A Q&A with Mike Bologna, CEO of Dip Devices, on Cannabis Trends, Partnerships, Ethics and Innovations

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Written by: Marissa Black-Smith

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Mike Bologna, CEO of Green Lion Partners and Dip Devices, is constantly striving to transform the narrative on cannabis innovation and push the limits on portable concentrate consumption. In November, the Content Director of NisonCo Marketing, Marissa Black-Smith, spoke with Bologna at the world’s largest cannabis conference, MJBizCon.

In the following interview, Bologna, who holds a degree in Marketing and Operations and Technology Management from Boston University, touches on post-pandemic community resurgence, global market perspectives, regulatory challenges, and the transformative potential of AI. He also provides concise advice on successful industry partnerships and emphasizes the ethical responsibilities of cannabis businesses. Bologna concludes with a sneak peek into upcoming innovations, hinting at a groundbreaking shift in cannabis cartridge technology for 2024. Read on for the full interview.


Marissa Black-Smith: With consumer cannabis trends in flux, how does Dip Devices adapt to keep pace with shifting preferences?

Mike Bologna: One of the things that has always driven consumer trends is more information and more readily available access. Coming out of the pandemic, people are really excited to reconnect in person. What their friends like and what they see becoming more popular in the community drives that information-gathering and those purchase decisions. As a brand, what we’re trying to do is connect with communities and groups of people who are re-energized and excited to be consuming cannabis together

Specifically, we are very focused on the concentrate markets, as always. That’s where our products are. We continually see more states and countries having easily accessible, high-quality concentrates, especially on the solvent side. It’s a trend we’ve seen for a few years, but I’ve really seen it exacerbated recently.


Which international markets excite you in 2024?

Mike: Well, the cheap answer is all of them. Cannabis is a global plant. Consumers are global, and we hope both as a brand and as an industry to reach all of [the international market] and allow people to comfortably access and consume cannabis wherever they are. 

More specifically, in the short term, we do a lot of work in Mexico and South America, but I think the market that we see the most mature concentrate awareness and demand is definitely in Europe, like via Barcelona’s social clubs [that present] an ability to connect in person, share in person. We’ve seen them take the lead.


Does Dip Devices encounter regulatory hurdles when entering new markets?

Mike: As a completely ancillary product, we generally do not face too many regulatory or import restrictions, although as a vaporizer, we occasionally see tobacco or e-cigarette regulations in new markets. Cannabis continues to be very gray or even illegal, so the products themselves face a lot of restrictions, which can be a hurdle for us because if consumers don’t have regular access or affordable access [to cannabis], then accessories are not as popular. 


Which emerging technologies — AI, automation, etc. — will radically reshape cannabis businesses in 2024?

Mike: I’ve long been a process nerd, even before I really knew what it was, and I’ve made a career out of process engineering and process analysis. So I’m excited about anything automation, anything robotic. In the cannabis industry, I think we’re starting to see more and more automation used in hardware assembly and some of the cultivation and extraction processes. While I don’t have any specific predictions, I am generally excited about anything that improves efficiency and minimizes waste: It allows the human element to be focused on improving the product long term and where we need to take the product while allowing the actual execution of it to go to the machines. 

Specifically with AI, I see it already has had a large-scale impact on how people do business or communicate. It will continue to impact us in a wide range of ways, but I think it’s a few years off before it is something that people are fully reliant on or really drives the business forward instead of being a tool that people use in their business.

A Revelry-branded Dip Devices Little Dipper smellproof on-the-go stash container

The folks at Dip Devices are pro at partnerships, including their latest collaboration with Revelry.

Dip Devices has had great success with varied brand partnerships. Can you offer advice regarding creating partnerships or cross-investments within the cannabis industry? 

Mike: That’s a great question and one people should really consider and spend more time evaluating within their own business. In general, there’s a lot to accomplish. The more people you have working toward the same goal, the lighter the individual lift. The cannabis industry is so relationship-based and frequently built on how you approach the business and who you are as a person, more so than in traditional, established industries. 

I would challenge people to — if you’re interested in a product or a company — start having a conversation with them and seeing how you might be able to work together. It may not be now; it might be down the road. Then, when you identify a project where both sides’ goals are mutually aligned, I would advise you to take your ego out of it, take your “come out on top” vision away from it and recognize that in a partnership, both sides need to succeed. Whether it’s financial or marketing effort or concessions on minimum order quantities or whatever it may be, in your specifics, finding the partnership that works for both sides — instead of pushing an agenda where you unequivocally are successful — is what will build a true partnership that allows you to repeat that success in the long run. 

For example, we just launched The Dab Kit partnership with Revelry, which is a wonderful lifestyle brand, and they have a really convenient to-go kit that they now have a Dip Devices Little Dipper included in. We’re two brands that have been friends for a very long time, and we found the opportunity to put ourselves together. At this MJBiz, we launched it! So this is a timely question, and we’re excited to promote [the new product] with Revelry.


Are there any potential supply chain bottlenecks or challenges you anticipate in 2024?

Mike: While I don’t have a specific material or item shortage I see coming, there will be shortages, and there will be problems. We’ve seen problems with PCBs and shortages in ceramic and paper — random parts of the supply chain. Plan ahead for your most critical parts. Making sure you have stocked, tested, and regular access to a redundant supply chain is something that is not considered frequently enough in the cannabis industry.

People have one factory or one source, and they say, “Hey this works,” until it doesn’t. Be prepared for that type of shortage problem or unforeseen global pandemic; it’s hard to know the specifics, but it’s easy to know that something will happen, so be mindful and be prepared for that challenge.


Mike Bologna, CEO of Green Lion Partners and Dip Devices, makes a cannabis trends supply chain prediction for 2024.


How can the cannabis industry balance profit-seeking with ethical responsibilities and honor its roots?

Mike: I really appreciate that you guys are including this question. I challenge anybody reading this involved in the cannabis industry to really look at themselves and recognize that we are in a fortunate place, specifically because of those who came before us, those who suffered in the war on drugs, and those who acted as advocates to change laws. 

It is just imperative that we find a balance [between profits and ethics] and that we maintain some of the heart today. I recognize that a capitalistic society will never be entirely altruistic, but I think as a flat fact, the cannabis industry cannot exist if we are not conscious of where our profits go, how they are generated and acknowledging those who are still suffering as a result of the war on drugs. 

I don’t know that there is one answer that covers all businesses, but I know that there is an answer for all businesses [involving] finding a way to align themselves with nonprofits who can focus on this work on a daily basis or do something for their employees or local community. Ensure they have open hiring practices and nondiscriminatory policies at their companies, and again, are working with groups doing this work all the time. I truly don’t believe a cannabis company should exist if it does not have social advocacy as a tenant of its business.


What cannabis industry innovations are you monitoring and reacting to in 2024?

Mike: Keep an eye out for the newest transition in technology as we move the common cartridge from a 510 thread to a USB-C connection, which will allow the transfer of both power and data for the first time. Cartridges have remained largely unchanged other than their heating elements, and we believe we’ve created a platform that will drive immense benefit to the end consumer, to the brands selling their cartridges, and to the medical community regarding what it means for research. It’ll be a slow transition, but we feel it’s inevitable that cartridges will be powered by USB-C starting in 2024.


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