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BigMike's Big Story: A Decades-Long Journey From Illicit Weed Grower To Marijuana Don - And The Creation Of Advanced Nutrients

The popular saying, “it takes ten years to become an overnight success,” couldn’t be truer of both the cannabis industry and the man behind one of its most internationally recognized brands.

Michael Stramietis, or BigMike as his 2.4 million social media followers call him, is a cannabis entrepreneur, influencer and CEO who has dedicated a substantial part of his life to improving how to grow cannabis.

To that end, BigMike founded Advanced Nutrients, a top-selling brand of fertilizers and additives for cannabis growers. Founded in 1999, the company has gained global recognition with a presence in 115 countries. It consistently makes over $173 million in annual revenue.

Now, BigMike is looking for the next big industry player through his reality TV show featuring himself and a cast of savvy cannabis entrepreneurs. “The Next Marijuana Millionaire,” which is translated into 30 different languages premiered exclusively on the G4+ app on August 16 with new episodes released every Thursday.

Ahead of the series release, sitting in Barcelona – Advanced Nutrients’ European base - BigMike shared some wisdom gleaned from his 20-year run as a legal marijuana kingpin and how that propelled him to his new TV show.

In a conversation with Benzinga, Straumietis explained that the idea for a reality TV contest show grew out of his own dissatisfaction with the way the community is typically portrayed in mainstream media.

“I did ‘The Next Marijuana Millionaire’ because I looked at a lot of the cannabis-related TV shows out there and they were stereotypical, and it was negative. And I said, that's not our community. That's not what we're actually about,” Straumietis said.

This inspired him to create a program that “shows cannabis in a true light and in a respectful manner,” getting away from the typical “stoner” stereotype mostly seen on network television. “The industry has all walks of life, you know, you name it, a cross-section of society is involved in cannabis,” he said.

The show is not only intended to entertain, it also carries an educational message for those aspiring to join the industry as it portrays the various sectors that exist across the cannabis space and the opportunities each one presents.

To that end, the Next Marijuana Millionaire invites sixteen budding entrepreneurs to compete by testing their business acumen, character and stamina. Each elaborate challenge reflects the real-life intensity and competition of today’s booming cannabis industry.

The lucky winner takes home $1 million dollars-worth of prizes and a business partnership that could change their life forever.

Why Did BigMike Create This Show?

Straumietis has been around long enough to witness many of the major transformations that led the cannabis industry from a pipe dream to a real, multi-million-dollar industry. But no period has shown as much change as we’ve seen in last few years.

“Our industry is moving at lightning speed,” he said. “There are so many people doing so many different things, and new technologies that are being introduced to the market all the time. I'm amazed at what I see every single week and every single month.”

For an entrepreneur who has spent most of his career finding ways to grow better cannabis, technologies around cultivation are a principal eye-catcher. Along this line, Advanced Nutrients recently acquired Tesoro Genetics with the goal of “actively combining three different technologies in one, including genetics, environmental controls,” and what they call “the brain,” to better meet the future of the industry.

“We acquired Tesoro Genetics and are working with Haifa Chemicals in Israel as a strategic partner for our inputs as well as their cleanest purest input,” he explained. “We are also building a crop-steering AI unit that identifies what’s going on inside the plant and then marries it with fertigation.”

“There's spectral analysis where they can look at a plant now and see whether it's being harmed by a pathogen or a nutrient deficiency,” he added. “They can do spectral analysis of cannabinoids and terpenoids and flavonoids. And, you know, you can make basically a digital fingerprint of that exact strain based on the constituents of the plant, not even talking about looking at the genome of a plant.”

Did The Balloon Burst Yet?

In a word, yes. “The hyperinflated balloon burst and now the valuations of cannabis companies are becoming realistic and in alignment with other spaces,” Straumietis said.

Upping The Price Of A 20-Year-Old Race

While the industry is growing at a clip, BigMike recalls a time when results were gained through grit and determination.

“I started growing cannabis during the Dark Ages of the industry, pushing the envelope as far as I could without getting arrested and getting the company shut down for all those years.”

He points to the success of Advanced Nutrients as a result of over twenty years of perseverance. Today, BigMike also owns BigMike’s Blends, a brand of cannabis pre-rolls.

“It happened very organically over the course of two decades,” he said. “It's only now that people are taking notice, going, ‘wait a minute, you guys are everywhere. How did you do that?’ Well, it took 21 years to get there. You look at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), you look at Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN)... their growth was pretty flat for about 18 years and then they hockey-sticked. Well, now, we are hockey-sticking.”

And while his years of cannabis-specific research and innovation have paid off, the world of possibilities for the industry are just beginning to open up.

BigMike recalls meeting legendary cannabis activist Jack Herer in Venice Beach, when he was still an illicit market grower. Herer preached about how cannabis can be made into ten thousand different products; today, this vision is a reality.

“It’s happening right now,” Mike concluded. “In the next 30 years this is going to be over a trillion-dollar industry, when you start looking at the textile and industrial use of cannabis. It's just mind-boggling.”

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