Medical Doctor Pivots to Create a Cannabis-Focused Practice

dr rachna patel

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Dr. Rachna Patel has a background in emergency medicine and completed her medical studies at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine and her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University. She has been practicing in the area of medical marijuana since 2012.

Learn why Rachna pivoted to make the focus of her practice cannabis and why cannabis related treatments may be the future.

Key Takeaways:
[2:09] – Dr. Rachna’s background
[5:11] – Dr. Rachna talks about her day to day practice
[6:52] – Dr. Rachna talks about patients’ motivations for coming to her office
[7:57] – Dr. Rachna’s recommendations on what symptoms to use cannabis for
[9:03] – Cannabis very effective for anxiety
[11:12] – Using cannabis to conquer opioid addiction
[13:27] – Instances where cannabis is not a good treatment option
[22:24] – Cannabis and cancer
[24:14] – Is the endocannabinoid system discussed by MDs?
[27:24] – Dr. Rachna gives her thoughts on the vaccine controversy
[28:47] – Dr. Rachna answers some personal development questions
[33:59] – Dr. Rachna’s contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

 

Read Full Transcript

I am pleased to have a medical doctor on the show today to discuss how she is integrating cannabis into her practice. Dr. Rachna Patel has a background in emergency medicine and completed her medical studies at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine and her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University. She has been practicing in the area of medical marijuana since 2012. Rachna welcome to CannaInsider.

Rachna: Thank you for having me on the show.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Rachna: I am located in the Bay Area in California.

Matthew: Okay an I mentioned your background and education a little bit there, but can you tell us a little bit more about that and how you pivoted into the cannabis practice?

Rachna: Sure. So like you mentioned my background is in emergency medicine and while I was going through training there were a couple of cases that really stood out in my experience while I was training. So one was seeing a ten year old boy who had come in having overdosed on oxycontin. He was barely breathing. The second scenario was a woman who had previously been admitted twice to the ICU because she had overdosed on opioids and in both scenarios the doctors had predicted that there’s probably a 90% chance that she will die and fortunately she didn’t, but there was a night that I was working in the emergency room and there she was coming in again seeking opioids.

Third situation is basically overall in general I saw a lot of elderly patients that came in. They are on a sleuth of medications and a lot of them would come in just completely out of it because they had taken too much of their opioids. The fourth scenario was going through what’s called a toxicology rotation and this is when basically all you deal with are overdoses on prescription and over the counter medications. So big picture here, you step back. I started off medical school wanting to really truly help people, but what I was finding is that the very medications that I’m prescribing are harming people. So there’s something wrong with this picture.

Now at the same time I happened to find an ad on Craigslist there said medical marijuana doctor needed. So that definitely peeked my curiosity and I started looking into the field. I didn’t even know that it existed. Then what I started doing was I started going through the research on marijuana. I was looking at the studies that were out there, what they said and at some point I was compelled enough where I was like okay I think there’s something to this. It has a lot of potential for pain management and as it stands in medicine we don’t have a good option for long term pain management. So any good doctor needs a lot of clinical experience and there was no formal training experience in medical marijuana. There still isn’t. So what I decided to do was work at a medical marijuana clinic, and that’s where the journey started and here I am today.

Matthew: Wow. That’s an interesting path. What’s your day to day practice like today?

Rachna: So day to day mainly I just practice in the area of medical marijuana and I treat a wide variety of conditions mainly chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia.

Matthew: Okay. You saw the Craigslist ad and that was just kind of something that sparked your interest, and then what further from there when you said hey I’m looking for alternatives to some of the maybe more hash alternatives in terms of medications out there.

Rachna: It’s not that I was looking for an alternative, but as I started to do the research on marijuana I learned that it has a lot of potential to be a great alternative. So I was reading about how there was a study done by Dr. Donald Abrams on how using marijuana helps to reduce the use of opioid medications. I saw how it helps patients with multiple sclerosis, patients with arthritis and whatnot. These are all preliminary studies that I read about but they definitely peaked my interest. It was a stark contrast to what I was seeing in the emergency room with opioids.

Matthew: So most patients that come to your practice are they looking for alternatives or what’s they’re primary motive for coming to see you? They’re saying hey I want to try some botanical solution with cannabis or just like the fact that you’re open to it or how does that work exactly?

Rachna: Typical scenario is that I have patients that have spun their wheels with conventional medicine and they’ve tried, when we talk specifically about pain management, they’ve tried the opioids. A lot of times patients are then moved on to antidepressants and then they’re moved on to medications that are typically used for seizures. Then they get injections with cortisone which is a steroid. Then they try alternative options like acupuncture or massage or chiropractics and nothing is really working for them. So mainly what they tell me is Dr. Patel I’m here because I’ve spun my wheels, I don’t know what else to do and I’m going to just try this as a last resort.

Matthew: Okay. If you were to rank the top conditions or symptoms you recommend cannabis for, what are the top two or three you would mention?

Rachna: So the top three, like I said, chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety.

Matthew: Chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. Now this is kind of anecdotal and subjective, but why do you think most people are experiencing anxiety now and do you feel like it’s at a higher level than points in the past?

Rachna: A lot of patients will tell me that a lot of anxiety… I’d say half of my patients it’s due to work related anxiety, work related stress and the other half it has to do with just they get nervous in social settings, especially where there’s like large crowds of people or speaking in front of a large group. So those are sort of the general trends that I’m seeing in my practice.

Matthew: So do you think cannabis is an effective treatment for anxiety and if so what’s the best kind of application to help there?

Rachna: Yeah, actually I find there are certain conditions where the medical marijuana works better than prescription medications and I definitely say anxiety is one of them. The alternatives aren’t that great. Typically benzodiazepines are used and these are medications like Ativan, Diazopam, Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication for anxiety. They’re highly addicting and they’re highly sedating as well. So it does impact the quality of a person’s life. What I found with medical marijuana is that patients can use it on an as needed basis. They don’t need to use it on an everyday basis which is the nice thing. Anxiety can sort of range the spectrum.

There are those that have it on an everyday basis. They have panic attacks very often during the week, and then there are those where it’s more situational. It just depends on the situation. So what’s nice about medical marijuana is that you can sort of, you know, once you start taking it, you don’t have to take it on an everyday basis. You can take it on an as needed basis. So that’s what I like as a physician, but that’s also what my patients like about the medication as well.

Matthew: You mentioned a little bit earlier about helping with opioid addiction. How does that work exactly and how effective is it as an alternative to other forms of dealing with opioid addiction because it seems like we’re really at a huge huge amount of the population is suffering from this, some areas of the country worse than others. We don’t really seem to even talk about it. There’s not a national dialogue about it. It’s kind of buried underneath, we kind of sweep it underneath the rugs. Where do you feel like the level of opioid addiction is or opioid addiction and how can we use cannabis to help with that as an alternative?

Rachna: Let me make a distinction here. So I get the patients that are not looking to get addicted on opioids. So that’s one group of patients that are using it but they’re using it very cautiously. Then there are those that are actually addicted to opioids. So let’s start with the patient population that I see. Now based on research, again this was a research study that was done by Dr. Donald Abrams, he basically in his study, the results showed that marijuana helps to reduce the use of opioids in terms of dosing. The reason is is that marijuana enhances the effect of opioids.

Say you typically take two tablets of an opioid. By using it with marijuana you can get away with using just one tablet because that one tablet will be made more effective with the use of marijuana. Now what I’ve seen in my practices that’s definitely the case. There are patients that are able to significantly reduce the dose of the opioid that they’re on, but I’ve also found that there are patients that are able to come off of the opioids. Again they’re using the medical marijuana on an as needed basis. Now when it comes to addiction, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t treat in general a lot of patients that are addicted to drugs. I’m also a believer that I don’t think one substance should, if you’re addicted to a substance, I don’t think you should replace one substance with another substance because that’s still addiction in and of itself. So I can’t say much about that based on the experience that I’ve had.

Matthew: So we’ve talked a little bit about what cannabis is good at treating or is a helpful tool in your tool belt. Are there any symptoms where cannabis is not in your opinion been a good treatment option for patients?

Rachna: There are certain patient populations that I’m very cautious in recommending medical marijuana to. To start off with, any patient that’s had a history of psychotic episodes. The reason being one of the chemicals in marijuana, THC, has psychoactive properties, and if you take too much of it, it will cause hallucinations. So it makes these patients that have already had a history of psychotic episodes even more prone to getting other psychotic episodes because of that psychoactive effect of THC so that’s one population.

The second population is are my patients that have some sort of underlying heart condition. The reason being again marijuana can, if you overdo it, increase your heart rate. So you don’t want to put too much of a demand on the heart to the point where it could potentially stop beating. So that’s another population. In patients that have lung conditions, obviously they don’t want to be smoking or even vaping marijuana because it can exacerbate their underlying lung condition. Of course patients that are pregnant, that are breastfeeding, I tend to err on the side of caution with these patients. There are studies that go both ways. So there are studies that show that it has no impact on a growing baby, but then there are studies that also show that using marijuana while you’re pregnant can cause pre-term labor and delivery and also cause low birth weight as well. So those are the areas that I’m generally or those are the patients that I’m generally cautious in recommending medical marijuana to.

Matthew: So you mentioned smoking and vaping. I mean if the patient was going to do one or the other would you say hey vaping is a little less harmful or do you say look just don’t do any of them, skip that?

Rachna: It depends on what you’re vaping. There are concentrates that are extracted in solvents which I don’t recommend using. Because at this point we don’t have information on if there’s anything residual left over after the whole extraction process. We don’t know how many parts per million there are of that residue. Okay and if there are toxic levels of it, then it’s doing harm to your body. So overall I don’t generally recommend to my patients that they smoke marijuana. Long term it does do damage to the lungs. It does make you more prone to infections like chronic bronchitis for instance. Then vaping, as I said, I’m cautious about the concentrates.

Matthew: We’ve reached a really high level of autoimmune conditions or disorders. I want to ask you about that, but first can you just maybe rattle off a few autoimmune conditions and your opinion about why there’s so many autoimmune issues going on right now?

Rachna: Actually I’ve dealt with an autoimmune condition and that was hypothyroidism. For the longest time, I was diagnosed in my 20s and I had been on medications for the longest time, and in medical school they teach you that it’s lifelong condition. So about a couple of years ago I decided to stop eating sugar and try to eliminate as many carbs as possible in my diet. What that actually did was it reversed the autoimmune condition. My thyroid levels completely normalized and I’m now off the medication. So speaking from a personal experience, I can’t help but say that what you eat has a significant impact especially on autoimmune conditions.

Matthew: Okay yeah and autoimmune conditions often have an inflammation component with them. Why is that and is cannabis helpful in treating or helping the inflammation aspect of autoimmune conditions?

Rachna: Yeah so basically what an autoimmune condition is is that your body is attacking your own body. There is some sort of signaling that went awry and now your body is just attacking your own body. What happens is that attack process results in inflammation. Now the way marijuana sort of plays in is that marijuana does have anti-inflammatory properties and based on research in mice we know at a very cellular level what the marijuana is doing. So mainly it does three things. One is that it’s causing the death of the cells that are attacking your own body. The second is that the signaling that’s going on amongst these cells that are attacking your body the marijuana suppresses that signaling.

Now the third thing is is that marijuana activates T regulatory cells. This is a type of cell that we have in our body that ensures that the body doesn’t respond to chemicals that are signaling hey attack the body. So that’s how by affecting the cells that are attacking the body their communication process and then affecting T regulatory cells, this is how marijuana is reducing the inflammation that goes on. Specifically, clinically conditions that I’ve treated where there’s an autoimmune component to it those are psoriasis, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, so those are just some of the ones that I see very commonly.

Matthew: Okay. What’s your reaction from colleagues when you tell them you’re in the cannabis space? Does their facial expression change at all? I mean you’re in the Bay Area so people tend to be more familiar with cannabis out there, but is there any kind of wrinkled brows or anything like that?

Rachna: It’s really interesting because when I first started my practice in 2014, we’ve made a lot of progress since I would say 2014 onwards, but when I first started my practice. Typically what a doctor does when they start a practice is that you go around to other doctors to let them know that hey you’re in town and basically if they have patients that would benefit from the specialty that you practice and they refer patients to you and then if you have patients that would benefit from whatever they practice and you refer patients to them.

So I remember going to a variety of different specialists; neurologist, oncologists and just to let them know hey I’ve opened up this practice. I specialize in the area of medical marijuana and I basically got the door slammed in my face. Nobody was willing to meet with me. What’s really interesting is that now, this is now my third year of practice going on to my fourth year. I now actually get referrals from doctors that I’ve never even met before. So I think we’ve made a lot of progress in a span of a very short time. So I would say overall definitely the perception has changed. I realize that doctors in general tend to be conservative so I do have patients that still come to me and say hey I am a little concerned about telling my primary care doctor that I use marijuana for medical reasons. Then I’ve also had patients where they have told their doctor and it was met with a lot of that finger pointing like you shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing. So we still have a ways to go, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress.

Matthew: What about cancer? There’s a lot of people listening that have a friend or family member with cancer or they themselves have it and they’re wondering hey is a possible application for me.

Rachna: Sure so there are a couple aspects of cancer that the marijuana I found helps greatly with. So for anybody with cancer that’s undergoing chemotherapy they end up experiencing, as a side effect of the chemo, nausea, vomiting, complete loss of appetite. So those are areas where the medical marijuana helps greatly. It helps you reduce the nausea, gets them to stop vomiting, gets them eating again, and anybody who has used marijuana can speak to this because they’ve probably experienced the munchies at one point or another. So we know that it definitely stimulates appetite.

Now what I want to touch on is this whole sort of claim that’s going around, especially on the internet, that medical marijuana cures cancer. There is certainly research out there, preliminary research, in cell cultures in mice that does show that marijuana does have anti-cancer properties. It does fight cancer. Now we don’t know if this is the case in humans yet. We don’t have enough research number one, and secondly clinically I actually haven’t found that to be the case. I’ve seen quite a few, I’ve been doing this since 2012, so I’ve seen quite a few cancer patients and nobody has really come back to me and said hey Dr. Patel, the marijuana cured my cancer. So I think we have jumped the gun in coming to that conclusion. It very well may have the potential but we need more information at this point.

Matthew: In medical school do they talk about the endocannabinoid system or is that still something that’s just not really discussed in the medical community yet?

Rachna: Not at all. Marijuana is presented as a drug of abuse not as a clinical treatment. So no, we never learned about the endocannabinoid system. A lot of what I learned is based on just going to Pub Med and reading the journal articles that have been published on this. Of course what I learned in medical school helped tremendously the basic concepts that you learn, like for instance in pharmacology, biochemistry and whatnot, using those concepts. It helps you to sort of put all this information together, but no it’s definitely not taught. I mean I graduated medical school back in 2009 so it’s been a couple years and obviously we’ve made a lot of progress with medical marijuana itself as a treatment option so I don’t know currently if it’s taught at any medical schools.

Matthew: Was that kind of a strange moment for you when you realized hey I know all about the pulmonary and respiratory system. It’s like how can this whole system exist, and it’s like we don’t even talk about it or it’s not even acknowledged. It’s kind of a strange thing isn’t it?

Rachna: Yeah it is. I believe I read somewhere that it’s a system with the second highest number of receptors in the body. So it is definitely something that’s having a huge impact on the human body. I mean if there’s anybody out there listening who is a medical school faculty member or an administrator that I think I encourage them to make this a part of their curriculum.

Matthew: I want to ask you this quickly, your opinion on vaccinations because I’ve kind of been all over the spectrum in terms of vaccinations and if you question it at all you must be anti-science or you’re a quack. But then if you blindly take anything some drug company manufacturers is that responsible. So one thing I have been unable to reconcile is that there’s an additive in vaccines. Typically it’s called Thimerosal which is essentially mercury and we know mercury is a toxic additive in sufficient quantities. The EPA says that over 15 micrograms of mercury is a toxic dose and that yet most vaccinations today have 25 micrograms from what I’ve heard. I could be wrong about that. So I have kind of this how do I bridge that gap because if I don’t get a vaccination I’m crazy, I’m anti-science conspiracy theorist. At the same time I’m not saying vaccines themselves are bad but some of these additives may not be the most responsible thing to be putting in our body. Do you have any thoughts around that?

Rachna: You know honestly I haven’t really dove into the research about what you’re talking about so from a factual standpoint there’s not much I can say.

Matthew: Do you take any vaccines without reservation or do you have no concerns about it? I’m just wondering.

Rachna: I do take vaccines. Like for instance I mean a lot of it depends on exposure and whatnot, but here’s the thing. I’m somebody who’s traveled to countries like Africa and India and so it was definitely a necessity to get these vaccinations at some point in my life because the risk of exposure was high.

Matthew: Okay. What do you have to take to go to India and Africa? What kind of vaccinations did you get, yellow fever?

Rachna: Yep, yellow fever. They want to make sure your hepatitis vaccinations are up to date. I think those are the ones that I remember off the top of my head. There might be others, but I don’t recall.

Matthew: Okay. I like to ask guests a few personal development questions to help the audience get to know you a little bit better so I’m going to jump right in. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your way of thinking or has been a good lens into a learning opportunity for you that you would like to share with listeners?

Rachna: Yeah. So I don’t know if you’ve heard of this Hindu texted called the Bhagavad Gita.

Matthew: Yes.

Rachna: So I grew up with my father quoting that book. So I have learned so much about life from him just quoting it. An example that I can tell you about is one of the things that’s said in the book is don’t focus on the fruits of your labor, focus on the labor. I think that’s very relevant to American culture. We’re so goal oriented. So I remember growing up and even recently going to my dad. Just being an overachiever I would go to my dad and I would be like dad, I’m going to get a 4.0, and I remember him telling me just focus on learning the material. I remember when I opened up my practice I was like dad I’m going to be the best medical marijuana doctor there is and he said you know just focus on serving each patient and be grateful that that patient help you put food on your table. So he really kind of sort of just kind of pulls me back and reminds of what really matters at the end of the day. So a lot of what he’s telling me he’s learned from this book.

Matthew: Very nice. It’s kind of balancing the yin and the yang there, kind of hardcore goal setter versus kind of a spiritual path there.

Rachna: Yeah.

Matthew: Yeah I’ve had that book recommended before and the Dao De Jing which I’ve read and these are some huge spiritual texts out there now. Anything else that you heard from your dad, any other words of wisdom that would throw out occasionally?

Rachna: Yeah so growing up he told me this one story that always stay in thought in my head. So he told me that this woman went to Buddha and said it’s really unfair that I’m suffering so much in life. So the Buddha told her okay well here’s what I want you to do. Go to a house and find me some mustard seeds from a household that’s never suffered, and nobody in the household has ever suffered. So she goes around trying to find these seeds from a household from people that have never suffered, and she’s trying and tying and she’s unsuccessful so she goes to Buddha and she says I couldn’t find any seeds from a household that’s never suffered, and pretty much he was like well that’s your answer.

So I think the lesson my dad was trying to teach me is that struggles are important in life and they make you who you are. So that’s a story that’s always sort of stood out in my mind. I remember him telling this to me. I mean none of this made sense when I was five years old, ten years old, but now it’s like wow, I can’t believe I have this amazing person as my father that’s taught me so much.

Matthew: That’s great. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity?

Rachna: So you’re talking to a millennial. All of it is essential, but I mean even things as simple as Gmail. I’ve been using it for the past, I don’t know, 15 years now. So even Facebook, I mean I was an early adapter when it came to Facebook because I think what Mark Zuckerberg had initially done was that he only allowed access to certain colleges and I think he had started it in February of 2014. I remember reading about it in our college newspaper in April of 2014 and I was like this was interesting. So I joined. So I think that’s a hard question to ask to a millennial. It all at some point becomes crucial to your survival.

Matthew: Right. So would you say millennials are miscategorized sometimes. Obviously you’re employed, you went to medical school. So do you get frustrated when people say hey millennials are kind of like they don’t do anything because clearly you do.

Rachna: Yeah we do but we just do it in our own way. We don’t necessarily follow social norms. Yeah I’m a doctor, but I’m a medical marijuana doctor. So yeah.

Matthew: There’s something to the generation thing. I read a book called the Fourth Turning by a gentleman at a university that studies generations and there is a big impact on our world view and our outlook and how we relate to people just from our generation. Everybody including myself likes to think we’re a unique snowflake, but I’m a Gen Xer and there’s certain characteristics that I read about and I’m like holy I do relate to that and how did I pick these things up. They just kind of stick to you like gum on your shoe.

Rachna: Yeah totally.

Matthew: Hey in closing can you let listeners know how they can find you online and connect with you?

Rachna: Sure. A couple of different channels that they can connect with me. One is my website which is www.drrachnapatel.com. I won’t spell it out for you but I’m assuming you’re going to put it in your show notes because it’s long. Second is my YouTube channel. I’m always trying to put out information on commonly asked questions, conditions that can be treated by medical marijuana, conditions that can’t be treated by medical marijuana. That’s on my YouTube channel. Then thirdly I know there’s a lot of people with questions out there so every Wednesday on my Facebook page I have an Ask Me Anything Wednesday and you can post your questions in the comment section and I’ll either comment or if it’s a very common question, then I will do like a Facebook live answer to that question.

Matthew: Now can they ask you unrelated questions like what’s your spirit animal or does it have to be strictly related to cannabis and medical questions?

Rachna: It doesn’t have to be. They can ask me, I mean as long as there’s certain bounds, I mean some people kind of like take it to an extreme and that’s kind of weird. So as long as it doesn’t get weird it’s okay.

Matthew: Okay good to know. Alright, well Rachna thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today we really appreciate it.

Rachna: Yeah thank you for having me on your show. I appreciate it.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

The Founders of PenSimple Are Obsessed with Fresh Ground Cannabis Flower

pensimple

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Brian Seckel is the co-founder of PenSimple an innovative automated portable grinder.

Hear how Brian scratched his own itch and created PenSimple. From working at libraries to using his local townships 3D printer, this scrappy founder did whatever it took to make it work.

Key Takeaways:
[2:12] – What is PenSimple?
[2:34] – Brian’s background
[3:32] – The idea behind PenSimple
[4:38] – Co-founders complementary skillset
[7:03] – Brian talks about the software used to create PenSimple
[7:43] – How Brian and his co-founder Jessie work together
[9:15] – Does resin clog up PenSimple
[10:16] – Manufacturing process of PenSimple
[11:09] – Frustrations in developing PenSimple
[13:01] – Brian talks about his CanopyBoulder experience
[14:30] – Educating prospects on PenSimple
[17:03] – What condition herbs should be in before grinding
[17:56] – Brian’s advice to entrepreneurs
[19:46] – Brian talks about possible future PenSimple products
[20:31] – Brian answers some personal development questions
[22:16] – Brian talks about manufacturing overseas
[24:49] – Contact details for PenSimple

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Innovative entrepreneurs are creating new market segments in the cannabis space that didn’t exist before. One of those entrepreneurs is Brian Seckel, Co-founder of Jaeb Designs, the company behind PenSimple. We’re fortunate to have Brian on the show with us today. Brian, welcome to CannaInsider.

Brian: Thank you.

Matthew: Brian give listeners a sense of geography. Tell us where in the world you are today.

Brian: Yeah so we started Jaeb Designs and PenSimple in Ohio and we are now in Boulder, Colorado.

Matthew: Okay and I am in Destin, Florida today.

Brian: Sounds nice.

Matthew: It is nice. White sandy beaches, sunny. I’m not complaining. Brian, give us a high level overview of what PenSimple is.

Brian: Yeah so PenSimple is a grinder, storage device and dispensing device that is unlike anything else on the market right now. It’s a portable grinder that allows you to dispense your herbs at the simple push of a button wherever you want them to go.

