I had the pleasure to interview James West, Founder and CEO of Arfinn Med. James is a former Academic Coordinator for the City University of New York Research Foundation and Medgar Evers College in New York City. He has extensive experience in adult education and creating professional training programs. His objective for creating Arfinn Med was to provide a clearinghouse of credible peer-based cannabis treatment data for medical professionals to use as a resource with their patients. James has a B.A. in English from Florida State University and a master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida.
Thank you so much for joining us James. Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Cannabis is everywhere in the news now, and I initially became interested in learning more about it as a medicine. After speaking with physicians and people in the industry, it was very apparent that there was this massive information gap due to the difficulty of doing research on cannabis. Only a small number of medical schools teach it, and comprehensive research is limited in number and scope. Information was scattered, and medical professionals who were having success didn’t have a way to share their experiences with other medical professionals. After realizing this, we thought about how we could allow physicians and other medical professionals to collaborate and share their experiences regarding medical cannabis. Since research was difficult, we had the idea of allowing physicians to conduct their own types of clinical trials and publish those reports to the community.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
The most interesting thing that happened since we started the company was when a state cannabis program reached out to us about our product and how it can be incorporated within their current physician requirements. It was definitely validation that what we are working on is needed and can be used as a resource. I think that some of the states where medical cannabis is legal want information about the efficacy of cannabis and how certain qualifying conditions respond to this type of treatment. This information can be used to add additional context to other types of research or to even inform legislative bodies that are thinking about expanding the types of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Before our release, I did an interview about Arfinn Med and was totally unable to explain it in a coherent way. It wasn’t that I didn’t know about the platform, (I obviously did) it was just that I had never practiced explaining it succinctly and ‘on the record’ before. I think I said ‘efficacy platform’ 5 times in one sentence, and no one knows what that means. I learned that it’s not enough to be an expert on what your product is and how it works, you also have to be able to articulate that quickly. Sometimes you only have a second to get your point across before losing someone and that can be the difference between success and failure.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We have a couple new projects that we are finishing up now. The project that I’m most excited about is a text messaging function that allows patients to update their physicians regarding their treatment by simply responding to a prompted text with just a number between 1–5. This allows physicians to monitor treatments, especially in states where patients don’t have to return for follow-ups very often. We also just released the ability to schedule appointments within our platform and additional analytics regarding patient outcomes with multiple delivery modes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It would definitely be my Dad. He has had success running companies before, especially in the healthcare sector, and having him involved has helped me avoid some of the common pitfalls that new companies almost always face. He has a unique ability to conceptualize and detail the basic functions of an idea and build a business concept around that idea. It is a huge advantage, and it allowed me to spend more time on our development projects in the early days.
He is also, by his own admission, technologically challenged. We have him test our platform and report his difficulties which has definitely helped us create the most intuitive user interface possible!
Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
We utilize strategic public relations and marketing techniques to ensure that we are not just getting our name out there but getting it in front of the right people, physicians in particular. Through targeted digital marketing and public relations tactics in key markets where our company can make an impact, we ensure that every mention of our brand is valuable. Additionally, we offer marketing strategies for physicians involved in the platform to ensure that it is mutually beneficial for all involved.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I’m excited about:

  1. More access to medical research in the future as federal restrictions get reformed
  2. More states recognizing the need to look into medical use of cannabis
  3. A national dialogue on Cannabis in general

I’m concerned about:

  1. A lasting stigma associated with cannabis. Since it has been an illegal product for so long, some people still disregard any positive information about it immediately.
  2. Access to reliable information.
  3. Influx of people into the space with a ‘get rich quick’ outlook.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Be prepared to meet face-to-face. I knew I was going to be traveling across the country a lot, but not almost every week. Meeting people in-person is the best way to get people to use and believe in your product. The medical cannabis community is a very supportive one, and people are willing to promote your product if they believe in it. You just have to prove you are not ‘full of it’ first.
  2. You will have a lot of legal regulations and statues to read up on. Every state has a different system, and we had to do a lot of research to make sure our product was universally useful across the country.
  3. It’s all about time. It doesn’t matter how good your product is, if you aren’t saving a physician’s time, they won’t use it. I totally understand that physicians want to spend their time with patients, so anything that takes away from that is a non-starter. We had to do a lot of work to make sure this would not only be a resource, but also be able to save time for the physicians and clinics.
  4. Be prepared to talk about it. There is a lot of interest and passion in this field, and people want to know about all aspects of cannabis markets and products.
  5. Everyone has an opinion on medical cannabis. Be respectful and mindful of that.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Allow your people to be active participants in the direction of the product. We have had a lot of meetings about what we want our product to ultimately be, and since everyone is privy to that information, our team is able to think of creative solutions to problems as a unit. We also stress the importance of speaking to our users and quickly adapting to their needs. What Arfinn Med looks like today is completely different from our original idea. We prepared as best we could, released our product, sought as much feedback as possible from our users and then improved it quickly to maintain our momentum from our release. This is sometimes hard, especially when you receive some feedback that you don’t necessarily agree with. Stressing this mentality to everyone involved empowers the whole team to constantly pursue improvements.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to see more research done regarding cannabis. I think there is enough evidence out there now to at least warrant a strong look at the benefits of cannabinoid medicines, and that means it needs to be easier for scientists to get their hands on it. People want to know if this truly is a viable treatment option, and one that might be a lot better for you then some existing medications. I personally hope that people will look at our data and platform and use it as a tool to help them make the best treatment option for their condition.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arfinnmed
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/arfinn-med/