Meet Adam Wilks, Mike Tyson’s Not-So-Secret Weapon
The principal behind boxing champion Mike Tyson’s cannabis industry resurrection and massive success of his new brand, is apparently just getting started.
For many, the very idea of smoking some super chronic herb with the wall-of-muscle/force-of-nature otherwise known as Mike Tyson is a dream come true. But for Adam Wilks, that’s his Sunday ritual. As Chief Executive Officer of the Tyson 2.0 brand, Wilks has been on a winning streak as of late, and no one has benefitted from his business acumen more recently than the former boxing world heavyweight champion. For starters, he’s resurrected Tyson’s cannabis business cred after the well-documented missteps the boxing legend endured at Tyson Ranch.
Wilks is an affable raconteur and the capitalist specialist with the Midas touch who just recently helped secure another $9 million for Tyson 2.0 in Series A funding led by JW Asset Management. Following the successful launch of Tyson 2.0—the cannabis brand has expanded to 20 states in the US and has sold more than 4,000 pounds of cannabis in North America in a single year—Wilks says that he’s just getting started.
The longtime venture capitalist tells us that by applying rules of the trade he learned in the frozen yogurt industry (he worked closely on the red-hot Pinkberry brand), he’s helped lead Tyson 2.0 to one of the biggest brand launches in the history of adult-use cannabis. On his days off, he says he also happens to chill with arguably the greatest natural boxer in our planet’s history, swapping stories and tripping the light fantastic well into the night. Now, that’s a ringside seat I’d happily pay for.
So, who is Adam Wilks? And where is he taking Tyson 2.0? We have so many questions, and the seasoned executive agreed to sit down for an exclusive, most telling conversation.
Cannabis Now: The big news right now is that Tyson 2.0 just completed a big capital raise. In the face of a very challenging moment for the industry, with cannabis prices falling, how are you feeling about the next year to come?
Adam Wilks: I am very excited about our growth. We started very lean, but now we are starting some major expansion. We have signed 20-plus state licensing deals and are operational in 13 of those. We have lots more new products coming out, and we’re also in Canada with a number of international deals in the works.
CN: Is having the right team the difference between Tyson 2.0 and his past ventures in cannabis with Tyson Ranch? A lot of people don’t realize that even Rocky lost his first fight.
AW: Tyson Ranch was mismanaged and did not have the right experience mixed with cannabis know-how to pull it off. We did just bring on our new CMO from Anheuser Busch. We brought our chief legal officer on from Bad Boy Records. So, we have built an elite team.
CN: As the CEO of Tyson 2.0, how did you go from tires and yogurt to a weed executive?
AW: I have been in this weed industry for almost a decade. I have been a cannabis user for over 20 years. I started off investing in 30-plus cannabis brands, then Mike and Chad Bronstein, the CEO of Fyllo, came to me and said, “Hey you need to run this thing.” When I was in the yogurt world, we were licensing Pink Berry across the US. We had the hottest celebrities at the time promoting our yogurt. We had lines out the door in Beverly Hills. So, I was able to take a lot of the expertise in the franchise world, providing marketing support, licensing of the brand and SOPs to our partners.
CN: How hands-on is Mike on the selection of strains and varieties? Is he very involved in the day to day?
AW: I never expected him to be into it this deep, but yes, Mike is as connected to the product as he possibly could be. For almost every Sunday for the last year, at either my house or Mike’s house, we have been sampling products—flower, edibles, beverages, concentrates, vapes—and I bring Mike everything we’re trying to roll out. I will bring Mike 20 vapes and ask him to give me his top three picks. We have a cookie coming out in October—a collab with one of the top cookie manufactures in California. I gave Mike seven different brands of cookies, and he not only picked the company he liked best, but also created a completely new variety of oatmeal chocolate chip, which was his favorite flavor of cookie growing up. Every single product we put out goes the same way. It costs us more money and it takes longer to roll out, but in the end it’s authentic.
CN: So, what is the end game here, especially with the potential of cannabis being federally legal? Will you guys become the Starbucks of weed?
AW: For us, it’s more about bringing high-quality cannabis products to the masses that Mike’s approved. When Mike, Chad and I put this this thing together, it was all about authenticity. We didn’t want it to just be another celebrity brand.
CN: How important are the partners you work with for the licensing of the brand?
AW: Very important. In Canada we could’ve partnered with a number of larger growers, but the quality did not meet our standards. So, what we did is go to the craft farmers who are growing the best weed we could find in Canada. A very small farm but with super high quality is what Mike wanted. This is all in line with our mission of bringing the best quality cannabis to the masses. For a US example, Pennsylvania is one of the best markets for us by revenue and because we have partnered with one of the best cultivators there, G Leaf. They are amazing.
CN: Mike is obviously into plant-based medicine. Does this extend beyond cannabis to other aspects like psilocybin?
AW: Weed yes, he will smoke weed every day. It makes him happy, and everyone likes it when he’s happy. Also, mushrooms he is a big fan of. He does micro dose regularly. Plant-based medicine has connected him on a deeper level. He has talked about this a lot on how psilocybin has helped strip him of ego. It has helped open him up to his own humility.
CN: Is Tyson 2.0 mostly focused on current consumers, or are you also trying to bring in people who typically only buy their weed off the black market?
AW: We all grew up buying weed on the streets, but now there’s so much bad stuff in the weed, and now we can legally test it and see what clean weed truly is. You never know what you’re getting out there on the streets. We would like to continue to use Tyson and the brand to get people safe, tested and secured cannabis from legal dispensaries. We do a lot of work with nonprofits for expunging criminal records, most recently with the Weldon Clemency Project, advocating for clemency for those serving time for marijuana offenses. It’s all a mix of positioning the industry and using a name like Tyson to get people off the streets.
CN: Having reached so much success within the first 7 months of launching, what do you see the next two years looking like for you and Tyson 2.0?
AW: I am beyond grateful for all the support we have gotten so far and the team we have put together, but I think we are just scraping the surface. The US is a huge market, but there are eight billion people on this planet to bring plant-based medicine to. There are so many places around the world where the option to use cannabis as a medicine is not there yet. My personal goal is to bring Tyson 2.0 to everyone around this world—to give everyone the equal chance and opportunity to try it for their own mental and physical health, as I do for myself. Mike is all about educating the world about his journey with what plant-based medicine has done for him and spreading the cannabis love around the world.
CN: Can we expect Mike to be back in the ring any time soon? Perhaps an exhibition match?
AW: He would love to fight again; I don’t want him to. Mike has done such a good job being an entrepreneur, he is crushing it right now. We got the largest cannabis brand in the world right now by geographic coverage. After a night on the road, we were chilling out, smoking and eating edibles, and Mike said to me, “Adam, I want to fight again…I want to fight Lennox Lewis.” I said, “Mike buddy, we’re not fighting right now, we’re focused right now, we got Tyson 2.0.”