This show's guest is Sa'ad Shah, managing partner of the Noetic Fund. Saad basically grew up all over the world, went to the JFK School in Berlin, worked in real estate banking, corporate credit, and derivative sales & trading – and he holds a BA in Economics and Political Science from Columbia University.
The Noetic Fund is a powerful investment group in the new psychedelic field, a group of venture funds launched by Grey House Partners GP Inc. to invest in emerging and early-stage wellness, therapeutic and pharmaceutical companies around the globe, The fund has $170 million in assets under management and is one of the venture-capital firms that's deployed the most funding into the psychedelic industry. The firm has invested $56 million in psychedelics since early 2020, when Shah started the fund. (Companies like Beckley Psytech, Cybin, Compass Pathway , Eleusis, Mind Med, Numinus , Wake etc.)
Sa'ad talks about his interest in theology and mysticism as an investor and about eventually taking ayahuasca in Brazil: his own classic hero’s-journey type of story. We address how his own interest and fascination with psychedelics became his new path in life, and what he is looking for, when he invests in a company How to nurture the “the scientific advancement of mental, emotional, psychological and physical health by investing in alternative therapies, modalities, and sciences that are committed to optimising our human experience” which is the Noetic vision and no small plan.
Anne Philippi 1:50
My guest today is sad Shah managing partner at the noetic fund sad basically grew up all over the world he went for example to JFK school in Berlin. He worked nine years at RBC Capital Markets and real estate banking, corporate credit and derivative sales and trading another nine years a DGAM acquired by the Carlyle Group now and he holds a BA in economics and political science from Columbia University. The noetic Fund is a powerful investment group in the new psychedelic field. The word noetic by the way, means and stems from the Greek word noises No at costs, meaning inner wisdom direct knowing and subjective understanding. noetic is a group of mantra funds launched by grey house partners GP Inc to invest in emerging and early stage wellness therapeutic and pharmaceutical companies around the globe. The Fund has 170 million in assets under management according to sad and is one of the venture capital firms that deployed the most funding into the psychedelic industry. The firm has invested 65 million in psychedelic since the early 2020s When sad started to fund nomadic has invested in companies like Berkeley Scitex Seibon, compass pathways, Eleusis, mindmap, Domino's wake and many more. And this episode sathon, I talk about his interest in theology and mysticism, and eventually taking Ayahuasca in Brazil, his own classic Hero's Journey type of story, which made him actually being engaged in the psychedelic space. We address his own interests and fascination with psychedelics and how this became his new path in life, and what he's looking for when he invests in a company in the psychedelic field. We also address how to nurture the scientific advancement of mental, emotional, psychological and physical health by investing in alternative therapies, modalities and science that are committed to optimizing our human experience, which is, by the way, the noetic mission. And we talk how to behave as a fund that took proudly the North Star pledge, believing in the importance of stewarding the psychedelic sector in the right way. So please enjoy the episode with Sam Archer from the neurotic fund. Thank you for being on the show today, sir Archer from the noetic funds. One of the biggest funds, you could say in the new psychedelic world. So let's start with maybe with Miami because we saw each other dad two weeks ago. And I feel like that was a really significant conference for a lot of people because I felt it was the first time that things became very tangible in a way that you could see wow, there's actually a lot of things that are happening so maybe you can talk about how you Miami experience was
Sa'ad Shah 5:02
Shure, Anne. Thank you for inviting me. First and foremost, it's a pleasure to see you again, as always, Miami was, I think, what Miami was a very, very important event on many different levels. Right. You know, first and foremost, it allowed a lot of us that haven't met each other to meet. And I will say, even within our own organization, right, at noetic, we were meeting many of us, we're meeting for the first time, right, we've got individuals that are based in the UK, we've got folks that are in New York, most of us are in Toronto, Canada, we have folks in San Francisco, in Boston. And so and they're all part of Noetic. Full time, right. And so this was an opportunity for us to meet, and then meeting the larger and broader ecosystem was fantastic. So I think that was the highlight. I think, for me, it was just meeting all these people that we had, and we've been conversing with on Zoom.
Anne Philippi 5:59
Yeah, interesting that everybody met the first time in, in real life, right?
Sa'ad Shah 6:03
met for the first time we liked the subject matters were great that we had up on the panel. But I also felt a large part of it was that we were just preaching to the choir, it was a gathering of a family, as opposed to something that was being put on to try and speak to those that are perhaps not yet convinced or do not understand what's going on in this ecosystem, are still on the sidelines, still have a stigmatized approach, or there's a stigma associated with with that word, and the topic psychedelics, but I thought it was it was a great event, you know, just to do get together and meet?
