From starting a supplement business at the age of 17 to running a multinational pharmaceutical company, Ivan Mestrangelo is a serial entrepreneur with an impressive history of starting, building and selling companies. But his current venture in medicinal cannabis, MediCrops, is a long-term project. Ivan tells us how he got started in alternative medicine and what he’s learnt along the way.
Tell us about your entrepreneurship journey before MediCrops.
My first adventures as an entrepreneur began at the early age of 17, when I founded my first real business importing and selling raw materials for the supplement industry from China. It started off with just me, but by the end I had ten employees. Since then, I’ve founded over ten businesses, including a construction business and a few restaurants.
There’d be days when I’d start in construction at seven in the morning. I’d finish at five, take a shower and spend my evenings working in the restaurant. It was challenging, but if you find something you’re passionate about, it will work in some way. In entrepreneurship, you have to love what you do because you face so many challenges along the way.
What first sparked your interest in medicinal cannabis?
It wasn’t until 2018, when I was recovering from foot surgery, that I became interested in medicinal cannabis. I found the healing process difficult and was looking for alternatives when I found this whole community. It blew my mind: they’d stopped using any opioids and they weren’t depending on any medicines.
I didn’t get a chance to try it then, but I was already intrigued. I wanted to know where these products came from because I knew you couldn’t produce them in Switzerland. I found out that you could get a licence in North Macedonia, so I visited the country and, at the end of 2018, started my first facility for medicinal cannabis there. That was the start of MediCrops.
What does MediCrops do?
At MediCrops, we aim to produce medicinal cannabis products from seed to sale. We work on our own seeds and are currently undergoing research and development to stabilise their genetics. Then we cultivate the plants and process the flowers into extracts, tinctures and concentrates. Our main challenge is turning a natural product into something stable and reproducible on a large scale. To do this, we are bringing agronomists and pharmaceutical experts together. Once we have a stable product, we will start production and then move onto sales.