For many in the cannabis industry, Juul’s controversial valuation of $15 billion made them think of one thing: the potential Pax Labs IPO.
Juul’s creators, two former Stanford University students, James Monsees and Adam Bowen also created the popular loose-leaf cannabis vaporizer, Pax. The vaporizer is a sleek bluetooth-powered vaporizer that allows smokers to control the potency of their inhalation and even tweak the cloud of smoke released if a user needs to be discreet.
Monsees and Bowen split up the two entities years ago (the original company was called Ploom) into Juul Labs Inc. and Pax Lab Inc. At the moment, aside from some finger-wagging by the FDA, Juul Labs is languishing in a $13 billion investment from Altria
The controversy surrounding Juul is mostly attributed to the actions of Altria as well as the company’s posturing toward teenagers. Prior to acquiring a large stake in Juul, Altria seemed to be signaling to regulatory bodies that it was moving strongly toward smoke-cessation products. The investment in Juul was considered a hypocritical dog-leg toward covering their bottom line in case normal cigarettes stopped being profitable.
For Juul’s part in the mess, the company’s early advertising has questionable choices and the FDA has ordered the company to turn over its early group focus data and toxicology reports. One area of concern here is that the Juul technology mixes nicotine with a chemical called benzoic acid making the released dose of nicotine far more robust and more addictive for teenagers and their developing brains.
All this said, the FDA and its Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, have plans in mind that would only benefit e-cigarette makers like Juul in the long-run.
While Juul is the topic of the day, it may not last long as Pax Labs has teased that it may soon be uplisting to a major exchange. The company does not technically handle cannabis as it is more of a platform for the flower, so it can do this and Pax’s CEO Bharat Vasan confirmed 2020 will be the year.
“We’ve been talking to bankers, we’ve talked to the exchanges,” Vasan told Business Insider in an interview. “The appetite has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Later in the same interview, Vasan likened Pax as the Keurig of cannabis. The comparison is a fair one as Pax technically sells empty pods to other companies, which load and sell them to consumers through dispensaries in states where recreational marijuana use is legal.
“We’re kind of what I’d call a bellwether stock for cannabis,” Vasan said in the same interview. “We index so broadly against all other companies in the space.”
Pax recently raised $20 million in funding from existing shareholders in order to not overly depend on venture capitalists. Pax’s previous investors include Tiger Global Management, Fidelity Investments and Tao Capital Partners, which is very similar to Juul’s early investors. A number of reports cited insider believing the valuation of the company would be around $5 billion.
If Pax stays the course and lists in 2020, they may be doing so during a time in the cannabis market when much of the dust has settled making it a must-see event on Wall Street.