Software developer and consulting entrepreneur Roger Obando credits his Costa Rican immigrant parents for making their American dream his reality. The serial entrepreneur is a graduate of Duke University’s class of 2000 where he earned his B.A. in computer science, visual design. After various entrepreneurial endeavors, Roger Obando served as co-founder and CTO of the cannabis industry customer relationship management software brand Baker Technologies.
With five years of cannabis experience under his belt, Obando now hopes to do the same for underrepresented communities that his parents did for him. In his book, The Highest Common Denominator, the entrepreneur aims to shed light on why a lack of people of color exists in cannabis—and why they should enter now.
Roger Obando, who spent five years building Baker to a nine-figure exit, said he is inspired to create more diversity in the emerging space. “I feel like it was almost a bit of my responsibility to shed some light on things that I’ve seen, both in the industry and within our own communities of color, that are preventing people from finding these opportunities.”
In The Highest Common Denominator, the New Jersey-raised Obando highlights several restraints he believes hold back underrepresented communities from entering cannabis. One that can be seen as a gift and a curse is the idea of one’s tribe.
He writes that your tribe is “that group to which you were born, or belong, or mirror, at least on the surface.” While pivotal to a person’s development, the author goes on to highlight how the tribe defines a person, but not entirely. “…your tribe is part of you, but you are not your tribe.” He elaborated, “You are you. And you are capable of defining your own limits. You can, should, and must characterize yourself.”
Family Matters For Roger Obando
One such example of branching beyond the tribe is Obando’s father. In the book, the younger Roger Obando explained how his father strived to surround himself with different people when he immigrated to the U.S. “He was very committed to coming and learning English very quickly and meeting people from all different cultures.” He added, “I think we need more and more of that.”
Respect for elders and and religion are both important, prominent aspects in the Latin community. Obando spoke about how respect presents a struggle in the community where the young want to uphold values but view cannabis differently. “There’s such a demand to respect your elders…that people are having a hard time thinking for themselves and really confronting those previous generations by saying, ‘yes, I do want to [enter the cannabis space].”
Obando faced pressure from his family when first deciding to enter the cannabis industry himself. He also faced struggles with religion. Obando experienced what he called a “difficult conversation” when telling his family he was an atheist.
That said, the family’s relationship proved to be stronger than any religious disagreements. He credits their respect for his abilities as something more families should keep in mind. “[My family] has a lot of respect for my intellect and my reasoning.”
The home and community are far from the only restraints Obando touches on in his book. Speaking of Latin American communities, the author detailed to High Times the difficulty he had seeing young entrepreneurs avoid the cannabis industry. He cites the ramifications of the failed drug war as a prime reason.
“It’s due in large part to the fact that most of these young folks were raised in an era where they were being raised by single mothers, grandmothers, aunts,” Obando stated. He went on to discuss why such a dynamic existed and its effects. “These women were telling them about the evils of cannabis because of the fact that their husbands, sons were in prison for nonviolent cannabis crimes.”
To counter any pushback of the sort from the community, Obando prefers to point out the positive outcomes that occurred to early cannabis entrants. Instead of fears of arrest, he explains how many people of various backgrounds succeeded. This includes sharing his own story with aspiring business leaders. “I want to constantly be in touch with people in these communities, especially young entrepreneurs, and show them what’s possible.”
Obando likes to point out other Latin Americans making strides in cannabis. One example he mentioned several times was Cofounder and Executive Director of the Cannabis Cultural Association, Nelson Guerrero. Obando credits Guerrero for taking an active role speaking to the community despite facing severe pushback as well.
New Horizons and Open Minds
The positives of expanding one’s mind and community are also discussed in the book. The author explained that doing so creates optionality for yourself. He expanded on the topic in his book, calling optionality the future. In one entry, he wrote, “Optimization leads to optionality. Optionality leads to a higher version of yourself by allowing for access to more opportunity.”
Obando told High Times how optionality “gives you the knowledge and the experience to be able to do multiple things — rather than just be forced into a corner and have only a couple of options for what you can do, both personally and professionally.”
Unfortunately, not every person has the opportunity to expand their horizons by attending Duke or seeing other parts of the world. Obando acknowledged such difficulties for many individuals. He offered up one potential remedy a person in such a predicament can try. “The only way to get out of that is to embrace discomfort and force yourself to experience things that you otherwise wouldn’t in your day to day [life].”
Such examples include meeting people from cultures outside of your own. For Obando, this included meeting an Indian friend, Adarsh Doshi, who introduced him to his friends in Indian community. In those interactions, he learned that the Indian and Latin American communities had much more commonalities than differences.
If a person can’t meet other cultures where they live, Roger Obando points to a mindset to strive for. “Try to have a thirst for knowledge and try to try to learn as much about as many things as possible.” He added, “That’s only going to serve you well in the future.”