Evolving Beyond Cannabis Delivery with David Hua of Meadow

David Hua - Meadow

David Hua is the co-founder of Getmeadow.com an online cannabis delivery platform in California. David talks about how Meadow is expanding into the dispensary to help business owners manage their business and get more customers

Key Takeaways:
[2:02] – What is Meadow
[3:23] – David talks about being part of Y Combinator
[7:11] – More about Meadow
[9:25] – Meadow’s most popular delivered items and time of day
[11:26] – David talks about the medical market
[13:27] – What makes Meadow unique
[14:44] – David talks about the dispensary management software
[16:08] – What does the software do
[20:32] – Are there tech skills involved in implementing Meadow
[23:37] – David talks about online ordering with Meadow
[26:16] – David answers some personal development questions
[31:28] – Contact details for Meadow

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Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Most startup business pivot because their original idea is not working out so well. Meadow is a different story. They stared out as a cannabis delivery service in California and still do this, but they are expanding into dispensary software and winning customers. Here to tell us all about it is David Hua, better known as just Hua. Hua, welcome to CannaInsider, or welcome back to CannaInsider.

David: Yeah, woot, woot. Good to be back.

Matthew: Tell us where you are today. You’re not in your usual locale. Let’s hear.

David: I’m not. I’m in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Matthew: Cool, are you going to try out for Cirque du Soleil, or what’s going on there?

David: We’re actually here for ArcView Meet-up, and then later on this week there will be MJ Biz Con, which is a big conference where everybody gets together and talks about cannabis across the country and across the world. It’s great, there’s a lot of people that come by.

Matthew: Yeah, that is a massive event. Normally I go there. It is the place to be.

David: A lot of information sharing, it’s great.

Matthew: Did you find it overwhelming? Do you have to go back into your room and get in the fetal position just to recover from all the social activity?

David: This is my fourth year here, so I kind of know what to expect. Hydration, keeping tea, keeping the throat clear for all the talking and pacing. Some people just don’t know how to pace. It’s good. I’m okay.

Matthew: Remind us again at a very high level what Meadow is.

David: Sure, Meadow is an all-in-one platform that powering the California cannabis industry.

Matthew: What’s changed since the first time we had you on the show? I can’t remember, a year or two ago now?

David: I think it’s been a couple of years. Let’s see, I’m a father, that’s changed.

Matthew: Congratulations.

David: Thanks. I’m a father of a 19-month-old. I’m also a father of this startup Meadow. I think also, I mean, by focusing in California, we’ve been through so many legislative sessions where now the Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, also known as, MAUCRSA, also known as, The Act, will be going live Jan 1, 2018. So, there’s been a lot of talk about change and figuring out implementation is going to be next year.

Matthew: I just want to hear a little bit, you were part of the famous startup accelerator, Y Combinator. You probably get a lot of questions about this, but I’m just curious. What was that like being part of Y Combinator and then how much currency does that give you in terms of investors wanting to talk to you and be able to build relationships and so on and so forth?

David: It’s been actually really great. I think Y Combinator as a brand, as an accelerator is pretty well-know. When people see that it’s a stamp of approval. I think being the first cannabis company to come out of there was a little bit more unorthodox for them, but what’s cool is it’s paving the way for more cannabis companies to go through. So, we got Confident Cannabis that came through. There’s a gene company that came through last batch. There’s another one coming though next. It’s good. They’re seeing the opportunity and the potential. When talking to other investors, they realize that when you’re part of technology and Y Combinator that it’s a really good sign.

Matthew: What about just networking with Paula Graham or even other alumni from Y Combinator? For people who haven’t heard of Y Combinator, can you throw out just a couple of the more famous alumni of that program?

David: Let’s see, Dropbox, Airbnb, Weebly, Reddit, Stripe, Justin TV, which then became Twitch. That was bought by Amazon for a billion dollars. Cruise, the self-driving car company. Meadow. There’s a lot. I think what’s cool about the people and hanging out with everyone, everyone is just super hungry to affect change in the world within their own sense of control and bringing people aboard, and everyone’s really helpful in sharing what’s worked for, what hasn’t worked for them in hopes you can glean some of that experience and then apply it to whatever you’re doing in whatever field you’re working in.

