- Christopher Smith, Editor-in-Chief
Others in this industry are seeking an IPO. We want to change the world. - The Peter Calfee Intervie
We’ve been incredibly fortunate interviewing some of the most fascinating people in the cannabis industry. Could anyone be more intelligent and visionary than Giadha de Carcer? More professional and experienced than Dr. Phillip Blair or Kip Morrison? Or have a more incredible survival story than Boone Cutler or Ted Daniels? We would have said, “No Way” until we met Peter Calfee, a science whiz-kid with a dream to standardize the dosing of plant-based medicine for people like you and me. Peter is the Co-Founder and CEO of GoFire, an exciting team of pharmaceutical, med-tech and big data executives that has created a handheld, smart-dosing convection vaporizer with pharmaceutical-grade precision that allows patients to control their experience, changes the relationship between physicians and patients, and alters the way plant-based medicine will be prescribed and administered.
American Cannabis Report: You’re a bit of the American Dream right now, Peter. You’re a young CEO of a healthcare technology company that’s just about to launch the beta version of your signature product. I’ll bet you’re exhausted and excited all at once.
Peter Calfee: Well first of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I’m so excited to finally begin telling the world what we’ve been up to! For the past 3 years, we’ve kept quiet so some $100+ million competitor didn’t swoop in and try to crush us.
ACR: This may seem boring, but I’m going to start with my standard question I ask all entrepreneurs: Tell us about your background and the twists and turns that led you here.
Calfee: OK, I grew up in a small town in Vermont. I left home early and finished high school out of my Subaru Outback when I was 17 years old. I saw an opportunity to make an impact and was ready to get started.
At 18, I started consulting in plant-based businesses. I was focused on OPC (Optional Premises Cultivation) at the beginning. After a short time, I transitioned to extracts consulting – advising different facilities on best practices and processes, structuring their requirements. By the age of 20, I was building businesses…but not my own, which was already starting to wear on me. Then, I got involved in an R&D lab in Evergreen, CO, helping them set up their research facility and lab to study the plant. This particular company was trying to recreate feelings through the manipulation of different compounds.
I had been getting paid well, but I realized I was feeling uninspired by building everyone else’s dreams. So, I stepped back to think for a while, then started an extraction company. But, a funding SNAFU cost me about $70,000. I called my mom, crying my eyes out, and she set me straight pretty quickly. She said, “I’ve been watching what you’re doing, and I think you need to build the bottle, not the beer.”
ACR: Yay, mom!
Calfee: Two days later, a friend called and said, “Peter, you’ve got to meet this guy, he’s got this great idea.” One evening in Boulder, the guy with the great idea happened to walk into the room. His name was John Woodbine. We talked on the balcony. John says, “I’m going to build a vaporizer…” And I said, “Really? That’s the great idea?” but I was thinking, “… re-branded e-cigarette technology off Alibaba”...
John said, “I want to give control back to the user.” Knocked me over!
He explained his thinking about what was lacking in all vaporizers, and even more so in the alternative health industry. I said, “We could really make an impact with that. Not to mention, a great business.”
The existential frustrations were far too apparent for us to do nothing. We felt compelled to help patients gain the control they deserve. So, we set out to change the relationship between people and plants in healthcare.
ACR: So you created a company?
Calfee: Three years later, our team is now 16+ strong, and has been on a mission to create a device that delivers dosable, inhalable medicine derived from plants, in order to help patients find products suited to their specific need. It is safe to say, we have done that. Now, we find ourselves on the brink of redefining how plant-based medicine is administered and prescribed. We’re proud of that.
ACR: And you can get all this from your handheld device? Can you describe it for us?
Calfee: Our aim was to make GoFire feel like an Apple product and work like an OXO product. The GoFire vaporizer is handheld, rechargeable, and about the size of an iPhone. It’s simple to operate with only a few controls. [Find all the product specs on the GoFire website]
ACR: Help me understand the problems that GoFire solves for people?
Calfee: OK great – first of all, let’s define the ‘people’ we’re solving problems for. Patients, doctors, and regulators. Then, let’s define what constitutes ‘medicine’ today. Doctors in Colorado can recommend plant-based medicine, but can’t prescribe it. When a doctor prescribes medicine, he or she specifies the chemistry, the dose, and the regularity.
Plants are inconsistent by nature, and are filled with compounds with the potential to make people get better, not just feel better. We believe the effect these plants can have could compete with opiates and other prescription medications – we want to prove this.
Right now, when a patient gets a good result from plant-based medicine, it means they ingested the right amount of the right compound. But it’s not precise; it takes a certain amount of self-administration and trial and error.
