Ep 323 – How Cannabis Retailers Are Leaking Data to Competitors

nicholas paschal alpine iq

Just as oil powered the old economy of atoms, data powers the new economy of bits. Here to tell us how to leverage our cannabis business data and market more effectively is Nicholas Paschal of Alpine IQ.

Learn more at https://alpineiq.com 

Key Takeaways: 

[1:02] An inside look at Alpine IQ, a data analytics and marketing platform for cannabis companies

[1:27] Nick’s personal background and how he got into the cannabis space

[7:24] Why it’s important for companies to take protective measures with their business data

[11:18] How Alpine IQ not only offers analytics tools but also helps businesses determine the best ways to act on data

[18:32] What companies can expect during Alpine IQ’s onboarding process, from integrating apps to ensuring compliance across the board

[21:36] Alpine IQ’s audience feature and how companies are using it to generate ROI

[31:45] How streamlining analytics tools using Alpine IQ can provide incredible value for cannabis companies

[35:35] Alpine IQ’s journey achieving product-market fit and how the company got its first customers

[39:26] Where Alpine IQ currently is in the capital-raising process

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider dot com. Now, here's your program.

You may not have heard, but data is the new oil. Just as oil powered the old economy of atoms, data powers the new economy of bits. Today's guest is going to tell us how to leverage your cannabis business data and market more effectively. I'm pleased to welcome Nick Paschal, co-founder of Alpine IQ to the show.

Nick, welcome to CannaInsider.

Nick Paschal: Hi, Matt, thanks for having me on. I'm very excited.

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

Nicholas: I'm in good old Dallas, Texas, the land that's very flat and dry around here.

[laughter]

Matthew: Compared to Colorado, you're right. What is Alpine IQ on a high level?

Nicholas: Alpine IQ is really a customer data platform and a semi Marketing Cloud. Our goal is really to protect you from breaking promotional compliance, segmenting and personalizing customer journeys, and overall sinking of your in-store and online operations.

Matthew: Okay, that's a lot and important stuff, and we're going to dig into that. Before we do, can you share a bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space and started Alpine IQ?

Nicholas: Yes, for sure. Stepping back, when I was 13, I played video games, and eSports was not as big as it is today, and out of playing Halo professionally and traveling, I forced myself to learn technology in order to pitch sponsors and try to get people involved in eSports. Over time, that really just laid the foundation for me to jump into the startup game and be more of an entrepreneurial. I started a couple of startups, failed, learned all those lessons, and all those things are very necessary and had my first breakthrough startup in 2012. I've since sold that company three times now. Funny long story, but not relevant to cannabis.

Then my younger brother actually was working for Tilray for a number of years on the retail team. This is all public knowledge, but they were going out trying to get into retail and buy up different chains. Part of that was we were just talking, actually playing video games again, that's how we stay in touch because he was living in Seattle. We were talking about what's inside of all these data rooms? How are these retailers managing things, and especially across provinces in Canada, and we would later obviously work in the US as well.

I started tinkering around with data management in the space, and really found that there was a really great solution there, so we started building out a product alongside the retail team there. Then over time, just eventually had a proof of concept, went through beta, got the green light from a lot of very key players in the space, and then we started to go to market in February 24th, so right before COVID hit, and that was pretty crazy timing, but it's been a journey so far.

Matthew: Wow. You said you played video games professionally, specifically Halo, the Microsoft game, is that right?

Nicholas: Yes. [laughs]

Matthew: That's pretty crazy. I've never met anybody who could do that. Now also, you mentioned eSports, and people that are listening are like wait, what does eSports mean exactly? What is that fantasy football? eSports is now bigger than regular sports, I think. What does eSports mean to you?

Nicholas: For me, it's how millennials were raised, essentially, I feel like, or at least my parents [laughs] growing up playing games and then getting into Halo. That was really the first one that popped off outside of the PC World and went mainstream. At the time, it was on USA as a live event that they were streaming, and that was really the kickoff and eSports being gaming tournaments and live streaming online via companies like twitch which didn't exist at the time. All of those were just very natural progressions to me in that sport, and coming from MLG, which is Major League Gaming, was kind of the first thing that I was in related to that. It really forced me to be an entrepreneur because nobody really believed in gaming being a big industry from people watching it tournament style.

