Ep 274 – LeafLink: The B2B Streamlining Orders to Drive Sales

ryan-smith-leaflink

Since launching in 2016, LeafLink has quickly become the largest e-commerce wholesale cannabis platform with $1 billion in annualized sales as of June 2019. 

In this episode, LeafLink CEO Ryan Smith gives us an inside look at what’s happening in the industry’s busiest marketplace.

Learn more at https://leaflink.com

Key Takeaways:

  • Ryan’s background in cannabis and how he came to start LeafLink
  • An inside look at LeafLink and the ways in which it helps brands and retailers streamline the ordering process
  • A breakdown of the companies using LeafLink and the number of new brands launching each week
  • How the marketplace on LeafLink has evolved over the last two years
  • A snapshot of the bestselling products on LeafLink and Ryan’s insight on up-and-comers
  • The data points Ryan finds most interesting about today’s cannabis marketplace
  • Ryan’s advice to entrepreneurs interested in creating a new cannabis product
  • Ways in which brands and retailers can differentiate themselves in the competitive cannabis space
  • Products LeafLink offers cannabis brands and retailers, including streamlined ordering, CRM, reporting tools, and fulfillment and shipment queues
  • Where LeafLink is currently at in the capital-raising process
  • Where Ryan sees LeafLink and the cannabis marketplace heading over the next few years
Read Full Transcript

Matthew: 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 cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program.

In the old days, the most dynamic place to be in any big city was the central market. Goods were exchanged in the open-air environment with vendors yelling out prices, smells of food and tobacco smoke heavy in the air. This bustling environment is where hopeful entrepreneurs created new products and tested passerbys' reaction to see if they could make a deal. Today that central marketplace is online, but no less dynamic and bustling as it attracts more merchants and customers to congregate in one online bazaar. Today our guest is Ryan Smith, CEO of LeafLink, the largest B2B cannabis platform. Ryan is going to pull back the curtain and show us what is happening in the cannabis industry's busiest marketplace. Ryan, welcome back to CannaInsider.

Ryan: Thanks so much, Matt. Appreciate you having us back.

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

Ryan: Today I'm in New York City. Was in LA just last week, so really going back and forth between the coast as of late.

Matthew: Okay. And you've been on the show a couple of years ago now, but for listeners that aren't familiar with LeafLink, can you just give us a high-level snapshot?

Ryan: Sure. So LeafLink is a B2B wholesale marketplace, like you said, for legal cannabis companies. We're working with four to five retailers that are licensed in the States. Just over 3,400 doors have placed orders on our marketplace for wholesale inventory and they buy from over 1,200 of the largest brands in the space. It's companies like everyone from Kiva, to dosist, to Wana, to Dixie, all very close clients of ours. And we streamline the way they do their purchasing. So it's centralized in one cart with the simplicity of a business to consumer marketplace in the B2B environment.

Matthew: Okay. And you're a pretty young guy. How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?

Ryan: Sure. I'm 28.

Matthew: Okay. So that's young. And what were you doing before here? And can you kind of just paint the picture of how LeafLink just came on the scene and what you were doing and how you came up with it?

Ryan: Sure. So I'm one of the co-founders here at LeafLink with Zach Silverman, who's our CTO. And we had known each other for a few years before starting LeafLink. Zach was at eBay previously. He and I each had started and sold companies, tech companies, actually, both in 2014. They were unrelated companies. And he was just an interesting person and, you know, hopefully, he thought the same. And we would catch up regularly doing some research and trying to understand how we could... We were always so interested in like enterprise solutions, marketplaces. And so, we began doing some research in the cannabis space and really were working on this premise that we believed, you know, all companies in the cannabis industry deserve as powerful, if not more so tools to run and grow their businesses and we just found that they weren't being supplied with any of those things. But we also saw this interesting opportunity to create a new marketplace dynamic that doesn't really exist in more institutionalized historical industries because they've been doing business the way their parents, you know, did business and their parents did business. Here you have these forward-thinking, tech-first, progressive minds in cannabis and we saw an opportunity to build something new in this B2B marketplace concept.

Matthew: Okay. And how many companies are engaging on the platform right now?

Ryan: So there are 1,200 brands selling to over 3,400 retailers in 22 markets. Most of our... How we define a market is a state, so California would be a market, but we also serve a couple of Canadian provinces. We're live in Puerto Rico, so we... You know, over 22 markets right now are live on the platform.

