Very few people can say they’ve gone from being the inventor of a filed Microsoft patent to leading the ‘picks and shovels’ company of the cannabis industry, but that is just what GrowLife, Inc. CEO Marco Hegyi has done.
Marco served as Senior Director of Global Product Management/Search Marketing at Yahoo starting 2006. Prior to Yahoo, he was at Microsoft leading program management for Microsoft Windows and Office beta releases aimed at software developers from 2001 to 2006.
Marco is a tech and business guru, earning his success by predicting trends before they happen. It was this foresight that allowed Marco to see supplying the ‘picks and shovels’ for cannabis cultivation would end up being more profitable than the growing itself. Once at Kirkland, Wash.-based GrowLife, it was this same foresight which lead him to predict the daunting oversupply issue facing the cannabis industry: wholesale cannabis prices are crashing nationally across the U.S. with the national average price for a pound of cannabis averaging $1,789 in 2016 and falling to $1,562 by the end of 2017.
Because Marco knew the wholesale price of cannabis would drop, he started GrowLife Innovations; a division of the company dedicated to developing a vertical growing system that reduces the cost of cannabis production to a mere .35 cents a gram. They’ve filed a patent on their proprietary vertical grow room and are it is currently undergoing a Proof of Concept (POC) study with a licensed growing facility in Colorado.
Now, Marco is focused on bringing the Company’s proprietary growing technology to market, which has already shown an astounding 76% savings in energy during the POC study. He is also passionate about cannabis businesses having the same financial rights as other companies, recently speaking to TheStreet about uplisting as the leading ‘picks and shovels’ company for the cannabis industry.
We interviewed Marco regarding his path in tech, favorite inspirations, and projects for upcoming technology.
Where do you consider to be home?
When I’m not in the road, I like to split my time between two grown sons and a grandson in Southern California and my 15-year-old daughter in Seattle. So I live in both Washington and California, and I’m on the road with investors, customers and the GrowLife team the rest of the time.
Is there a specific place that inspired your pursuit of tech?
In the 70’s UCI was the only school that offered an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, so I started in Irvine. The software industry was so much fun that I would have programmed for free. I was a systems programmer which required I learn to build and take apart operating systems. I don’t think I slept without spending most of the day on a keyboard.
Over my 35 years in tech, I’ve lived in the Sili Valley, So Cal and Seattle. Now, my tech focus is applied to GrowLife Innovations and the work we are doing on a proprietary vertical grow room we believe will revolutionize the cannabis cultivation industry.
How do you think the economy will benefit from this?
We live in a time where communication has accelerated how fast we innovate. The printing press helped improve communication but access to all information through the Internet and mobile exchanges allow collaboration with this information bring global minds together that identify and solve programs in days that historically took years and decades.
In GrowLife’s case, we are helping our customers by providing incredible technologies such as FreeFit™ Flooring which utilizes heat-displacement to keep temperatures in the grow room down. This and other products benefit the economy by providing energy-saving, money-saving alternatives to promote more profitable and eco-friendly grow.
Along with our products, GrowLife has a team of specialists to offer education to growers to help them grow the healthiest, highest quality crops possible. The same staff that can grow 100 plants will be able to grow 500 plants with our systems. If our young industry does not learn how to scale up, the Big Corporations, who understand growing at scale, will disrupt them.
Our goal is to best prepare growers for future price drops and industry changes, and its why we have such a close and honest relationship with our customers.
What role do you think sustainability should play in your industry?
Sustainability, which has not traditionally been a top priority in the Cannabis industry, will become a requirement soon. There are State-level health laws but not sustainability controls or policies. GrowLife has focused on Eco-friendly products and procedures to minimize waste and harm. The cheapest way to grow does not always have to be anti-sustainable. Our goal is to provide both sustainable and cost-effective growing.
Social media is the widest used method of information sharing and communication, do you think that this will change or only evolve?
Yes, social media is wild because it can be both great and overwhelming. GrowLife has over 100,000 shareholders, many of whom like to voice their opinions. I see it as a positive tool to connect with people. I use my Medium, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to keep shareholders informed, and we have good outbound corporate accounts which we use to share exciting company news and media coverage with our followers.
How do you prefer receiving feedback?
This is a tough question because I care what everyone thinks, but find it hard to digest every individual’s thoughts and motives. I believe Twitter is my first choice because it put things on record. I have been so repeatedly enflamed by some of the things I read, but I like to approach it as constructive. At the end of the day, the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received have given me so much reassurance that I’ll take both.
Technology in itself is a success. What does success mean to you? What are your rules for success?
The success of an industry is to have it benefit many parties, primarily recurring customers. For GrowLife, success is to provide both shareholders and customers increasing value. The indoor cultivation industry is at its infancy and can deliver such value for many years with thousands of jobs, many other benefits including health and food supply.
How do you handle comparisons between your innovation and that of other companies?
Innovating is more than technical enhancements; it requires delivering economic benefit without compromise to quality and value. This is known as scaling and large corporations know how to do this very well. Our industry needs the tools, system, and automation to compete with big industries that will be moving in soon such as Big Agra, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, and Big Alcohol.
Most of our competitors focus only on their products and cannot imagine lowering costs. Extending lower costs in labor and electricity means an invention of systems that require research and development investment. GrowLife has been investing in this area for the past two years and is pleased to have it functioning through proof of concept tests.
What is one way you continue to distinguish your brand and stand apart?
GrowLife stands for quality and a long-term partnership with customers and shareholders. Our goal is to be consistent and increase the benefit of those who work with us.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
I have been fortunate to have worked with some amazing people, but my greatest inspiration comes from three distinct individuals: Alexander, Nicholas and Catherine Hegyi, my children. They keep me focused on modeling my best and giving them a better world. It may sound corny but they have challenged me as they grow, and each one has given me more than I could have ever imagined.
Alex guides his young family through an uncompromising moral compass that reminds me why we must give more than we take in life. I asked Nicholas when he was five what he wanted to be when he grows up and with a puzzled look he confidentially answered “Nicholas.” He has never changed his answer by being true to his own path with more confidence than I will ever have.
Lastly, Cat taught me the power of conviction since she was two. Her will and commitment to what is right regardless of the cost have amazed me. As a CEO, I face many decisions every day. There are consequences that one cannot escape, but my children have given me the strength to make the best decision every time.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
In my early 20’s I was deathly afraid of public speaking and such a poor writer that I had to take a remedial English composition course when I turned 24. Today, I write extensively and have over 10 patents published, draft weekly press releases, blog and write the management discussion and analysis quarterly reports to over 100,000 shareholders. Through relentless hard work, I was also able to conquer my fear of public speaking. These days I speak comfortably in front of large audiences and conferences and industry events all around the country. The moral of the story? Walk towards your fears, never run away.
What’s your best advice for people looking to get into the cannabis industry?
Hire and work with people of integrity, fire and avoid the rest.
What is your favorite innovation-related motto, quote or words to live by?
You never, ever, ever give up.
When going through hell, keep going.
Follow Marco’s Journey!