Convincing brands and sponsors of that was a big step, and putting together decks and websites for team members, and then that eventually led to 3D. I got really into particle effects, which led to me actually working on Halo, because one of the guys from Bungie saw my work on YouTube, and I got basically hired and had to move overnight from Arizona with no car when I was 17, so it's pretty crazy.

Matthew: Wow, that's nuts. How old are you now?

Nicholas: I just turned 30.

Matthew: That's quite a long journey then. That's really interesting. I know, in South Korea, in other places in Asia, that the eSports have gone to a whole another level. In fact, I don't think most Americans or North Americans are really aware to the extent they're filling arenas. You're watching people play video games on a big screen and stuff. I think that is someplace where things are headed, especially now that we've got Oculus 2 out there, it doesn't need to be connected to a PC and you can join events virtually and it's really becoming quite immersive. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Nicholas: Yes, I think the cordless VR stuff is pretty huge. I think that the barrier to entry, though, is still the price point on that. It's one thing to get a VR headset, but then you also have to get the PlayStation or build a workstation that's powerful enough to handle it. Yes, eSports is growing immensely. Even here in Dallas in Arlington right next to the Cowboys Stadium, there's a whole indoor arena just for eSports and gaming events, which launched, I think it's the biggest one in the country, if I recall correctly. It's just growing crazy. Especially in, like you mentioned in Asia, there's huge Superbowl stadiums that are just constantly sold out for games like League Of Legends and some of the more popular ones.

Matthew: Fascinating stuff. For listeners that are just not as immersed in data, and specifically, cannabis data as you are, how can you orient us so we can evolve our thinking to catch up to where you're at, and to think more critically about our business data what it is and how to use it?

Nicholas: Yes, so I think really the bottom line is that you're at risk of owning your customer if you have leaks in what I would call your data network or your data infrastructure. At the end of the day, if you don't have trust and confidence in your customer data, or inventory data, or machine learning derived pieces of information to help you grow your business, you're just going to have a lot of downstream problems occurring for both the customers in their journey, and loss of man-hours related to like your internal staff, either on a brand side or maybe a retail side. Some of the other things people don't realize is you're going to bleed customers to competitors in different ways that are subliminal.

Just to back up, a couple of months even, there's so much money getting poured from cannabis into silvery businesses. It's smart money, it's Silicon Valley money, these guys know what they're doing when it comes to data. Those in silvery businesses, you have to be careful with their intentions long term, especially when you have what I would call some conflicts where LPs and some of the big players that are your direct competitor as a retail operator or brand, are collecting that data downstream or have the ability to anonymize it and use it in exchange for maybe free access to your point of sale, which is a very common thing in cannabis.

Just being able to control your data long term and your data network is so critical. When these CPG brands get into this space in a big way, in a couple of years, your data, if you're giving it away for free or you're not governing it correctly, is going to end up powering their rapid penetration into the market. You should be owning your customer, you should control your data, you should have data breach clauses, and really speak powerfully about that for your business.

Matthew: When you say the leaks, I just want to be clear like data leaks so you're using maybe some sort of SAS software, or have an API that links your database to a third party for whatever reason it might be to accomplish something. That might be used in a way that you might not approve of but might not be aware of.

Nicholas: Yes, exactly. It's kind of the same argument that's very public with people like Facebook and TikTok right now, is you don't really know downstream just by using a couple of cool tools how they're going to be able to capture the customer in a way that you didn't really realize upfront. That might not just be, I don't want to pick on tech providers and your stack, a lot of people don't have that intentions. There's also leaks in a sense where if you connect your Mailchimp up and then you're doing SMS campaigns on a platform and the opt outs don't speak together, then that might open you up for problems down the road with compliance.

So just little things like that, that add up especially with such a new space where these tech providers are brand new and all the kinks aren't worked out, and everybody's just trying to work together.

Matthew: You know sometimes I see a lot of tools relating to data, and it lend themselves to analysis paralysis because the data's so overwhelming. It may be beautifully presented, but it's not clear what the actions are, like, "What's actionable here and what's my priority of action?" If I'm going to take some action, which one should it be first? How can you help us understand your data management platform and how to analyze the data to do something powerful?

Nicholas: Yes, for sure. I would say the first step is that you need to clean it and connect it all together. You need to get all your integrations. In this space, especially pre-COVID, most of that is being looked at as, "I just have to connect my point of sale. I can look at my transaction data with a couple of different providers or maybe that powers one or two marking tools."