Anne Philippi 6:39
And how would you describe this new family, actually, because I find it very hard to describe in a way that you would say, Oh, now everything is turning to money. Now everything is turning to this way. And that way, I find it very hard to really define what do you think about it?
Sa'ad Shah 6:57
Look, I think that this is obviously a movement, if you were to call it or research that's been going on for 90 years, at least that we know, started with hefter and mescaline back in 1894. And obviously, it goes way, way, way back before then. And if you've read, you know, Brian, Mariska his book, The immortality key, then certainly suggests how far back this actually goes. And the influence that it's had. The family right now is one where, you know, we're finally, for those that have been following this space for a long time, are in a position to speak up about and for those researchers and scientists that have been quietly, you know, tinkering with their Bunsen burner, at the various labs, or academic institutions for the last, I don't know, 1520 years, sometimes even even more, are finally in a position to showcase what it is that they've been risking, and how impactful that's been. So this is very typical of a new strategy that comes onto the scene. So when a new strategy comes on, it will attract a niche group to it. And as a niche group grows, and as there's more and more information about exactly what's happening within the sector, and the network starts to grow, you know, it's it's kind of like a mycelium. You know, it's a mycelium network, it has that psyllium tends to grow, and the network broadens. And you bring in more people into the ecosystem, the sector starts to grow accordingly. And then you start to attract different pools of capital, different constituents, different partners into the equation. And this is very typical of any lifecycle of any new strategy that comes onto the scene. So from an investment perspective, we've seen this happen many, many times before, even in our own personal career in my in my career, being in the hedge fund space. For the last 2025 years. There were strategies that came on, like music royalty, like pharmaceutical royalty, commercial litigation, finance, Slate financing for for film, a lot of IP related strategies, you know, complex commodity trades, a lot of complex credit trades, when they came onto the scene, they were unknown, they were considered to be very complex, so most people stayed away. But as you know, investors got more comfortable with it and realized and understood the nuances of it, it started to attract a lot more capital. So I think we're at the initial stages of a lifecycle of this strategy. And we're growing, and we're coming into soon we'll be coming into adolescence, but we're not there yet. I think the watershed moment in this in this industry will be when maps as MDMA gets through FDA, phase three, and ultimately gets off the DEA schedule one abuse list that will then create a pathway for the other 25 to 26 compounds that are currently in phase two to go, Hey, we've got just as low level toxicity were just as effective. And now we see a path forward. And that will attract a lot more, more interest.
Anne Philippi 10:06
But I think I mean, in especially in Miami, we've seen already a couple of celebrities like Mike Tyson talking about it, and through somebody like him, the topic enters to mainstream So, but it seems that communication wise and an even remember like watching in Miami watching the Morning Show where Will Smith talked about his 14 years care experiences. And suddenly you watch this morning show? And Will Smith is not talking about his new movie, but about his divorce and an Ayahuasca experience. So and do you think the mainstream communication, there will be a question will equal very soon, like bigger investments outside from, let's say, specific psychedelic funds? Do you see that coming?
Sa'ad Shah 10:52
Yeah, we've already started to see that. And, you know, when we launched noetic, in February of 2020, at that time, one of the things that I did was, I reached out to some of the institutional players. And when I say institutional players, some of the well known branded Life Sciences venture capital firms, to ask them that, look, we're about to put our own personal money into this and just wanted to get a sense as to what you guys are thinking about this space. And they said, We're not interested, we're not involved, we're not looking at it. We're focused on immunotherapy oncology, and other areas. This year, every single one of those that I spoke to right already, you've got some big players, and now the Orby match the RA capitals, the RT W's. And that's how you're going to start to see this shift, because once the VC life sciences, the life sciences, VC firms, you know, start to kind of engage more and more in this space, that will open up the door, away from just the family offices and high net worth individuals, to the endowments to the Foundation's to the corporate pension plans, ultimately, and maybe at some point down the road, it's still a ways away, you'll see the sovereign wealth funds and pension plans get involved. But that's, that's further down. A large part of it is that this industry is still small, right? The size of this industry, you can argue is between 8 billion and maybe 11 billion in total market cap, including a lot of the private companies that have raised capital. So it's not a large enough industry. With that being said, exactly, you know, not exactly but in February of March of last year, there were maybe two or three publicly traded companies on the Canadian stock exchange. Today, they're close to 60. Pure play. At that time, there were maybe I don't know, 20 to 25 private companies worth considering today. They're more than 600. So you miss a week in this industry, you miss a year.