Matthew: And how many brands are launching each week or month? Do you have a sense of that?

Ryan: Yup. We're signing just... We actually had a record month, 2 months back where we signed over 100 brands in a month, sort of that breaks down to...probably somewhere between 15 and 25 brands every week are joining the platform. Yeah, we actually we're, you know, we're really excited to go into this year about seeing some additional movement on some of the East Coast states, but there were some surprises that came into line this year, like Michigan, like Oklahoma that we're really excited to get the platform live in and really, just kind of keeping pace with the natural growth of the industry.

Matthew: Do you have a sense of what percentage of brands that are out there on LeafLink? I mean, you're the largest, so you've got the most, but is there any that are just not on any platform at all? Do you have a sense of that or is it hard to tell?

Ryan: It's a little tough to tell because although we... I did some research on this one for you, but we do have these large lists of licensees that are at least by states, but not all licenses are always active. Sometimes the one license could serve multiple brands, but we're trending typically above 75% of brands in our largest states, getting as high as 95% to 96% in states like Nevada, and Michigan, and Colorado. I know California, we're in like the high 70s. And so, definitely, this can give you market penetration. And as far as like the largest, highest volume brands, they're typically on the platform.

Matthew: Yeah, I think that's helpful that your CTO and co-founder was at eBay because you think like, "What's the number two auction site, at least in the U.S.?" and no one can think of one because the network effects are just so strong with eBay. Everybody goes there because it's the biggest, most liquid marketplace and once those network effects are in place, it's just they get stronger and stronger and they reinforce themselves to some degree.

Ryan: Agreed. I mean, there's an interesting, I think, maturation happening even like after eBay, though. If you look at some of these marketplaces now that are launching for consumers are just selling antique furniture or like just a marketplace for finding a dog walker. We really believe strongly in this managed marketplace software as a service concept and building something where we're so deeply in bed with our clients and we're learning so much from every single day, but building it specifically for this industry, and it's the only thing we think about and there's a lot of value there. And I think that's even happening on some of the consumer offerings, but specifically on the B2B side, it's just so specialized that this managed marketplace concepts in that we're really revved up about internally.

Matthew: So I'm curious how... Since you were on the show about two years ago, how has the marketplace changed or evolved?

Ryan: The largest change for us has really been the scope. So the last time we spoke, it was in 2017, we were live in five states and like I said, now we're in over 22, including a couple of these Canadian provinces. I didn't know our goal in 2017 was to move $100 million in transactions. We call it GMV, but it's gross merchandise value, the value of the products on the marketplace. The goal in 2017 was to move $100 million, which we did. The goal in 2018 was to move $500 million. We closed out the year at just under $700 million. And then just in May, we broke $1 billion in GMV through the marketplace. This month we're trending to break $1.4 billion, which is great. And that, we think is now, you know, whereas we were probably moving low, single-digit percentages of transactions in 2017, once we break this 1.$5 billion GMV mark, that's well over 20% now of all legal wholesale cannabis transactions are moving through LeafLink's marketplace. And for us, we think that's obviously really important in terms of overall penetration of the supply chain.

Matthew: Okay. So that sounds like it's probably your number one metric or key performance indicator because it's just like a...it's a great way just at a glance to see how the platform's doing.

Ryan: Absolutely. Yeah. We're, you know, we're working closely with some other providers further down the supply chain and, you know, continue to capture information about how large the market is, but I'm sure you've been through all the white papers that come out and a lot of them are, you know, they're shaky at best sometimes in giving a full clarity and scope of the size of the market, but yeah, we do our best to always be growing that GMV number because for us that's the...I mean, it's the holy grail of the marketplace, is continuing to scale that GMV.

Matthew: So can you give us an overview of what products are selling the most on LeafLink and maybe some hot up-and-comers?

Ryan: So we released earlier this year, the, you know, the top 10 sellers in a number of categories on the marketplace and we're gonna be doing that again. Got a ton of exciting feedback from clients there and you actually, within LeafLink, you can even search now across some of these bestsellers. But in terms of like snapshot of different product categories, an interesting thing I've, and a lot of the team members have noticed is that there really is this provincial element to which products sell best in which states and we're starting actually to break this down as a potentially new offering for clients, but overall, cartridges right now are, you know, just around 30%, flower is around, you know, 20%, 25%, edibles around 20%. And what we've really seen in one of the bets we made early on in building the product was that brands were gonna be the future of the space and something that we've seen, particularly in more mature markets is the leveling out or reduction of flower as an end product and really becoming more of a raw material that is creating...you know, put into a concentrate and then actually cooked into, or moved into, or distilled into a larger consistent SKU branded product. I think there's a lot more margin there, and those are the products that seem to be scaling the most across these different markets.