The problem is if one of those pieces of data changes. Let's say that you have a customer wallet and their phone number changes or they change their address, what do you have to do with that person, and is that going to affect when they walk in to the store, if they're going to have the right information on the point of sale that they would have in the customer wallet that might be provided by somebody else? So just like cleansing, de-duping data. That's a big piece and mapping it together across all these destinations and sources of data.

In Alpine IQ specifically, we wanted to make it really simple to have key metrics. We have a managed service. If you don't understand data science, you don't want to look at a bunch of graphs all day. You just want actionable things to do as of business that would make a difference on your bottom line, we have that as an add-on for a lot of people.

In the dashboard, when you first get in there, we're super agnostic. What happened was, we made this data management platform. Originally, we were going to connect to a lot of tech vendors in this space, specifically in marketing and audience creation, and they didn't really want us to get into their business and power or anything. It was this gate-capped environment, so we ended up just making our own, what I would call Kroger brand of cereals, to match those. You have the option in Alpine to either use another provider for each piece of your technology stack, or you can use our own pieces that we've built specifically because we know that those are the highest ROI generating pieces, things like SMS campaigns, loyalty, wallets, personalizing stores screens.

The ability to attribute ROI across all of those tools, is probably the biggest difference in Alpine versus other things out there. What I mean by that is, when you connect your email provider, like maybe Mailchimp or Klaviyo, and then you have Alpine SMS campaigns, and you might have AdBlue banner ads doing retargeting and geosensing, it's very simple in Alpine to look at a couple of graphs and have a couple of stacks there that tell you, "Mailchimp sent you this much revenue versus Alpine SMS versus AdBlue banner ads." You can really break it out and split it out in one place so you're not looking at these detached different analytics tools on a hundred dashboards. It's all just going to be combined and nice. That's the first thing, it's just combining and being able to look at it in a clean way.

There's a couple of stats that we generally like to move the needle on, both from the managed service and what I just tell anybody to do, is look at the deviation of the member club average ticket size, so your loyalty club purchases versus your non-loyalty member purchases, and try to rise that percentage up, both through dynamic discounting and promotions and just targeting the right people at the right time is a big deal. We even have pieces on our system that map out the audiences you create for SMS or for Mailchimp, and then showcases that on a Google map of where those customers live so that you can decide on physical world promotions and events that might be relevant to specific audience.

Matthew: SMS is really a popular way to do promotions because it comes right up to your attention, unlike an e-mail or something else. There's some litigation right now for people that say they have opted out, which goes exactly to your point of like, "Hey, you've got to make sure you have clean data." When someone opts out, maybe in one database you have hyphens in their phone number and another part of the database that doesn't have hyphens, so your software thinks those are two different numbers, opts out one and not another. The next thing you know, there's a lawsuit because you texted someone that opted out.

Nicholas: Yes, the TCPA lawsuits are definitely a big thing in this space. We have a lot of customers actually come to us after those happen and still run SMS and are very excited about what they're generating there. You have to make sure that you're TCPA compliant in Canada, you also have CASL, in California, CCPA. You have all these different things that you have to look out for, not just for text messaging but e-mail compliance and all these different privacy policies.

Cleaning the phone numbers and cleaning records and de-duping them is a big step to honoring opt outs. In Alpine, we actually have a page that we give every customer that they can link to from their website, and you can opt out GDPR, CCPA compliance, and it connects all of your tools together. If they opt out of our page, then it'll automatically tell like Mailchimp, "Hey, they're opting out," and SMS campaigns will stop. To be honest, a lot of those TCPA lawsuits arose because customers were exporting SMS files from vendors and then switching vendors. There's edge cases there where, if you download a CSV file of all your member club people and you have opt out dates, and then they happen to send a couple of text messages in between the time you're transitioning and somebody opts out, when you're on the new vendor, that's going to send a text message. They're going to get upset and they're going to think they already opted out when the new vendor has no idea. You just have to be really careful transferring things. We try to help people through that as best as we can.

Matthew: We talked a little bit about the dashboard and what you see when you log on. Let's say I'm a business owner. I've committed to Alpine IQ. I've connected up as much of my business as possible, to it. What kind of insights will I be getting? What's actionable there that would draw my attention if I was looking over your shoulder at the dashboard?