Matthew: Where are you from originally and what’s your background prior to starting PenSimple?

Brian: Yeah so I’m from Ohio originally. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. I went to Miami University. My background is actually tech startups. I started my first company when I was 19. It was a collegiate Craigslist, sort of online hub for students to buy and sell amongst each other.

Matthew: Every any elicit substances on there like Silk Road?

Brian: Fortunately we were pretty heavy on our moderation and we ensured that everything that was on the site was above ground.

Matthew: Okay. What was the hottest selling item on there?

Brian: Furniture was really big. For seniors that were moving out and then sophomores and juniors that were just getting their first house. There was this marketplace where seniors were just throwing away their furniture and we opened up where they could then sell it to the younger students so that they could give it some life.

Matthew: Oh that’s great. What gave you the idea to start PenSimple and how did that happen?

Brian: So there are really a few drivers that push me towards making PenSimple. I mean the first is I wanted a grinder or something that wasn’t a one-hitter plus dugout that I could take golfing with me and use on the go. I was also finding that any time I was using my grinder I was ending up with sticky fingers because I had to pinch it from the grinder to the device. Then the final push towards PenSimple is when I spilled and lost a whole grinder’s worth of herbs and instead of spending that afternoon relaxing I then spent it trying to figure out how I could prevent that from ever happening again.

Matthew: Okay. So I can just picture like a distressed look on your face as you slowly watch your grinder fall. Nooooo. Okay. The disc golf, you didn’t want the sticky fingers. That all makes sense. Tell us about your co-founder. How did you meet him and how did you guys get together to start PenSimple?

Brian: Yes. So that worked out is we were actually random roommates our freshman year at Miami University. So I kind of had this idea. I knew I didn’t personally have the engineering skills to bring it to life. So I gave my good friend Jessie a call. We ended up living together actually all four years of our time at Miami University. He was a great mechanical engineer so I called him up. He saw the problems I was talking about and we agreed that we would move forward and just see if we could solve this problem.

Matthew: Okay. Tell me about the early days in Cincinnati developing PenSimple.

Brian: So I moved to Cincinnati to live with Jessie so we could live and work. I took a part-time job helping to run a before and after school program. I would spend my afternoons at the Cincinnati Public Library 3-D printing prototypes in their Maker Space. In the evening when Jessie was off work and we could work together we would then test and iterate at night, make a new 3-D file for the next day and then continue the process with very fast iteration speed.

Matthew: Okay. So how long does it take for a 3-D printer to actually print out a prototype for you?

Brian: Fortunately we were printing some small parts. I mean they would take anywhere from probably 10 minutes to 45 minutes to print. Any time we had some larger parts or like a full prototype, it would take probably about 2 to 3 hours to print a full one.

Matthew: How important do you think having access to a 3-D printer in the early days was to iterating this idea?

Brian: Having access to that 3-D printer really pushed us along. I don’t think we would be where we are today without this 3-D printer access we had. There really just isn’t a way to prototype as rapidly as you need to to make this kind of breakthrough. I mean we spent about 3 years testing different 3-D printed configurations, testing different designs and mechanisms and it really would not have been possible if we weren’t able to rapidly prototype using the 3-D printer.

Matthew: What kind of software did you use to create something like this and model it?

Brian: We are using AutoDesk Inventor right now. It’s one of the two big names in the space. My co-founder has used that in previous jobs and in schools and is very comfortable with it so we’ve been moving forward with that.

Matthew: Okay. So there’s design work and mechanical engineering. What is the best way to marry those two because they are really two different parts of the brain. One’s maybe left brain and one’s kind of right brain. Do you do more of the design or does your co-founder do that or do you guys just happen to have both the skills there?

Brian: So I mean I think this is where Jessie and I kind of make a really great team. He’s the sort of educated engineer. He knows about material properties and tolerance stackups and all of that. Whereas I am much more kind of ignorant on some of the design specifications and all that. So the way it kind of works is we both work together to kind of get our base design and decide how we want whatever feature it is working on to work. Then from there he’s able to use his sort of right brain to make it happen and problem solve through what we talked about at a higher level and turn it into a real product.

I think that it works great because with our different backgrounds and different knowledge levels it really allows us to sort of design for the lowest common denominator so we can make products that are really easy to use even if you don’t have a background in using a grinder or packing a bowl. We wanted to make a product that anyone could just sort of pick up and figure out how it worked.

Matthew: Now resin is a sticky substance that kind of gets on everything if you’re using paraphernalia of any kind, a bong or a grinder or a one-hitter. How does the resin get, does it clog up the device at all in any way?

Brian: so that was probably our biggest design challenge with PenSimple was the fact that we needed to be able to dispense very sticky herbs. So basically the way we designed the dispenser it has a lot of movement and activity that helps shake a lot of that sort of the trichomes or any of the sticky stuff off. We use coatings to really ensure that it’s able to dispense really no matter what herbs you’re throwing into it. Whether it’s Colorado or California or whatever you want to put through it, it will be able to handle it.

Matthew: Okay. How did you initially manufacture the prototypes beyond the 3-D printing at the library? What was the next step to bring this to an actual, physical prototype you could touch and it was working and operating besides getting the parts and sizes right?

Brian: Yes we used Chinese manufacturers for our initial prototypes’ runs. The way that kind of worked is we’ve probably done about four or five different Chinese made prototypes at this point. Really those were more to figure out the materials, just the exact feel and look of the product. So the 3-D printing gave us a very good functional prototypes, but then kind of moving over to the Chinese manufacturers in just a little bit more professional quality that we could then put into the hands of people and to use for promotional materials and such.

Matthew: Was there ever a time where you felt like you and your co-founder were really frustrated with the progress and you thought maybe this PenSimple thing might not work out, but you overcame the challenge in the end?

Brian: For sure. We had those a couple of times at least. I mean after our first year of development we initially had started with a manual push button dispenser and we found after a year that we could not make a manual push button dispenser that had the user experience we wanted to. Electronics was something we had no experience in and didn’t know much about but we decided at that point we needed to make it an electronic dispenser and we were able to sort of get over that hurdle by switching to electric and then we ran into a problem a year later when we found that the biggest motor we could fit in the pen was not strong enough for these sticky herbs and it was torquing out and causing a whole bunch of problems.

So we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to dispense electronically either, but then we were just able to mess with the design, do some more research into motors and we were able to design a dispenser that actually fit more motor inside than we thought we could and we were able to get the torque necessary to deal with these really sticky hers without any clogging or gumming up.

Matthew: Well that’s a great barrier to entry because people that are just like oh I’m going to throw a motor inside this cylinder and call it PenSimple cheap. They won’t be able to solve these problems as elegantly as you who obsessed over the details for years. So there’s some first mover advantage there for sure

Brian: Yeah I definitely agree with that. This is a very competitive space so really the higher barriers to entry you can have the better. So that technical barrier to entry is great. Now we’re sort of establishing a brand hopefully that will increase that even further.

Matthew: You were in the CanopyBoulder technology accelerator program. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about your experience there?

Brian: The CanopyBoulder accelerator for us was really an incredible experience. We were able to learn a ton about not only just the cannabis industry but just anything that you would need to know to get a strong business foundation in which to launch a startup. I mean I had some startup experience before and that helped, but the CanopyBoulder experience really kind of tied everything together and put us on a great foundation. It gave us a ton of knowledge and even better it connected us with the people that we needed to connect with to learn and to grow the business. We have a great lineup of advisors and mentors that Canopy connected with that have been incredible for our initial growth.

Matthew: So there’s a real challenge and opportunity when you’re creating a new market segment like you’re doing now in that you can have that first mover advantage and be first in a prospect’s mind when they understand what your product is, but they don’t have a category in their mind where they can neatly put this product so it requires education , and education is a friction point to getting a sale. So how do you surmount that challenge to educate prospects and get out in front of prospects so they become interested in PenSimple?

Brian: That is a really big challenge because for so long the idea of an her grinder has just been a multipiece hockey puck and it can be made of metal or acrylic or whatever, but pretty much if you say herb grinder the same sort of hockey puck image pops into somebody’s mind. So it has sort of definitely been tricky positioning the product as sort of a traditional herb grinder versus the dispenser and herb dispensing capabilities that we’re also offering. So sort of with our product positioning it’s been a very kind of touch balance between how much we want to be an herb grinder and then how much we can really push this new market and how much education is really required to get people understanding that there is this new market beyond just a grinder that can only grind.

Basically what we do at this point is we just have to ensure that we efficiently get our product benefits across to the consumers. If once we’re able to sort of establish in their minds why they would need the product, and that differs for all types of consumers, they really kind of understand and get it and their usual reaction is like oh my god I want that right now.

Matthew: Right. Actually the video on your website, to give you a plug there, is very good at that because what we’re talking about you might as a listener be thinking hey I can kind of conceptualize this but you did a really excellent job of framing what this is and showing what it is in a very simple way. Now the video on your website it’s like the grinder spits out perfect amounts in size of ground cannabis. I mean does it really look that picture perfect when it comes out or is it more variant?

Brian: So for our videos and all of our public facing things we have to use oregano and other more kitchen herbs so that we’re not having any actual cannabis in our promotions or advertising. That allows us a little bit more leeway in terms of marketing. But what it also allows us to do is still show exactly what the product does without breaking any laws in the process.

Matthew: Okay so any recommendations for someone that does go out and buy a PenSimple in terms of do you want it to be dry as possible or how do you want to the herb to be when you get it in there so it works ideally?

Brian: So I mean you obviously want the herb to be properly cured. If it’s not properly cured and is too wet, it won’t grind properly and then it will have a little bit more trouble dispensing. Really so long as the herb is properly cured. It doesn’t need to be super dry. It just can’t be not cured enough, but then it really can go through and deal with just about any herbs that are thrown at it.

Matthew: If there’s some entrepreneurs out there or founders that are thinking about starting something, they have an idea to scratch their own itch like you had and they’re on the fence whether they should start or not start, is there any words of wisdom you would give them about getting started or overcoming difficulties or just going forward?

Brian: Yeah I mean really the only thing you can do is start. I mean there’s no real substitute for actually doing it and actually getting things started. You can do some market research. You can do some competition research, but really until you’re actually going out there, finding, trying to build a team, trying to really cover your bases in terms of what you need to actually get this product to market, I would say just kind of getting out there and doing it is the only thing you can do.

Matthew: Yeah and solving a problem in my mind is usually always better than other forms of product creation because people are much more willing to throw money to solve a perceived problem in their mind so that’s always a good place to start is to solve a painful problem.

Brian: Yeah exactly. It does make things a lot easier when you’re able to propose a product to someone and they can kind of say oh well yeah I have this problem and that will solve it. It makes the sale much easier versus hey I can make your day slightly better. I can make a very small increase to your overall happiness levels, but really being able to put that product out there in front of them and say hey this will solve a problem you have. It may even solve multiple problems you have, really kind of gets their brain working and then they can start picturing themselves without having those problems and when they’re doing that, they’re sort of seeing the product in use which is what we want them to do.

Matthew: Now PenSimple is a young company but any thoughts about other products you want to create down the line or is it too early for that?

Brian: We definitely have some products in the pipeline behind PenSimple. They’re very sort of general at this point, but basically with all the sort of customer research and customer interviews we conducted with PenSimple we just hear about so many problems that people are having with the herb consumption experience. So basically we kind of want to follow up PenSimple with really just more products that solve these really basic problems in the herb consumption experience.

Matthew: Brian at this point in the interview I like to transition to some personal development questions to let the listeners get a better sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Brian: Yeah I mean really the one childhood book I can really remember that kind of inspired me was the Phantom Tollbooth. That was really a book that I loved as a child. It really got my creativity going. It really just kind of (20.49 unclear) this you’re on an adventure, make the most of the trip. Don’t just worry about where you’re going to end up, and I think that has been a really great book for me over the years.

Matthew: Very cool name too, Phantom Tollbooth. I’m going to go check that out. How about is there a tool web based or physical other than PenSimple that you love and consider totally invaluable to your day to day productivity?

Brian: I mean really there’s not just one. There’s just a lot of these tools to connect with different professionals and contractors and really just a whole set of tools that put a lot of power in the entrepreneur’s hand. So for example we use Upwork to connect with engineers and engineer contractors and Upcounsel to connect with lawyers. We use mfg.com for our manufacturing and really these sites are great because what they allow us to do is they allow us to post and say hey this is what we need and then a large amount of experts and people that can handle those requests then send us quotes and how much they can do for us and it gives us just a huge amount of choice between our engineers and our manufacturing that I can’t even imagine doing some of these things ten years ago without them.

Matthew: Yeah. What are some of the challenges when you’re doing manufacturing overseas? Any lessons learned there?

Brian: Really you just need to find somebody that you trust and can work with. We’ve had some problems with language barriers so having an overseas firm that has a very solid grasp of the English language and can understand get back to you very quickly is also very helpful. Really with overseas manufacturing what we found is just trying to minimize as many of the hurdles or communications has been the biggest help to us.

Matthew: And where is PenSimple and your company in terms of fundraising? Are you still seeking outside investment right now?

Brian: Yeah so we closed a $100,000 round a few months ago and that was to get the initial PenSimple product out into the market. We do plan on raising another round in about four to six months that will allow us to expand the PenSimple line further and then push through some of these other product lines we have on the backburner.

Matthew: And if there’s any investors listening that would like to participate in working with you on that, how can they reach you?

Brian: Yeah any investors that are interested, you can reach me at brian@getpensimple.com.

Matthew: Okay. And one more question before we close. I recently read an article about how the Midwest will have more technology startups than Silicon Valley in the next five years. You mentioned you’re from Columbus. There’s a lot of startups in Columbus. Is there anything you’re seeing or hearing about there that is inspiring you in terms of all the startups out there or is it still kind of in the incubation stage?

Brian: I mean while we were living out there, I mean especially in Cincinnati we were definitely seeing that they’re trying to increase their profile with startups and really just at the base of that it’s just having the resources that a startup needs to succeed, and I’ve seen that there’s been some sort of big venture funds that are now opening up. I believe there was a $300million fund that just opened up in Columbus. Really now that there is sort of more venture funding moving outside of the coast and towards the Midwest I think they can really grow that startup culture in the Midwest and I think that Ohio is very well-poised to do so.

Matthew: Yeah. Well Brian in closing, let listeners know how they can find you online.

Brian: You can find out more about PenSimple at www.getpensimple.com.

Matthew: Yeah and it sounds like you’re the guys that solve painful cannabis consumption problems. If people want to email you or Tweet you or contact you through your website and let you know the problems they’re having in consumption, would you welcome that?

Brian: Of course. If you have a problem consuming herbs, please let us know and if we’re not already looking into a solution for it, we will definitely start.

Matthew: Great. Well Brian thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. You have a really cool product with PenSimple and I wish you all the best.

Brian: Oh no thank you for having me so much, I enjoy listening to your podcast all the time.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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Dialing In Your Cannabis Experience with This Vaporizer Technology

mark-williams-firefly

Download Transcript >>

Key Takeaways:
[3:14] – What is Firefly?
[4:02] – Mark’s background
[5:00] – Mark explains the difference between smoking and vaporizing
[6:33] – Mark talks about his Co-founder and how they came up with Firefly
[17:21] – How temperature impacts vaporizing & terpenes
[22:10] – Mark talks about terpenes
[26:30] – Mark talks about some differences between Firefly and other vaporizers
[28:16] – How do you know when your flower is spent using a vaporizer
[30:22] – Mark talks about using concentrates in Firefly
[39:34] – Mark discusses the companion app that goes with Firefly
[41:30] – Mark’s personal Firefly settings
[51:17] – Mark answers some personal development questions
[56:32] – Firefly website and contact details

Mark Williams got started working as part of the Apple Computer design team working on customer experience. Mark leveraged his design expertise at Apple to develop The FireFly Vaporizer with his co-founder.

If you are interested in getting the most out of your flower or concentrates, this is an interview you can’t miss.

Learn More About The FireFly 2 Vaporizer
http://www.cannainsider.com/reviews/firefly-2-vaporizer/

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at  http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has a number of interesting attributes. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a hemp wellness chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience.

Valerie writes, “My ten year old Husky/Sheppard/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatibles. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect, but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding them to him. Before Treatibles Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking Treatibles he could leap around again.” Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatibles are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatibles can do for your pet, visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet. And get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Now here’s your program.

What happens when a former Apple designer turns his focus and attention on creating the most elegant, joyfully simple vaporizer on the market? We’re about to find out. We’re fortunate to have Mark Williams, Co-founder and CEO or Firefly on the show today. Mark, welcome to CannaInsider.

Mark: Thanks very much Matt. Nice to be with you.

Matthew: Mark, give listeners a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

Mark: I am in West Sonoma County California which is north of San Francisco by about two hours and located in the middle of a big coastal redwood forest.

Matthew: How nice. Got to say the weather there is idyllic. It seems like year round it’s between 70 and 80 in Sonoma County all year.

Mark: Oh gosh, that would be wonderful if that were so but it gets a little colder in the winter. It’s usually in about the 40s to 50s in the winter which I know for a lot of folks in the country would seem balmy, but it seems a little cold here.

Matthew: Oh gosh is that just in the woods or even out where the vineyards are and everything? Same?

Mark: It’s a little warmer where the vineyards are. One of our secrets in Sonoma County is we get a lot of rain in the winter because that’s what’s nourished the redwoods for so many millennia out here, but in between the rain and even when it’s cold outside if you are sitting in the sun, you can sit out in a t-shirt most of the year, at least for a couple of hours a day which is a real treat.

Matthew: Oh that’s great. Well tell us at a high level what Firefly is.

Mark: Firefly is a company. Now it used to just be a product. The product line is now a company because I work with lots of people I really enjoy working with who helps to communicate our vision to the world. The vision right now is around our product and what it can do for consumers. Specifically what it’s designed to do is offer a whole plant experience through inhaled vapor with essentially very little effort on the user’s part, but a whole lot of control and ability to customize their vapor so that it soothes what they want to accomplish.

Matthew: I mentioned your background at Apple. Can you give us some more detail about your background at Apple and in general?

Mark: Sure. My background at Apple was leading a design team that designed parts of the Mac OS10 desktop experience. At Apple we were called human interface designers. Other names for it in the industry, at different companies would be UX design or User Experience Design. I’ve also spent a lot of time doing what would be called just straight out product design. So when I think of my profession background leading up to creating the Firefly I think it could be sort of summarized as trying to design technology and experiences that were well-suited to human beings.

Matthew: Okay. That makes sense. Now before we dive into Firefly, can you provide a reminder about what the difference is between smoking and vaporizing?

Mark: Oh sure. Basically smoking is burning a material to basically aerosolize compounds in the material that you generally want to inhale. Unfortunately the act of combustion also releases a bunch of other chemicals in plants that are often undesirable as well as creating essentially little microscopic tiny hot embers that are also inhaled, and that’s basically what smoke is. Vaporizing on the other hand is heating up, as far as it applies to this context, is heating up plant material to the point where its desirable compounds are aerosolized basically because they turn from liquid or solid into gaseous form, and they can be inhaled but at a very controlled temperature point meaning that you don’t create a lot of the undesirable chemical byproducts of burning something at a higher temperature and maybe more importantly you actually don’t create any smoke because you’re not actually catching anything on fire.

So that’s sort of a long winded explanation. Basically to summarize, what it means is that you get the things out of the plant that you want to get out of the plant and you don’t create things that you don’t want to get out of the plant.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. Tell us a little bit about your Co-founder and how you met him and how you both came up with the idea for the Firefly.

Mark: Well we met socially through some good friends, actually who are cancer therapy researchers at a major biotech company here in the Bay Area. My wife and I were out at a post Burning Man event dancing with our friends, and our friends knew Sasha, saw him on the dance floor and said you guys need to meet, because Sasha comes from a development background as well. They were right because as soon as whatever song we were dancing to stopped we got into a conversation about designing stuff. It’s a mode of behavior I think or a mode of looking at the universe that is really almost impossible to turn off for people who have kind of been infected with that mean, but it’s a delightful thing.

So we got right into it. Thinking about what’s cool out there that was just recently designed, what have you done, what do you think the world needs. That conversation went on in an informal manner for I think about a year. We found that we had really good communication around designing stuff which was basically user focused. By sharing this kind of common perspective it became more obvious to us that we could probably design something together and have some success or at least that would be fun. So about a year and a half later we were sitting on my couch at my apartment in San Francisco and we were smoking. We were smoking a joint actually.

We both are physically active. I play ultimate Frisbee, and Sasha does a number of martial arts and I was over 40 at the time, just over 40 and Sasha was in his late 30s, and we both agreed that while we really loved cannabis and how it fit into our lives in a really positive way we really didn’t like the effects of smoking because we could feel it in our cardiovascular system. We thought hey, there’s got to be a better way. So then fast forward a couple of months. I had the experience in the interim to try a product called the Volcano Vaporizer. It was a real epiphany for me in that I could see right away how much better the vapor version of aerosolized cannabis fit into my life than the smoke version. At the same time I also saw how that product was one that was likely to be a real niche product and not one that many people could fit into their lives.

I don’t know if any of your listeners have one. They probably have but it’s basically a big giant hair dryer turned up on end with a big giant bag that gets filled up and it does a good job making vapor, but it’s a pretty esoteric experience and kind of a tough one to have around the house, especially when company comes over, much less your parents or your kids for that matter. So it seemed like there was an opening there to offer something more portable and smaller that a person could use in their house or take out with them. So we decided that we would start working on something like that, and hilariously thought to ourselves hey how hard could this be. As it turns out it was a lot harder than we thought, but really rewarding in that we’ve had to learn so much in order to get the first product out.

Then follow that up with learning just as much, if not more, from our customers with their experiences with the first product that we then plowed back into development for the second product which we just released this year, the Firefly 2, and I think if I could characterize it, I would say that it has been a really rewarding learning experience and continues to be. Basically I feel like a perpetual student of trying to achieve some ultimate product for people which of course nobody ever does, but it sure is fun and interesting to go along the way and do your best to fulfill that vision.

Matthew: With a bong or a pipe or even a joint many people are used to the huge cloud of smoke that you exhale after inhaling and they want to see that verification that hey I got a good hit here and that’s what the white smoke is, but with vaporizers and the Firefly in particular that’s not always something you see or is even desirable. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Mark: Thanks for that question Matt. Yes I would love to talk about that because actually it’s a really fundamental difference between smoking and vaporizing and important with people’s expectations going into the experience so it’s great to get to talk to it. Basically when you’re taking a hit off a joint or a bong or a pipe or what have you and you’re exhaling all that smoke you’re essentially exhaling burning embers that did not stick to your lungs. So that’s good, but essentially also aerosolized cannabinoids and terpenoids that did not stick to your lung surface.

Basically you could look at it as waste product. I don’t mean product wasted that’s been processed by your body so it has not been metabolized by you. It’s essentially you put so much into your lungs that your body was not able to absorb it and actually usually with smoke you have a physical reaction where your body feels this urge to expel it because your body is designed to expel stuff that is not comfortable for it. Usually basically people wind up expelling some large percentage of the material that they paid for and just inhaled so they keep maybe, I’m making up the numbers so this is for sake of discussion, maybe 20% of that stays in your body from a puff and then the 80% you exhale out. So it’s essentially like taking 80% or some large percent of the material that you just paid for and just throwing it in the trash instead of actually using it.

So that’s what a big exhalation of smoke its. We’re a visually dominant species of course so it makes complete sense that we look for that cue first and foremost because that’s our primary way of navigating the world and our environment so it makes sense. Once you get a little bit deeper into it you realize the better way to gauge it is with your body and your mind. Specifically, how does something make you feel a few minutes later or actually 30 seconds, 2 minutes later which is actually what you’re trying to achieve anyway. When you’re enjoying something that you’re smoking, whatever it is, the point of the inhalation is not to blow out waste product. It is to get the feelings from that plant that you just inhaled.