Anne Philippi 12:38
Yeah, exactly. That's how it feels right. But I mean, like, I find it interesting on your, on the noetic side or website, you say that you proudly taken the North Star pledge as a guidance in this industry, which as you just said, it's like exploding as we speak. So can you talk a little bit about what that means to you and to the fund.
Sa'ad Shah 13:02
The reason we're here and is is a very personal reason, we're not seeing this as just another strategy. You know, even though we've played in the venture capital and predominantly the hedge fund in the private equity world for quite some time, we're not just jumping from one strategy to another from one hot thing to another, you know, we were not operators or players in the cannabis industry, for example, we were not operators or players in the crypto space. So for us, there's a real personal reason. And that is because as the co founders of this organization had experiences that have been transformational in our lives. And we've been following this space, actually, for close to 20 years. When I say that, I don't mean that for 20 years, you know, we've been sitting in some dark room eating mushrooms. But for 20 years, we've been following it from a historical from an anthropological from a sociological from a neuroscience neuropharmacology perspective, because there was real interest to see how these plant medicines and the molecules that really drive, the efficacy here can be made available to a lot more people. And so for us, you know, what we want to make sure is that we protect, you know, the sacred elements that are involved in this, right, we do not want to put a plant that's already endangered in further endangerment. We certainly do not want to take away cultural appropriation, take away what they have to teach us and then put it into a pill format and off we go. So we're very mindful of reciprocity. We're very mindful of stewardship. Right? It those are elements that we gauge in all the investments that we make to ensure that we're not tripping over anything like that. So for us, the Northstar pledge is very personal. It's very important. That's why we put it on our website, because we want to ensure that we do this the right way, I strongly feel and that, that psychedelics is also a strategy or industry now, that can allow us to think more broadly and think outside the box and think a different way about capitalism. Right? We've come from an era where, you know, hundreds of years back, it was religious capitalism, you know, we went into military capitalism, we went to mercantile capitalism, we went to consumer capitalism, right now we're in, you know, in surveillance capitalism, right, by way of all the social media that we do, everything is is watched and, you know, and and seen, can we move into some form of spiritual capitalism? I, when I say the word spiritual, a lot of people get, you know, think Oh, whoo, whoa, this guy's crazy how, you know, but it's important for us to start to think about capitalism, more than just a return on financial capital. Right? What about a return on human capital? What about a return on social capital? What about a return on nature capital, and this is an industry and really this is the work of Professor Bennett Zellner, you know, he's written a great deal about or spoken about it, the whole concept of regenerative economics, the pollination approach, because if you have happier, healthier people out there, they're more productive for society, if they're more productive society, it makes that society just perform at a higher level at a better level. And then it's got ripple effects. And that's how I feel psychedelics is going to play a very important role in, you know, changing that mindset about capitalism going forward. So the whole, you know, North Star pledge is linked to that.
Anne Philippi 16:39
I mean, I find it very interesting moment. For example, in Germany, the government is changing now, and cannabis is becoming illegal. And we have a meeting with the liberal party next week in terms of how the new psychedelic policy could look like so. And suddenly, this whole thing is there. So this whole guessing game now seems to become very real. So and I mean, I kind of like the expression spiritual capitalism, but I can already see like how people, like you say, would just lose their minds over the expression. So but I mean, at the same time, it's like, how do we actually, maybe even with the support of psychedelics, sometimes I feel that would be a good support system, kind of get ourselves more aware that many fundamental things will have to change?