Nicholas: As far as onboarding goes, typically we can get that done in a day. We just take you through an onboarding call. We make sure all your data points are connected, all those API keys are good to go. We'll map all the stores together, if you have multi store operations. The first thing you're going to see is, you're going to see a data network. When you log in, you're going to see all of your ingestion points of data pulling in, in real time, the accounts of people coming in, and then our system's core which is cleansing of that data, making sure it's compliant, and then shooting it back out to other third parties or our own in-house tech stack, which would be like SMS campaigns or one click review widgets for SEO boosting.

It's pretty simple once it's all set up. You're really just getting reports day to day, or those are also e-mail directly to the right team members where the data is relevant to them. That's a big difference for us, and yes, ease of use and simplicity is really key in this industry, especially when you're trying to connect up four or five different providers on average for every retail store.

Matthew: Okay. Let's say I'm a cannabis retailer. I've got Alpine IQ. How do I cleanse and sync that data? Is that happening automatically? Am I prompted to cleanse somehow and sync? Because I know that's something that you have mentioned in the past and it's important, but I don't know if everybody knows what that means.

Nicholas: Essentially, after you connect your, let's say you have a website, so you connect your website to our system, which basically tracks page views, what was put in cart, what videos did somebody watch, like maybe those were edible videos specifically. Then you might connect like a rest API, your point of sale, you have email providers, you have, e-commerce like I Heart Jane. All those things, once they're connected, Alpine is basically going to look at data from all of those places coming in real time. Then in some cases, there's a four-hour delay for certain point of sale systems. For the most part, it's really quick, and there's even a timer on the homepage that says, hey, at this time, we're going to run the next cleansing of your customer records and then sort them into very specific, granular audiences that you can use. It's pretty easy to see that it's running, it's constantly going to be going and protecting your entire data network.

Matthew: Okay. Very cool. Audiences, let's talk a little bit about that and what that means. What's an audience and how do you see retailers and brands using the audience feature to generate ROI?

Nicholas: Right. Audiences really are, most people in this space would say, okay, an audience is somebody that has previously purchased edibles or some kind of like generic category. With our system, we have a full segmentation and filtration tool. We generally give you a ton of different audiences that are pretty configured based on what we know is going to be used most, things like top 20% spenders across all of my stores. You might generate these audiences. you can select different traits. You can say, I want to target people that are top 20% spenders that visit at least three times per month and they have over 700 loyalty points, and then you can analyze those and use those people in campaigns down the road if you want to.

Matthew: Okay. Let's just, if you were to just hypothetically put on the hat of being a cannabis retail brand, how would you optimally run things from a digital perspective here? I think of Alpine is like this old time switchboard where the operator is plugged into everything else. It's plug plugged into all these other systems and stands there looking at them all. Now that you're at the switchboard and you have full visibility into all the different systems, how would you run your cannabis retail brand and leverage Alpine to do it the most efficiently and optimally?

Nicholas: I would use a lot of different tools. Right now, the incivility business side of things in the tech space is growing so fast. There's so many vendors in the space, and it's even after taking demos and seeing sales decks, which we did looking at people through Tilray. It was what is working over here? What's the best tech stack? How do I combine these things together? Really I would start with my base set up, my current point of sale. I would install website tracking. I would connect together my eCommerce setup, and that way I can look at everything in a consolidated place. Then I can switch out vendors. I can change out SMS campaigns to target different audiences that are more granular. I'm saving capital, but not sending SMS to the wrong people at the wrong time. Or maybe I'm a high tourism zone and text messaging people at daily deal to come into the store today is a bad idea to just blast a 40,000 members when like 500 of them live anywhere nearby to do that today.

It's like all these little optimizations I would do. I don't know if you want me to give some examples of upgrading campaigns or anything, but--

Matthew: Sure. Yes, I love examples.

Nicholas: Let's say you have 30 stores. Because really, we built this looking at Tilray, we knew it was going to be a very large thing. We went backwards on building it for big enterprises, and then that helped even single store operators obviously. Then they have trust to, as we grow, it's going to work. Let's say you have 30 stores in Colorado. We'll use that top 20% spenders that visited three times last month as an audience example. All you would need to do in our system is create an SMS campaign, and you can use all these little personalization tools, it's drag and drop really simple. You can say like, Hey, first name. that would relate to, Hey, Nick. It'd say, Hey Nick, happy Tuesday. I hope you liked the white widow you bought last week. White widow could be taken automatically from our system as the highest price item from their ticket on their last order.

