2 Minutes With ... Mark Kuhn, CEO & Co-Founder of Oat Foundry
Since co-founding Oat Foundry in 2013, Mark Kuhn has embodied the brand's mission to build cool stuff—starting with the company itself. As CEO, he developed Oat Foundry into a renowned maker of custom, next-generation analog tech products designed for international blue-chip enterprises from hospitality and retail to aerospace. Mark continues to use a blend of creativity and project engineering expertise to oversee the firm's expansion into new markets and its day-to-day operations, whether he's tackling big-picture strategy or leading the culture of innovation.
Previously, Mark worked for two Fortune 100 companies and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory while obtaining a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Drexel University. Originally from Yardley, Penn., Mark enjoys cooking, gardening, scuba diving, skiing or a good game of Cubitos outside of work, as well as unplugging from screens to read The New Yorker at the Lake Mansfield Trout Club.
We spent two minutes with Mark to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.
Mark, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and now reside in Philadelphia.
How you first got interested in cannabis.
As a product developer, I am thrilled that more and more states are legalizing cannabis because it creates new opportunities for companies to develop compelling products, like Cheeba Chews' Trifecta or Wyld's Peach Gummies.
Professionally, I noticed many of our Split Flap Boards were being installed in dispensaries, which piqued our initial interest in developing products designed for the cannabis space. Split Flap Boards are a great product for dispensaries to use as a menu and data-driven marketing board, showing customized specials and displaying customer-specific product recommendations. It's also much more captivating than a TV, which is why Split Flap Boards have been popular in locations that receive a lot of foot traffic.
One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why.
RISE Bloomfield is a gorgeous dispensary recently opened in Bloomfield, N.J., that uses our Split Flap Board to provide an interactive focal point for guests. The interior has all the best design elements of a modern dispensary while still showing off a stunning nostalgic and memorable aesthetic.
Nolita Hall in San Diego is one of our most ambitious installations and features a Split Flap Board with a custom real-time flight tracker—it's insanely cool. Doug Hamm of Black Swan really has some vision—the whole roof of the bar is one giant skylight. Our development team worked with Doug to create this magical experience where every time a plane flies over the skylight, you hear the sign *clack clack clack* and the split flap shows all of that specific plane’s information precisely at the time it's flying overhead. It’s wild to experience.
Google 325 Main Street is another favorite project, simply because the sheer scale of this Split Flap Board is insane. It includes over 1,100 individual controllable modules with 50 flaps each. When it’s moving, it has nearly 56,000 individually rotating flaps. It’s breathtaking to see.
A recent project you're proud of, and why.
We are thrilled to collaborate with Klutch Cannabis to debut our newest product, Mellowtron, in Klutch’s gorgeous new dispensary. Mellowtron is an interactive cannabis-recommendation engine housed inside a retro synth-inspired mixing board. Users interact with Mellowtron to receive recommendations on the right cannabis products tailored to their specific needs and desires.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today, and how to approach it.
An obvious answer is how individual dispensaries, specifically MSOs, navigate ever-changing laws and the non-published algorithms of Facebook, Instagram and other platforms, the headache of having to constantly fight to appeal an ad or post, and how they differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It can be easy to get lost in the sauce with digital marketing because everyone wants the magic faucet—money goes in, traffic goes up, and sales go up. This is an elusive beast. The most significant focus should be on customers—who are they, what kinds of products do customers want, and how can you better serve them? Products like Mellowtron that we built with budboard and data analytics companies like Happy Cabbage are great for that reason—creating highly engaging, personally tailored recommendations to specific customers makes them feel not only special, but also heard.
One thing about how the cannabis industry is evolving that you're excited about.
The cannabis industry was built by hardscrabble entrepreneurs who are more like channel partners than traditional competitors. There is this spirit of camaraderie, sharing and support that is incredible and makes cannabis one of the industries we’re most excited to be a part of and to watch evolve.
Someone else’s work, in cannabis or beyond, that you admired lately.
I have deep admiration for John Fetterman's work in the PA Marijuana Pardon Project, which was a large-scale effort that pardoned thousands of people in Pennsylvania who had certain minor, non-violent marijuana convictions.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
Podcast: Behind the Bastards
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
Your favorite fictional character.
Ozzie Fernandez Isaacs in Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton
Someone worth following on social media.
Your main strength as a marketer/creative.
Buzzwords are bad. It's essential to get down to the meat of it. That's where my strength lies.
Your biggest weakness.
Shiny things can be so distracting!
Something people would find surprising about you.
I used to build ceramic jet engines for GE.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Cooking with my friends and family
One thing that always makes you sad.
Hmmm … I don't have a singular item that makes me sad, but I always cry at the end of It's a Wonderful Life!
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
Flying a bush plane in Alaska.