Sa'ad Shah 17:32
Yeah, I am actually quite surprised, and in a good way, you know, okay, I come from a very buttoned down, sort of, you know, Ivory Tower type of A is, you know, establishment back in history, like in terms of my career, right, being at a bank then and then started, you know, being part of an asset management firm that then got bought by a very well known asset management firm, and so on. And so when, when we decided to enter this space, initially, we were a little sheepish about how we spoke to people about what we're trying to do now. And to say, you know, we're investing in this area for the following reasons. What we found, to our surprise, was the extent to which people said, that is amazing. I've been waiting for this, or I've read about it, or I've heard about it, or we were having a discussion with somebody the other, no doubt, the pandemic has been a huge catalyst towards it. And quite frankly, if it wasn't for the pandemic, there's no way we would have had noetic, it wouldn't have come about, right. The pandemic essentially was a moment in time where, because we couldn't travel anymore, and our travels were, you know, 200 days a year, and you had to stop, you know, I call it and a forced Vipassana session where you just have to stop and take them down to where you are, you have to stop and think and reflect and contemplate and figure out where you're going and what's working, what's not working. And so, so at that time, when we launched Oregon having these discussions, again, with the buttoned down, folks, it was to our surprise, that they knew a lot more about it, we're very intrigued about we're very interested in that network, then as it grew, you'll be surprised, I've had some incredibly profound discussions with very prominent members of the Republican Party. Okay, and in many cases, very prominent Trump. Ian's All right, as well as having profound discussions with members on of the Democratic Party, and families that have been associated with the Democratic Party, you know, that really are known as the bastions of of that particular political party. Right. So if this is bipartisan, it doesn't matter which side of the aisle Iran, I mean, mental health is sort of a, it's, you know, call it an equal opportunity, inflict or it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on, it's going to inflict you when it tends to inflict you, and I feel that every single person on the face of the planet is somewhere in that spectrum of dealing with some form of mental health issues, something or the other, right? Whether it is PTSD, anxiety, depression, we have some level of it, we're all dealing with it. And we certainly know somebody that's dealing with it in a profound way. So this that was so refreshing for me, right to understand and appreciate that, wow, even those individuals may not come out in public and say, all support psychedelics, they are supportive of what's going on, they want to see some innovation in neuroscience and mental health. And there's been literally nothing done in this area, we've seen more advancement in mental health and neuroscience in the last five years than we have in any other point in history. That's a fact. I mean, it's just, this is an area that we're learning so much more and more and more about, and psychedelics are like a spotlight that's shining on the area where before we were a little bit in the dark. So this is, I would say, it's not like a spotlight, I would say, the light is now brighter, that allows us to see more. And that's the role that it's playing. So I was quite surprised that we're getting more and more, you know, buy in from parties that we felt would be certainly not prone to wanting to even have a conversation about it.
Anne Philippi 21:08
And do you think that's a bipartisan approach? I feel it's like one of the most important tools to bring this topic into the mainstream. And if you I mean, just as an example, especially in Germany, for example, if you would say, well, there might be traumatized police officers, as maps, for example, works with or even like the whole veteran topic, which is in America a very normal thing. But here, people would be like, Well, if you have to go to the army, you need to accept this. So I feel like to include members or parts of society that are not necessarily by nature progressive, or like your left wing party people. So that's super important to bring the whole topic into a broader understanding and audience, this is something you would kind of agree on, or is it more difficult than that?
Sa'ad Shah 22:00
I agree with you. It's an iterative process, you know, there's so many things that start off first at the fringe, that first start off in the ground movement, right. And then they come above level, and then they become more and more of a movement, and then all of a sudden, it's now a thing. And everybody buys in, and everybody understands right now, the way that we are approaching psychedelics, because of what's happened, you know, during the pandemic, because of mental health. It's all about illness. So that's good and bad, it's good, because we're targeting an area that requires a lot of attention. And it's a problem we desperately need to solve. And it's a global issue. According to some publications, China's the most depressed country in the world, followed by India. Third on the list is US. The US is leading the pack with regards to substance abuse, right opioid crisis, drug abuse, and yeah, overdoses and so on. So this is a global issue right now. And we're targeting distinct ailments like treatment resistant depression, major depressive disorder, PTSD, anxiety, it's being led also a great deal by research and funding that's coming out of the various Department of Defense organizations in many countries, you know, in the US, in particular, in terms of the kind of research that they've backed with psychedelics, in Canada, and elsewhere. And so right now the focus is to try and solve a problem. And it's all about illness. So we're far away from this being seen as a wellness tool. But as a tool to keep you well, even though you may not have an illness. So you look at psychedelics as a means of, you know, insulating your, either your immune system, or your mental well being, so that you don't go into a depressed state, or you don't have any kind of a fallback. And in order for that to happen, you slowly start to need to educate people more and more about the benefits, and how to responsibly approach psychedelics, and how it can be helpful. And that then is what will ultimately, you know, kind of infiltrate its way into those areas of society that still see this as very, very bad thing. These are psychedelic, this is these are drugs, you should never approach them, right. But there's something else going on in this industry. That's quite interesting. And the second generation of psychedelic drug development is about taking the hallucinogenic component out of the equation. And if you do that, then all of a sudden, and there's no hallucination, or hallucinogenic effects, but it's still as effective in terms of strengthening the dendritic spines, causing neurogenesis for neuroplasticity to take place and so on, and interacting with the receptors in the way it does. It needs to then it changes the game for this whole discussion now, because there's no hallucinogenic involve those that are religiously inclined to stay away from psychedelics are those that have a stigma associated with it? That's not a discussion anymore, right? We can still have a discussion about the role of hallucinogenic effects, which I personally feel for many of the ailments is very, very important. It's very important, but for certain cognitively related ailments, right, you know, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, cognitive impairments, do you really need the hallucinogenic component? You know, we can discuss that we can, we can question that. But I think that where research is going, I think that that's really, really important here, because that will also drive the agenda, it will also inform the public about it in the right way. And we can have broader discussions about it. But this is a 10 year plan, we're not going to be close to wellness, I feel for another eight to 10 years, we're right now going to be all about illness.