You're not saying, Hey, I hope you liked the papers you bought. You can get really granular with that. Then you can give them a recommendation. You have a new string called Durban poison that we think you would really love. That recommendation is based on machine learning currently available inventory days of stock and things of that nature.

Now I have one SMS campaign I can send to 40,000 people, but it's going to be different for every single customer. Which is also going to help me not get blocked by carriers when I'm sending SMS because it's very personalized. We can even link a coupon in that SMS campaign that goes to a page that has a barcode to easily scan it at the tail or something else. When this is sent to a customer, there's an SMS campaign I'm talking about. Alpine would automatically add that discount to a customer wallet alongside any arcade style points, discounts, or anything that they're familiar with. This could even go to use the discount for pre-ordering on something like iHeart Jane because that's connected to Alpine. All this stuff is speaking together.

When they come in the store to pick up their product, after ordering on iHeart Jane, in that example, they can scan their ID at the door or be in a waiting room, depending on your state or province. Then we even 10 power things like store screens by saying, Hey, Nick is in the queue. He's about to walk in the store. I want you to put mostly edibles or Durbin poison content on all the screens in the store. Then the bud tender that handles him, I want you to give him a tablet recommendations list of products that are he's most likely to buy based on the white widow purchase and all of his order history and what other people have bought with the same order history in the store.

Then in the customer's brain, everything about their interaction with you is amazing. It's personalized to them. They feel like you understand them. The higher ticket prices come from that, the loyalty comes from that, and that's when you really start to get the boost. Then on top of that, when Nick leaves the store, he's going to get a text with his points, his wallet, that's going to have promos and recommendations in it, and that's going to drive him back to the store again.

Then on top of that, he might get a text message because he's a top 20% spender from Alpine to go review you at the exact store that he just visited in your 30 store chain network, on Google, Facebook, Leafly, Weedmaps, those types of things. All of this that I just said in that example, is completely automated with Alpine. You basically make an SMS campaign, and all of that stuff would automatically happen as the customer interacts with you. There's nothing really, you really have to do after that single day set up and creating a couple of campaigns. At the same time, that SMS campaign could sync to MailChimp, and MailChimp could send out an identical piece of content to that same person.

Matthew: Interesting. That really makes the prospect feel or the customer feel like, "Oh, this retailer gets me. We're in sync here." That makes a lot of sense.

One question about the customer journey. If you're watching videos and let's say all the videos relate to edibles, is it say like, Hey, this person's watched 700 minutes of edibles videos. They get like a tag or some way to know that this person's interested in edibles, but do you have something that says like, Hey, they're super interested in edibles. They're like, they're a 10 out of 10. Or is it just like Edibles?

Nicholas: No. Yes, so typically what we see in the space is just a simple tag for a basic category. I studied machine learning pretty heavily at MIT. My favorite topic, for sure. I probably bore everybody about that. Essentially, our system has got all sorts of brain power in the back end that's saying, okay, Nick is likely to visit within six days based on his propensity with my brand. I want to send a text message out when he's likely to come to the store within two hours. All those things are not necessarily like I wouldn't consider them tags. It's basically like a machine learning derived trigger to send a SMS at a certain time, or a trigger to push a discount when we know that they like edibles, like you said. They can always change interest. It's not like I walk into a kiosk, I tap, I like edibles. That's the only thing I get. If I go from edibles and I start buying a ton of concentrate or tinctures, which is very different type of buyer, generally, tinctures buyers are completely separated. Then I'll start getting different recommendations based on that. I would compare that mostly something like the Netflix recommendations that you get for TV and movies. If you start watching romance stuff, romance videos and TV shows are going to be more prevalent in your feed.

Matthew: I wonder why mine only suggests the Hallmark channel, Nick, any ideas?

Nicholas: I said romance because I'm thinking of my wife's recommendations.

[laughter]

Matthew: It is funny. It's like, how do I break this? I got to watch, like Rambo movies for a week. You can change the profile I'm under or something.

Nicholas: Yes, I got pop patrol for sure on all of mine for my kids.

[laughter]

Matthew: There's a lot of people listening here, and I can totally understand the situation. Because you start with one software platform, or you start with like one software SAS company to do something specific. The next thing you know, you integrate with another one because it integrates with the first one and they both do maybe one or two things well, and then before you know it, you have three or four and you're using all of them, and it feels like it's going well. Then someone like you comes on and it goes, well, it's like you have a body without a heart and a brain. You've got these parts that are not connected in a way that makes sense holistically. There's this sinking feeling like, Oh no, my date is leaking. I don't understand my customer journey. Are they even getting an optimal experience? How do I benchmark that? There's all these questions that start to swirl. What would you say to someone who's in that position?

