Cannabis instead of Hollywood – Now your bet on legalization should work out

Cannabis instead of Hollywood – Now your bet on legalization should work out

Anna Kouparanis was overshadowed by her big brother for a while. In the media, she was dubbed “the sister of Farmako founder” Niklas Kouparanis. He had set up a cannabis start-up together with scene celebrity Sebastian Diemer and in the meantime left involuntarily.

Kouparani’s sister Anna was the company’s first employee. She founded Farmako herself a year after that. Forbes just named the 28-year-old one of the 30 most important people under 30. So she’s more than just “the sister of”.

Anna Kouparanis is an entrepreneur who launched medicinal cannabis wholesale Ilios Santé, cannabis prescription telemedicine platform Algea Care and associated umbrella company Bloomwell Group. The long-term goal of the company construct is to be a big player in the market when cannabis is legalized for everyone in Germany, as the traffic light government envisages in the coalition agreement.

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Kouparanis originally wanted to pursue a different career. “It was my life’s dream to become an actress,” says the entrepreneur in an interview with “Gründerszene”. “So I went to Hollywood.” That was in 2012, right after she graduated from high school.

But after a year she noticed that success as an actress too often depends on subjective opinions. “You are very dependent on other people. It’s a lot of nepotism. And I didn’t like the way young women were treated,” says Kouparanis.

Anna Kouparani’s first Farmako employee

So she returns to Germany. She was 19 years old then. What now? She never thought of studying and only did her Abitur for her parents. “I wasn’t a high achiever, I had mediocre grades. School often bored me,” says the founder.

This is the case with many entrepreneurs with whom she talks. “The school system is not designed for entrepreneurs, but for smooth paths. I never heard about starting a business at school.”

Without thinking twice, she then decided to study management and wrote her master’s thesis at Mercedes-Benz Consulting because she had always been interested in car design and marketing.

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But she didn’t want to work in a corporation afterwards: “The processes weren’t fast enough for me,” says Kouparanis. Shortly after, in 2018, her brother founded Farmako. “He wanted me to be his first associate, so I said yes.”

She describes her entry into the world of entrepreneurship as “pleasant, because in the first few weeks I had puppy protection and less responsibility,” says Kouparanis. “But my self-confidence built up quickly.”

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She has a special relationship with her brother, they have always done everything together. This is also due to the fact that her family in Germany consists of only four people – her parents, her brother and her. The Kouparanis family has a migration background. Half of the relatives live in Greece, the other half in the USA.

“It always made me feel like I had to do it myself because I didn’t have the safety net to let myself fall. It was just the four of us and that bonded us enormously.”

Problems as a young woman in the pharmaceutical industry

In 2019 she then founded herself and registered her company Ilios Santé, a wholesaler in Frankfurt/Main, with which she bought and sold medicinal cannabis. The vision of the start-up is to also develop new products. This can be hybrids of different plants or new forms of administration, in cooperation with pharmacies.

At first she struggled with the gender stereotypes of the pharmaceutical industry. “When you start a wholesale business as a young woman in a male-dominated market and talk to the typical pharmaceutical companies, you get the wrong look,” says Anna Kouparanis. “I was asked who owns my company after talking about being the founder and CEO.”

Anna Kouparanis with her brother Niklas (2nd from left) and their Bloomwell co-founders Samuel Menghistu (left) and Julian Wichmann (2nd from right)

Anna Kouparanis with her brother Niklas (2nd from left) and their Bloomwell co-founders Samuel Menghistu (left) and Julian Wichmann (2nd from right)

What: Bloomwell Group

Together with her brother Niklas, the doctor Julian Wichmann and the investment banker Samuel Menghistu, she then started Algea Care. Wichmann manages the telemedicine platform.

According to their own statements, there are around 7,000 patients a month who receive medical cannabis prescriptions from 80 doctors. The main reason for administration is chronic pain.

Studies on cannabis not yet clear

The number of patients and doctors seems small, but medical cannabis has only been prescribed since 2017. According to Kouparanis, only two percent of all doctors have ever prescribed cannabis for their patients.

This is also due to the fact that there is still little knowledge in this area. In addition, not all studies show clear results on the effectiveness of the product for specific indications. A study that appeared just a few days ago even came to the conclusion that certain groups of people could become dependent on medicinal cannabis.

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Kouparanis and her co-founders now want to build up a clearer study situation and accumulated knowledge on sensible therapies as well as on THC and CBD dosages. “With medical cannabis, patients usually tell the doctor what they want. But at Algea Care, doctors have gathered so much insight from patients and diagnoses that they can recommend what is best for the patient. We want to take cannabis therapy to a new level of quality,” says Kouparanis.

Selling and prescribing medicinal cannabis

Both Ilios Santé and Algea Care are part of the Bloomwell holding set up by the Kouparanis siblings and their two co-founders. The company structure offers advantages: the wholesaler Ilios Santé is the first point of contact in the value chain, buys the products and intends to manufacture them themselves in the future. Algea Care is the prescription arm.

The holding company completed the seed round in October 2021 and received almost nine million euros. The money comes from billionaire Boris Jordan, the CEO of the US model Curaleaf. Like Algea Care, the company started as a telemedicine start-up for medical cannabis and has focused on a broader market since legalization in the USA. Kouparanis and her team want to benefit from this experience.

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Cannabis production Neumünster

However, it could still be some time before cannabis is legalized in Germany. Anna Kouparanis knows that too and sees it calmly. “We want to be one of the big players in the legal market.” It doesn’t matter whether legalization will only be completed in two or five years. That could mean having enough capital and perseverance are present.

Cannabis legalization is not everything

However: “Legalization alone does not mean that we have won,” says Kouparanis. “There are many challenges. One of them is that cannabis will also need a pharmaceutical standard in the future so that the quality of the product remains the same. Otherwise, it could be the case that patients who go to the legal market receive poorer therapy,” says the founder. And of course it would also be advantageous for your company if it could bring the established structures for medical cannabis to more customers without detours.

Finally, a not-so-serious question: Has the founder tried cannabis herself? “I tried it once,” says Kouparanis. “But it never made sense to me. I laugh a lot and I’m always relaxed, no matter how high the stress is.” For patients with chronic conditions, it makes sense. But not for herself.

This text comes from a cooperation with the magazine “Gründerszene”. Click on the links, leave and end up in the articles at

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