Matthew: They say you’re the average of the five people you hang around with the most. I definitely could see where you’re hanging around with people that are in Y Combinator who went through that, who are alumni, who are kind of in Paula Graham’s orbit, changes your whole world view of what’s possible. Different than if you grew up in Omaha. Sorry to pick on Omaha, but your sense of what’s possible in how big you want to dream is probably entirely different.

David: Yeah, I think that we get so much exposure, especially with some of the partners at Y Combinator. They see so many slices of innovation across the spectrum of possibility. Anything from AI to machine learning or a smart luggage company like Blue Smart, or a company that specializes in tap water, Give Me Tap. Just trying to figure out ways to make things efficient, or an LGBT company. They have so much perspective of what’s out there. When you are able to talk specifically about my field or cannabis, you can pull in a lot of inspiration from other industries that you can learn from. Being at the start of this movement, we have a lot of opportunity to take the best from other industries and not necessarily focus on things that didn’t work and apply it to where cannabis could be with all those learnings and leverage and best practices.

Matthew: Let’s dig into more of what Meadow is doing here. You mentioned California. Is Meadow operating just in California right now?

David: Yeah, just in California.

Matthew: That’s a big enough economy where you can do that, no problem. I would speculate it’s probably Northern California and Southern California is 80 percent of the business. There’s not much happening in the middle or am I totally wrong on that?

David: It’s all over. We cover about 80 percent of California in the available areas that participate in the cannabis industry, but a lot of our partnerships are definitely more NorCal focused, since that’s our back yard, but we’ve been expanding into SoCal.

Matthew: What’s the game plan in terms of expanding to other geographies. Do you feel like you still have so much room to grow in California that you’re not really thinking about that yet or is there a roadmap?

David: Yes, so we’re really focused on California. We have major cities like L.A., San Francisco, San Jose. We’re looking into, we have Modesto, Santa Cruz. California is just a beautiful state. There’s still so much opportunity for these cities and counties to get onboard. A lot of local municipalities still haven’t really created their regulatory framework yet and their licensing framework. So we’re going to continue to help work with regulators and operators at these places in order to hopefully give them guidance on what the framework is in the state so that they can match up. What’s great is there’s places in our back yard like Berkley that’s really thinking about delivery and how that impacts them, but they’ve also been forward thinking in going with adult use.

There’s still a lot of counties that haven’t necessarily authorized adult use yet. So, there’s a lot of work to be done in California, and because all these laws are different, there’s a lot of flexibility that needs to be built in our software to accommodate these different formulations and how they’re going to regulate their respected industry in their local municipality.

Matthew: What’s the most popular items that are currently delivered through Meadow?

David: I guess you’re seeing similar trends to what’s going on in California and Washington and Oregon where concentrates and vaporizers are on the rise. Edibles are on the rise. Flowers are relatively still on the rise. We expect that to come down eventually, next year. Who knows. With adult use, it’s still a mixed bag on what could be happening. Popular products, you have a lot of pre-rolls and vapes. Edibles, my favorites are Mallows. They’re my wife’s marshmallows. I think they’re going to be perfect for next year because they’re low-dose, 5 mg. It’s still fragmented. There’s so many products that there’s still a lot of room for products to get on the shelf.

Matthew: In terms of time of day, you look at Uber, it surges when it’s raining or rush hour. Is there a rush hour for cannabis orders or cannabis related orders?

David: Yeah, typically we see evenings between Thursday and Sunday, to be pretty popular. Now that we’re pretty spread out, there’s different behaviors in different cities. Some people order during the day, and they’re okay with that. Some people schedule mainly for the day. So, they’ll take orders from the evening and schedule all through the day and then be done so they’re off the road by 5 o’clock. So, it just varies.

Matthew: Since on January 1st there will no longer be a requirement to be medical, do you see the medical dropping off in terms of people getting cards? Is that really starting to wane quickly?