Nicholas: [laughs] Call us.

[laughter]

It's a very simple workflow that we use often, and has really good success at jarring revenue, is to connect these things up. Do you dupe them have trust in my data, and be able to swap out and not have vendor lock on some of these downstream tools. Just getting that foundation together, even if it's rudimentary and bare bones for now, that's great. If you have a lot of tech providers already, there are ways to cleanse it out.

In some cases like let's take some TCPA lawsuits, if you have dirty SMS data and you're worried about that, there's ways to cleanse that. However, some people do choose to go back and say, "You know what, I've got to restart my member club. This doesn't work." We've had that happen before. It happens. People are learning as they grow right now. Our job at Alpine is just to stop that from the get go and just get you online and with a good solid foundation. Then let you have the freedom to use any tool you want without freaking out that you might lose a piece of data when you transfer. If I try this for seven days, it's going to break my entire network of other tools trying to work together, like on discounting or on other things.

It's not just that. It's also like in the future. Let's say that legalization happens in a bigger way, and all these blue chip tech providers can get into this space and you can start running Facebook Ads, and you can start running some of these key platforms that work so well in a normal environment. If you don't have your foundation set up with Alpine, you would click one button and say, I want to send all my cannabis audiences that are cleansed to Facebook Ads, and that same audience goes to MailChimp and your SMS campaigns. It's all just working together. It's not really that daunting of a task with the platform. It definitely is setting it up blind.

Matthew: People are like, "Wait, you can do that?" Yes, if you have your customers' emails, you can upload them to a Facebook ad campaign, and they can just push the ad right to you. That's a good point.

Nicholas: Yes, they have your most active contact information. That's where all the privacy stuff has been coming up lately, but it definitely works, and so does stuff like Google Ad words, or even something as simple as like doing an Intercom chat on your eCommerce store. Like how do you trigger SMS or in store screen display is based on if that person made a chat with you, and what was that chat about? All those types of events get funneled into Alpine and then it powers your downstream situation.

Matthew: You mentioned earlier in the interview about how, when you were getting started, you went around and talked to different companies, individuals, and got the green light. I think you said. What was that early incubation period like? Were you just trying to see if people wanted this or if they saw the need, or were you showing them a prototype? How did you get that product market fit?

Nicholas: Originally, we made a deck. We modeled the framework base layer off of some blue chip providers that are very large and do most of the Fortune 500 that isn't cannabis. That was really our foundational layer. Then we connected a couple of APIs and tools together for a few retailers, and then just started working backwards from there and did every single integration. I remember just speaking to entrepreneurs out there that might be listening. It's just like when you get into to this industry, it's so gate capped, and it's not generally early retailers or brands, they all want more tools to do their jobs better to connect everything. There's a lot of blocking going on between tech providers that don't want to release APIs, or they feel like somebody is going to be competitive to them downstream.

Honestly, it's funny because we didn't want to be competitive to these people. They just said, that's what we think you are. Then we turned around and said, all right, if you're not going to support these people on prevent vendor lock, then we're just going to build our own solution for it. We have like two or three vendors, minimum per type of marketing channel you might use, like SEO generation, and then we'll have our own version of ourselves that comes with the platform. It was very difficult. It was extremely difficult to get in touch. I remember sending probably 20 integration emails to people and saying, Hey, we're new. A lot of people don't have API support teams, and they get their time wasted a lot by kids coming into this space, thinking that they can just make it a tech play overnight and they just don't let them in.

It took getting the retailers and some of these brands to say, hey, like we need this. We got to find a new point of sale, or we got to find a new vendor for this other process because you're ruining my downstream chances of being successful. My example I always give is like these people doing blocking in the space, it's not beneficial to anybody and not even themselves. If you look, Apple isn't going to come into the space and block you from getting on the app store. You can go as a developer and sign up in two minutes, pay 90 bucks for a year, have unlimited API access and drop an app after it goes through an audit. That's not possible in cannabis right now, per se, in certain situations, but a point of sale, like Stripe, largest online transactions, huge API, well-documented, you can sign up as a developer in two seconds and power their customers with amazing tool sets for free.