Fortunately we think that vaporizing allows people to focus on this a lot better because you exhale essentially a lot less waste product because you’re not bringing burning embers into your lungs therefore the body’s involuntary urge to exhale strongly isn’t nearly as strong with most vaporizers because you basically don’t have burning embers in your lungs. So basically with a vaporizer you can expect to get a lot less white cloud than you would with smoking. This is a great thing because it basically means that you’re wasting a lot less of your product. You’re getting better absorption of the aerosolized contents of the product sticking to your alveoli in your lungs and then becoming absorbed into your blood steam which is essentially what you’re trying to do when you’re either smoking or vaporizing.

With the Firefly in particular we know that people are looking, because people are coming from a model of smoking often, they look for something analogous, that cue as an indicator of success. This is part of the big user education that’s an ongoing thing for us. When a vaporizer is working correctly you should actually barely have anything visible at exhalation at all because that would indicate that you’re running at closer to 100% efficiency of absorption of the material that you just vaporized. So you can imagine that if you get 100% efficiency, you actually would have no visible exhalation. If you’re running at 10% efficiency, you would have a giant exhalation. Which one ultimately do people really want they think about it? They want to actually enjoy the product that they usually paid a decent amount of money for.

So what we try to tell people is sure dial up the heat as far as you want to get a big cloud so that you know that it’s working and then we recommend dialing it down to the point where feel the effects that you want to but you don’t see a lot of waste product in your exhalation because that means you’re basically more efficiently using your material.

Matthew: Okay so once you’re satisfied like hey this thing does work, here’s the white cloud. Let’s dial it down and see what the effects are. Why is that important to be able to control the temperature as far as getting the most out of your flower and all of its properties?

Mark: It’s important because the plant does not vaporize at a single temperature, specifically talking about cannabis. No plant vaporizes at a single temperature. They vaporize at lots of temperatures. For instance THCA turns into Delta 9 THC at a very low temperature. Between 200-300 Fahrenheit. Then Delta 9 THC is vaporized around, roughly speaking, 380 Fahrenheit. CBD at maybe 360, and depending upon which guide you reference, the terpenes have vaporization temperatures all the way from the 200 to 400 Fahrenheit. So the point being that there’s not a single temperature that makes for the perfect vaporization temperature to enjoy everything in a plant.

So thus it’s good to have different temperature settings on your device, but more important than that is actually the way each puff unfolds. So what I mean by that is you can imagine something that gets what I think of as a static temperature setting, and this is the way that most conduction based vaporizers work. You set it for some temperature, let’s say 400 degrees, and then you wait around for a while and after like a minute or whatever the time is, it says okay I’m ready and then you inhale and you’re inhaling vapor at 400 degrees. That’s fine, but what it means is that the volatile terpenes that vaporize down at 220 degrees or 300 degrees or some of the more volatile cannabinoids that change state like THCA into Delta 9 THC, down at low temperatures, they’ve either undergone a chemical change or have actually off gassed and are now gone.

So the point being that with static temperature setting you don’t get to enjoy the whole plant. You’re basically enjoying everything that ideally vaporizes at that 400 degree temperature, but not the whole plant. Whereas in contrast with the Firefly it’s designed basically to go from room temperature up to where your maximum set temperature is with each inhalation. So you can imagine as you’re starting to inhale that first second you’re down at 100 Fahrenheit. Second number two you’re at 150. Second number three, 200 Fahrenheit. We’ve designed it for about an 8-10 second inhalation or 8-12 second I would say with 10 seconds being the average. By the time you get to the end of your inhalation you’ve reached the maximum temperature.

So the advantage of this approach, which we call dynamic convection because dynamic means that it moves, it that you go passed the individual vaporization points of every single desirable substance on the plant. You’re basically boiling off that molecule at whatever temperature it boils off at and inhaling it just in time. That basically essentially conserves your material a lot better because you’re only vaporizing as you’re inhaling and it means that you’re not off gassing stuff before you even get to inhale it, and you’re also not creating secondary chemical reactions that lead to undesirable compounds. That’s a bit of a technical answer and believe me it’s a challenge to do the education with customers, but we’re doing our best to learn how to simplify it.

Essentially dynamic vaporization is a lot better way to offer a whole plant experience and entourage effects that people are looking for in cannabis than a static vaporization experience. Does that make sense.

Matthew: Yes that makes total sense. You’re using different temperatures gets different parts of the plant into your body and you can just kind of dial it up and get different benefits and you can get different cannabinoids and also while conserving your flower. That makes total sense. I haven’t heard it put quite as succinctly so that’s really good to know. Mark you mentioned terpenes and it’s kind of a buzz word flying around now and a lot of people are geeking out on it and diving into that subject, and for good reason. There’s a lot to know and understand about terpenes. Can you tell us why terpenes are important, how you think about them and what we should know about them?

Mark: Sure. Well a lot of what I know about terpenes and what a lot of folks know about terpenes is think is derived from the work of a gentleman named Dr. Ethan Russo. I’ve seen a number of his lectures and he has both compiled a lot of historical information around terpene usage across the entire plant kingdom as well as contributed in unique primary research on the way that terpenes can be applied to the human metabolism and also is quite up on general literature of studies done like that around the world. So I wanted to give a shout out to him and a big thank you to him for everything he is doing in the field of advancement.

Basically terpenes can be thought of as the flavor and aroma components that are inherent in plants. So one that some users might be familiar with is called limonene which both occurs in a lot of cannabis strains but also occurs lemons and limes. In fact that’s what gives lemons and limes their distinctive smell. You can think of it as like the lemon oil. Similarly pinene is what gives pine cones their smell and so forth. So there are many of these things that occur throughout the natural and that occur in cannabis and it’s thought that these terpenes are what create the entourage effect of cannabis. Meaning that the whole plant experience when you take in not just the cannabinoids but the terpenes that are co present with them that you achieve a different overall result in your body as a result of taking everything in together.

For instance one could use a strain of cannabis that has a particular THC level but has a lot of mercene in it and that would tend to have sedative type of effects. So it could be better for sleeping. One could take a cannabis strain that has the exact same amount of THC in it but doesn’t have any mercene but instead has limonene and one might find a more stimulating effect from that. In fact that’s what people generally are referring to when they say oh is it indica or sativa, which generally in our culture has come to mean is it going to make me awake or is it going to make me go to sleep. Those are due very largely to what terpenes are present with the cannabinoid. So one could think of them as things that work with the cannabinoids to create specific effects in our body.

There’s plenty of very easy to understand analogies out there right now. Herbal tea, when you drink an herbal tea that has a certain terpene mix that comes from chamomile and lavender for instance we tend to find it sedative and relaxing. Similarly when you enjoy those terpenes in a cannabinoid situation and linalool by the way is the terpene that occurs in lavender that also occurs in some cannabis strains, you’re going to find yourself having a more relaxing sedative type of experience. So one can think of them as things that basically they are not the engine of a cannabis experience, but they’re a little bit like the steering wheel. They help point it in a certain direction relative to the way that your body is processing it.

Matthew: That’s an interesting metaphor. So I can start to see why it’s very crucial to be able to control the heat of your vaporizer as to not destroy the terpenes or get the terpenes you want out of the plant, but also you alluded to a little bit earlier about how Firefly it only heats the plant as you’re inhaling. I take it that most of the other vaporizers out there do something different.

Mark: That is correct. That was our specific design goal was basically to offer the whole plant experience we call it. You can’t really do that with a conduction vaporizer because conduction vaporizers are too slow. They take a while to reach a set temperature then they stick at that set temperature because it’s like an old fashioned oven model. You have to heat up all the metal or the ceramic or whatever the bowl is that’s holding your material. You kind of have to heat that up and that takes a while. Whereas with a convection vaporizer, depending upon the style that you are using, the heat up and cool down is a lot faster which means that you can basically be heating up or cooling down during a single inhalation which is what the Firefly does.

So yes to answer your question, the Firefly works really fundamentally differently than any other vaporizer out there, even other convection vaporizers. For instance the (27.28 unclear) which by the way I think are good products, but they’re what I would term as static convection vaporizers meaning that they reach a set temperature and they just stick there so that when you’re inhaling you’re inhaling at that set temperature only. Whereas the Firefly in contrast is a dynamic convection vaporizer meaning that the temperature is changing as you’re inhaling which we think is a much better way to offer the whole plant experience.

Matthew: So with other vaporizers I’ve seen how do you know when the flower is spent. My kind of shorthand is if it smells like kind of a burnt popcorn kernel, if you put your nose to the flower, it’s probably spend, but I don’t really know. How do you know?

Mark: It’s kind of subjective. I gauge it certainly by vapor volume, by flavor to a degree but also visually. Really when it looks like the crumbs scraped off of some well done toast, not black, but a really dark brown and it’s reduced in size by a good 25 to 40 to 50 percent, then I tend to think it’s about done. A simpler way is, as it applies to our product, is okay how many puffs do you think are in a typical bowl, and if you fill up our bowl to the top, which is how we recommend using it and you take five puffs and then turn the material, give it stir and basically turn it over and take another five puffs, we think that ten puffs is about a bowl’s worth in the Firefly. Some people think that it’s seven and some people think that it’s 15 because it really depends on how long you’re inhaling for. I don’t think I have a very good answer for you Matt because I think it’s subjective.

Matthew: Sure, sure.

Mark: So I use a combination of flavor, vapor quantity and visual appearance and also volume because you can imagine that as you’re actually inhaling all the vapor and what used to be liquid in the plant then you are just left essentially with the cellulose material which is a lot less. So basically I just have what looks to be kind of darker brown cellulose that doesn’t really have any of the terpenes left. It doesn’t have any resinous quality left. It seems pretty dry. Essentially when it’s really dry that’s when you know that it’s pretty much done.

Matthew: Does Firefly work with concentrates just as easily as flower?

Mark: Yes. Thank you for asking. Yes indeed it does. The growth of concentrates have been amazing, but not surprising because certainly the economics of it makes sense because it was a way for growers to turn their trim into material that was as valuable as their flowers. So it totally makes sense from a grower’s perspective. In any case, without getting into why people like concentrates, the answer is yes. All you need to do is we include concentrate pads in the Firefly and they’re essentially little, very clean stainless pucks that are little brillo pad that you just stick right into the bowl and your can dab your material onto there or you can drip it depending upon the consistency, and you only need about a rice grain amount’s worth to put on that little sub-straight.

Then with our free app you can turn the temperature to concentrates temperature which is a maximum about 500 Fahrenheit which is a lot lower than the way that most other concentrate devices work, and it’s because you need a little more heat for concentrates but not as much as most people think because concentrates these days are often, in the way that they’re processed, are already decarboxylated, meaning that the THC acid or CBD acid has either been turn into Delta 9 THC or CBD respectively, and thus is bioavailable already. So all you really need to do is aerosolize the concentrate and it’s pretty much ready to be absorbed and metabolized without needing to be converted from one form to another due to heat.

So basically the upside of this is that you can enjoy concentrates at a lot lower temperature than people think they need to. For instance the folks who use really high temperature dabbing rates, when you use a blow torch to get a titanium nail up to some extremely high temperature like 900 degrees Celsius or 1500-1600 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s actually totally unnecessary. Really all it’s doing is burning your material. The cannabinoids and the terpenes that you’re looking to absorb into your body are actually available to your body at down around 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Matthew: Oh my god that’s a big difference. That’s a third or a fifth.

Mark: It’s a huge difference. It’s a huge difference. The big difference is that you can actually taste what a concentrate tastes like with the Firefly which is our big selling point for concentrates. In fact it seems like now that a whole lot of our users use it as much for concentrates as they do for flower because people have their own specific likes and the Firefly delivers concentrates with a flavor and sort of a preservation of the original material that I don’ think any other vaporizer can touch.

Matthew: Speaking of concentrates there’s a lot of people that say hey I like the concentrates that come from butane and others say CO2 is just as good. These might be the same people that say I like to listen to records on vinyl vs. CD. I don’t know how much of a big of a difference is there, but do you hear that often. Hey I like my concentrates that were extracted from butane and others that are saying CO2. Is that a thing?

Mark: It is. I think butane’s gotten a bad rap in that there are, well first of all the process is more dangerous in how it can be explosive, but that aside, assuming that you’ve got somebody who is doing things in a responsible way, butane and hexane leave very small residual amounts, very very small. Does that matter? Maybe, maybe not, but they do tend to preserve the terpenes in plants better than CO2 which essentially really wipes them right out. There are more advanced CO2 extraction methods which do terpene preservation where basically it’s partial, fractionated recapture of terpenes which then get added back in, but CO2 basically strips out all the terpenes. Whereas butane or hexane tend to preserve them more.

So just on their face, while butane and hexane might have some very small trace amounts of residual hydrocarbons, and I do mean very small and it really depends on of course the quality of the extractor. CO2 won’t have those which would be a thing in its advantage, but to its disadvantage it tends to just get the heavier molecules and wipes out the terpenes. So really the majority of CO2 extracted oils that are out there on the market, if they have any terpenes in them, they’ve been added back in after the fact by people who are essentially approximating what the original terpene balance was in the plant. So while CO2 might be technically a little cleaner it often basically has less information in it than other forms of extraction. One can look at it that way. In fact that’s how I how I look at it.

I look at the plant or an extract or whatever form of it as essentially information because that’s how your body looks at. Your body looks at it as information. There is undoubtedly a lot more information in a plant, in the flower of a plant than there is in an extract from that flower because the extract by definition is less. It’s less meaning that it doesn’t have the cellulose which you don’t really want anyway, but also often loses some of the more nuanced relationships between minor ingredients like terpenes which actually really matter. So that’s a bit of a tangent, but yes the extraction method does matter. One always needs to know that whatever extract they’re using it does contain less information than was originally present in the flower or the plant, which some people like.

Some people like the fact that for them they can feel a little “cleaner”. I think a more accurate way to put is that it can feel a little simpler. It’s like listening to a symphony and taking out the woodwind section and only hearing the strings. That’s maybe a more useful analogy.

Matthew: Yeah that’s good. So from a purist point of view they might say hey if I want to preserve as much as much of the integrity of the original organic terpene profile, first have a Firefly, have a concentrate pad in there. You’re burning it at a much lower temperature, a third or fifth of what a nail would be heated to with a blow torch and if possible it was butane extracted because then you know you’re getting the original profile as close as possible in concentrate form. If you choose to go the CO2 route, it’s probably more advantageous for the producer that you’re getting less of the original profile of the plant. Would you say that’s a good summary?

Mark: Yes I would say that with one small caveat being that it really matters to know your extractor, how good they are because I actually like butane extractions, but only by certain extractors who really really know how to purge those hydrocarbons out of the finished product. That is not the case for every extraction. So it’s case by case but if you have (39.02 unclear). I personally think, and this is just a personal opinion, that they tend to be more flavorful and fully featured than CO2 extractions, but a lot of CO2 extractions really depend upon the skill of reintegration of terpenes by the particular extractors. So really I would say it comes down to the quality of the people doing the extraction.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. That’s fair. Tell us a little bit about the companion app that goes with the Firefly.

Mark: Sure it’s available for IoS or for Android. The primary function is that it lets you set different temperatures so different sort of maximum temperatures for the Firefly, but it also allows you to sort of change how you get to those temperatures. A simple way to look at it is that you can set a max temperature for let’s say 400 degrees and that you get there over the course of let’s say ten seconds. We also have a feature in there that’s more than just the max temperature. We call it power tuning, but its effect is how fast you get to that max temperature. So instead of getting there in 10 seconds you can get there in five seconds.

With the Firefly and the app essentially what we designed it to do is not just control temperature but allow you to customize how your experience unfolds which is a whole other level of nuance and sophistication that our users really appreciate because as it turns out not everybody wants their vaporizer to work exactly the same. Most people actually want it to work differently than anybody else’s and so what we’re doing is we’re learning how to provide just more customization options so that any user can basically dial it in to be exactly the experience that they want, and that’s what we’re basically in continual pursuit of that Matt is how do we make it flexible in a way that people understand and is simple enough to use that allows them to customize the experience to exactly what they’re looking for.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. Let’s get into a specific example. How do you use your Firefly or how do you adjust the settings to get your kind of unique snowflake type of inhalation?

Mark: Well it depends on if I’m using flower or concentrate. I actually like it a little cooler than most people so I’m usually on medium/high which is our default setting which is about a 400 degree max temperature. I’ve actually turned my power tuning down a little bit depending upon if I want to focus more on terpene enjoyment. Our power tuning basically has percentages from 89 to 111% with the factory setting being 100 percent. I turn mine down to 98 because that gives me just a slightly longer hit which I like that focuses a little bit more enjoyment on the terpenes. So it basically just let’s me really get into the flavor of different strains because we’re so fortunate living in California that we actually get to have access to all these incredible products that so many great growers from around the state are producing.

So I’ve sort of dialed my Firefly into that, but I’ve also for demo purposes dialed Firefly to that same medium/high where I turn power tuning to 107% it means that that hit comes on a lot sooner. Instead of unfolding over 12 seconds, it unfolds over 5 seconds. While that isn’t the way that I want to enjoy it, it’s a great way to demo it to people who are having their first experience because it gives them that feedback that you were talking about that’s so important really soon, and they have a big exhalation and they go oh wow that was amazing. Then that’s a great point of departure to allow people to then start to dial it down to something that maybe gives a more full spectrum offering of the plant. Does that make sense?

Matthew: Yeah that makes perfect sense. What if you want to go out on the ultimate Frisbee field and be LeBron James of ultimate Frisbee, what do you dial into for that?

Mark: Well I dial the way back machine to be about 15 years younger.

Matthew: That’s how to do it right there.

Mark: First and foremost.

Matthew: That might be a psilocybin we’re talking about.

Mark: In micro dosing heck yeah that would be fantastic.

Matthew: Okay. That’s actually becoming quite a thing out there in Northern California is the micro dosing of psilocybin for creativity, breaking up monotony, doing a lot of things. By the way I’m not recommending this to anybody, but I mean have you heard about this people micro dosing for creativity and work to be clear not to have a full psychedelic experience but just for different reasons allowing them to work in a different way and still be functional.

Mark: Yes I’ve heard about it. I actually study it fairly deeply.

Matthew: How good.

Mark: Basically because I’m a believer in it. I forget who said this, probably somebody from ancient Greece, but the difference between medicine and a poison is the dose. One can carry that a little bit further and say the difference between a medicine that has really pronounced effects and a medicine that has really subtle effects is also the dose.

Matthew: Right.

Mark: And that’s actually one of the ways that I use cannabis that I want to put out there to your audience that the Firefly is really ideal for micro dosing in that you can take a very small two or three second inhalation and just get a little bit which gives you essentially incredible titration ability which basically means how much you dilute it in air. It basically let’s you get exactly the effect that you want because the worst thing is having too much of any drug, whether it’s alcohol or cannabis or psilocybin or god knows any number of pharmaceutical opiates for instance. The worst thing is having too much.

It’s great to have too little because then you can always add a little bit more in a way that’s safe and responsible and that you have enough time really gauge the effect of. So I’m a huge believer in micro dosing in general and I believe one can think that we actually micro dose ourselves with food and drink every day, tiny amounts of magnesium in this particular plant for instance one can think of taking in micro dosing of certain minerals or what have you or vitamins. So extending that concept from things we ingest through food to things that we normally think of as just being psychoactive I think is a great sort of extension of that concept and we can learn how those things are applicable in our lives, if they are. I’m not saying that they are and I’m not recommending to anybody that they do it, but for those who are on that journey I think what they’re finding is that there can be a place for responsible very small amount usage that is below the threshold of any sort of experience that changes your perception of reality but gives you a slight effect like wow I focus a little better for a few hours.

A lot of the things that essentially are pharmaceuticals are designed to offer, I think, and people are finding that with micro dosing various substances they might get similar effects with a lot less of the metabolic byproducts that are undesirable.

Matthew: Yeah there’s so much to talk about in that field. Psilocybin the mushrooms and also MDMA. There are so many different fields of research there that there’s a lot of promise on what it can bring into the human domain in the future. So that’s an intensely exciting topic.

Mark: May I say just a little bit more about that Matt?

Matthew: Sure please.

Mark: I find it so exciting because it really also opens up what is inherently a more responsible and rational dialogue at the national level about it because for instance you’re testifying in front of Congress in some hypothetical situation about micro dosing psilocybin mushrooms which our federal government says oh this is dangerous. It has no medical use. It’s horrible. It’s the worst thing ever. We’re going to throw you in jail because you’re using it because it makes you think out of the box that we would like you to think for instance. It potentially causes some destabilizing effects on society. All of a sudden if now you’re reframing that discussing saying well I’m taking below what is termed a psychoactive dose. It’s not affecting my ability to communicate or do anything in the default world, and here’s what I think the benefits are to me without there being any obvious disadvantages to society, then it’s a different conversation entirely.

I think it’s really responsible and then all of a sudden you can have a conversation on the merits on the actual experience itself rather than all the dogma that stems from sort of puritanical heritage of being afraid of the experiences that we have, especially when it comes to things that change our fundamental perceptions. So I love the fact that the discussion is happening because it’s impossible to approach it dogmatically anymore. Nancy Regan, Just Say No, this is say no to drugs. This is the worst thing ever. You can have that if you’re talking about micro dosing because you’re not bringing on the psychoactive effects that the government is afraid of at that point which means that you’re having a totally different conversation about what the actual experience is rather than the hypothetical feared experience.

Matthew: Great points. Great points. So much stuff going on there. I love it. I believe Tim Ferris, the Four Hour Work Week author is funding a psychedelics research project at John Hopkins University in Maryland to see if they can document some of the benefits and then use that research to move the conversation forward.

Mark: Good for him. That’s fantastic to hear.

Matthew: Yeah. Mark I want to ask a couple of personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life that you would like to share with CannaInsider listeners?

Mark: Thanks for asking. Yeah, by the way when I was doing my prep I saw this at the end and I was like wow how cool that you’re asking that. It’s a real privilege to get to share one’s perspective so yes. There’s a lot of them. One in particular that jumps out is called The Book by a gentleman philosopher named Alan Watts, and it had a really profound impact on my life because I’ve been interested in personal develop in better understanding my place in the universe, for lack of a better term, spiritual development, but not necessarily perspective of any one tradition and isolation. I’m really interested in how we can learn from all traditions and even in fact learn from things that aren’t captured by any traditions.

So I thought that his book called The Book, which the subtitle is On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, for me was tremendously eye-opening and really added to a greatly sort of expanded idea of self and my place in the universe in a really healthy way. So that one I can recommend to anybody. It can definitely cause some alteration in one’s belief system as it did for me, but I found that largely to be a really positive thing. It doesn’t not require that you believe in anything. There’s nothing to do with that. It’s just maybe a broader way of looking at the universe and your place in it. So that’s one that I can highly recommend to people. It made a big positive impact on my life.

Matthew: Well that’s easy to remember, The Book, by Alan Watts. Great. Is there a tool other than the Firefly, web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity that you can’t imagine living without?

Mark: Wow let’s see here. I can kind of imagine living without any really.

Matthew: Society won’t let you though.

Mark: Exactly, it’s so true. I mean certainly my phone I think as much as anything. I know that that’s not a particular interesting answer, but it’s probably the best one I can give just given that we’ve become so reliant on it as our extension of our brain, our external brain, but more so just the connectivity. I mean for people who are younger they might not have a frame of reference but my gosh the connectivity that we have now compared to 30 years ago is just mind blowing. It’s incredible how all of a sudden it’s like we’re now part of a neuronet that is many billions of neurons connected with literally a latency of a couple seconds to make a text or a call or an email or what have you or Tweet or blah, blah.

