Jeffrey Stewart had severe Epilepsy as a child.
He suffered from three to four seizures every day, taking pills to help control his symptoms. When the risks of taking an exorbitant amount of medication started adding up, his parents turned to a more natural remedy: Cannabis.
“I started consuming cannabis at six or seven years old,” Stewart recalls. “My parents would hotbox my room, putting it into food and teas.”
He had his last seizure at 9 years old.
Last year, the tech entrepreneur launched Ovandi, a smart home vaporizer that helps people consume Cannabis as well as other oils and herbs.
“I saw the horizon of what vaporizers could be on the market,” Stewart said.
The marijuana industry is expected bring in $75 billion in sales by 2030, almost as much as the soda industry in North America, according to Bloomberg. This is due in part to the growing popularity of vaping, which accounts for 58 percent of concentrate spending in 2018, according to Forbes.
Consumption of cannabis in Canada, where Stewart is based, is growing. Reports show a steady increase of 1.2 percent over a three-month period and the nation’s government legalized marijuana last October, increasing job and economic opportunity.
Ovandi was born in Stewart’s college dorm room. He locked himself inside for 15 days straight and brainstormed until he came up with the idea for a vaporizer designed to optimize the experience of using cannabis or other herbs recreationally or as natural remedies.
“The process for me was sitting in my room and talking to myself, and being very curious,” he said.
The smart home vaporizer integrates with products like Google Home or Amazon Alexa and is equipped with a small touch screen for users to navigate through settings. Ovandi can also be accessed through the app.
Unlike alcohol, there are different ways to experience herbs and oils based on how it’s vaporized. Users will have the options to customize their vaporizer with a thin, medium or thick vapor.
“There’s actually an optimal temperature to get the ideal experience,” Stewart explains. “I don’t feel like people should have to research this, there should be a simple way to tell someone.”
The first iteration of the vaporizer is slated to launch later in early Q3 2019. A year in the making, Stewart says challenges have actually contributed to their success and that failing has been a good thing for him and that’s it’s one of the best ways to come up with good ideas.
“I failed for six months straight,” he said recalling that the first version of the product he built was too big and bulky.
Stewart was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug at an early age and started his first company, a snow shoveling service (crucial during harsh Toronto winters) he grew from one employee to five. Stewart then launched another “side hustle” selling candy to his classmates in high school.
Driven by a deep curiosity and fervor for learning, he gravitated towards tech and product design as a business student attending university. With the $5,000 his mentor gifted him to launch Ovandi, he had the funding and backing of someone who believed in his idea.
“That’s when I learned my first lesson: Build something that people really need, ” Stewart said. “And also build something that inspires you and improves the human experience.”