitely with everything that you’re saying here.
0:53:42.1 PA: On an individual level, the ability to hold that complexity of the both and, the both ancient and future, the both whatever and why. It’s being able to hold the tension inbetween that, that I think is that stage of integral development, sort of to say. I think that’s what a lot of folks. Are using these catalytic experiences for, is for growth development and maturity, so they can essentially see things from an integrated perspective, that interconnected perspective.
0:54:12.7 RZ: Yeah, it’s kind of like this concept that I call, “The quantum state of being,” where you recognize the genius of and between what are otherwise two opposite states, like two binary or seemingly binary issues. So for example, like people will look at Stoicism or Epicureanism, and really it’s not about being stoic or being epicurean, it’s about the ebb and flow between these two states so that you can be both zero and one and one and zero and one and one and zero and zero. Quantum machines, that’s kind of this quantum state of being that people find, again, through the catalytic moment of a psychedelic journey.
0:55:05.8 PA: Ryan, it’s been a pleasure.
0:55:07.2 RZ: Awesome.
0:55:08.0 PA: In terms of more information, I know you guys have a pretty basic website up,Vine Ventures. Any other resources, recommendations, for our audience as we go off today?
0:55:19.3 RZ: Well, we’re hiring very aggressively. So reach out, [email protected], to me or we do keep a really deep comprehensive database of all the companies and all of the foundations in the entire space. We intend to publish our updated version. We kind of do it once a quarter, and it’s been an internal thing. We’ve decided to open source it and publish it, and so we will publish this with a revamp of our website in the next couple of months. So stay tuned for that. There’s a couple of blog posts, and from time to time, I’ll tweet about things, and then, get out and try. I encourage people to… We often say to portfolio companies that were from St. Louis on these things, we wanna try it, we wanna show me, like, “Hey, if you’ve got something interesting, for example, I’m super excited to try your micro-dose package and some of these CPG things that you have.” I think that’s gonna be awesome and would encourage people to try as many different things. So for example, go home and instead of doing a straight, normal meditation today, try Trip on Tripp, that’s trip with two T’s, on Oculus. So you can even find lots of ways to interact with our portfolio.
0:56:48.2 PA: Sweet and we’ll include some of those links in the show notes. Ryan, it’s been a pleasure and an honor.
0:56:52.8 RZ: Cool. Awesome.
0:56:53.5 PA: Thank you for taking the time today, dude.
0:56:54.5 RZ: Thank you so much.