Matthew: It is.

Mark: And we weren’t able to sort of self-assemble into these neuronets with anywhere near the amount of speed or completeness of scope just a few decades and now we can and it’s amazing to me because who knows what exactly is emerging over the next few decades but definitely something different is emerging and it’s pretty fascinating. It feels like being sort of at the cusp of a formation of being part of a world brain and it’s darn cool.

Matthew: Yeah good points.

Mark: I would say my phone a tool, but also my micro screwdriver set and my digital calipers which I use to measure really small parts because actually I’m still involved with the technical details of everything we do. So my micro screwdriver set which has all the different screw heads, bits and everything and they always try to take it away from me in the Hong Kong airport but I don’t let them. Yeah those things. Also of course my multimeter which is a really good one. It lets me test resistance and voltage and amperage and all manner of things electric. Basically my little micro mechanical and micro electrical tools I’d say are things that I can’t conceive of being without.

Matthew: Excellent. Well Mark as we close can you tell listeners how they can learn more about a Firefly and how to buy one if they’re interested?

Mark: Well thanks yes. You can buy the Firefly at lots of smoke shops around the country or dispensaries in the states where those apply. You can buy it through our Vape World or a number of other partners online, but we prefer if you buy it through us of course because that’s how we make the most money and we sure do appreciate people who choose to do that. The website you can buy it directly from us at www.thefirefly.com. We have basically a lot of the information I’ve talked about as well as other information on the website so people with questions can usually get answers to anything. If anyone who is interested in looking, please stop by and take a peak and I thank anyone in advance for their time and interest in what we’re doing.

Matthew: Mark thanks so much for joining us on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it and good luck with you and everything with the Firefly.

Mark: Thanks so much Matt. It’s been a real pleasure to talk to you and thanks very much for having us on your show. I really appreciate it.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Enjoying CBD in your Coffee?

native jack cbd coffee

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Jason Walsh is co-founder of NativeJack a cold-brewed nitro coffee with CBD. Learn how this food scientist is using his family’s unique recipe to get his coffee on grocery store shelves.

Key Takeaways:
[2:15] – What is Native Jack
[2:31] – Jason talks about how he got into the cannabis space
[4:34] – Jason talks about getting the ingredients right
[6:21] – Jason explains where the name Yummari came from
[7:16] – Jason discusses putting nitro in coffee
[9:05] – The reason some nitro cold brew coffee tastes sour
[10:15] – The ingredients in Native Jack
[10:49] – Jason discusses how he sources his CBD
[14:37] – Jason talks about the hemp market in Colorado
[15:21] – Where is Native Jack sold
[16:45] – What are grocery stores looking for
[18:36] – Letting customers know there’s CBD in the coffee
[20:39] – Jason discusses the manufacturing process
[22:02] – Jason answers some personal development questions
[30:45] – Investment opportunities for Native Jack
[31:39] – Native Jack contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

The cannabis conversation is moving out of dispensaries and on to store shelves. I am pleased to welcome Jason Walsh co-founder of Native Jack CBD Coffee onto the show today to tell us all about bringing cannabis and hemp derived products on to grocery store shelves. Jason, welcome to CannaInsider.

Jason: Yeah thank you for having me.

Matthew: Jason give us sense of geography. Where are you today in the world?

Jason: I am in Boulder, Colorado.

Matthew: Okay, and are you originally a Boulder native or where are you from originally?

Jason: No, I am a transplant. So I am from the New York City area. I recently moved to Boulder it will be three years this April.

Matthew: Okay. What’s Native Jack at a high level?

Jason: Native Jack is a nitrogen cold brewed coffee that meets the benefits of CBD oils infused into its product.

Matthew: Okay, and what’s your background? How did you get into the cannabis space and start Native Jack?

Jason: I guess my journey probably started some time in the early 2000s when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a graphic designer. So my role was to help the sales team really pitch the products and the new drugs coming onto the market. So I got to gain a big experience learning about types of new molecules that were coming to the market and how they were being presented to customers. After I had my time in the pharmaceutical experience which was great, I really thought about other products in the food category that could be beneficial to consumers just like medicine is as well.

So I researched a ton of different seeds; chia seeds, hemp seeds, hemp hearts and I understood there was great molecules that were undiscovered in these seeds. I thought well if could make a great product that had medical benefits that maybe weren’t tested by the FDA but were understood to be beneficial, I could really start developing great products. From there I quit the pharmaceutical space and launched my first company Yummari which is a hemp derived energy bar and then after six years of running that we were fortunately sold to a larger company here in Boulder and during that time I was experimenting with cold brewed coffees and trying to understand how I can incorporate different levels of benefits into coffee and the help plant again came to my forefront of thought and how can I do this and I guess Native Jack was born out of all these progressions of learning throughout the year.

Matthew: When you were developing the Yummari bar how do you create a formulation that tastes great, has shelf life and then get the distribution for it because it seems like there’s a lot of people that may be able to create a great bar but they don’t get the other components right. Is there any words of wisdom there?

Jason: Yeah you’ve got to be 100% in. So my wife and I worked corporate jobs for just about a year and a half while Yummari was getting launched and we were doing about 120 hours per week and the bulk of that, 60 hours, was basically just into this one food company, the Yummari product, and we were not getting paid. It was something that we wanted and felt passionate about and that I think is an ingredient that most entrepreneurs overlook. How many dark days you’re going to have, how isolating it can be because it’s just going to be you, the product and whoever you’re working with for a long period of time. You’re not going to get a lot of congratulations and way to go.

This is something that you’re going to be buried into and basically your passion is going to get you through those dark times and you have to believe that what you’re doing is necessary and it’s something that you want to really follow and I think that is overlooked by a lot of people thinking they can just jump into the food business and not really understanding it takes a lot of hours and time. If you enjoy it, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you hate it, those early mornings where you’re producing and then you’re selling that afternoon and then you go home and clean up so you’re really not having any breaks or down time or you’re not taking long sleeps anymore, but at the end of the day if you feel this is something that you want to have people experience, it’s definitely worth it. I think it’s a big lesson I’ve learned.

Matthew: So looking at how you spelled Yummari, Y-U-M-M-A-R-I, was it on purpose that the first three letters make the word yum? So kind of set the stage like this tastes good.

Jason: Yes so Yummari actually comes from the tribe of runners in the Copper Canyon in New Mexico. Yummari is a dance to the native culture in the Copper Canyon. They’re called the Raramuri Tribe. They’re known for their long distance of running. So Yumari is their dance for good luck. I was inspired by their culture because of their healthy eating habits and they’re able to run long distances. We incorporated the second “m” into that word to really make it our own and kind of acknowledge that we have this connection to their tribe and respect for their food.

Matthew: Interesting. Let’s talk about cold brew coffee. Nitro coffee is really just getting started in a lot of places but can you describe what nitro is and why people are putting it in coffee?

Jason: Sure. So nitro coffee adds a really great benefit of taste and flavor and texture to coffee. So cold brewed coffee I feel is kind of the first generation that kind of broke out of the standard model, went into the cans and glasses that we see on the shelves at Whole Food. I think nitrogen is the next evolution of coffee where you can actually have this great tasting coffee with silky textures, the nice smooth taste to it. So it just adds another benefit without adding calories or sugar content.

Matthew: Yeah, the head on the cold brew coffee is like a Guinness and that’s what it looks like and kind of tastes like. I have to admit that I’m really in love with nitro coffee, but I haven’t tried the CBD coffee yet. I see all the coffee shops with the taps now. They’re starting to spring up. At first you’re thinking is this beer. What are they having there? When you see a tap now in a café it’s typically because they have a cold brew there that they’re serving of some kind. A lot of times it has nitro in it, but I find that at least half of the ones I try in cafes or coffee shops stink like they’re sour or there’s something going on and then I go to another one and they’re excellent. I was like why is there such a huge disparity between the excellent cold brew nitro and then this crappy stuff? I take a sip and then I have to throw it away. I mean it’s really not good at all. What would you say the reason is there?

Jason: Well I’ve experienced that as well and I was kind of baffled to where the sourness came from and I kind of figured out and learned that it’s actually if the baristas at these coffee shops are not using a properly mixed gas, if they’re using a beer gas which is part CO2 and nitrogen, they will get a sourness to their coffee because the CO2 will incorporate into the coffee faster than nitrogen and spoil the coffee. I would always ask if it’s a clean nitrogen, if it’s 100% nitrogen you should be fine. There should be no issue with it, but if they’re using a beer mixture which is a combination of two gases, the CO2 again will leech into the coffee. It doesn’t ruin the quality. It just ruins the taste. How about that?

Matthew: Okay so there should be no CO2, there should just be nitro?

Jason: Yeah 100% nitrogen. That’s all they should use.

Matthew: Okay that’s good to know.

Jason: Yeah it’s important.

Matthew: So Native Jack has nitro in it and CBD. Can you describe the ingredients in there so we can get a sense?

Jason: Yeah so the first launch of our beverage line is Native Jack and that’s a Thai cold brewed coffee. So this is a Thai coffee if people are familiar with that style. It’s a sweetened condensed milk, cardamom spices, almond extract is something I’ve added to it. Then we use the hemp plant oils. So all that incorporated we have this nice Thai cold brewed coffee that has great benefits of the hemp plant oils.

Matthew: How do you source your CBD?

Jason: I have a local farmer here in Boulder that sources it from Europe. So he has two options. If you want to do local Colorado hemp, obviously I can’t use that hemp because I want to sell this so I bring this across state lines. It has to be European hemp and then from there he actually takes the hemp in the raw form and does his extractions in his facility.

Matthew: There’s a certain amount of THC in hemp but does this satisfy the threshold so it’s legal in all 50 states? Can you tell us about that?

Jason: Yeah so the threshold is .3% so it’s very low. He tests his own batch sheets and he’s been recently getting where his CBD has actually had 0%. This is the first time he said he ever really gotten this low but I think he’s been really developing this method to really protect his customers from any type of litigation from the FDA. So his CBD is high quality and it’s a very low or zero THC and well under the federal allowance of .3%.

Matthew: How much CBD is in each can?

Jason: So it’s 15mg of CBD per can.

Matthew: Okay how does that relate to what people would consider a normal adult dose?

Jason: So under CBD the dosage really varies from 50-100mg a day. It’s really up to the consumer to determine how much is necessary. So the part of the 15 is really just a part of their daily routine. So if they’re doing let’s say 100, they can say alright I’m having maybe two cans a day I’m already at 30 and then I have pills and some supplements that have CBD. So it’s part of their daily routine or their weekly habit of incorporating CBD.

Matthew: Now I recognize the CBD oil taste, but how do you incorporate the CBD oil into the Native Jack can? Do you taste it or do you don’t taste it? How does that work?

Jason: I try to mask it out as much as possible. I think with new users and consumers if they did taste the CBD flavor, they may be off put by thinking maybe the coffee is bad or the dairy went bad. So I use with the condensed milk, since CBD is a bitter product, the best way to mask out bitterness is with sugar and that’s where the condensed milk comes in. It works together with the CBD bringing down the bitterness and kind of leveling it out.

Matthew: Okay I’ve had Vietnamese coffee before and it has condensed milk in it and so the Thai coffee is a little bit more of a spicy coffee would you say?

Jason: Yeah it adds cardamom is the Thai version of the Vietnamese coffee. That’s the biggest difference and cardamom is great for inflammation properties. It has a lot of benefit that I like. I’m part Thai. So my mother grew up in Thailand and we had Thai coffee as a kid all the time. It was more like a dessert and when I was thinking about flavors I was like this could be interesting to incorporate a specialty coffee into a can and it’s not a black coffee on the market. It’s something different.

Matthew: What’s the help market like in Colorado? Is it starting to mature more? I haven’t got an update in a little while. You’re closer to it. What would you say about it?

Jason: I would say it’s pretty much like the whole country. Misinformation is the biggest thing I deal with. People not understanding when they say medical marijuana and CBD hemp they often combine the two and I say once you say marijuana that’s when you’re drawing the line and saying it’s not marijuana. This is hemp. Once you get that out of the people’s minds of how they confuse the two is a challenge and it takes a long conversation to say two different plants for different reasons. One is CBD, one is THC and then go on from there to explain the differences and why this is legal to sell in all 50 states.

Matthew: Where are you selling Native Jack now?

Jason: Right now I did a few test runs or sales in a few grocery stores in Boulder. So it was the first production run we did and it went extremely well and now we’re doing a second production run to kind of improve the actual texture of the coffee and that should go back on shelves into alfalfa stores and Whole Foods here is interested in bringing it in as well, hopefully. I have a call with them in November but it looks promising. I have to say anything can happen. At the last minute they could say no we’re going to move a different direction and not bring in the coffee, but at least I have a meeting so that’s always a positive. We launched on Amazon about a week and a half ago.

Matthew: Okay and do you sell on your website as well?

Jason: Yeah direct to consumers. So both pricing models on Amazon and my site are very competitive. I try to give a little bit better pricing on my site, but with Amazon you get free shipping so there’s kind of a tradeoff.

Matthew: Okay. How do you figure out what the buyers from grocery stores care abouts are? I mean obviously they want the product to sell but what are their other care abouts that you try to address so they help get Native Jack on the shelves?

Jason: Well most of the grocery national stores that I’m selling into have a banned ingredient list and you can look that up on the Whole Foods website, any local grocer will have say you can’t have these ingredients in our store. So that’s a big check box. If I produce this product, I want to make sure I follow the guidelines of let’s Whole Foods is like the master guideline. You can construct a lot of your recipes and guide yourself through the process developing products if you follow their method in how they like things incorporated. And too they like to have local companies in so it helps to be in Colorado and I want to sell in Colorado and then they really like the story of where this product came from and how it helps people and who actually the owners are.

I think the last one is if you can support the brand. So you go there into the store and demo the product, discuss any type of questions you have with consumers and help them feel more comfortable about the product. Again since this is coffee it’s a little bit different from the market. There were a lot of questions that initially came in asking different types like how can you sell this, will I get drug tested. So I’m there to really calm people down and educate them at the same time. If you work with them, so all those components together, right ingredients, supporting the brand and having a story to sell to the buyer, you should be good to sell.

Matthew: Okay. People are looking at cans of coffee on the shelves. How do you quickly display to them that there is CBD in this coffee? Do you make that larger somehow? How do you get that across when they’re just glancing?

Jason: I really call it hemp because not everyone knows what CBD is. So I call it as a hemp plant oil. One, I think just the term hemp gets people interested. Wow, this is hemp and then they dig a little deeper and they can read about the benefits. So I don’t hit them over the head with new terms that might take a little longer for them to digest, but if I say this is a nitro, my label is a nitro hemp coffee. And if (19.08 unclear) just a cold brew black coffee right there I’m a little bit different. I’m a little more interesting and they can pick it up. Most consumers understand what hemp, but they don’t get the finer points and that’s why I try to be a little broad with my labeling.

Matthew: Yeah you hit on something there. More unique, that’s back to having a unique selling proposition. I get emails all the time from listeners that are creating kind of a “me too” product and I try to encourage them. Do something different here or else you have no special sauce. So you’ve got the hemp infused nitro coffee plus the cardamom flavors that’s unique in a few different ways. So I think that’s compelling.

Jason: Yeah, no, I think the more you can offer a consumer within a category that’s been understood, so coffee obviously is a huge category. If you go to Starbucks people are putting spices on their coffee, whip cream. So people do like combinations of flavors in their coffee. Not everyone loves black, bitter coffee. I prefer it black myself, but I understand that 90% of the country is into flavored style coffees and this is something that is it better for you product and it has different options as well.

Matthew: What is it like producing a drink like this on a commercial scale? Do you have a machine to do this or contract partners? How does that work?

Jason: It’s kind of a mixture of two. I am considered I guess the brew master for the coffee line. So I have a facility where I can produce about 600 cans at each run which isn’t a huge production. It’s a good start. Then after it’s been produced I have a mobile canning company meet me at my facility and they actually hook up all my kegs onto their canning line and they actually fill cans for me. So it’s a two-part operation.

Matthew: Wow that’s pretty clever. Clever business on their part as well.

Jason: Yeah because it helps me with overhead. I don’t have to spend money investing in equipment but I can lease it from them technically for a few hours and they will can everything perfectly and I know I have a safe can on the market. It’s clean and I can go out and sell it.

Matthew: How long does it take when the mobile canner arrives to get 600 done?

Jason: Just roughly under three hours depending on how efficient everything is.

Matthew: Very good.

Jason: Yeah not a lot of time.

Matthew: Jason I like to ask some personal development questions to give listeners a sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Jason: Yeah I think there are a few books. I’m a big fan of nonfiction. I read a lot of biographies of people from the past. I read from Jefferson to basically all the founding fathers. I kind of respect them. I’ve read all their bios. Currently I read the Mark Cuban bio and Sam Walton for Walmart. I think that’s a great one. That kind of really changed the way I thought about a lot of different things because everyone knows the Walton family being the richest family I think in the world. Sam Walton, he came from nothing and he started his empire of really trying to get pricing and be more efficient in helping the end consumer. So I thought his book is great.

A few of them I recommend to anyone starting out is one that’s called the Myth of the Robber Barons and they talk about basically the capitalist families in the early part of the century of industry. You’ve got the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys and Morgans. They come off really poorly in history but what they did for this country of really consolidating railroads and oil and gas and really producing lower cost products but at really high quality and be more efficient. Then after time of their retirement they’ve donated basically billions of dollars back into the community. I think it’s a good model for a lot of people. I think you can see that today with Facebook and Warren Buffet and the guys today are actually going back to that model of making their billions and then giving it back. These guys did this before it was popular.

So I kind of thought that was interesting. The last one is I, Pencil is a good book. It’s about how you actually build a pencil and how involved it is where you have to actually source probably 15 different parts of the pencil all over the world and how global trade is important. How one pencil is used by the whole world, but it actually takes countries to build a pencil. And at the end of the book you realize you’re not alone. There’s lots of parts. When I get my ingredients it’s all over the country and all over the world just to make a can of Native Jack. It’s the same thing with the pencil.

Matthew: That’s interesting yeah. I never would have thought of that. You got graphite, wood, rubber, little metal band. That’s crazy.

Jason: Yeah the supply chain is always interesting when you start a business and you have to go beyond your boundaries of your backyard, your local grocery store. You have to really think other countries, how can I incorporate better ingredients from parts of the world. Maybe it’s a little intimidating to say I’m going to call up Bali for chocolate or start sourcing coffee from Thailand and before you know it you’re pretty much internationally supply chain management guy.

Matthew: Is there one of the founding fathers that kind of leaps out to you as being interesting or compelling in any way?

Jason: Thomas Jefferson is probably my favorite of all the founding fathers because of basically his writings, his passion for knowledge was, at such a young age I feel like I was nothing compared to this guy. What he was doing, you know, it went from year to year but it’s inspiring to kind of do better and really understand and to learn as much as you can so that’s where I kind of followed that kind of thought.

Matthew: Yeah the Federalists Papers and all these original documents were so compelling to learn about where their ideas came from. They also borrowed a lot from the French. Having witnessed the French Revolutionary War were they got a lot of their ideas for liberty. It’s really cool. I sometimes think about how they talked about taxes being such a burden and there should never be a personal income tax and don’t let that ever happen and don’t let the banking cartels control money supplies. All the things that they warned about we’ve done and somehow it still has stuck together, but I think about those things sometimes. Like wow we’re kind of teetering way way away from the original thesis that these guys brought back hundreds of years ago. So I’m glad that there’s people reading it out there.

Jason: Yeah just the fact that even the cannabis plant itself is banned and is a federally Schedule I drug.

Matthew: Right, right.

Jason: I’m all for personal freedom so if people want to make decisions on their own and test a drug. I’m always baffled how you can say tobacco is fine. The whole argument is if one drug is legal, I think they all should be.

Matthew: Yeah. Yeah certainly Portugal is trying that route and they seem to be having success with it. They’re like we’re just decriminalizing everything. We don’t have the resources or time and if we do, do we really want to put people in jail or help them recover if they’re nonviolent. So that is an interesting argument.

Jason: There are laws when you’re violent there’s a law for that, assault and battery and that’s fine, but if you’re on an ingested drug in your own private time and not hurt anybody, what’s the big deal.

Matthew: Now is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indispensible to your day to day productivity and you could not imagine living without?

Jason: I would say my iPhone. It really extends my desktop from anywhere I have to be. If I have to try to try to spend a lot of my time in production but I can also be physically writing emails back and taking phone calls. I didn’t have that when I started in ’99 with my first job and you were pretty much tied to your desk. You got back to your desk, checked your emails. This extended unfortunately my day is a little longer but it’s more efficient. I can have maybe ten emails instead of 50 before I get back to my office. Being a small business owner I think that’s the most important. I put down fires much faster and I respond to customers quickly with any concerns. So the desktop I feel like it’s an extension of my desktop, my iPhone.

Matthew: Yeah I hear ya. I’ve been experimenting with new morning rituals and right now I’m trying to not look at anything internet related until after all my morning rituals are done; eating, showering and all that stuff. I find I have a much clearer mind because as a great of a tool it is it kind of takes away the attention to focus on one thing. There’s all these background processes going on when I have emails to respond to and these things to do. In other words, if I don’t look at it, I don’t think our evolution has caught up to the technology. I don’t know if it ever will. I mean it seems like that’s growing exponentially and we’re still here in these primate bodies trying to figure out how to use these effectively.

Jason: Yeah there’s definitely encouragement on family life. I have on kid, a baby. He’s one year old. So I think we’re going to probably put a lot of parameters on his uses of technology until he gets old enough he can have a reason for it. When I visit families they’re always on their iPhones. They’re not even making eye contact. A lot of social interaction is lost. I think conversation is important. People have to learn how to have that. Networking is such a powerful tool when you have a small business to go into a room or a bar or any location and go up to people and start introducing yourself and speaking and that could be lost art. It could be something that could die away.

Matthew: Right. I see sometimes now in restaurants there’s these baskets where everybody puts their smart phone in the basket and if anybody has to get their smart phone out and look at it, they have to pay for the whole group’s meal. So it’s kind of a way of incentivizing focus on the group you’re with and what you’re doing now. So that’s kind of a welcomed change. It’s a little sad that we have to do it that way but it is still kind of cool.

Jason: No, it’s great. I think conversation is important. Just talking to someone, someone brand new and just understanding where they came from and what they’re doing and why they’re here. It’s more fascinating than social date.

Matthew: Tell us, are you still looking for investors for Native Jack?

Jason: I did a first round with investors and I did a safe note so if anyone is interested in learning more about that, it’s basically a simple agreement for future equity. So it’s a different level than a convertible not. It doesn’t bring any debt in the company. It’s more of a promissory note to investors that when I do convert into equity everyone converts at the same time. There’s no time cap to actually raise in that trend. So the note is always open. It never really closes until you do your next round. So if I do speak to an investor tonight or tomorrow and he’s like oh I would like to do 50K, I can easily have that note offered to him. Yes I’m looking for investors, but it has to be the right one too.

Matthew: Okay. If someone is interested in investing in Native Jack is there a way to reach you or reach somebody at Native Jack?

Jason: Yeah you can go directly to my website at the contact page. All the emails get sent to me or you can just write me directly at Jason@pharmalabsinc.com.

Matthew: Jason can you tell us your website url one more time?

Jason: Sure. It’s www.nativejack.com.

Matthew: Okay www.nativejack.com. Well Jason you have a great sounding product here. I’m really excited about it. I want to try it soon. I’m going to be purchasing some to give it a try. Thanks so much for coming on the show we really appreciate it.

Jason: Great well thanks for having me.