Matthew: Okay. I think a lot about, like how do you categorize flower or cannabis oil because it would be so helpful if there was like some accepted, you know, universally accepted types of oil, like CO2 extracted has below this level of toxicity or lead, like safe levels. And that way, the market could get more efficient in terms of how it transacts. You know, know we could drive prices down or get more efficient. People would have a better idea of what they're buying, similar to how, like how wheat or corn or pork bellies are transacted. I mean, are we moving there or are you seeing like specific things requested when flower is sold or what can you tell us about that?

Ryan: The industry is moving there, but slowly, and I think the biggest, you kind of hinted at this, but the biggest challenge right now is the incredible amount of inconsistency across lab test results. And so, people... Like there should be, and a couple of companies are trying to do this, but there really should be like a standardized template state to state that everyone's gotten together on that provides all of the objective information required to know all the levels of what, you know, the different chemicals and metals that you said. You know, what... Is the product tainted? All these things are... And then we've heard so many stories from clients taking a product, splitting it in half, sending to two labs and getting completely different results. Within the platform, within LeafLink, we actually did just launched functionality that allows... People were always able to search and buy into because [inaudible 00:12:02] hybrid units for sale amounts, but now people can actually attach their certificate of analysis to show the retailers or the buyers the test results. There are these features that actually send that automatically to purchasing managers, so that helps give them more of a grade of the flower, but it would all be so much easier if there was some universally accepted standardization of lab test results, which I feel like we're still a bit of a ways away from.

Matthew: Okay. Yeah, that would be very helpful. Any entrepreneurs listening? If you go out there, there's a product idea right there for you. So, you know, when I am on Amazon or Booking or something like that, I can tell there's an algorithm that is managing what's shown to me based on the likelihood of me...what I searched for, my impression of what they think I want, but also, you know, there's a yield function here. Like if we show this impression to you, there's the highest chance possible that we'll generate some revenue there, meaning, you know, both parties will come together. Are you creating something like that or working on something like that or manage that in some ways so that what's shown between a brand and a retailer has the highest likelihood of, you know, yielding, let's say, an earning per click or something like that?

Ryan: Since we last spoke, we've launched an ad revenue line which has been incredibly successful. Most states are actually sold out and we're now in the process of releasing our second...you know, our V2 of ads and those are gonna be more closely tied to a lot of those metrics. There was a good amount of engineering work that went into that, but when you think about the marketplace, we have the purchasing community, we have the selling community at their points of action, and unfortunately, there's a lot of limitations around where brands can advertise and how they can get the word out about their incredible products, about their great medicines. And so, what we provided within our ad service is the ability for companies to do exactly that and really impact the purchasing. We actually have these like LeafLink ad report cards that we send around that share, you know, what the performance was, what the click-through was, how it potentially impacted card sizes, metrics like that, and we're looking to really continue to advance that all in the same line of just bringing a new, higher standard of what our companies and our space can use to grow their businesses.

Matthew: If you and I were sitting down right now having a cup of coffee with some cannabis entrepreneurs that wanna launch something successfully on the LeafLink platform, what would you honestly level with them about like, "Hey, you're gonna have a more uphill battle doing this and maybe a higher chance of success doing this or a better profit margin doing this." What would you tell them?

Ryan: Unless you're in one or two markets, I'd stay away from branded flower. I think that that's becoming... It was always competitive. It's becoming way more competitive. I think the world probably doesn't need any more vaping devices. They're getting so highly technical and scientific that it's hard for me to even...it's hard for us to understand it. I'm sure it's, you know, equally difficult for people who are hearing from 10 to 20 vaping companies, you know, every month. We've seen some interesting... You know, I think we're getting to the point that I really think it's...a large part of it is a quality and branding and price point game. I mean, part of when we say, you know, we want the industry to mainstream, which everyone does, one of the things that that means is you just...you're gonna get more involvement by, you know, bigger pools of capital, you know, smarter capital that have higher requirements for types of products that can be launched. And so, if you look at, I think one company that's done a great job and one of our great clients in California is dosist, they have really clean, consistent branding. They've, you know, distilled down the experience into understandable metrics. It's dosed, obviously, literally doses, but it's dosed in a way that's understandable even to the larger grouping of people who haven't yet tried cannabis products.