David: I don’t know. We’re still very bullish on the medical program. I think because we Meadow MD, we really see the number of conditions that people are trying to treat for this. I think whether it’s sleep or chronic pain, there’s a lot of upside in getting a card next year because you can get a tax savings. So, people that are really trying to sleep, they’re guying edibles every week, or migraines, they’re buying every month. So, it adds up and they’re going to get some savings on it because the prices of cannabis are expected to rise and a recommendation isn’t that costly. So, if you’re spending more than $300-$400 a year on cannabis, which a lot of people in my circles do, it’s worth it to get.

Matthew: What about the average delivery time? I know that’s different in different places, but what can you tell us about that?

David: So, www.getmeadow.com it’s about an hour or less. Our average time is around 23 minutes. We also work with a lot of other dispensaries by powering their own site. So, places like [12.53 unclear] or Spark, where they need to have an online ordering presence there. So, what’s great is their delivery times are oftentimes the same than what we’re getting on the directory. Mainly because we want to keep improving the toolset so that they can deliver efficiently.

Matthew: There’s a couple other cannabis delivery companies on the scene. What would you say your unique selling proposition is? Is it the fact that you’re integrating with dispensaries now, or how would you define that?

David: Yeah, I mean I think we stand out because we’re really an all-in-one system. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of companies out there that use a Frankenstein approach to different software. So, they’ll patch up a bunch of different systems and try to use those. Some are more sophisticated and have some API integrations, which make it a little bit easier. I think for us, because we’ve specialized in delivery first and last mile, we’ve been able to build up the supply chain while the laws are being formulated. So, it’s really customer for the laws of California and the sophistication of the operator. As they scale the tools get better. I think we just spend a lot of time on the rules and working closely with the people that are on the ground and managing this thing.

Matthew: I didn’t even formally get the reason why you started the dispensary management software, because the last time we had you on the show it was just www.getmeadow.com delivery. What was the spark there? What was the genesis of why you came up with that?

David: What ended up happening was we started with the directory and then as we’ve built out these tools, a lot of dispensary owners were like, hey can we do this on our site. Yeah, sure. So, we started building out online menus for their sites, and that evolved into our inventory program and that involved into our reporting and analytics. A lot of the dispensaries we’re working with are doing delivery also had a brick and mortar retail location. They’re like, can you help power our check-in? Can you help power our point-of-sale? I guess we just kept saying yes, and we’re like sure, I guess we can do that. It’s been brick by brick. We just keep building on top.

What’s cool is whether you are a small operator or a large operator, you’re using the same software. Whether you are a brick and mortar or a delivery service, you’re using the same software. If you do all of it, you’re using the same software. I think what’s been really great for them is they’re realizing efficiencies across the board from not having to context switch to different applications.

Matthew: If I were looking over your shoulder right now, and you were walking me through what it’s like to look at the dispensary software, what would you show me? What are the buckets of things you can do?

David: Within the store, we have an iPad app. So, we build IoS apps as well. Our team is really good at mobile apps. The tools within the app range from point of sale, member intake, member processing, label printing, inventory cycle counts, shift management. In terms of their drawers and how much is in there. It’s a pretty nice Swiss Army Knife of tools within the app, and what’s cool is it’s getting better.

Matthew: We certainly don’t like to highlight other POS companies’ failures because we’ve all had our failures, but have you seen surge of interest as other software management tool have kind of had troubles recently?

David: Yeah, we have. I think people are just looking for stability, security and something that’s a little bit more dialed in to their needs and with usability. Yeah, we’ve been seeing some more interest. A lot of it’s been inbound. We’re not necessarily going outbound and reaching out. That’s not our style, but yeah we have had some inbound.

Matthew: Do you ever talk about feature bloat internally, because I’ve noticed over the years there are software tools that I love, and then I love them less and less over time because they decide they want to be a Swiss Army Knife and have 40 extension on the knife instead of just doing 12 things incredibly well, simply and elegantly. Do you ever talk about that with your team?