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Matthew Kind chats with Alan Bader, Co-founder and CEO of Elevate Accessories.

While there is an ocean of “me too” cannabis accessories out there, Alan has used his design and craftsman skills to create unique products that people want to buy and happily pay more for.

Visit:===> http://www.elevateaccessories.com/
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Key Takeaways:
[2:19] – Alan talks about the entrepreneurial scene in Denver, Colorado
[3:22] – Alan talks about his background
[4:58] – Alan discusses what he did after he left Savannah GA
[6:12] – Industrial design and his Alan’s design preferences
[7:02] – What is Elevate
[9:25] – Alan talks about his inspiration for new products
[11:31] – The difference from generic products and Elevate’s products
[14:50] – Alan talks about guilt of higher pricing on Elevate’s products
[16:33] – Alan talks about Elevate’s line of products
[20:23] – Alan gives tips on brand messaging
[22:00] – What Alan would do differently if starting over
[22:50] – Alan talks about his experience at CanopyBoulder
[24:27] – Alan answers some personal development questions
[38:08] – Investment opportunities and contact information for Elevate

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a hemp wellness chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience.

Valerie writes, “My ten year old Husky/Sheppard/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatibles. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect, but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding them to him. Before Treatibles Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking Treatibles, he could leap around again.” Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatibles are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatibles can do for your pet, visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet and get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Now here’s your program.

It’s a recurring theme of the show that if you launch a “me too” product that has no unique selling proposition your odds of having enduring success are low. With that in mind, I want to highlight an entrepreneur that is taking an existing market category Dugouts and Glassware and in viewing those products with his person design flare and high quality materials. We’re fortunate to have Alan Bader, Founder and CEO of Elevate Accessories on the show today. Alan welcome to CannaInsider.

Alan: Hi Matt. Thank you so much for having me.

Matthew: Sure. Alan give listeners a sense of geography. Can you tell us where you are in the world today?

Alan: Yep I’m in pretty much downtown Denver, Colorado.

Matthew: Okay, and you’re plugged into the cannabis scene in Denver and there’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of entrepreneurs. How would you describe that scene?

Alan: It’s really fast paced. It’s a lot of fun first off, first and foremost I should say. The cannabis industry is nothing short of exciting and nonstop. It’s bringing a whole bunch of different walks of life into the industry and it’s been really exciting to see Denver grow in respect to the new cannabis laws and all the new people coming in.

Matthew: Are you able to iterate your ideas faster you think because you’re in that hive of cannabis users and entrepreneurs?

Alan: Possibly. I never really gave it too much thought. Denver has always kind of a hub for artists and creative types. So ever since I’ve been here before cannabis legalization it’s always really been kind of a fast paced and really welcoming environment for new ideas and things like that.

Matthew: Okay. Before we get into Elevate I want to talk about your background because I think your background is pretty interesting. It helps people understand why your products are different and special. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your design experience?

Alan: Sure. It kind of all started in high school really. I started doing video production which led me into film and video at the savannah College of Art. From that I left SCAD and moved out here to Colorado to pursue industrial design and what I realized through the film and video and what I really excelled at was the process of timeline editing and creating something on the computer which kind of was a perfect segway in CAD and industrial design software.

Matthew: What is industrial design? I mean we hear that term thrown around, but I don’t know if many people really understand what that means. It’s kind of a cool niche.

Alan: Yeah, you know what it’s funny if you ask ten different people what their description of industrial design is, you might get ten different answers. My answer would be that we are material specialists. We understand how to manipulate and modify different types of materials, new materials, existing materials and use them in ways that are not typically being used. Then to add to that all the engineering and CAD and just general graphic design and everything else that comes with it, but again going back to that sort of materials specialty.

Matthew: Okay so there’s a design component, materials and then actually creating the product.

Alan: Yeah the manufacturing and production of products is a staple of industrial design for sure.

Matthew: So how about after savannah, what happened next?

Alan: I moved out here to Colorado. I switched gears to do that industrial design and went to the Art Institute here and kind of just fell into a job doing something that I could be fully creative doing which was designing wood jewelry and accessories and that kind of led me to where I am at today.

Matthew: Okay and how do you get into that? Did you have any background in that in all or did you just had a sudden interest or how did that happen?

Alan: I moved in next to a guy that was making stuff in his living room. I moved into the art district in Denver and this guy next door was making all these cool jewelry pieces out of wood, really high end, exotic woods. We hit it off the first day when I first met him and after a little while he and I started talking and I started doing some side projects for him which eventually turned into a full time position that I held for about gosh seven or eight years until ultimately I was doing all the kind of leading the design team developing a lot of the manufacturing processes for that company.

Matthew: How do you think your background with the industrial design and your woodworking background impacted what you’re doing now with Elevate Accessories?

Alan: It’s definitely made a huge impact. It’s funny, if you check the product that I used to design and look at the stuff from Elevate, you can see a lot of similarities, but certainly my time spent with that company taught me a lot about small batch manufacturing and really before the coin had been termed lean manufacturing, I didn’t really know that was a thing. That was just what we did because we didn’t have a whole lot of resources.

Matthew: Right, right.

Alan: So we figured out ways to make as many things as we could as quickly as possible with as little overhead as possible and I’ve taken that philosophy into Elevate as well as all the manufacturing processes that I gleaned from that previous job.

Matthew: Well let’s back up a little bit and let you just describe more what Elevate is, your best selling products and what they are and how they stand out.

Alan: Okay. The short answer that I always give people for Elevate is we make designer smoking accessories. The longer answer is I saw a niche. I saw a void in the industry when it came to the ancillary products like these accessories where there wasn’t a whole lot of design thought or thoughtfulness going into many of these products. Some of them were really nice. Glass of course was a popular material, but we decided to take Elevate in a different direction and offer wooden accessories, primarily wooden accessories that spoke to a different aesthetic and a more professional lifestyle where I realized, I guess, personally that as a cannabis consumer for such a long time most of the industry and the culture just didn’t really represent me anymore and I sought to create a new product that could offer other people with a similar mindset, of better products that they can be proud of and not feel ashamed to own this glass pipe that they’ve had since high school or something like that.

Matthew: And that’s definitely how I would say I feel about your products because really it’s hard to get excited about a dugout or glassware or a vaporizer. I mean there’s so many of these things they’ve become commoditized, but when I see one with a certain design aesthetic where it feels good to hold it in your hand or there’s something in the tactile nature of it and it just feels good you want to show a friend like hey check this out. That’s when I feel like hey there’s something special going on here. In particular I like to highlight entrepreneurs and products that do this successfully because if you can do that, you can charge a premium and you can make money whereas I feel like a lot of the accessories are in a race to the bottom and that’s not a sustainable business. It’s not helping anybody and you don’t have a business model that’s going to endure or last and it’s just we want to avoid those. So I like to highlight those things. Now when you’re coming up with a new accessory for the first time how does the initial thought germinate? Are you just walking around and it flies into your head or are you white boarding this? What does the process look like?

Alan: You know it’s a little different for each product but I would say the standard is really initial concept comes into my head or somebody else’s head and somebody says hey this would be a great idea and we add it to the list. As we’re starting to develop new products typically I’ll just start with concept sketches. Of course that’s the earliest stage. It’s the easiest thing to do. Thinking though about what is the manufacturing process going to be for this particular product because as an industrial designer, depending on what material choices you’re using or what manufacturing processes you’re using, you’re going to be limited by what types of design aesthetics or design features you can apply to that particular product.

So it’s really helpful to understand the final stage of how the product is going to be made so that in the earliest stages you’re not wasting a bunch of time coming up with ideas that are just impossible. So start out with sketching, move right into either CAD immediately or Adobe Illustrator actually is what I use a lot for just two dimensional rendering in order to kind of get a good idea of what it’s going to ultimately look like, what the proportions will be like. Then of course CAD is a necessity in order to make sure that everything is going to fit right and everything is actually to spec. Once you’re done with CAD then we move into machining. Whether we’re machining something for molding, we’re tooling a mold in that sense or we’re machining an actual final piece. Most of Elevate’s products at the moment are CNC machined so that is the final process. Usually once we get the first few off the machine we might take some measurements and maybe run back and do some revisions, that’s pretty much the end of it and then we go into the creative process of creating the campaign to get it on the website, get it in front of an audience and then ultimately sell it to everybody.

Matthew: Alan let’s paint a picture for listeners. Let’s say you’re holding your average generic dugout in one hand and your dugout in the other hand. What’s the difference a listener would experience if they were doing that?

Alan: The first immediate difference would probably be the feel. I know you had mentioned before and how important that is and we’ve really taken that as far as possible. We have an eco, it’s called Aquathane. It’s an all water-based urethane and it gives it this very nice, smooth feel. The finish is very high quality versus maybe one of the older ones that unfortunately may have come from India or China and just doesn’t have the level of quality applied to it and therefore it might feel rough. As soon as you open it you might see wood splinters inside or sawdust. People really just don’t care that much. Then the next obvious difference would be we use a glass pipe that’s a little bit larger than the standard metal pipe that looks like a cigarette and a magnetic closure for the top that helps keep everything in place.

Matthew: People are probably wondering well what’s the cost like compared to a typical dugout.

Alan: I know it start that’s $75 and compared to a typical dugout I’ve seen dugouts for $15, maybe even $10. Some of these companies are buying stuff, like I said, from India for maybe a dollar or two and selling them for $10-$15. In our case, everything is made in the US, most of which is made in Denver and again going back to that higher quality we really like to compare our product to something like a nice pair of sunglasses. You might be able to go get another pair that looks exactly the same for significantly cheaper but when you get that really nice pair you’re going to take care of it and you’re going to cherish it.

Matthew: Yeah. It’s never about price. It’s always about value, what you’re getting for the money. Some people would say wow that’s a huge price difference, $75 for your dugout versus $10 for your typical dugout you could buy somewhere, but the people that are going to say that aren’t your customers are they?

Alan: No, no. We typically aim for a slightly older crowd. The age range is about 25-45 year olds, that’s our target demographic. Of course we find that people older and younger still really appreciate Elevate’s products and do want to purchase them. Yeah we’re trying to find somebody with maybe a little bit more expendable income, somebody that’s probably waiting in line to get the brand new Apple product, somebody that doesn’t mind maybe waiting a little bit longer to save a little bit extra to buy that product that they know is going to last longer and be ultimately just a better purchase.

Matthew: I’ve found in the past sometimes when charging higher prices for things that I’ve sold there’s a little bit of guilt. People might email you and say why is this so expensive. I want this but it’s too much. There might be a little bit of a little residue of guilt where you’re saying gosh am I charging too much. Am I leaving some people behind? Then you come to realize that the people that always want things cheaper they’re not necessarily your best customers and they don’t necessarily want to support you in the way that might be most helpful. Have you found that to be true or have you kind of released any guilt or feeling around that?

Alan: You know I definitely feel some amount of guilt with that because to be perfectly honest while I describe my demographic and the income that they need to be in to fit our demographic, I personally don’t fit into that demographic at the moment as a startup founder. It’s a bootstrap life and Ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So I totally understand somebody’s feelings when they do email and say gosh I really love this product, it looks so cool, but it’s so expensive. We are working towards developing new products that can still keep that same thoughtful design aesthetic at a more affordable price point. So that’s what can at least tell some people when they do bring that up.

I always use this phrase, I’m too poor to buy cheap products. Even as somebody that doesn’t have a lot of expendable income, I’ll wait and I’ll wait until I have the money to spend on something that I know is going to be better, not something that I can just get now that will break six months or a year from now they have to buy again and again and again.

Matthew: Yeah I have an Eagle Creek backpack and it was expensive for a backpack but I’ve had it for ten years and it’s still, I mean, it barely…

Alan: Still going.

Matthew: Yeah it’s still going and barely looks used even though we use this every single day and carry it all over the world and it’s unbelievable when you break down the cost per year then cost per day. It’s like yeah, the total lifetime benefit was there. So I totally am with you on that. So I know your dugout is your flagship product or maybe your most product but let’s talk about your other products and glassware and things like that.

Alan: Yeah you’re talking about the dugout is our number one selling item. We also include wooden joint tips and blunt tips. We also have a bubbler. It’s about nine or ten inches tall so not really large bong per se. It has a wooden base, something that helps protect it when you’re setting it down. It has a really nice solid feel to it. Of course it hits like a champ which is what people are looking for when they’re taking dabs or smoking flower out of a bubbler. We are in the process of working on a whole array of new products. We have some storage solutions coming up that will be wood and glass. We also have wooden trays. Other storage devices for say joints and blunts.

The list we have going on right now I think has 43 product ideas on it. It will take us quite a while to reach that list but as we grow we’re definitely going to continue to offer as many different accessories as we can to just give people everything they would need to fill their daily smoking or weekly or however frequently they consume to satisfy their needs.

Matthew: Do you ever find that you’re interested in a product and you would like to bring it to market but you’re saying gosh as much as I like this idea I don’t know if the market is big enough. It’s too niche. You kind of have to create something you like where the market is also large enough so there’s an overlapping circle of I like this and the market is going to like it. Do you have that sometimes?

Alan: Sometimes yeah. With Elevate what’s really nice is Elevate in itself is a product. We’re developing a brand and going back to a previous question you had earlier about what sets us apart is that’s the biggest thing I think that sets Elevate apart is that we’re really selling the lifestyle and the brand. So we’re in a really fortunate position that even if we develop a new product that doesn’t necessarily have a huge potential market, it really will still be a good seller for us because it’s a product that’s going to fit within our line. The family of design aesthetic is going to fit together. So we’re kind of creating collectors’ items that as we continue to develop new products our customers that are already existing are just going to continue to want to collect and match with their other previous products. We’re kind of in a pretty fortunate position with Elevate in that respect.

Matthew: Just a quick interruption to this interview to let you know that Alan has generously extended a discount on Elevate Accessories products. You can get a discount of 15% by simply entering the coupon code INSIDER15 at Elevate Accessories. Again, that’s INSIDER15 for 15% off Elevate Accessories products and they’re at www.elevateaccessories.com. You can also go to www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/elevate to learn more. Now back to your program.

Yeah so you know you talked about having a brand and a lifestyle and the message there and I would say the marketing and sales and the visuals of your product are very tightly aligned so when you look and hold your products and then you go to your Instagram feed all the photography there is a theme there that you can tell the same people you are doing all these things. Is there any tips you can give for people that want to make sure that there’s a consistency of brand and message and theme across every touch point because you do a really good job of that I think.

Alan: Well thank you. The best tip I could give or advice might just be to if possible create something that you would actually use yourself and fits into your already existing lifestyle. It’s going to make it a hell of a lot easier to create content for that particular brand. If I was designing Barbie Dolls it might be a lot more difficult for me to do a lifestyle brand around that.

Matthew: Yes.

Alan: That’s number one. If you don’t have in-house photographer or the skill yourself, absolutely hire a photographer especially when it comes to, it’s funny I’m talking about lifestyle, shots but the one thing that really I think sets Elevate apart and is the most recognizable or most notable thing that people comment on is the quality of the standard product photography. Just products on a white background but my background has led me into product photography as a consultant and a profession there so I have all the gear and I’ve been able to kind of fake it to make it look like we’re this much more professional, paying thousands of dollars for all this photography. In reality just having quality photos like that makes you look so much better.

Matthew: Yeah, right, that’s a great point. So is there anything that you would do differently now looking over your shoulder a little bit? You’ve been doing this for at least a year or a couple of years. I’m not sure how long but is there any changes you would make if you could rewind and go back into a Hot Tub Time Machine?

Alan: Probably yeah. Some decisions along the way may have expedited certain parts of the Elevate development process. Though to be honest it’s all a learning process and a journey so I don’t think I would really change much of anything at the moment. I would like to be able to go faster than I currently can go. So maybe raising money a lot earlier would have given me that ability and at the moment we haven’t raised any money so we’re still not there yet to go as fast as we think we should be able to go, but yeah other than that really I think we’re kind of just doing everything the way we think we need to do it.

Matthew: Okay. And Alan you are an alumni of the CanopyBoulder Cannabis Technology Accelerator. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience at the accelerator and what it was like there?

Alan: Yeah it was a great time. I think that was, I guess I started in August 2015, about a year ago from now is when I finished. The first thing that I could say about it, the most notable thing is the network and the mentorship and sort of comradery that comes with being a part of that community. That was probably the best thing that I got out of the entire thing and I imagine if you ask most everybody, they would all agree. As well for me not having a traditional business background, all of my background being in art and design, I was really good at creating this aesthetic and a brand that looked good but how do I sell it, how do I grow it, how do I scale this business? That was the question that I didn’t really understand.

So going into Canopy for me, besides the network and the connections was in order to take, they call it business boot camp. It was to kind of get that education without having to go to school for four years and really just get pushed into it and have people sort of championing you along the way to make sure that you’re learning and getting it done. So I really appreciated that part of Canopy as well, and it’s continued on. It’s not like it just ends when Canopy ends.

Matthew: That’s great to hear. Alan I like to ask some personal development and enrichment questions so listeners can get a sense of who you are personally and normally I ask two questions, but for you you’re going to get three today. So are you ready for them?

Alan: Sure. Let’s do it.

Matthew: Is there a designer that has had a big impact on the way you look at design and maybe some of your designs?

Alan: Yeah I have probably quite a few. I can boil it down to a short list. First and foremost I probably have to say Dieter Rams, also Jony Ive and I kind of put those two in the same boat together. If you’re familiar with Jony Ive he’s the industrial designer that’s worked for Apple for a number of years. He’s created a lot of their most successful products. I think he attributes a lot of his design aesthetic to Dieter Rams who is a much older designer from I want to say the 60s and 70s. He did a lot of the Braun, Dieter Rams is the Braun designer, if you’re familiar with Braun’s razors and stuff yeah.

After that, Ron Arad who is another industrial designer. When I talked about industrial design being a material specialist, nobody really fits that better than Ron Arad. He somehow manages to do stuff with different materials that nobody could have thought possible. Then of course going back to sort of my vintage and retro aesthetics, definitely Frank Lloyd Wright who in my opinion is the grandfather of industrial design and Le Corbusier. Both architects that did furniture design and kind of helped pave the way for people like me to have a degree in something called industrial design.

Matthew: Very cool. A lot of names I never heard of. You don’t hear Dieter every day either. That’s not a popular name. Maybe it will come back.

Alan: No, but it’s funny because his stuff is so prevalent in today’s design especially with very modern design. He was doing stuff back in his day that still looks as good today as well as then. So and Frank Lloyd Wright, I think everybody could agree that he’s probably the most prolific architect of the last 100 years or more. A lot of people don’t realize that I think maybe he just didn’t like maybe what other people were designing inside of the house so he said you know what I’ll design my own curtains. I’ll design my own couch. I’ll design these glasses and the silverware and literally every single thing in the house. That’s why I call him the grandfather of industrial design because that’s kind of how it all started was architects that I think just wanted everything to be perfect and so they just decided to design every part of the house and industrial design was born.

Matthew: He was kind of a crazy genius. I’ve walked around some of his houses in Chicago and looked at them and they’re amazing. I haven’t been to the house where he had a tree on the inside where he designed the house around a tree and the tree grows through the house. It’s pretty crazy. Then there’s that one I think in Pennsylvania where it’s a house built on a waterfall or something. I mean visually too they’re really fun to look at just in books and stuff. They really come through well even if you can’t ever get to see them in person, but what a crazy genius that guy was.

Alan: Totally.

Matthew: Okay now last question, actually no two more questions. Is there a book that has had a big impact on you on your thinking or provided a lens that perhaps you use day to day in your life now?

Alan: Yes. The one book I could probably attribute most of how I function these days is called Cradle to Cradle. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that book.

Matthew: Yes I read that book. William McDonough right?

Alan: Exactly yeah, William McDonough. He’s another architect yeah. Surprise, surprise.

Matthew: What did you like about that book?

Alan: Well before that I had started going to school for industrial design. I think I was about a year in, maybe not quite a year, until somebody handed me that book. And before that day or before I finished the book I thought I wanted to design cell phones and little small electronics and dumb shit that at the time I thought sounded really cool and after I read the book I realized it was just kind of garbage plastic stuff that I just didn’t really have a whole lot of longevity or need. Because if you look at cell phones, this was we’re talking about 2004, so anybody have their cell phone from 2004, no or even from two years ago, probably not.

The Cradle to Cradle really shifted my perspective on what it means to be an industrial designer and sort of what’s at stake, and I realized after that that what I should do is try to go down a different road where maybe taking a more environmental approach and using sustainable materials and designing processes that were sustainable. That’s really the Cradle to Cradle philosophy in a nutshell is thinking about the entire lifecycle of a product as opposed to just okay I designed it, here it is, take it. But then what happens with it after the fact. How does it get cleaned, how does it get thrown away, how is it disposed of? So reading that book and I think I read it multiple times because I was just so excited about it. Even the book itself is made out of plastic that can be recycled and the ink can be reclaimed and it’s just really fascinating and incredible story that William McDonough put together there.

Matthew: Yeah you say the book itself was made out of plastic which it is but it feels like a meaty, it has a meatiness to it and it’s also pleasant to hold. It’s not some annoying feeling of plastic. That guy has a unique perspective and one thing he says in that book that spoke to me was there is no away. When you throw something away there is no away.

Alan: Yeah where’s the away?

Matthew: Please point where away is.

Alan: Exactly. I think Cradle to Cradle is something not just for designers to read but for everybody to read because the way I look at this sort of reduce, reuse, recycle, before I read that book I didn’t really think much about that. I definitely wanted to do all three of those things but it never really occurred to me that those three things are actually in order for a reason; reduce, reuse, recycle. So it’s stop using so much shit. Reduce your stuff then reuse whatever you can. If ultimately you can’t reuse it or reduce it, then recycle it. So it never really dawned on me that maybe I should think more about my personal choices of what types of products I buy and how I dispose of those. Like I said that book really shifted my mentality so much and that’s what led me into working with that wood jewelry company because the guy that owned that company at the time agreed with me on many of those points and now their shop is running 100% wind power.

They don’t have any paper products that they use in the shop whatsoever. They use hand towels for everything and iPads really aren’t the eco probably but instead of printing a ton of paper everything goes out to iPads in the shop on the shop floor. So I mean it was really nice to find somebody else at that time because I had just pretty much finished reading that book that appreciated all that same stuff and gave me a platform to start trying to kind of push that initiative forward through his company.

Matthew: Yeah, I could go on and on about that book. That’s one of my favorites. I’m going to have to pick that up again because that just really is a true masterpiece.

Alan: I’m actually thinking about maybe I should read it again. It’s been about eight years.

Matthew: Yeah you know it’s that good of a book when you think god I want to read that again.

Alan: And it’s an easy read. For anybody that’s listening I would say honestly you could probably read it in a day or two and it’s a really easy read, but it’s such a huge impact.

Matthew: Yeah again that book is Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough. Last question here. Is there a tool, web based or physical, that you consider totally indispensible to your day to day productivity and you can’t imagine living without?

Alan: Yeah my iPhone and my laptop.

Matthew: Yes.

Alan: All of the computer type things for sure.

Matthew: Any apps or anything you use online that is a big productivity tool for you?

Alan: Yeah there’s one called Podio.

Matthew: I’ve never heard of that.

Alan: Never heard of it? So Podio was recently purchased by Citrix who owns GoToMeeting and a handful of other products, but they were their own thing before Citrix came along. The best way to describe Podio is kind of like building blocks for project management. So instead of them saying hey we came up with a project management solution and it looks like this and it has all these tools and this is how you use it, they said hey we realize that everybody has different needs when it comes to project management so here’s a Lego set of different tools that you can potentially use. Now go build your own system.