Anne Philippi 25:51
Okay, so first, the illness and the wellness. Yeah. Anyway, I mean, as if you want to think of a trajectory, basically. Yeah. But I mean, do you think sometimes I was felt like with this wellness thing, obviously, the expression is around for a while now. And a lot of people who immerse themselves in over the top wellness related activities. I always felt that after a while, they came out of this acknowledging that they had an a deeper underlying topic, that they kind of tried to, let's say, dress up with constant wellness activities that go into spas going on a daily basis to yoga. I mean, especially in California, as we know, this is a very popular way of living. So don't you think we need to redefine wellness to as an idea in general?
Sa'ad Shah 26:46
Oh, 100%. And we're learning so much more about our own makeup and what makes us tick, you know, and it's surprising to me that the one key area, which is really neuroscience and mental well being and mental health, you know, is so ignored. You know, when you think about it, we have lots of channels on TV about food. I don't know one channel about mental health. Exactly. Yeah, yeah. Good point. We have a lot of gyms out there, and, and so forth for physical fitness. But do we have a mental health gym? Right, you know, people like Dave Asprey have talked about the bulletproof lab. And so there's a few out there in the fringe. But why isn't it a bigger thing? Why is it that you cannot go into a quote unquote, brain gym, where you go through different modalities and exercises to kind of keep you sane, and healthy and happy mentally, right? Where you are perhaps exercising certain mental muscles that are important, but also finding a way to completely unwind and relax and detach. And, I mean, there's so so many modalities that one can incorporate and include in that sort of a system. But we're not there yet. Right? Because up until this point, discussions about mental health, were a stigma. Up until maybe 30 years ago, if you had a member in your family that, you know, perhaps was mentally unwell, you kept them in the room, you know, Joe Kennedy and his daughter that was not well, she was mentally unwell. And she was predominantly kept in it in a room. They didn't want her out in the public as much, right. I mean, there's, there's a lot of those kinds of, Wow, I never heard this. Yeah, but this is normal course. I mean, at that point in time, that's what families did. Right. So it was still a stigma, you cannot go and very openly talk to people about, you know, oh, my brother has schizophrenia, or I suffer from bipolar, or I've got issues with, you know, very severe depression. It's not open enough yet, for people to talk about this. Like, don't talk about it, don't mention it. But so I think that that is now changing. I do feel again, that for good or bad, the pandemic has played a very important role in accelerating that conversation, right. But we can be okay about an open about it. And it's okay to be vulnerable, and put yourself in that vulnerable position, and have that discussion, first and foremost, with family members and friends, and then open it up more broadly. And we're getting there. Right. And I think media has played a very, very important role you asked about the media before, I do feel that they've played a very important role, because, look, you've got establishments and organizations like Bloomberg that have covered psychedelics pretty well. Right? I mean, yeah, for those that are, you know, considered to be, you know, more at the fringe perhaps, and I'm very Nishi and boutique establishment, you've had a lot of the mainstream covered psychedelics in very positive light, you know, and that's good and bad, because it's good because obviously it gets the discussion going and people kind of start to pay attention. But it's bad because it also sometimes causes a a false sense of what's going on in this ecosystem. And there are a lot of issues and problems we still need to work out.