All the excuses in the space of like, "Oh, we don't have enough money for this. We didn't budget this into our original tech play," I feel like those are just excuses and really like-- Just to give you an idea. We have three engineers. We have three engineers. We have done 24 POS integrations. Not one of them has taken more than 24, maybe 30 hours to do without talking to anybody. Most of it is probably six weeks of just back and forth on email, just wasting 10 team members time trying to get in, and that's it. It's unbelievably daunting just to get in.

Matthew: Well, so this is a very cool product mission control. It was put on. I think it was like mission control or the switchboard of your business. It was put on my radar because people said, "Hey, this is really a interesting software solution." Well done to you. Where are you in the fundraising process right now? Have you raised capital? Where are you?

Nicholas: Yes, so like I said, I sold my previous business a couple of times. Long story, but basically I took cash from that and then self-funded and have a great team of people working with us. In May, a couple of months after we really started selling publicly, we took on a small private round, and then in the future, we're very conscious about conflicts of interest in the space, and I want data to be owned by the retailer or the brand, and it's collected by you, so like, why shouldn't you own it? Your customers really don't deserve to be anonymized and sold to third parties, so especially at large competitors.

We're always looking for finance partners and to expand our growth, but we're looking at another-- doing like a larger, I would call it a series A strategic in the next couple of months.

Matthew: Nick, I like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life for way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Nicholas: Yes. I get the book question a lot, and I'm an avid reader, for sure. My favorite book, at least in the last couple of years, is definitely Sapiens. I believe it's Sapiens: Brief History of Mankind. I can't even describe how amazing this book is, but just understanding the growth of human psychology and where we're headed. It's just a very good foundational book, and it dives you into that whole process of how we came to be psychologically today. I would recommend that, so it's Sapiens.

Matthew: Great. Besides what you're doing at Alpine, what do you think the most interesting thing going on in the cannabis field is?

Nicholas: Oh, this space is so fun, honestly. I talked earlier about gatekeeping and stuff and how difficult it is to get in, but it's super fun. The people are great. There's pioneers everywhere, and as long as you jump those fences, it's amazing to work in it. The coolest stuff that I've seen is just-- I like seeing the transition of the customer education side, understanding what plants actually do to them, and the new research coming out about those different things. Also some of the more advanced stuff, like people trying to DNA splice and use CRISPR to change the effects, that's pretty crazy, but we'll see where it goes.

Matthew: Yes. Well, let's end on a Peter Thiel question here, Nick,. What is one thought that you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Nicholas: I like his book too, by the way, I forgot what it's called.

Matthew: Zero to One.

Nicholas: Zero to One. Yes, that's a good one. Can you rephrase that?

Matthew: Sure. What is one thought you have that most people would disagree with you on that you believe to be true?

Nicholas: After I worked on Halo, and then I went to-- I ended up doing feature films and working on those in commercials and stuff like in visual effects world. You remember the Sonic the Hedgehog that came out. It was last year and everybody freaked out because he looked just non-menacing at all-- he was just terrible looking. From a design perspective, he was just like way too cute for what the historical version of Sonic was.

I'm just convinced that re-skin of the character was just a publicity stunt plan from the beginning.

Matthew: Oh, really? Just get people talking about it.

Nicholas: Yes, absolutely. Then they ended up changing that character and they bought themselves another eight months to change the character's design, and then release the movie again.

Matthew: I've heard this marketing tactic that says you can't tell your customers what to think, but you can tell them what to think about, and maybe that's what they did there.

Nicholas: Yes, exactly. Oh yes, absolutely.

Matthew: Well, Nick, as we close, are investors welcome to contact you if they're interested in possibly investing later.

Nicholas: Oh yes, absolutely. We're definitely in the process of looking for strategics and smart people to work with. Can I get my information out-

[crosstalk]

Matthew: Yes please, for accredited investors, go ahead.

Nicholas: Nick, N-I-C-k, @alpineiq, like brain IQ, .com is my direct email. Feel free to email me if you're an investor, just have some questions, need some help on data, we're here to help, and love to talk to people in this space. [unintelligible [00:44:32] Alpineiq.com has some great ways to connect with us, and somebody will help you.

Matthew: Awesome. Nick, thanks for coming on the show and educating us. You've got a really great company. Cool things happenning for you. I hope you'll come back and tell us how things are progressing.

Nicholas: Yes, man. Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it. It's been a good time.

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[00:46:18] [END OF AUDIO]