You deserve to know what you’re taking, and how much you’re taking, so that good results can be replicable. Patients deserve to control their experience, and to adhere to a specified regimen. They might need adjustments based on dosage or chemistry. GoFire accounts for these very factors.
Additionally, we have developed a Smart Cartridge that allows patients and consumers to know the chemical makeup of the products within their cartridges when inserted into the device. A plant could be made up of 600 or more different chemical compounds. Each of the compounds – in dose amount and in congress with each other, creates a different effect. Understanding not just how much, but what you’re putting into your body is equally important. So, in essence, our device is a micro lab that you can hold in your hand.
ACR: I’m guessing that data could be useful?
Calfee: Yes, the second piece of our system is the GoFire App, which you’ll download to your smartphone. GoFire allows patients to provide feedback on their experience, the product they’re taking, the amount, and so on. The data is all captured anonymously, and is 100% HIPPA-compliant.
The GoFire app also aggregates demographics: your age, gender, where you live and other factors (again, all anonymous, all HIPPA-compliant). Patient and demographic data is aggregated by our app so that patients can ask the community and the doctors in it about the best possible solutions in their area. The goal is to give doctors and patients more control with alternative therapies, and enable a consistent, repeatable experience. This will empower doctors to prescriberather than recommend doses of plant-based medicine.
ACR: The whole system is hand held? What if the batteries run out?
Calfee: GoFire has 7x the battery life of a PAX, so that’s a good start.
ACR: Your GoFire ecosystem should give regulators comfort that you’re providing a safe and replicable experience for patients.
Calfee: That’s the thinking, yes.
ACR: I’m going to change direction and ask, “What drives you, Peter”?
Calfee: Not long ago, I was at my Grandmother’s memorial service, in a town I hadn’t been to in a long time. Someone repeated what she’d said to me many times, “If you have the tools, it is your moral obligation to leave this world a better place by using them.” It hit me really hard.
We all have people who have passed away or who suffer, but my hometown was devastated by opiates. It’s the same story you read about all over America. I’ve lost severalfriends. I realized that with the opiate crisis killing so many people and tearing apart families – it would be immoral for me not to do what I’m doing.
ACR:: Are all the people at GoFire as passionate as you are?
Calfee: Every person on our team shares this need and moral obligation. We are paid a fraction of what we’re worth. Others in this industry are seeking their IPO. We are looking to change the world.
ACR: The alternative medicine industry is a LOT of trouble… wasn't there anything else you could have done?
Calfee: Absolutely not.
ACR: Being an entrepreneur is incredibly hard work. In building GoFire, have you had any “wow, didn’t see that coming” moments?
Calfee: On May 4, 2015.
It was 4 days after I’d picked up our first check for funding. I was on the way to Denver. A friend was driving and had a seizure.
I was the only one injured in the crash. I broke my back. I was in the hospital for 5 weeks, confined to bed for 6 months.
ACR: … Holy Shit....
Yeah, pretty much. I was told I would never walk again. The pain level was a constant 10. I was doped up on a trash bag full of opiates – and I realized, “I can’t function…”
That’s when GoFire became personal.
ACR: What happened next?
Calfee: The team rallied, set up chairs around my bed – and we ran the company out of my bedroom.
I’m living proof that alternative therapies work. I have not taken a single opiate since being 2 weeks out of hospital. I needed a dependable dose to completely eliminate opiates and get relief for my constant, 10-level pain. The first iteration of GoFire helped save my life. The running joke in the company is - John physically got in bed with me to write our first patent application.
And, that was just the first of many speed bumps. But, you have to deal with whatever comes your way, figure out how to adapt and overcome, and move forward. What we realized through all of the chaos was quite simple - nothing would stop us.
ACR: How’s the launch planning going?
Calfee: Our launch is right around the corner.
In the next 30 days, we’ll have a small group of 100 people testing the product. We had 2,000 sign-ups, and chose 100. Based on the feedback we’ll get from those 100 folks, we’ll adjust, then march toward our hard retail launch at the end of July.
How does GoFire fit into Personalized Medicine?
We’re leveraging medical technology to help people find the rightproduct in the rightdose at the righttime for the rightreason. From chemical profile to dose size, GoFire will empower people to personalize medicine from the comfort of their own home.
After all, prescription medications have on average, 70 side effects, according to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic. Consumer Reports Magazine also cites that those who use prescription medications take four, on average. Do the math, that’s far too many reasons to pursue natural medicine in precise doses and take back our lives.