Anne Philippi 30:08
Hmm, that's true. Let's quickly come back to you and your colleagues at creating the fan. So you had a psychedelic experience right? A while ago, and you talked about it in a couple of podcasts and how was, let's say, the transition from that experience to turning it into a font.
Sa'ad Shah 30:30
You know, at the end of day, it's sort of like the whole idea of, if you have a hammer in your hand, and you know, you're out there looking for nails, and if there aren't any nails, you just kind of wait for a nail to show up. And then you can say, Hey, I know how to deal with that. And elf got the hammer stepaside. Everybody, I got this, I got it covered. Okay. So for us, really, it was the fact that we've been in this industry of Investment Management for 25 years, were between partners, we've sort of raised and managed close to 22 billion of assets for institutional investors, but it was always institutional investors. And we were seeding all these new strategies. So we've seen this movie play out before watching these life cycles of new strategies play out, who gets attracted at what point what has to happen in order for others to come in, and so on. So that critical because we see this as a new strategy in itself too. But up until 2018 2019, with the toolbox that we had built, which is an investment management, how to build a portfolio, how to do due diligence on opportunities, look at the different companies how to put it together in a way that insulated you from major market downturns, how to think about risk, how to think about diversification, right? Return drivers, all of those aspects of what would typically go into building a portfolio, we weren't able to use that toolbox. Until we saw that, wow, there's an industry that's starting to form here. And then we were able to couple that toolbox with our own personal interest, to see this industry really be born in the right way, and to attract the right kind of capital. So it can, you know, for the fuel, the all the the entrepreneurs, the researchers, the scientists that are doing some profound work. And we were able to finally use our hammer because we started to see a bunch of nails. So for me, personally, you know, this has been an exercise of studying what drives humanity, what drives us as humans and asked me the perennial questions, like, why are we here? What are we doing here? And, you know, what's the purpose? And I've been asking those questions, because on two occasions, I guess, or there were two incidents in my life that made me question death. One was, as you know, and I spent my high school years in Berlin, I lived in East Berlin, my father was posted as a diplomat to East Germany, I went to the Kennedy Shula. And so every day across the border and go to school, and you're never allowed to run across the border, we're never supposed to do that. And so on one of the checkpoints, bonne Homosassa, you know, showed my Ausweis on the east side, and then I ran to the west, and you never do that. And they said, you know, is it how, and I, we immediately realized that I was doing something so wrong. But I could hear the rifles getting sort of loaded and caught. And they were pointing at me, and I don't know, if I'd taken a few more steps, I could have been shot dead. But that was a very, you know, that was a real awakening moment in my life to go, oh, you know, I could have just died.
And I don't think I'm dealing with a trauma with regards to that. But that was a questioning moment. And the second experience or not experience, but incident that happened was, you know, I was offered a role at Lehman Brothers when I graduated from university, at a location at the World Trade Center, that this was in 1995. And, and I decided not to take it because I came to Canada. So I didn't stay in New York. But later, I found that, you know, the few people that I knew, that had perished in trade center, and I got to start to think a great deal about Wow, how, you know, it was a very difficult decision for me to make to not go with Lehman Brothers at the time, but obviously, it was the right decision. Because I'm also, you know, putting myself in that position and going well, what would you have done had this alarm going off? And, and what would you have done, and I'm not saying this in a good way or a bad way. But, you know, my typical role would have been to go and make sure that everybody's okay, and let's all get out together and who's where instead of just running for the door? So I don't know, you know, but it gets you the question, asked those perennial questions. So I studied, studying a great deal about altered states of consciousness as a result of it because I was studying esoteric philosophies and ultimately got onto the subject matter of psychedelics in a very broad way and started to then you know, go had in touch with a lot of the authors that have written a great deal about it. So that's why it's been a 20 year study for me. But it wasn't until 2009 When I went down to Brazil, with certain luminaries, Graham Hancock being one, Luis, Eduardo, and other Michael Winckelmann, Professor Michael Winckelmann, being a third. And I had a profound experience with my first ever experience with any psychedelic substances with Ayahuasca. And on that occasion, you know, with a two week period of time, I added five times, and it was transformational on many different levels. Number one, my fear of death went away completely. trepidations fears went away. And I felt so incredibly upbeat and positive about life and everything else, over the ensuing three or four months, that I realized how this can play a critical role in helping so many that are suffering from mental health issues. Right. So that was the genesis of it, I guess, in one way. And then when we started to see and then an actual industry was coming about with what ATI was doing compass path was was doing, right, you had mine met and numinous and all these companies were looking to go public, at the time, we were investing in them when they were private. And we finally had, like I said, the hammer to use on the right kinds of nails, that's really the genesis of Noetic.
