During my first quarter at the Rady School I met Sher. We clicked instantly because of our shared internal drive and comfort being separated from the pack, so to speak. I had already developed an interest in understanding the potential of the marijuana industry and all of the associated markets that would grow quickly as each state adopted more relaxed regulations. When I found out Sher came to the Rady School to develop his own business acumen in order to create his own space in that industry, I became even more interested in keeping track of his path and potentially working with him.
I think Sher sets a great example of how drive and focus, coupled with ideas that in a growing space, can lead to tangible results in an ocean of talent and ideas.
Name: Sher Ali Butt
Rady program: Full-Time ’16
Background (school/work): He received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from UC Davis. He worked in a cannabis testing laboratory in the Bay Area, then decided to quit his job and start a business. Attending business school seemed like the best bet.
Focus during Rady: Entrepreneurship, VC, Finance
What inspired you to pursue an MBA?
I was not satisfied with work before. I didn’t want to inch up a corporate ladder. I wanted to launch a business and I realized that b-school would be the perfect launch pad.
Why did you choose the Rady School?
The Rady School’s Lab to Market program, world class faculty, and focus on entrepreneurship were big factors in choosing this school over others. San Diego is huge in biotech and startups, so I figured it would be a great place to create connections outside of the Bay Area.
I learned about the Rady School’s StartR program, and figured it would be a good platform to get things moving. Working in a lab, people didn’t necessarily take me seriously. I wanted to change the way cannabinoids (CBD) are produced, revolutionizing the process. I also wanted to grow as a person and make a good living doing so.
What exactly is your business?
It’s called CB Therapeutics. We genetically engineer yeast to produce cannabinoids at one tenth the price of producing cannabinoids in hemp or cannabis, in one sixteenth of the time. Typically pure CBD has a production cost of 80 dollars per gram.
I started my business at end of ’14 with StartR. After the six month program I filed some IP, conducted prototype work, and participated in two competitions. We were third place in the Entrepreneur Challenge at UC San Diego and first place in the TriNet Challenge. Now, in 2016, we’re done with prototype testing. We will be raising funds to commercialize. We do have a consultant now to help scale bio processes, who is one of the leading authorities in the bioengineering scale up space.”
Our short term goal is to successfully get funded by the end of the summer after graduation, maybe not fully funded but enough to bring the product to market by next summer. We’re not competing with growers, we are exploiting this new method instead.
Tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Never give up.
What suggestions do you have for entrepreneurs who are not sure where to start?
Sit down with pen and paper and elaborate and look at your business canvas. Talk to people you know, build on your idea and decide which way you should take it.
What suggestions do you have for entrepreneurs who want to build a team?
I think it is tough to find the right team. A good place to start is with people that you know are skilled in a certain way. But the most important thing is trust — you can teach someone skills but trust comes harder.
Sher graduated in June and is now working full time on CB Therapeutics.
Chris Rodriguez is a candidate from the Flex Evening ‘17 Cohort. His work experience includes two years in the civil engineering field, along with 12 years working in military aviation. His goals are to explore business development and continue working in the non-profit sector.