They gave some basics, task management, calendar, things that everybody is going to need, but ultimately after that it’s a very open ended system which at first is very scary when you jump on and overwhelming because you’re like I don’t know what to do. Do I really need all these other tools. It took me probably at least a year, maybe two, before I started feeling really comfortable with Podio and now it’s been about four or five years and I can’t imagine living without it. It’s my daily task management synced up with my calendar, but what really makes it powerful is that I can collaborate with others on a project in real time and comment along with them on tasks or on project specifics and ultimately just stay as lean as possible. That tool has really helped.

Other tools that are app based I would say Google. Google apps for work is amazing. I might be an Apple user at heart but I also love Google and Chrome and everything that they offer. Finally I got to plug the Maker System which is the system that I actually run my entire business off of. Podio is more for project management so that’s a front end. I would call it front end for development and that sort of thing. Google apps similarly, but the Maker System is actually the front end of the website runs off of. That’s where all of my wholesale clients can login and make purchases. That’s where I can process all of my orders and that’s in fact even where I can track the entire process of manufacturing of a product through that entire manufacturing. The Maker System is a brand new app that a previous partner of mine has been developing and is really incredible. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Maker of Revolution. There’s a big kind of push going on right now.

Matthew: Yes I’ve heard the term and I’ve heard a little bit about it. Obviously you’re way more into this world than me.

Alan: The Maker Revolution, the easiest way to describe the Maker Revolution is to say Etsy. Etsy is an embodiment of that because they’ve offered is a platform to people that might just be themselves making something in their house and selling it to somebody online. And I think that Maker Revolution what that’s doing is that’s showing people that hey I don’t really have to work for this 9 to 5 job. I have this pretty cool skill. I could just make this stuff and sell it but I don’t really understand web design and maybe manufacturing and all that stuff. So where Etsy excels is they gave a great platform for the web design and the front end of that, but what they don’t have and what really no system at the moment, Shopify or Big Cartel or any of these other front end types of services, what they don’t have is a way to help people actually make the product and actually grow and scale the business.

That’s where the Maker System comes in. This partner was actually the partner that helped me start Elevate in the early days and this took on so much of his time that ultimately we had to split. But it’s the system that he built over the last ten years for his company as a custom manufacturing and delegation system that he’s cleaned up and put it together in a framework in a way that can be a subscription based service very similarly to Shopify in that sense. It comes with everything and like I said you get an order, it gets shot over to an iPad out in the shop and then it tracks the process all along the way. It’s really incredible. It really cuts down, the best I can say is it trims the fat for any company. One of our case studies was a company that I think they had nine employees and after using the Maker System for three months, unfortunately they ended up letting go of about 50% of their employees but they increased their productivity with half the employees by double because of the system.

I talked to them after that, probably four or five months after they had started and I said how do you like it, what’s going on with it. They were like well we love first off, but it’s a little bittersweet because we thought we were really efficient before and now we realize that we were totally wrong. So unfortunate for those people that they had to let go but everybody else that stayed on got a raise and like I said they’re producing more than they’ve ever produced before with less people.

Matthew: What’s the URL for the Maker System? Is it just www.themakersystem.com or something like that?

Alan: Exactly. www.themakersystem.com. I believe it’s still in beta but definitely if anybody listening is in the position to scaling their business in sort of maker or manufacturing respect, then the Maker System is the place to go for sure.

Matthew: Alan before we close I wanted to ask you about investors. You mentioned that you really haven’t taken on any money. Are you still looking for investors?

Alan: We are, yeah. We’re in the process of kind of restructuring and making sure that the company looks the way it needs to look in order to get in front of investors, but we are definitely. I think probably right after the new year going to be hitting the ground hard looking for investors. So that’s going to be a really fun process. I’m air quoting funds right now.

Matthew: Okay. Do they just go to your website and go to contact or something to reach you about that if there’s investors out there that are interested?

Alan: Yeah. Either contact directly from the site or directly to me. It’s just alan@elevateaccessories.com.

Matthew: Okay. And Alan tell us one more time how to find you online and follow you in social media.

Alan: Yeah. Just www.elevateaccessories.com would be the direct access to the website where you can make purchases and we’re pretty much only focused on Instagram and Facebook at the moment. So Instagram is @ElevateAccessories and Facebook is also /Elevateaccessories. We don’t really do a whole lot of Twitter or Snapchat or anything at the moment, but that’s coming.

Matthew: Okay. Well Alan thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Alan: Yeah man, thank you Matt. It was really fun.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Connecting with Dispensary Customers to Create Deeper Relationships – Joel Milton

joel milton baker technologies

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Key Takeaways:
[2:20] – Joel explains what Baker does
[3:51] – Joel talks about when he decided to get into the cannabis space
[4:57] – Voids Joel encountered when entering the cannabis space
[7:37] – Joel talks about benefits that are most popular with dispensary owners
[11:04] – How Baker drives dispensary customer engagement
[12:46] – Open and click through rates when a customer first starts using Baker
[14:12] – Using Baker to send text messages
[16:01] – Joel talks about expanding customers’ interests without alienating them
[17:15] – Does Baker have an API to the different software systems
[18:31] – Baker’s loyalty features
[20:40] – Joel talks about training staff to use Baker
[22:54] – Joel discusses Baker’s user interface
[24:51] – Joel’s book and web application recommendations
[27:37] – Baker’s fundraising process
[28:35] – Contact details for Baker

Many vendors have sold outside “solutions” to the cannabis industry. As a result, dispensaries are running on a hodgepodge of systems. To make matters worse, none of these systems talk to each other, costing your staff time, and dispensaries money.

These vendors don’t understand the cannabis industry and its inherent challenges, but Baker does. Running a dispensary is not like running your local pizza shop learn why in this interview with Joel Milton, co-founder of Baker.

Learn more at:
http://www.trybaker.com

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

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Matthew: Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review thought, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a one list chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience with Treatibles.

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All businesses want solutions to help them attract, retain, and delight their customers and cannabis businesses are no different. That is why I’ve asked Joel Milton, Co-Founder and CEO of Baker Technologies to join us on the show today to discuss how to drive cannabis customer engagement? Joel welcome to CannaInsider.

Joel: Hey thanks for having me.

Matthew: Give listeners a sense of geography. Tell us where you are in the world today Joel?

Joel: Excellent. I’m actually in San Francisco. I split my time between here and Denver which is where our company is based and headquartered and Baker itself started off in Colorado and that’s where our initial dispensary clients were. This year we’ve expanded into Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California, and even Toronto, Canada.

Matthew: Oh wow and give us a high level overview of what Baker does?

Joel: Absolutely. So Baker is a software company and first and foremost our goal is to help dispensaries really build their brand, keep their customers happy and loyal, and ultimately make more money as a business.

Matthew: Okay.

Joel: Yeah.

Matthew: And are you from Colorado originally? Are you from the Bay Area? Where are you a native of?

Joel: I’m actually a native New Yorker so I grew up just outside of Manhattan and I spent about six years living in New York City working in the tech startup scene and that’s where I met David and Roger my now co-founders. We got interested in the cannabis space, found out that between the three of us we had the product, the backend development, and the sales capability and we headed west and got involved.

Matthew: Does every place just seem vanilla after living in New York City? I mean you’ve got that tempo, the cadence of life there is just so ba, ba, ba.

Joel: It’s a lot. I think it’s a really exciting place to live and work and you do a lot of things in a very short amount of time while you’re there and I always will have a soft spot in my heart for New York but excited to have moved on and be spending a lot of time in Denver and the Bay Area. When you live in New York it’s easy to think the rest of the world doesn’t exist and when you go elsewhere you realize hey New York is a great place but there’s more to life too.

Matthew: True, true.

Joel: Yeah.

Matthew: Was there a particular aha moment when you realized you wanted to bring your skills to the cannabis space?

Joel: It’s funny you know it actually wasn’t my idea. David and I were working together doing a bunch of freelance work in New York City helping companies come up with and iterate early stage tech ideas and someone was telling me about the cannabis space and what was going on and I really started digging in and looking at the space and took a trip to Denver and I was really excited by the whole industry. I thought it was amazing. I met with a handful of dispensary owners and really talked to them about what their current challenges were and what sort of solutions existed and I realized there weren’t that many people solving problems who had a true technical background and it was there that David, Roger, and I really started evaluating where we were and it just so happened we were all at a decent point where we had the bandwidth to take on something new and it started off as like a side project and before long we were full time on Baker.

Matthew: What was the void? I mean aside from the background expertise that you’re like hey we want to go in and solve this problem or scratch this itch? Was there anything in particular?

Joel: Absolutely yeah. So two things one in Colorado at the time rec had just passed and you had these pretty long lines or at least crowded dispensaries and all of your customers waited in the same line whether it was a customer who shops once a week and buys a 100 dollars at a time and know exactly what they want or whether it was a tourist or a first time shopper who walks in and says hey what’s Indico, what’s sativa, or how many milligrams should I eat in an edible? So originally we built Baker to be an online ordering tool to help dispensaries keep their 20% of customers who accounted for 80% of the revenue right typical 80/20 rule. Keep these small group of people who really drove revenue and spent a lot of money happy and let them order ahead get in and get out so that the bud tenders could spend more time with people who had questions talking to them and explaining.

So that was the original void and it worked. We did that. We had early success. It was solving a pain point but pretty quickly we realized there was an even bigger void in the market which was dispensaries were spending a lot of money on customer acquisition. Advertising in print paper, digital, as well as the different listing sites getting their menu out there, trying to get eyeballs but they weren’t really spending any money on customer retention. So if you look at any other industry you see in typical retail it’s actually six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one but for some reason in cannabis it was all about driving foot traffic, driving foot traffic and we found that a lot of these dispensaries didn’t actually fully realize the economics of every dollar they spend on these new customers many of them would come in for a deal, buy whatever product was on sale, and then not come back again.

So the ROI was actually negative and we started working with dispensaries who start to understand this and realize that it doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom. It’s not just about having the cheapest A or having the best deal that you can get people in your door. It’s really building that brand loyalty. The same way if I buy one brand of sneakers over another I’m not trying to buy the cheapest sneakers right. I like the brand that I like. Likewise there’s a real opportunity here for dispensaries to build their own brand, really connect with their customers, and drive repeat business. So we’ve really evolved Baker to be a full set of software tools that do just that which is really help build the relationship between the dispensary and their customer, drive that loyalty, keep the customer happy, and ultimately help the dispensary make more money.

Matthew: So it sounds like you’re saying segmentation and customization are some of the big primary benefits when you sit down with the dispensary owner. What are the top two or three benefits that you really try to drive home and that they seem to like the most?

Joel: Absolutely. Well first and foremost it’s building your customer list right. I think everyone knows that at the end of the day as a dispensary it’s really important to know who your customers are so helping them capture those customers pretty easily and for that we use an Ipad that we’ll give you that sits in your store or a tool that goes on your website. A lot of the times these websites are dead ends for dispensaries. If a customer does happen to find them there’s no real call to action. It’s just an address, maybe store hours, sometimes even they have a live menu, often not. With Baker we give you a shoppable menu so if a customer does land on your site they can actually order something and take an action or if they want to they can enter their cell phone number and sign up for personalized alerts.

So really it’s about capturing that customer data and then the second thing you said is exactly right too which is personalization and segmentation. So if you have one generic list that you send out to all the time there’s going to be a lot of people on there who are getting a lot of irrelevant messages and just like when you log on to Amazon part of the reason it’s such a powerful platform is because every time you log on its personalized to you. You see things that are on sale or available or recommended based on your needs and interests. With Baker we try to do the same thing so rather than send out a text to every single customer every Wednesday about Wax Wednesday half off two thirds of your customers never use concentrates which means two thirds of your customers are going to be getting spam every single Wednesday and they’re going to be very likely to opt out of all messages because they don’t want to keep getting that annoying text every Wednesday.

So with Baker we make it really easy to segment your customers based on their interests, send them what feels like a personalized relevant message so that they get excited every time they hear from you and they’re not like oh another message and I’m just going to instantly delete without reading but they know hey if I get a message from my dispensary it’s because they have something I want and it becomes that exciting feeling where you’re going to rush when you get a message and then the customer takes action and they actually click on a link and make a purchase.

Matthew: Yeah you’re kind of training your customers in a way that your emails mean something and your text messages mean something.

Joel: Absolutely and it’s not necessarily training them in a bad way right. We’re not manipulating the end customer. We’re actually making them happier and again that’s the same reason Amazon is great right. It’s not that they’re training us. They provide a valuable service. I know when I go on and I click recommend for me it’s going to be interesting and likewise we help these customers have a better experience and another feature that we offer is called strain alerts where if you have a really high demand product that you love right. Maybe it’s Blue OG a special hybrid that just is your favorite and it’s always out of stock. You can actually sign up to get a personalized message so as soon as that product comes back in store I get like hey Joel good news Blue OG is back in stock and I know I can either reserve it right there from my phone or run into the store and get it before it’s gone again and now that’s providing a really valuable service for the end user and ultimately if you make that end customer happy they’re going to become more loyal and be a better customer.

Matthew: So it sounds like what dispensaries that aren’t using Baker are doing wrong is they’re treating everybody and that they’re putting everybody in the same bucket, they’re sending them email blasts that don’t really tell them what to do next. Hey we have some announcement there’s no way for you to take any action. There’s no call to action. With Baker you’re saying hey we have this in stock now, I know you like it that’s why I’m sending it to you, and hey you can reserve it right here on your phone. So it’s taking it to a much deeper level.

Joel: Exactly. I mean the analogy I use is imagine if you got an email from J. Crew saying hey Matt pants are on sale today but there was no link or no image even. It was just an email that said those four words. They’re going to expect you to get in your car and find the nearest J. Crew and walk in and say I’m here for the pants right. It doesn’t make sense right. Of course not there’s a big picture of a model wearing the pants where you can see what it looks like and you can read a description and you can click on it and order it right from wherever you are your mobile device or your desktop. We’re providing that same experience. So when you get that Wax Wednesday text or that Blue OG alert you can click on it. You can see the specific product, you can read about it, and you can actually order it.

So it’s providing that next level. Closing the loop if you will on all messaging with a call to action and that also lets you track it because if you don’t have a call to action it’s impossible to know which messages are better than others right so a lot of times dispensaries don’t know what an effective messaging campaign looks like because they have no way to track it. They say oh I think we were a little bit busier on this day but maybe it was due to the text or maybe not. With Baker you can actually compare click through rates so you can see that hey 20% off did much better than five dollars off. We should do that again next time or hey the deal on this strain performed a lot better than they do on this strain. So it’s really important that you get that data, that feedback loop so you can actually improve and continue to do what’s working and change what’s not.

Matthew: Interesting. So when a dispensary implements Baker for the first time and they start customizing and getting deeper into the customization and segmenting of a customer’s interest what do you see in terms of open rate and click through rate? I mean is there like a doubling or what’s the general there?

Joel: Absolutely. Yeah it’s pretty exciting. We see typically after the first 30 days or so of collecting customer phone numbers with the iPads. Our clients usually send out their first marketing campaign and we’re surprised that they don’t do an incremental 10,000 dollars worth of revenue that initial day or two or three days and often times we have dispensaries say when they first really turn on Baker it’s the highest revenue they’ve ever seen and we get these unsolicited messages. We got one early this week. The subject was happy Monday and it was; it was to Glen, our Head of Customer Success. Hey Glen just wanted to let you know we did 10,000 dollars this weekend thanks to your message, 10,000 dollars more than we usually do thanks to your message.

It’s completely unsolicited and I think what these guys don’t always understand is they don’t believe that it will work because it seems almost too good to be true and that’s part of the reason we’re priced so competitively and that’s honestly our biggest challenge is that education piece because the notion of customer retention is not something that’s fully wide spread yet in the cannabis industry. So we’re still trying to help educate our customers, our clients on what this really means and why it can impact your business and more importantly the best way to actually implement it and to start using it.

Matthew: What about sending text messages? Most people are familiar with getting emails from businesses they like but what about text messages? Is there any kind of protocol or etiquette or things to do differently or think about differently there?

Joel: Absolutely and it’s the same things but it’s even more important on text because your phone, your text messages are very personal right. They have a 99% open rate right. Everyone reads their text messages and it’s because usually you only get them from people you care about or you know versus email everyone’s used to getting spam which is why the open rate is so low but if you start getting spammed via text message that feels much more like an invasion of privacy then getting spammed on email and that’s why it’s even more important that you only send the right messages to people based on what they like and at the right time of day. Our unsubscribe rate on text message is actually; the typical unsubscribe rate on text messages is actually 300% larger than ours.

So ours is less than a third of what the typical unsubscribe rate is and it’s because we really understand these customers and also we can help our clients understand the best way to send these messages right. We work with 150 dispensaries in 8 different states. We have a really good understanding of the cannabis market as a whole and obviously every state is very different and that’s why we have a full team of customer success that really understands each local market and every dispensary thinks they’re different and many of them are in a lot of ways but at the same time when you have that high level overview and really understand the market you can really work with your clients and understand the best way to send out these messages so you don’t get an unsubscribe and that you actually take advantage of the tool to drive revenue.

Matthew: Okay so let’s say you have Baker software implemented and working. You know your customers’ interest, you’re sending them emails kind of contoured to their personal interests, but how do you start to expand the possibilities of what they might be interested in without alienating them?

Joel: Great question. So a few different things one in the store like I said we set up an iPad where customers can select their preferences for what types of products they like. We also offer that full online order right so the more you use Baker the more we can understand what types of products you like and you order and then down the line as we start to integrate deeper and deeper with the different POS systems then it becomes even easier for us to build a customer profile to make sure you’re getting the most relevant information possible. So there’s a number of ways right and the goal is that the longer we’re around and the more we’re working with each dispensary then in this industry we’re going to continue to refine our platform to be smarter and smarter to provide a better and better experience.

Matthew: How does Baker enable online ordering for dispensaries but then integrate with the point of sale systems which you just mentioned? I mean it’s really valuable to be able to reserve and eighth of Blue Dream but if I go in to the dispensary and its gone then that turns from a benefit to a liability pretty quickly. How does that work? Is there an API to the different software systems out there?

Joel: Yep great question. So we do work with a number of the biggest POS solutions out there as well as a bunch of the smaller ones that are up and coming and Baker is designed to be complementary to a point of sale right. If you look at most industries your point of sale is very different than your customer retention platform and your marketing tool. In cannabis a couple POS systems are trying to do all of it themselves and many of them offer some basic functionalities that we do but at the end of the day all we do is focus on that and we do it really well and many POS providers understand that and they say hey you know what if we integrate with Baker we can give our client the best experience possible. We can give them our point of sale, Baker can handle the online ordering and the loyalty and the messaging, and if it works well together that client is going to be really happy and they’re not going to churn and that’s great news for a POS company as well.

So we are really working closely with these POS companies to do just that and insure that if you order something online that order shows up directly in your point of sale. If we’re not integrated with the point of sale that order will show up in Baker and you’ll pull it off the shelf but obviously it’s a much smoother process when we have that full POS integration.

Matthew: Tell us about the loyalty features in Baker and how we get customers to be more loyal in general?

Joel: Absolutely. Yeah so loyalty is interesting right. A lot of people understand that they need it, a lot of people don’t understand the best way to use it, and we provide a number of different tools that are pretty customizable to fit whatever the dispensaries needs are but we also have our set of best practices and that’s really important because at the end of the day like I said you start to see certain things that really work well and for us we’ve found that one of the best ways to drive loyalty is have almost like a digital punch card, like a check-in system so every time someone comes into the dispensary they sign in on the iPad, they get points just for coming into the store and we know that driving foot traffic means that customer is going to be more likely to see something and maybe buy something else and just keep them coming back builds good will.

And we find that’s actually more effective than a points per dollar because then you get this long tail where you have these really high spending customers on one end and they actually take up the bulk of your loyalty resources and the majority of your customers don’t benefit from it because you have to build your system to cater towards these really high spenders. So Baker has actually designed at its base level to just be points per check-in. So every time someone comes they sign into the Ipad they get points, once you get a certain amount of points there are certain rewards that you’re eligible for, and it’s not a static list of rewards and it’s not like you have to get this at this milestone. So after you accumulate points think of it as like a ticket at an arcade right.

You can spend 100 tickets and get the gumball or you can spend 1,000 tickets and get the stuffed animal or you can save up for 10,000 tickets and get the race car. So we let people choose do they want to redeem their points now for something smaller or save up for something bigger and this allows them to choose rewards that again are relevant to their interests because if you have a reward that’s a free pre-roll once you get to 100 points a lot of people don’t like pre-rolls right. People like to roll their own. If they don’t like to smoke whatever it is so again it all feeds back to that customization.

Matthew: What about getting the dispensary staff trained up and up to speed quickly so they can use this without their being a huge learning curve? How does that work?

Joel: Yeah. So when you’re a new client you get a box in the mail and it comes fully ready to go. It comes with an iPad that all you have to do is turn on. It has an instructional video when you first turn it on. It’s preconfigured for your store specifically based on your color scheme and logo and everything else and our generic loyalty system or whatever you decided upfront is also preloaded. All you have to do is just turn it on and sit it there. People like it. They walk up to it, they use it, they sign up for messages. All of a sudden you start building your customer list and it really is very easy to do from a dispensary standpoint. We have a full time onboarding specialist who does nothing but help their staff get trained when you first get started and we have a full customer success team that works with you over the duration of your time with Baker to constantly evaluate what’s working, what’s not, tweak your messaging profile, figure out what sort of deals to offer, and really make sure that you understand what’s working.

And most importantly it’s for the feedback and it’s really important to know that everything we’ve built has been built based on feedback from our client’s right. We’ve been working on Baker for two years now and every two weeks for the last two years we push updates and those updates are constant reflections of what our clients are asking for. So for example someone says hey I’d love to write a bunch of messages on the weekend and schedule them to go out for the next month because I’m going out of town. So we built that functionality right and now a marketing manager can sit down and in 30 minutes schedule all of the messages for the next four weeks and then walk away and it automatically happens or the ability to customize certain things in the loyalty platform right. We listen and work with our clients so customer success not only makes sure you know how to use Baker but their job is also to be a conduit for feedback between the client and our development team so we can continue to build Baker for our clients.

Matthew: What about user interface? It sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into the experience. All you have to do is open the iPad and turn it on that’s a great convenience but what about the user interface in general? I know sometimes when development teams are working on something they’re so close to it that it’s hard to imagine someone looking at it for the first time. What can you say about that?

Joel: Absolutely. So David, one of my co-founders is a really talented user interface guy. He was top of his class at Cambridge studying architecture so very visual with the design and understanding how people interact with spaces and technology and then like I said we spent six years in New York building mobile web apps, iPad applications, Iphone applications, and really doing a ton of user testing of how people interact with technology and not only technology but the world around them and so his main focus is really taking all of that knowledge as well as all the knowledge we’re gaining from this space from our clients to build the simplest and easiest tools out there and we understand dispensaries are really busy places right. We see it firsthand. You have inventory challenges, long lines, new bud tenders that just started, I mean regulatory challenges. There’s always something going on that the last thing these guys need is complicated software.

So Baker is designed to actually make your job easier. Our menu takes a minute to manage as opposed to managing a menu elsewhere which can take 30 or 45 minutes. We have one button that lets you export your menu and print it versus other people who say it takes them 20 minutes a day to print out their menu or again we have automated stain alerts where we have dispensaries that are writing down your name and what strain you wanted and then when that strain came back in stock they were manually texting or calling every single customer and spending hours a week doing that. So our goal to automate as many of these things as possible, make everything one click, super simple because we know how hard it is to run your business and the last thing we want to do is be more work. We want to make it less work and help you be more efficient.

Matthew: Joel I want to transition into some personal development questions to let listeners know a little bit more about who you are personally. As you look over the arc or your life is there a book that stands out that has had a big impact on your way of thinking that you’d like to share?