David: Yeah, absolutely. I think feature bloats could be a symptom of not properly teaching people the tools, or it could be a symptom of not talking to your customers to understand that that’s something you should have built. It’s something that’s very prevalent when teams get larger or their scale gets bigger and they’re like, well we got to keep making more things instead of improving on the things that they have. I would recommend, for companies who are doing that, to stay close to their partners. Talk with them a little bit more about what their true needs are, and then sometimes think about the idea of not necessarily what tool they need, but the problem they are trying to solve and then maybe improving some of the tools or workflows that you have that ends up solving for that.

Matthew: Are most of your new customer for the dispensary software, do they have no other software before or are they migrating from another vendor?

David: Both. We have people that are still pen and paper. We have people that have pretty sophisticated systems that aren’t necessarily cannabis specific. They’re moving over. It’s all over.

Matthew: I’ve seen people come up with some pretty crazy duct tape solutions. I mean they’re wildly inventive, but I mean it’s just a carnival. I have written these scripts that pull reports from Quckbooks, downloads it into a text file and parses it. You get 100 on resourcefulness, but it’s crazy. It’s crazy that you’re doing that.

David: It’s what people have had to do when they had to they realize as soon as you hit even 20 deliveries a day, all that manualness is really tough. When you have a 100 people visiting your store every day and you’re still photocopying everything and putting all that into manila folders into a file cabinet, it blows my mind on how much there still is left to do, but I think it’s going to change really quickly as people adopt newer technologies that make them more efficient and more competitive in their industry.

Matthew: Speaking of adoption. In terms of implementing the dispensary software and getting up and running with it, what kind of tech skills do you need to do that?

David: Tech skills, I mean, not much. A really good wi-fi is nice.

Matthew: I’m not going to be configuring a router and doing a telenet session or anything like that?

David: No, a lot of our work is in the Cloud and we use really secure hosting. Literally we come in, we help them with… first we really go through what they’re currently doing just to understand their workflows. Our system is really flexible. We can kind of cater to a lot of different workflows. So, once we have their ideal workflow from what they currently do and what we believe they should do, we match them up and show them what that can look like. From there, we do I guess you would call SOP development to help then show the process because most stores, most delivery companies have multiple people on staff and they might not be there the day that we’re there. So, we help them develop little guides.

We implement through getting them logins and putting our software either on the floor or in the front desk or in their dispatch back office and we simulate orders and how that goes and run through a demo environment and how that works, and then we go live when all the inventory and their menus are up to date.

Matthew: When someone finally gets the full power of they’re looking on their iPad at a dashboard is there one thing that they really love more than anything else? Seeing everything at a glance or the online ordering? What’s the thing you hear, I f-ing love this?

David: We hear that it’s so nice. We hear that often. “Wow, this is so nice.”

Matthew: I think I know what they mean by that. Your UX, your user interface is very simple and clean. You probably don’t even realize it, like fish don’t realize they’re swimming in water. Being in the Bay Area in the tech scene, it’s unacceptable to have a user interface that’s clunky. It’s very clean and easy to look at. Well organized. For you, you’re probably like I don’t see what… I’m glad they’re saying that, but I don’t know how I would even do it.

David: Yeah, you’re almost like, well that’s par for the course. I appreciate that. I think we often think a lot about how to reduce as much friction as possible and I think that’s part of the nice, but yeah, we’re flattered every time. It’s great.

Matthew: Tell us a little bit about the online ordering and how that connects with the Meadow service and the loyalty program to help dispensaries drive sales, because that’s what they’re interested in. That’s the big one.

David: Yeah, they’re great. What’s great about the online ordering is it adds a whole other line of revenue into a connected system. Usually we’ve seen dispensaries not take online orders or they take them over the phone or they’re using an outdated or somewhat clunky manusystem that was an extension. Online orders have helped them either process delivery orders or pickup and that time that would have been spent on those calls or answering an email is now just doing a pick list from that order and sending it out. It’s really streamlined on both sides in the sense, all right now they’re making more money and now they’re also saving time on their overhead. The speed in which people are ordering is really interesting.

Once they get through their first order, that first time, the repeat ordering is sometime less than a minute. That’s what people are looking for; convenience and speed and all that information right there for them to see without necessarily have to ask a lot of questions.

Matthew: Is there a surge to get this done before adult use becomes legal here in 2018?