Anne Philippi 36:17
It's a perfect coming full circle,
Sa'ad Shah 36:20
I finally feel that I've arrived in life, you know. And when I say that, it's because I feel that, you know, I feel that I'm now doing exactly, in some ways, what I was meant to do what I want to do, what drives me what fuels my passion, my interest, right, in the profound impact that this can have on humanity?
Anne Philippi 36:40
Absolutely, I found this very interesting Business Insider article on you. And I found this super interesting, the two red flags you were mentioning, in in terms of investing, and one was when a founder doesn't know this stuff about psychedelics, and the other one is pretty much almost a contradiction, but it makes it so interesting that when a founder things to know all there is to know about psychedelics, isn't this exactly? The main question all the time in this whole industry that you think at one point, it's like, oh, yeah, now we have this compounds. And once they're decriminalized, or put into action, then everything's fine. And then I feel like a week later, there's another question coming, there's pretty much showing you as answers, often the opposite as to answer your sock you had like a week before. It's almost like a big, kind of, not puzzle. But like, it's really hard to say like, this is the way it has to go. And then this will happen. So isn't that the main question in this industry, that you never know what's going to be there tomorrow, basically?
Sa'ad Shah 37:48
Absolutely. And one of the sort of my favorite modern day philosopher who died posthumously, well, before his time, was a gentleman by the name of Robert Anton Wilson. And he wrote books like Prometheus rising and the cosmic trigger. And he has a saying in one of his books, which is that, you know, certainty or rigidity kills intelligence, it actually will kill wisdom, right? Because as soon as you become certain about something that this is the way that this is it that, you know, we know, for certain, that's it, that you know, it, there's no need to look into it anymore. Right, there's no need to further explore, you feel that you found the answers you don't need to explore go into it. In fact, it's one of the problems that we have with mental health, in particular, and the solutions that we have is because when lithium came into the US from Australia, in 1950, and it was administered to patients that were suffering from mental health issues, it was profound because it reduced hospital beds by 70%, because a lot of people were institutionalized. And so all of a sudden, by giving lithium, people feeling better, and they were leaving the hospital beds, and you're like, great, we found the holy grail for mental health. And everything that we've seen now, Prozac and Bruton ain and all these SSRIs are literally a slight design improvement to lithium. That's it. There's been no innovation here. Right? And is because we were so sure that lithium is the answer to everything, which is certainly not the case. So I think that when we speak to scientists and researchers and entrepreneurs that are entering this phase, you know, one of the key things that we want to understand and appreciate is are they open how they position themselves to adapt, right? As opposed to being rigid and saying, Well, this is it, this is the only answer and we're going to go down this path we're going to prove it to were right, but what if you're wrong, right? How do you actually adapt to new information that may take you down a different path? Are you open to that? And that allows for there to be optionality in that investment opportunity because it's not just all centered on one specific, you know, approach or dynamic. So that's important to gauge Right, because none of us really have the answers, per se, we're getting closer to a lot of the answers, we don't have the answers. We still don't know how psychedelics are going to be commercialized, we still don't know what the best delivery mechanism is for the various different molecules, right? There's a lot of compliance risk that needs to be taken into account when one is going through clinical trials, we have to deal with a big topic of educating therapists to be able to administer this. And that's going to be a bottleneck, I feel there's the issue in debate about the all the abuse that's taking place in this industry, which is just mind boggling. There's so many abuse cases that are not being reported either, right. And there's a very distinct power dynamic that shifts between the guide or the administrator of that particular molecule. And the patient. That abuse is not always, you know, kind of instigated by the guide, oftentimes, it's instigated by the patient because they're in a contrived feeling of vulnerability, right? That feeling of vulnerability when you're in that position is contrived, because you're under the influence of that particular molecule on that medicine. Right. So you may, you may open up in a way that you wouldn't normally, which is both good and bad, right? But one has to be very careful in that relationship, and that dynamic. These are all things that we still need to sort out, before we get to a point where this is widely available to more and more people. Right. And so in order for that to happen, we need to be open minded, and realize that we don't have the answers. We cannot be rigid and certain about things. And that will allow us to have more conversation about it that will allow us to look into different areas and be flexible and adaptable. Right.