Joel: That’s an interesting question. I studied psychology and philosophy when I was in school so I’m a big... I’ve always been curious into the way people think and what we think about and I would say Malcolm Gladwell does a pretty good job of helping us understand some of the odd tendencies that people tend to exhibit. We call them biases and there are certain predictable behaviors that we all fall victim to right because our brain takes these shortcuts and I think really reading that and understanding that helps me understand if I’m being irrational about something and really take a step back and look and say okay is this actually the right thing to do or am I just caught up in X, Y, or Z? So I think understanding that has been really helpful in shaping the way that we think about problem solving.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise besides Baker that you consider indispensible to your productivity?

Joel: I mean I think Slack is the first thing that comes to mind. Our team is all very active on Slack. We have like I said the majority of us are in Denver but we have sales people in different markets and I think it’s really important to always be communicating and Slack makes it really easy to do that. I think email can get messy and the more the rest of your team knows what’s going on the better we all can be and make sure nothing gets dropped. So Slack is certainly the most important team wide tool and then personally I like an app called Wunderlist which is just a to-do list that syncs with my phone and my computer so no matter where I am if I have to jot something down I don’t forget to do it. It keeps it organized in one place.

Matthew: That’s great. I use a list app as well called Anylist and my wife and I we can share different lists of things we need while we’re out and so forth.

Joel: Yeah.

Matthew: It’s really handy that way.

Joel: Yeah it’s great. I have lists for myself, I have lists for different people on my team, I have a marketing list, I have an operations list, and then I have a shopping list that my fiancée and I both share.

Matthew: Yeah.

Joel: So no matter where you are you add something to the right list and you make sure it doesn’t get forgotten about.

Matthew: Yes. So well back to Slack do you think that’s cut down significantly on the emails that you have to look at and take some action on would you say?

Joel: Absolutely. Yeah I think it’s so easy for something to get lost in email purgatory and once it gets dropped it’s never to be seen again. So Slack is a great way just to get quick little updates and also channel wide updates without really clogging up everyone’s inbox. So I think there’s a reason they’re growing so quickly. It’s because it works.

Matthew: Joel where are you in the fundraising process? Is Baker looking for more funds currently?

Joel: So we closed a 1.6 million seed round that we announced earlier this year and we’ve been growing very quickly so from a money standpoint we’re in a pretty good spot but that said anytime you grow from 6 to 16 people in a year and we’d like to hire three or four more you’re always needing more resources to fuel growth at that pace. So we’re fortunate that we have some really fantastic investors who will continue to support us and also really well connected investors and we’re constantly getting interest from new and exciting people. So I guess my rambling answer is we’re not aggressively fundraising but we’re always keeping our ear open and there’s a very good chance we’ll put some more money in the bank soon when the opportunity that’s right presents itself so always is the answer.

Matthew: And how can listeners find and connect with Baker online?

Joel: Our website is www.trybaker.com. It’s www.trybaker.com and there you see most of our B to B tools right so if you’re a dispensary out there or even a (28:48 unclear) an edible company looking to figure out how you can better engage your customers check out www.trybaker.com and you can see all of our tools and if you’re an end user you can go to app.trybaker.com. We’re a mobile web app because Apple won’t let you do cannabis commerce in the app store but if you go to app.trybaker.com you can see all the different dispensaries that are on our platform and actually see what products they have in stock and if you see something that catches your eye you can place an order and reserve it right there.

Matthew: I got to say this is what I really love about the cannabis industry is that there is smart entrepreneurs doing really interesting things but also the industry as a whole doesn’t have to many legacy systems particularly in software so they can just boom go right to Baker or some other software that helps them a lot right away and get kind of the best and greatest from nimble little teams like you have. So this is an exciting time to be alive and congratulations to you. Good luck with everything and thanks for joining us on the show today.

Joel: I appreciate it. Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head right the tool that you use to manage your pizza shop should not be the same tool that you use to manage your dispensary right.

Matthew: Right, right.

Joel: Cannabis is a unique and special industry and we’re excited to be focused just on it alone because there’s enough there to keep us busy.

Matthew: Thanks Joel.

Joel: Alright thank you. Take care.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

A Glimpse into the Booming Cannabis Trade in Canada – John Fowler of Supreme

john fowler supreme canada

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Matthew: Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review thought, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a one list chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience with Treatibles.

Valerie writes, “My ten year old Husky/Sheppard/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatibles. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect, but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding that to him. Before CBD Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking them he could leap around again.” Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatable Chews are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatables can do for your pet, visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet and get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Once again that url is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet now here’s your program.

The Canadian cannabis market continues to heat up and mature. Many licensed cultivators are turning their focus specifically to producing massive cultivation facilities to accommodate the demand in Canada. One of those producers is called Supreme. We are fortunate to have the CEO of Supreme, John Fowler with us today. John welcome to CannaInsider.

John: Hi Matt. Thank you for having me.

Matthew: Sure. John give us sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

John: So I’m sitting here in my office at our facility in Kincardine, Ontario. So very shortly I’ll be sitting in the middle of approximately seven acres or six NFL football fields of high grade medical and potentially recreational cannabis. We are located near Toronto probably a city your viewers will know and we are about two hours outside of there on one of the great lakes, Lake Huron. I remember reading one time wine makers said you can’t produce great wine in an ugly place and we’re definitely trying to produce our cannabis in a beautiful place.

Matthew: Oh good. John tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in this business?

John: So prior to founding this business I was an attorney practicing corporate commercial law in Toronto but actually how I got into the law was as a result of medical marijuana so the program in Canada rather than being ballot driven as in most of the United States was actually court driven. Our constitution, our supreme court, and appellate courts have found that the constitution protects the right of reasonable access for sick Canadian’s who need access to medical cannabis and I actually developed a passion for the law reading these cases and particularly being impressed that a small number of lawyers were able to advocate for their clients and create an industry not on a ballot initiative or a legislative initiative but actually through the courts.

So that led me to become an attorney. I actually realized that that was a very small market for case work for making a living and became a commercial attorney and in 2013 when the government of Canada introduced this federal program which combines high volume, high quality cannabis production with a very regulated industry. I really thought to myself that if a new industry was going to be tailor made for myself I don’t think I could do any better than this.

Matthew: And what’s Supreme? Give us a high level overview of what you’re doing there with Supreme.

John: Absolutely. So Supreme is a Canadian publicly traded company. We trade on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol SL and that is a fully regulated exchange so similar in concept to the Toronto Stock Exchange here in Canada or the New York Exchange. It’s not an over the counter. Supreme is essentially an investment vehicle under which we plan to develop or purchase multiple high value assets in the cannabis sector. So currently we have one asset that’s the seven acres licensee in Kincardine that operates this seven acre greenhouse. All 100% of our focus for the time being and the immediate future is on becoming what we believe will be the world’s foremost producer of 100% legal bulk cannabis and from there we’ll look to grow Supreme through business lines whether they’re organically grown or through acquisitions to position Supreme as a real force to be reckoned with in the growing international cannabis market.

Matthew: John what do you see as the benefit for focusing on the wholesale or bulk market? What’s the strategy there? Why did you go that route?

John: So the Canadian market here is quite unique. Some of your U.S. listeners may not be aware. So we have a market here that is roughly the size of California. Similar number of users recreational and medical and conceptually a similar market size but what’s very exciting is where California has a few thousand licensees we have 30. So what we realized was we have a very strong advantage in cultivation. We believe utilizing our size and our hybrid greenhouse model and the expertise of my management we believe we can produce cannabis more effectively than anyone in Canada but what we also realized was there were many question marks in terms of the details of the final mile to the consumer, the retail front.

So currently all licensed producers are limited to medical only sales executed online we don’t have store fronts. Moving forward we’re likely to get store fronts but it’s unsure what those will look like. So we made a decision to focus all of our investments on growing seven acres as a bulk distributor because no matter how the Canadian market unfolds, how regulated or how tight advertising is, what the point of sale looks like, we believe one thing will be true and that is the market will need high quality cannabis produced in a sustainable fashion and sent to the retailer and then to the consumer at a fair price where there’s good value and by doing that we realized that the best way to execute on that business plan was to carve off the retail side of our business and focus purely on the wholesale front.

What I also like about that is because we sell through other licensed producers currently working with six producers that are between a quarter and a third of the entire industry a bet on Supreme is a bet on the market as a whole.

Matthew: You mentioned the hybrid greenhouse model. What does that mean exactly and what are the benefits?

John: Absolutely. So as I’m sure is the case in most of the U.S. particularly where you get warm winters, or warm summers and cold winters most cannabis production is done indoors; mechanical ventilation, artificial lamps, and these kinds of things and we’ve always watched with maybe some envy of the greenhouse and field crop growers in California and the Pacific Northwest. When we went to start this business we started to see the challenges a company would have producing indoor cannabis on a scale such as seven acres but at the same time we saw some real quality limitations being a traditional greenhouse.

So the concept we developed which we call the hybrid greenhouse essentially we like to think is the best of both worlds. So it’s much, much more than just a light deprivation greenhouse. In concept it’s more like an indoor facility with a 100% skylight. So we divide the greenhouse into modular rooms, we add a higher density of supplemental lighting than most greenhouse growers would use, and we use a ventilation system that’s more in line with what you would see with an indoor grower than a greenhouse grower. The result as we’ve seen in our first crop which was completed over the last month is yields that are in excess of what we expected using indoor math. Year round production like an indoor grower but a cost scale much closer to a greenhouse grower and a little bit of extra love in terpene production that only the sun can provide.

Matthew: Okay tell us about that. About the extra love in the terpene production because terpenes is a hot topic and everybody’s always wanting to learn more about it. Tell us what your thoughts are there.

John: So without getting to much into the science. In a nutshell every artificial lamp whether it’s a HPS metal halide, LED, or any other technology the goal is to recreate the sun and some products do a better or worse job on spectrum and things of these natures but kind of our rule of thumb is if you can use the real deal let’s try to do that. So whenever we can use the sun that’s what we rely on. So for us it’s not just a cost metric, it’s also we find the sun grow cannabis with that full specter of light tends to just produce the best expression of a particular genetic as long as you can provide a good environment. So basically as I said with our concept of being an indoor facility with a skylight we’re able to use the full spectrum light of the sun but at the same time provide all the environmental controls heating, cooling, dehumidification, and even CO2 enrichment that you would see in an indoor producer.

Matthew: Okay and you threw out some facts and figures there about the size of your grow but can you say that once more? How big is the grow?

John: Correct. So at full capacity the facility is a little over seven acres. It’s about 35,000 square feet or the equivalent to about six NFL football fields. When we’re at full production we forecast we’ll be able to produce between 50 and 100,000 kilograms of cannabis per year and that will generate actually over one million plants per year on a five crop cycle.

Matthew: Wow. I assume you probably did a pro forma or some estimation of what a greenhouse would do for you in terms of a total indoor grow. How did that compare to what you’re projections were of just in your cost inputs electricity and so forth? Was there a surprise there or was it pretty much in line of what you thought the difference between an indoor grow electricity usage, utility usage versus a hybrid greenhouse?

John: I think the key here is our goal was not to be the cheapest supplier in Canada. So we do some things that create additional expense as compared to the average greenhouse grower. However we feel the result in terms of a more saleable, more desirable product is well worth it. So we’ve only been operating for about half a year so we haven’t... Canada obviously is a four season country. We haven’t been through the winters yet but initially our costs look very much in line with our projections and when we account for the additional yields that we’re able to provide per square foot per year as compared to traditional greenhouse I believe we’ll be quite competitive with greenhouse cost structures per gram and well ahead of the average indoor producer.

Matthew: Okay. What’s the patient growth like in Canada month over month? What are you seeing now? Is your estimate or is there official numbers on that?

John: Yeah so the patient growth is actually very exciting and very fantastic. So just to give context in our old system the court driven system I mentioned it took about 13 years to get about 40,000 patients into the program. Here we are approaching the third anniversary of the new commercial program and as of the most recent official statistics we’re between 75,000 and 80,000 patients. So just monumental growth for the three year period and also what’s quite exciting is we’re adding patients at a rate of about 10% month over month compounding. So really we’re starting to hit that hockey stick or that exponential trend in terms of patient acquisition and at Supreme we can’t take credit for that. That’s the hard work of all of the other licensed producers in Canada who are working with doctors and working with patients and building client databases but that’s part of why our wholesale model works.

We’re saying hey there is a lot of great companies out acquiring patients and working with docs to grow the market so let’s just sit back and supply them with cannabis so they can meet their own business goals rather than trying to roll up our sleeves and get in a fight over retail level market share.

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Matthew: Tell me about the rest of your team at Supreme.

John: Yeah so one thing I certainly find interesting having a background in marijuana production here under the old medical program and a good understanding of some high quality U.S. businesses people who come to see us at the greenhouse are often surprised that less than 50% of our staff actually work producing the marijuana. So we have a very big team from IT technicians and security folks to obviously accounting individuals, HR professionals, compliance individuals so it’s an interesting organization of a little under 30 people where less than half actually deal with the marijuana on a day to day. At a very high level some people of interest here we have a very strong board of directors at Supreme.

So key amongst that are our chairman who is a very successful developer here in Canada. Provides a lot of great expertise both on construction projects but also capital raising and corporate growth and we’ve also hired, brought on as a director a gentleman named Scott Walters who is a former investment banker who really has a passion for growing the cannabis industry in Canada and the U.S. So he provides us with great industry data and also data on developments, trends, and best practices coming out of the Pacific Northwest. So those are some great assets for Supreme and our shareholders. The company is run day to day by myself. We talked about my background and our CFO, Nab Dhaliwal who is a CA by trade but has a strong entrepreneurial side particularly with tech which I think is quite vital as day by day cannabis companies become more technologically savvy. I mean we’re just farmers on one hand but we’re quite tech savvy farmers at the same time.

And elsewhere on the team here at the greenhouse we’ve just been very fortunate to have great support in the local community and we’ve had a lot of highly skilled individuals who have knocked on our door to come work because they’re interested in what we’re doing and what we’re trying to achieve here and all in all it’s just a group here that I couldn’t ask for anything better in terms of a group of individuals to manage towards the common goal of becoming one of the world’s biggest cannabis companies.

Matthew: That sounds like a great team.

John: Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Matthew: Listeners are always interested in the cost of cannabis and then what it could sell for so could you give us an idea of what the cost of cannabis is right now in Canada and what the selling price is per gram?

John: Absolutely. So in the legal market, so in the LP market where we operate which is a mail order system that I mentioned earlier the average sale price is in the 8 to 12 dollar range. So there are some outliers. There’s a few that are more expensive and there are a few that are less expensive but the average falls right in there for grams or small orders by patients. Our pricing model is we want to provide the retailers an ability to markup at least 50%. We’re very committed to our retailers doing well because our business grows when our retailers grow.

Matthew: Now I definitely don’t expect you to be an expert on illegal dispensaries in Canada but we can’t help but look at the headlines and see about all of these dispensaries that operate I guess you would say illegally or kind of in a gray area but probably illegally in Toronto and in Vancouver. What are your thoughts on that? What’s happening there and are more going to get shutdown in your opinion? Where do you see that going?

John: So definitely there has been immense growth primarily in and around Toronto and Vancouver. I would say five years ago we had a handful of very discrete medical cannabis stores and now we have hundreds. You’re correct to say there has been, it seems to be an increase of enforcement against these operators. For me I think the history of prohibition of cannabis shows if there’s demand for a product there will be supply whether it’s legal or illegal. If that was not the case you and I would not be having this conversation. Marijuana would have been eradicated in the 30’s and 40’s. So given that there is this demand to me it’s incumbent on our government to move quickly to regulate these storefronts and find a way to bring them into the market in a way that’s meaningful but at the same time is respectful and takes into considerations the safety of both users and non users.

So to me I think we have this awkward transitional period where I don’t think any action is going to be perfect. There is certainly critiques against legal action through law enforcement but at the same time there are valid critiques against doing nothing. So I think for me the big picture is I try to look forward and I try to do what I can to move our country as quickly as possible into a way where all the demand of Canada can be satisfied legally and where that industry is as inclusive as possible.

Matthew: What do you perceive as the largest challenges and opportunities for your business right now and also I’d say the market in general?

John: So if we talk first at the market I would say the biggest challenge is going to be creating a regulatory framework for recreational and medical sells that can do just what I mentioned which is provide a supply that is capable of satisfying all of the demand in Canada leaving as small as possible a black market. I think alcohol and tobacco show us there will always be some black market but I think that’s demand driven. I think most Canadian’s prefer legally sourced cannabis and as long as the legal providers give good value to their clientele I think that can be effective. So at the macro level I think that’s the challenges finding the right set of rules and regulations that allow for as close to a 100% legal market as possible and obviously the opportunity there is I’m sure there’s going to be a great growth in the number of companies and type of companies as regulations change and the recreational market opens up.

For Supreme our biggest challenge is going to be managing immense scale on a very short term. So one reason we like the wholesale business is it really allows us to focus on cultivation. So growing from the 20 or so thousand square feet we have today to 350,000 square feet under production in the next two to three years is a challenge there’s no doubt about it but the good thing is we’re able to focus all of our time, effort, and attention on that singular challenge which is scaling to become a leading cultivator which I think really mitigates a good deal of that risk. In terms of the opportunity what we see is a market that’s growing exponentially in medical. Supply is growing in more of a linear fashion and we see a massive catalyst event being the commencement of recreational distribution at some time in the next couple of years and that’s obviously going to have a massive increase in demand and we’re doing everything we can to make sure Supreme is front of mind as retailers and users of medical and recreational cannabis start making their purchasing decisions over the next 12 and 24 months.

Matthew: Okay so let’s say a lot of the rough edges get sanded and there’s a healthy medical and recreational market. What does it look like in Canada in 3 to 5 years from now would you say?

John: So actually I’m hesitant, my crystal ball has not been the most accurate in the past.

Matthew: That’s okay mine hasn’t either. We won’t hold you to it.

John: One reason that we like the wholesale business and we focus on growing is exactly that reason because what I can see in 3 to 5 years I’m quite confident we’ll have a recreational and a medical market and I’m quite confident I have a lot of faith in our government and our federal government and our provincial governments, our state governments that we’re going to have a pretty functioning marijuana or cannabis market. What that means for us is the only thing I can tell you absolutely will be true is a large functioning cannabis market needs a lot of great cannabis and that’s why we’re focusing on making sure we can be there as a leading cultivator and distributor of great cannabis to support the medical and recreational markets.

Beyond there the minutiae what does a store front look like, who gets to own it, how many extract products will be available, advertising restriction these things we actually don’t even speculate on those because as long as we can agree that great cannabis will be the backbone of any functioning cannabis market we’re well positioned to be successful.

Matthew: John I like to ask a few personal development questions to give listeners a sense of who you are personally. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life that perhaps after you look at the arc of your life and look back on history has changed your perception or given you a new lens that you’d like to share with listeners?

John: Absolutely. So I actually thought about this one quite a bit thinking and maybe coming listening to some of your older interviews and I narrowed it down to two but I’ll give you one if I must. I would say that anyone looking to become an entrepreneur should read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. That book is about Ben’s career in a number of different successful startup tech companies but in a nutshell it comes down to CEO’s and entrepreneur’s are not graded on their history of success and their good days. Really the good and the bad are separated by how effective you can be on the bad days and it talks a lot about identifying those bad days and doing everything you can to keep the company going in the right direction.

So I think that is fantastic and if I can slide in one more I think everyone should have a look at “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. That’s our concept here. We believe that through our hybrid greenhouse model we’re going from zero to one in terms of creating a totally brand new way of cultivating cannabis that combines the best practices of indoor cultivation with the power of the sun and the cost savings of a greenhouse.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your life for productivity that you would like to share?

John: Absolutely. So we’re big believers here in virtual offices and virtual telecommuting. In part in necessity there’s 3 hours between our corporate office in Toronto and the greenhouse here in Kincardine. So whether it’s simple messaging software like Telegram or more advanced software say like Slack we feel very strongly in this day and age that every organization needs that quick sort of messaging solution that you can ask and get quick feedback on much more efficiently than typing out a whole email.

Matthew: John any thoughts on the American election? I just want to see if you can alienate half the audience really quick here.

John: I’m pretty sure you’re going to end up with a new president and beyond that that’s my only prediction.

Matthew: Does it look like a wrestling event the way it’s being produced in the conflict between the two? Is it entertaining out there in the great white north looking at this?

John: Entertaining yes until you realize that the TV drama is going to result in the next U.S. president.

Matthew: Right, right yeah right. That’s no laughing matter. Okay well John in closing how can listeners learn more about Supreme and can you tell us is there an opportunity to invest in the company that we haven’t discussed yet?

John: Absolutely. So the best way to find out about Supreme is to visit our website. It’s www.supreme.ca. So it’s www.supreme.ca, a Canadian ending and if you go there you can learn a bit more about the company but more importantly you can join our mailing list so you get all of our news releases and shareholder updates. Currently we’re not actively raising funds. We were very successful in closing what I think is the biggest non brokered private round for a Canadian marijuana company. We closed gross proceeds of approximately 15 million dollars over this (28:23 unclear). So we’re well funded right now for our phase 1 expansion which will take us to about 100,000 square feet under production and we believe in excess of 10,000 kilograms of production per year.

So in terms of future offerings the best bet is to join the mailing list but also viewers are reminded that we are publicly traded so someone can always make an incremental investment either through the Canadian Securities Exchange where we trade under the symbol SL like the Mercedes or on the OTCBB market where we trade under the symbol SPRWF.

Matthew: Great. John thanks so much for joining us on CannaInsider today we really appreciate it.

John: Awe it’s my pleasure anytime.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.


Canada’s legal cannabis business are booming, just take a look at their stock performance over the last few months. The reason has to do with the incredible growth of users that are purchasing cannabis from licensed producers.

About our Guest: John Fowler, President & CEO of Supreme (CSE: SL) (OTC: SPRWF)

John began working in the medical marijuana sector over ten years ago. He pursued a career in law to assist medical marijuana patients with legal challenges relating to access, employment and tenancies. This culminated in 2013 when John assisted with R v. Mernagh at the Ontario Court of Appeal. John is committed to providing Canadians access to high-quality, low-cost medical marijuana and working with the medical community to improve physician education and support for medical marijuana.

Key Takeaways:
[2:44] – John talks about how he got started in the cannabis space
[4:13] – High level overview of Supreme
[5:31] – Benefits on focusing on the wholesale market
[7:39] – John explains the hybrid greenhouse model
[9:35] – John talks about terpenes
[12:48] – Patient growth in Canada
[14:50] – John talks about his team at Supreme
[17:34] – Cost of cannabis in Canada
[18:44] – John talks about illegal dispensaries in Canada
[20:38] – John talks about challenges and opportunities in his business
[23:20] – Canada’s cannabis market in the next 3 to 5 years
[24:46] – John’s book and web tool recommendation
[27:43] – Contact details for Supreme

Learn more at:
http://www.supreme.ca

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The Five Disruptive Trends Shaping The Cannabis Industry Now

Consolidation is Happening – Wholesale Platform Cannabase Acquired

cannabase helix tcs cannabis industry consolidation

Read Full Transcript

Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review thought, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a one list chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience with Treatibles.

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As the cannabis market matures and becomes more competitive we begin to see strategic alliances, mergers, and acquisitions. Recently Cannabase a wholesale cannabis marketplace announced it had been acquired by Helix TCS. Here to tell us about the wholesale cannabis environment and her recent sell to Helix is Jennifer Beck, CEO and Co-Founder of Cannabase. Jennifer welcome back to CannaInsider.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me.

Matthew: Jennifer give listeners a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Jennifer: Denver, Colorado.