David: There’s definitely a sense of urgency, but we’ve also I think, having been around the block for a little bit, sometimes urgency isn’t necessarily the best formula for a partner, if they’re all over the place. So, I think there’s more importantly they understand the value of technology and how it can help them and their organization. Once we align on that we can move really quickly. Yeah, there’s still a lot to be done. It’s not going to be everyone’s going to be ready to go by January 1. There’s going to be a lot of people afterwards that are going to try and interpret the laws and the regulations. We’re still, as of now, we don’t have the emergency regulations for California yet, and that’s what’s going to define how we operate next year.

Matthew: Pivoting to some personal development questions, is there a book that has had a powerful impact on your life or way of thinking that you’d like to share?

David: More recently I read, or I listened to, the Book of Joy. It’s an interview with Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama where they talk about what it’s like to live a joyful life. I think a lot of what they say in terms of compassion for one another, care and all those things that allow you to be a little bit more outward thinking, not so much internal, then brings back that gratitude that ends up making you happier.

Matthew: That’s good. I’ve read, I think, the Art of Happiness or something like that from the Dalai Lama of long time ago. I found that really insightful. Just very solid, practical ideas in there. So, thanks for that.

David: Yeah I think compassion, what’s really great about how they talk about compassion is it’s kind of what the cannabis industry was built on. When you look at the start of Prop 215 it was about helping the HIV community in San Francisco get access to medical cannabis because of the pain that they were enduring. It was because Nurse Brownie Mary was making brownies for patients. I think as we’ve visited a lot of different shops, there’s still a very strong correlation of compassion into how they treat their patients. There’s wellness services. There’s meditation. There’s free cannabis, free samples for people that need it. It’s in the DNA of this industry, in this movement and it was really nice to see it from their eyes. If we can apply those practices to this industry, then I think we’re going to create something totally different that’s going to be more value add than just the capital that it generates.

Matthew: Is there a tool, web-based or otherwise, that you consider vital to your day-to-day or business productivity?

David: Yeah, I use audible for my audio books. Having a daughter, you’re often pushing a stroller. Having those on the phone have been great. On the computer or on the phone I often use a lot of web-based tools like Quip for documents. We use Front for shared inboxes. Slack for internal communication. One of our core values is transparency through over communication. Having these tools allows us to look at what everyone is doing when it’s needed, and operate quite efficiently with our team of ten people.

Matthew: Tell us more about Quip and Front. I’m not familiar with those two tools. What do they do?

David: Quip is, for people who are familiar with Google Docs, Quip is very similar. What I like about Quip is that it’s more like a living document. Kind of like how Word has track changes, you can see what’s going on with a document within an activity bar. You’re able to comment people in. You can highlight different things, due dates. It’s a pretty seamless documentation portal for us. Front is another Y Combinator company. They’re great because you can create a shared inbox, and that shared inbox allows you and your other team members to manage it. For instance, we have support@getmeadow.com, so a bunch of us have access to that. Whoever is available can answer support. We don’t have a dedicated support team. We all do support so that we can improve the product and understand where the pain points are.

Matthew: Very cool. One more last question, just because I’m curious in your answer, if we waved a magic wand and you couldn’t be involved in cannabis delivery or any kind of point of sale software or dispensary software, what would be doing? What would your career be? What would you want to focus on?

David: I’m going to live the Matthew Kind Digital explorer life, extraordinaire. I’m going to interview people and take my family out across the world. That’s sounds pretty appealing to me right now.

Matthew: Okay, that’s good. Fair enough, I like that. Well, tell us where we can find you online, where listeners can find you if they’re interested and they want to get software for their dispensary, they want to themselves purchase some cannabis, some edibles or whatever it might be in California. How do they find you?

David: Yeah go to www.getmeadow.com. We have everything there. Whether it’s the directory or links to our MD program or links to our dispensary software, or if you want to just reach out directly, you can reach out to partners@getmeadow.com or even my personal email david@getmeadow.com or hua@getmeadow.com. Whatever you want. I’m pretty accessible.

Matthew: All right, thanks Hua.

David: I appreciate the time. This was awesome.