Anne Philippi 41:43
Yeah, I mean, there are some cases have been, I read about a couple of cases recently. So you hear like, I guess, like, I don't know, how many pitches a week, 150, maybe more? What makes you interested in a company that has a call with you and pitches to to the fund?
Sa'ad Shah 42:03
You know, it's a bit of a technical question. And because what we're trying to do is we're building a portfolio. And we're very mindful of the number of investments we have in there, we want to, we want to make sure that we're diversified to a point but not over diversified. We want to make sure that we're hitting all the key areas, and that each position is orthogonal to each other, which means that we're not unnecessarily doubling down on exposures by having three or four companies do the exact same thing, go after the exact same element in the exact same way. That makes no sense. Right. So being diversified across modalities across revenue streams, the potential for revenue streams, across the approach across the molecules. Yeah, there's many different factors of diversification that we take into account. So we're really building a portfolio. So it's, it's bringing both a bottoms up approach and a top down approach to looking at what we're trying to create and build. And so when we go and speak to the particular, you know, portfolio companies, we're looking for high barriers to entry, something that's not easily replicable or repeatable, we're looking for teams that have the experience to do what you know that they've actually done this before. Right? There are many, many different factors that go into it, as I've mentioned in some other podcasts and news articles as well. But, you know, it's about in the field that they're in or in that particular bucket. Like, let's say they're dealing with a distinct molecule, what really sets them apart from the others? What is it that they're doing that truly differentiates themselves? And how much optionality is factored into what they're doing? Right? They're just saying how rigid or flexible are they, for that matter? And as I mentioned before, how do they really know, that domain, that subject matter that research, right, that all has to be proven to us overall, and we're focused more on drug development, drug discovery, we're not focused on consumer packaged goods, or nutraceuticals, or nootropics, or even the clinics, but we feel that there's a time and place for clinics, there are two ways to play the clinics market. Either you do a land grab and have a huge presence. Or you wait and see when there's a lot more that's offered on the menu before you go in. Because right now, please in Canada, in the US, there's just ketamine that's offered. Right? And so you know, if you if you go to a coffee shop, and there's only one kind of coffee, and that does make it very exciting, right, so right now, we're not interested in that area more what we call the downstream as we're more focused on the upstream acids.
Anne Philippi 44:46
Okay. Do you find yourself talking to everybody you know about psychedelics and last month, because it can be so fascinating that you're even to your I don't know like your gym Teacher to your yoga instructor you talk to everybody about at dinner at breakfast,
Sa'ad Shah 45:05
you know, and psychedelics is a multi disciplinary, subject. It's a multidisciplinary area. Right? And this is very important because it's not just a topic to be discussed amongst neuroscientists, or historians, or sociologists, right? It's actually given rise to new disciplines in new areas like RK o chemistry, this subject didn't exist before archeology, and chemistry, right? Because now we're in a position to go and look at all these, you know, vases and glasses and jars and whatnot from antiquity and scrape the bottom of it and find out what the ingredients were. Right. So I think that what psychedelics does is it allows us to look at a distinct problem. But we are able to use many different lenses to look at that same problem, and ultimately find a way to come to solve that problem, right, where you realize that okay, in order for us to truly understand and appreciate psychedelics, we have to look at it from a cultural perspective, historical perspective, archaeological perspective, you know, and then from the neuroscience in the chemistry from the biology of it, right? From the physics of it too, right? I mean, as a result, it's a subject matter that you can discuss with almost anybody because it can pertain to their interest or their line of work, or their you know, it, almost anybody. I can frame psychedelics in a discussion with almost anybody I feel. You can have religious discussions about it, you can have political discussions, right? There's not a discipline, where you cannot bring psychedelics in, in a way to kind of shed light on something, actually, and be more insightful about that particular subject matter. I think it's incredible. So yes, to answer your question, I'm having a lot of discussions about it. With a lot of people, I would have never expected to have discussions. Yes, you know, including my parents. Oh, yeah, good. And, you know, we're putting this group together, where you've got rabbis and priests, and now we're going to have an imam. We're going to talk about psychedelics. I've had discussions, profound discussions about psychedelics with some very senior members at the Vatican. And it's been a fantastic discussion because they're very, very aware of plant medicines like Ayahuasca. And so it's pretty interesting how far and wide reaching this discussion can go.
Anne Philippi 47:39
Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you, talk to you soon. Have a great day. And we'll see you soon.