Matthew: Great and I am in Asheville, North Carolina. Jennifer you’ve been on the show twice before but give listeners a sense of what Cannabase does so they can get an understanding.

Jennifer: So the Cannabase platform is the oldest and largest cannabis wholesale market in the industry. We provide a whole suite of seed to sell marketing and sales tools for cultivators, retailers, and infused product manufacturers as well as powerful advertising tools for ancillary businesses to showcase their products and services.

Matthew: Okay. So you started Cannabase back in 2013. What was it like the first few weeks and months you were doing this? This all was just very unknown and I bet you’re probably wondering if this was even going to work but what was it like the first few weeks and months?

Jennifer: Yeah it was a really exciting, fast-paced time. Like you said we were moving a little bit in the dark. The space was much less saturated so there was a lot more discovery that had to take place. So when we began late in 2013 we went to the Marijuana Business Daily Conference in November which was way smaller than it is today. Everyone could fit in one small auditorium and we really were looking around at the other solutions that were available and were surprised how little technology there was outside of the point of sale space. So with vertical integration coming to an end in Colorado the following year we were really excited to kind of pioneer the wholesale space.

Matthew: And how could you tell it was starting to pick up steam? I mean you create this online marketplace where license holders in Colorado can come together and maybe buy from each other or sell to each other but you put the marketplace in place and then you just call people and say hey this is out here I just want to see if you want to come on or what happened next?

Jennifer: Yeah I mean those first six months were really focused on; they’ve always been focused on onboarding and user engagement but the chicken and egg problem of having buyers and having sellers which is what you need to make a marketplace work and come to life was absolutely the focus of those first six months. The beginning of getting the platform live so we went and met with tons of dispensary owners. We had over 60 dispensaries participate in our beta period where we worked really closely with them not to build a product necessarily as we envisioned it but to take their current work flow and to take their current hurdles and make them a streamlined online solution that was intuitive and saved them time and would make them excited and I think that was how we knew it was working because people were really, really excited.

Matthew: Beta is kind of an interesting thing because you have all these ideas and they sound great on paper until your customer’s say yeah I don’t care about that or they say this is really great and you’re like wow I didn’t really think they’d be using this much as they are or what were some of the initial feedback you were getting in beta? What did they like, what did they not like?

Jennifer: Oh that’s a great question. Very quickly people were accessing the platform to buy and sell but also to see prices. Before Cannabase there really wasn’t a centralized place that you could understand what the market was demanding at that moment and as you know pricing is very volatile. So we began developing Cannalytics which are interactive kind of data and charts in the app. That was a huge hit. Making listings incredibly easy to build and manage and maintain. One thing that we discovered was that our background had been in technology. Building technology solutions for companies that were more excited about I guess using technology so I came from a company called Track Via which built custom business database applications for managing your workforce and that was a very, very different environment than building wholesale solutions for these new cultivators and retailers who maybe had one computer in the back room.

So we needed to get them excited about engaging, excited about using tools to their full capacity, and what it challenged us to do was make things as streamlined and intuitive as possible. So a lot of the early (06:30 unclear) were around making feature sets more accessible so that business owners would use them to their full capacity.

Matthew: That’s a real draw to get people to log on just to see what pricing is like and then when they’re on they can then use the wholesale marketplace. When you started in 2013 what was the wholesale price of cannabis at that time?

Jennifer: So we actually didn’t go live until early 2014.

Matthew: Okay.

Jennifer: So that’s when our data starts. At the time pricing was around 2,100 a pound.

Matthew: Okay.

Jennifer: And medical was cheaper at about 1,900 whereas recreational was about 2,300, 2,500. So at the time recreational grows were just coming online and product was very scarce and it was really demanding a premium.

Matthew: So why is that then is it because of the excise tax or is someone who’s licensed to be a medical cultivator is not the same as a recreational cultivator? What’s the difference there?

Jennifer: So medical and recreational product needs to be medical or rec from seed to sell. So you have a license as a medical cultivator or medical retailer. Actually with medical you have to have both because it’s still a vertically integrated model. So you need to as a medical dispensary grow 70 percent of what you’re going to sell yourself and then there’s a 30 percent allotment for wholesale. So it keeps the market small. All of the retailers are growing their own product and then there’s a little bit of wholesale product moving around. On the recreational side it was vertically integrated for the first about ten months of 2014 just to; I mean like the current model and make it a little bit more (08:14 unclear) for the current business owners and then in October 2014 mandatory vertical integration expired for recreational product.

So at that time you could still be vertically integrated if you wanted to. You could have your own grow as a dispensary and grow your own product like you always have. A lot of business still operate that way but it also made being a standalone grow or a standalone cultivation legal for the first time which meant that we had big cultivations coming out just focusing on growing lots of product and growing it well and that’s what’s really created the recreational surplus that we don’t see in medical which is still a vertically integrated market today.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense and what besides flower is on Cannabase? You mentioned edibles and so forth but what’s the marketplace look like if someone were to log on for the first time and see it? What’s selling? What are people most interested in?

Jennifer: So in Cannabase you can buy or sell like you said flower, bud, trim, extract, edibles, seeds, clones really any type of extract or medicated product that the licensee’s are interested in moving.

Matthew: So Jen if someone’s an edibles manufacturer what’s the best way to go out there and to get other license holders interested in their product? I mean they’re brand new. They don’t have a reputation yet. They want to sell to other license holders. How do they put their best foot forward?

Jennifer: That’s a great question. So the edible market in Colorado is unique because it’s the only product that you’ll see on a retailers’ shelves that are still branded as the infused product manufacturer. So you can walk into Live Well and you can see Incredibles Bars or you can see Mary’s Medicinals. Bud tends to not be the same way because it was a largely vertically integrated market and still is most flower is branded with the dispensary’s name that it’s being sold at. So you’re not exactly sure what cultivation you bought it for. Some people try to change that and hope that their brand will live on once it hits the retailer’s store but usually the retailer is going to rebrand it and say this is our flower.

But edibles on the other hand stay packaged as the business that produces them and that’s a lot of what sales. We have brand names in edibles. We have Incredibles, Mary’s Medicinals, Edipure, and people learn what they like and they shop for those brands. So the edible space has been a really exciting space to watch grow because we’ve seen really powerful brands emerge. Cannabase has been part of this because we built early on what we call MIP catalogs. So MIP catalogs are slightly different than our traditional listings and they’re a place that infused product manufacturers including people making tinctures and patches and extracts anyone that has a product that’s going to stay branded on the retailer shelves. They can activate a MIP catalog and it’s a dynamic visual catalog of all of their offerings.

So you can see each of the gummies or the candies and what they look like. We have surveys so that the infused product manufacturers can ask retailers hey what flavors would you like us to develop next or what have your clients been asking about or hey if you’re not buying why is it? So the edible space is kind of independent and very mature and our MIP catalogs provide a great space for brands to showcase all of their different products in a really beautiful visual format to help increase the likelihood of retailers stocking them on their shelves.

Matthew: So when two license holders get together and decide they want to do a transaction how does that work then? What’s the next step?

Jennifer: So we have a couple different options. We allow users to connect over listings which opens up just an in app message center that’s fully encrypted, very private, and integrated with text messages. So they’ll get mobile alerts and they can go back and forth and have a conversation. On every listing we show the number of views that listing has had and the number of connections it has. So you get a little bit of an idea of supply and demand. We’ve also built negotiation dashboards. So negotiation dashboards give businesses a place to go back and forth on price without having to necessarily send each other messages with all the nicey’s like hey how are you? What about this strain, what about that strain? They can really just use more of a shopping cart approach. Say I want to buy this, this, this, this. Here’s the price I’m offering, here is the delivery that I need, and then the other party can accept or deny and the dashboard reflects those changes live with some messaging on the side if you do need to talk.

Matthew: Oh that’s handy.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Matthew: That’s great.

Jennifer: So it’s a really cool feature.

Matthew: Okay let’s talk about the price of cannabis now versus the last couple of years because that’s what people really; their ears perk up because they’re wondering how much profit can I make, how competitive do I have to be, how much stuff to bring down my cultivation costs, and so on and so forth. Where is the wholesale price of cannabis as we speak now in late 2016?

Jennifer: Well I mean it’s a really astute question and I like what you said about people beginning cultivations now and needing to kind of rethink their original assumptions. I can’t tell you how many people we meet who have projected selling their flower at 2,500 a pound which is what it was beginning of 2014 and then at a couple different stages when we’ve had shortages then the prices have risen there but in general they’re much lower. So prices today overall are about 1,500 a pound with med holding steady at 1,800. So you know back in 2014 it was at 1,900 today it’s at 1,800. So it’s really stayed steady. However recreational; the price of recreational flower has gone down considerably. The average right now we’re seeing on the platform is about 1,450 a pound but that’s up a little bit. A couple months ago we were seeing down at 1,000. People moving product for 800 and truly that’s for product that is testing well.

So I think a lot of the new recreational grows that come out on a very large scale their first batches they’ll pump out might have some strains testing at 6% or 7% or 10% or 12%. With the rec market becoming as flooded as it is with all of the standalone cultivations that have popped up over the last year and a half that product is really, really, really hard to move and you’re going to be demanding much, much lower prices just to get something for it. To demand that 1,450 a pound for your rec product today you really need to have high testing, high THC with great shelf display really beautiful, really full buds. It needs to be top quality to demand that 1,450 price.

Matthew: Wow. This is what I thought would happen last year and I was totally wrong and now it’s finally come around and I keep on seeing or talking to these growers in Pueblo and other places and they’re bringing more and more supply on and they’re doing it on a much bigger scale with much more efficiencies and it just makes me wonder the cultivators that are just not prepared for this or don’t have some sort of unique selling proposition I’m worried are just going to get monkey hammered here. It’s going to be a tidal wave of supply. I could be wrong about that. I’ve been wrong before but I mean do you see us moving into an era of vastly larger cultivators who are using efficiencies and economies of scale to kind of disrupt the market?

Jennifer: 100% you’re right and it’s already really in motion and when you predicted that the price would fall sooner I think you were right and it was really some extraneous factors that kept it from doing so. So last year we began to see prices spike around this time last year. It was a little later though. It was more around November. October, November we saw prices shoot back up again but that wasn’t because of anything we really could’ve anticipated. There were some regulatory and testing issues that became more stringent all of a sudden and there weren’t enough labs equipped to test for the things that suddenly needed to be tested for and so we not only had people throwing out large batches of product but we had a terrible laboratory bottleneck.

So that bottleneck eliminated supply for a while shooting prices through the roof but that was a superficial price increase in terms of the actual trend. Trend wise what we have seen is exactly what you predicted large scale cultivations coming online with much more efficient growing techniques pumping out tons of product and very few people setting up standalone retail centers especially with the moratorium in Denver on new licenses for retail centers. We don’t have enough retail centers to absorb all of the product entering the wholesale market and demand hasn’t spiked as dramatically or as quickly as these cultivations have been built.

Matthew: Yeah wow. That is why I would prefer to have a license in a state that has limited amount of licenses so you can get around this problem. You want to have constraint on supply to maintain margins if possible otherwise you just have to be the huge, huge economies of scale especially when we have cultivators coming online that have massive greenhouses. That really brings down their operational costs so this is going to be really interesting to watch. I mean I think cannabis is kind of interesting because we’re going to leap frog a lot of technologies. Just as in Africa they’re not putting down phone lines they’re jumping right to wireless.

We’re going to see cultivators jump to new technologies because they don’t have any legacy technologies and it’s going to allow for vastly greater yields and growth in the field. So it’s going to be exciting to watch. It’s good to be in the picks and shovel side of the business like you’re in not providing the marketplace.

Jennifer: Absolutely, absolutely. We’re all kind of living it live and what’s been interesting is we have the medical market to compare the recreational side to and in the medical side where you have these checks and balances that whatever you grow 70% of it you have to sell yourself there’s a natural control there. You understand your own sales cycle and you don’t necessarily grow that much more than you’re going to be able to move from your shelves. On the recreational side where we’ve seen that limitation lifted the natural tendency is like you said people to put really big money into really efficient grows where they can leap frog and discover new technology.

I mean this has been an underground plant for how many years and now all of a sudden tons of capital and time and attention is being infused into growing techniques and how to really create the best product at the lowest price possible and while that innovation is very exciting we need to make sure that the market can support all of the product that’s coming out of it otherwise we’re going to see a lot of businesses not last as long as they were hoping.

Matthew: Right and I didn’t mean to discourage anybody listening it’s just that there are opportunities to find different ways to add value and I know for example in Boulder there is some kind of artisanal cultivators that sell out their whole crop before it even germinates because they have such a good reputation. So there’s other ways to add value. The companies that have a me too product that are going to have a harder time and going to see smaller and smaller profit margins. So it’s just time to evolve a little bit I think. Unless you’re in a marketplace that has limited licenses and it’s tightly controlled. That’s a good place to be.

Jennifer: Absolutely. There’s so much room for innovation. I mean especially on the edible side, the tincture side, alternative delivery methods, and people overwhelmingly don’t want to smoke. They want to find other ways to consume cannabis for whatever reason they do to sleep, to exercise, to relax, and so I think there’s so much room for innovation but it is about thinking outside the box and being a mass bulk supplier of flower it’s probably; I personally wouldn’t recommend doing it unless you are sure that you can produce very, very, very high testing like you said. High testing, well branded product that’s going to be able to differentiate itself very well in the market.

Matthew: Let’s pivot to your recent acquisition or how Helix TCS recently acquired Cannabase? When that courtship first started what was it that kind of perked up your ears like hey what’s the synergies here? How can this make sense? What were you thinking about because Helix does some interesting things? Why don’t you talk a little bit about that?

Jennifer: Absolutely. So we approached Helix because they are the leaders in transport and logistics so the absolute leaders in the security logistic space which is essential for a wholesale market and we really wanted to work with the best in that space. So that was kind of what began the relationship. Once we began working together we got a better idea of their vision which was to create integrated operating environments for these license cannabis businesses and you’ve spent a lot of time with me so you know I’m very, very, very passionate about integrated solutions for business owners, for infrastructure in this space that connects all these disjointed startups and all these yeah disjointed startups and components that the license businesses need to grow and so we really shared a common vision of building integrated solutions that would maximize efficiency.

The founders of Helix TCS have incredible experience in emerging frontier markets. So they have experience dealing with spaces with nebulous or conflicting regulations in the laws where there are many new entrepreneurs. Where there are businesses surviving off of pure fundraising model which can kind of skew the market and they have a lot of experience in growing successful companies. So for us at Cannabase it was kind of a no brainer that from the base level of being able to provide cutting edge logistics to our clients to being able to expand our capabilities to provide those integrated solutions I’ve always been talking about and wanting to see come to life as well as the deep intuition and market experience that come from people who have grown successful companies in these crazy environments.

I don’t want to say it was a no brainer because our company, Cannabase is very, very important to us and it was a decision that couldn’t be taken lightly but once we went down that road there really was no turning back. We were so excited to join with them.

Matthew: Yeah you’re merging together the online marketplace with the offline logistics and expertise so the world of bits and atoms come together. That’s a compelling offering and it’s a difficult thing to follow.

Jennifer: Thank you. Yeah it’s incredibly exciting and allows us to do much more quicker than we would’ve ever been able to do on our own and we think it’s a pretty incredible offering now that we’re able to bring to the market and able to continue expanding upon.

Matthew: Now you’re in Colorado. Where else where Cannabase and Helix extend their reach to in the future?

Jennifer: So we’re in Colorado. We’re still in beta in Washington. But however one huge change that’s happened since the beginning of our life here with Helix has been the beginning of a couple very powerful strategic partnerships with MJ Freeway and BioTrack. So we have basically entered into agreements with both companies that allow us live inventory data and integration with their systems exclusively nationwide.

Matthew: Wow.

Jennifer: So that’s going to be a very, very, very powerful channel to take the wholesale market and the live data to the next level with a more real-time live exchange model and give us a very powerful avenue for nationwide distribution.

Matthew: Wow. So for people that don’t know MJ Freeway and BioTrack are the two largest seed to sell tracking software so that’s a powerful value proposition. That’s great.

Jennifer: Thank you. Yeah it’s really huge. I mean being able to pull inventory data live and connect buyers and sellers is going to greatly increase the efficiency of wholesale transactions and the amount of data that it’s going to make us exclusively privy to is going to allow us to provide very enhanced Cannalytics and market data to our users allowing them to make great decisions, enhance forecasting. We really couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.

Matthew: Yeah. That’s incredible. For entrepreneurs that are listening that want a product that stands out we talked a little bit about adding value; how to start on the right foot. Let’s put you on a hot seat here. If you were to create a product, if you had to wave a magic wand and you had to do something besides Cannabase and Helix and you’re going to create let’s say an infused product. What would you try to do to standout and kind of create that unique selling proposition that would allow you to have a thriving business?

Jennifer: Oh great question. I think the infused product space is really fascinating and would really encourage a lot of people who are looking to get into the space to explore that area. I would definitely start with high testing product, lab tested product, pesticide free clean growing method so really knowing where your product is coming from is baseline important these days. The old adage of well we’re just going to be the best. We have the best pot. We’re going to use the best product. That song has been sung so many times that it’s really lost its meaning in this space.

Matthew: Right.

Jennifer: So you really need to think about what does make you unique? I think the biggest thing is making sure that you have a unique value proposition. Is it the method of deliver, is it how fast does it take effect in someone’s system, how well can people control dosage, how predictable is the experience going to be? As more and more people start using cannabis in their daily lives it becomes more and more important that they’re not zonked out for longer than they think they’re going to be. That it produces a repeatable consistent experience. So I think making sure it’s well branded, it’s attractive, it sits well on the shelves, it has a long shelf life, it’s realistic in the market is very important but most importantly that the product is good, very strong quality, and that you have identified a unique value prop.

You cannot just put something great because you have the best stuff into the market and expect it to sell. You have to have something that really sets you apart but I think there is so much room for innovation especially in the infused product space and would really encourage people to explore and be creative.

Matthew: Yeah. I really would welcome more entrepreneurs that are interested in alternatives to sugar as a sweetener and who are looking to do things that are GMO free. Just healthier options and the reason I mention infused products is that for people that have infused product companies wholesale cannabis is just one input and as your prices go down you can offer your product at a lower price so you don’t have quite as much risk there if you’re risk averse. So that’s a compelling proposition but there’s just so many ways to do things. So many novel concepts still out there I think so I would encourage listeners as well who are on the fence to try something new and different just not a me too product because I think that might end in tears.

Jen as we pivot to personal development questions I like to ask a couple things to let the audience know you a little bit more. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life where you look back over the arc or your life and say hey this has given me a new lens to look at things that’s really had an impact?

Jennifer: Absolutely. So I’m a huge proponent of The Lean Startup Methodology. The Startup Owner’s Manual is a phenomenal book to help new entrepreneurs think about how to iterate through a product and really make sure that users are engaging at any given point no matter what that product is. I think in a market like cannabis where you have to grow with it in realtime there could not be a more applicable framework for learning how to grow your business and for how to stay very cognizant of your assumptions and to be testing those at any given point to make sure that the vision is staying real with reality. So I couldn’t recommend the Startup Owner’s Manual more.

Matthew: Wow that’s a great suggestion. So did you when you were starting Cannabase then did you use The Lean Startup Methodologies to go to prospects and say hey we’re thinking about doing this are you interested in that? Does that make sense? Were you kind of bouncing the idea back on them?

Jennifer: Absolutely. I mean we were always trying to understand from the market a couple steps ahead of what we were building at that moment so that we were building the direction they wanted us to build. We’re not making this product for ourselves. We’re making it for their business so little things like it really quickly became apparent how much the high employee turn rate impacted a business’s ability to engage with our software because there is a learning curve and you need to onboard new users and what happens when someone leaves? How do they have access to that data and whatever relationships that that employee was cultivating? So although we began with just top level user accounts for each dispensary or cultivation quickly we built out employee roles and permissions that you could easily set up an employee account, it would be tied to your main account, you could set the permissions.

What should this person be doing, what shouldn’t they be doing, and then you could easily activate or deactivate that user without impacting your overall account and then you could access their messages and access what they were doing. This was really, really key for some of our earliest users who now have been through four or five or six wholesaler inventory managers and don’t want to lose the relationships, the traction, the listings, the data that they’ve built in the last couple years on their Cannabase account. So that’s just one example of listening to the problem which is hey people keep quitting and we’re switching over accounts and how can I see stuff and saying let’s really build out a piece of the platform that addresses this churn and makes this comfortable for business owners and make it a tool rather than a hindrance.

Matthew: Great points. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible that you would recommend to listeners but you can’t say Cannabase?

Jennifer: I was going to say Cannabase.

Matthew: You can’t say that, can’t say that.

Jennifer: Yes absolutely. I am a huge; our whole team I should not take all the credit. Our whole team are huge fans of QuickBase and actually Eric who’s been with us since the beginning. He does all of our data and finances is a QuickBase hero. He is such a super user. He’s accumulated so many points with QuickBase. But QuickBase is a custom database application much like the company I used to work for TrackVia that allows you to create custom business applications tailored to your workflow. So it’s basically like you’re creating inner linking spreadsheets with forms on top which is what most software programs really are. So we have a custom CRM, a custom finance manager, custom dashboards, custom sales dashboard. Things that allow us to monitor our progress and monitor the app and monitor our development flow in a way that is totally unique to us and this was something we began building when it was just the founders and we just had a domain name.

We began setting up the QuickBase and all of our data about our accounts and really how we would track our workflow and manage our employees and being on QuickBase has allowed us to be as iterative with our internal processes as we are with the app and it’s allowed us to scale and keep very, very, very comprehensive records at every stage of the business which from getting off the ground to the acquisition was incredible important that we were that organized and still today every time we face critical decisions we’re able to look back at the data of the past and say hey have we been down this road before and does our data support the pivot that we’re looking to make. So I would highly recommend looking into a product like QuickBase or TrackVia instead of using just a CRM that you buy online or project management tools that you buy online.

Really thinking about your own organization and putting together those custom processes for custom workflow which allow you to really take ownership of how your team and your product is growing.

Matthew: And that’s the same company that makes QuickBooks right Intuit? Is that QuickBase?

Jennifer: Yes. QuickBase is owned by Intuit. I think that they have sold within the last year.

Matthew: Okay.

Jennifer: The actual QuickBase platform but yes it’s an Intuit product.

Matthew: Jennifer in closing how can listeners learn more about Cannabase, follow your work, and learn how to become involved?

Jennifer: So now there’s two places. You can of course visit Cannabase online at www.cannabase.io. So www.ca-nna-base.io or you can also visit our parent company Helix where we are putting a lot of press updates and recent news there as well. So that website is www.helixtcs.com.

Matthew: Jennifer thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Jennifer: Matt thank you so much for having me.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.


Jennifer Beck, CEO of Cannabase discusses how and why she made the decision to be acquired by Helix TCS and how Cannabase is now in a stronger position post-acquisition.

Key Takeaways:
[2:10] – What is Cannabase
[2:50] – Jennifer talks about the first weeks and months of starting Cannabase
[5:13] – What was the initial feedback in the beta phase
[7:31] – The difference in price in medical and recreational marijuana
[9:12] – What are people most interested in on Cannabase
[9:49] – The best way for edible license holders to sell their product
[12:10] – How are transactions handled on Cannabase
[13:33] – Jennifer talks about the wholesale prices today
[16:15] – Large cultivators using economy of scale to disrupt the market
[21:53] – Jennifer talks about Helix TCS acquiring Cannabase
[24:38] – Will Cannabase expand to other states
[26:42] – How to make your cannabis business stand out
[29:33] – Jennifer’s book and web tool recommendations
[34:51] – Cannabase’s contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends

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