Exclusive: IBM Senior Project Manager Leaves His Job To Join A Cannabis Company

By Javier Hasse

There’s a mass migration going on: high-level corporate officials are leaving established industries like tech, finance, retail and media, to join cannabis companies. Over the last week alone, we learned that an executive director at Morgan Stanley had left his job to join the marijuana industry; that Joel Lunenfeld, former vice president of global brand strategy at Twitter had taken over as Chief Marketing Officer at NorCal Cannabis; and that Tim Leslie, a former Amazon executive had been appointed CEO at Leafly.

In fact, big-name executives are not only taking jobs in the cannabis industry, but also investing in it. A few weeks ago, for instance, Carol Bartz, former CEO of Autodesk and Yahoo, made a very public investmentin cannabis company Caliva.

Today, I learned that Toronto-based cannabis trading company Vinzan International will be announcing on Friday morning that it has hired a new vice president of operations, Kelsey Barnes, who left a senior position in IBM's cybersecurity division to take this job. Barnes, a former senior officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, had been serving as a Senior Project Manager at IBM, leading cyber security teams focused on the government and financial spaces.

“We are thrilled to add Kelsey to our team as we continue to commercialize our operations in Colombia and Southeast Asia,” said Vinzan’s CEO Brian Armstrong. “His operational experience and leadership will be an invaluable asset during our commercialization and our 2019 initial public offering.”

Adding to these comments, Barnes said, “I watched traditional licensed producers spend millions of dollars on electricity to power and irrigate indoor grow facilities in Canada and I knew there had to be a better model… Vinzan International removes those risks and overhead costs by deploying Canadian expertise and leading-edge extraction and processing technology to the world’s best cultivation regions.”

Interestingly, this is not Barnes’ first incursion into the cannabis industry. Prior to joining IBM, Barnes was the director of operations at MedReleaf. During his time with the company, valuation rose from $750 million to almost $3 billion. MedReleaf was then acquired by Aurora Cannabis at a $2.9 billion valuation.

It’s also important to notice Barnes has been in Vinzan’s Board of Directors since December of 2018.

Keep tuned in for more news on the mass corporate migration into the cannabis industry.

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