And so, I think if you were to make a product, it really should be thinking about less of the people that are already purchasing, more of the ones that are likely looking to replace liquor or some other...whatever else helps them relax, but in a way that it has education really built into and a consistency and a polished professionalism. That's just, I think what people are gonna demand more and more. And then there's other things that are, you know, even more granular than the product or the brand itself, but consistent pricing and like on-time delivery of product, manufacturing enough amounts that you're ready to deliver when an order's placed. There's like simple operational things that we've heard clients say good and bad, but sometimes the best things companies say... Like they assume the first things I said of it's a great product, at a fair price that, you know, their clients, their patients love, but then there's this other element of who shows up on time, who answers the calls when you know, when questions come in, if there's a broken package, who replaces it? When people buy things, sometimes boxes show up that have different items in them or different counts. All those things drive retailers and purchasing managers absolutely crazy. And so, having just a clean operation on top of a well-packaged professional good, I think that's where we're heading, but the space needs more of that.

Matthew: Great points there about purchasing manager. I mean, you talked about some ways that brands essentially disqualify themselves because they're not prepared or they don't know how to react or when something goes wrong, they're not there quickly enough. Is there any other things that you feel like purchasing managers like they think about that brands don't entirely care about enough where if they did, they would be getting more business?

Ryan: We just launched actually this program...well, earlier this year, we launched a program called the trusted seller program and we found it to be particularly powerful in a market like California that still has... I think I saw almost like two or three illegal shops to every one legal shop and it really is such a shame that there is an enforcement against unlicensed operators because what we see a lot of clients run into is, you know, if you're a shop and you're paying your taxes and following the rules and closing up at, you know, proper hours and then across the street someone's doing, you know, none of those things, it's sometimes harder to compete. So the frequency, something that we've seen, which is actually tied directly to success on the platform and how many units and volume brands are able to move is how quickly they were applied to sample requests and messages, how fast they were willing to hop on a call. We don't have any really review system within the platform, but we have now training modules that we put clients through and there's this badging system of trusted sellers that people could actually filter and search through because a lot of retailers, it's such a competitive space for brands that if a retailer isn't happy with a brand, there's probably only gonna be once or twice the same mistake made before they move to someone with a competitive product. And, you know, for, for both sides of the transaction, we encourage them to be as professional, as polished, as educated as possible to have really successful transactions. I think that's really what people are going for because everyone, you know, the companies that are growing, they wanna become more automated, replicate their success faster and the less errors within that process make it easier to do so. So I guess what I'm saying is there's operational challenges for a lot of these companies that we're trying to alleviate through education and trust and we began to productize some of that because it's something that we really feel is lacking in the space.

Matthew: Do you think if brands extended financing to retailers, that it would remove some friction for the sales process at all or is that something the market's not asking for?

Ryan: Well, every market has net 15, net 30, sometimes net 60 terms. What we found is ours has that too, it's just not structured. So what we see happen a lot is, you know, let's say, Matt, you're a purchasing manager, I'm a brand. I know you well. We've been working together for a year or two, I come by, I drop off a product and you say, "You know what? Right here's 50% of whatever I owe you. I'll get the rest when you come by again in, you know, three or four weeks." And then in the minds of a lot of the people, a lot of our clients, a lot of people in the community is that that's net 30 terms, but it's not, there's no contractual obligation there. There's no accountability if people move past those net 15, net 30 terms. And so, we have a lot of research. There's a number of white papers our team has studied around increasing transaction flow and companies growing faster when given proper net terms that are not too onerous. And so, we've recently launched a program called LeafLink Financial that allows clients to pay each other and we allow them to build in more structure around providing net terms and facilitating payments so we could lessen the pain of cash management, which is a huge issue for our LeafLink community and the cannabis community generally, but we could also have structure around net terms so that companies can grow in a responsible way and not get to the point, which is something that we've seen of having $15 million, $20 million in revenue and, you know, $3 million or $4 million in payments past 90 days due and they're having trouble making payroll. So it's a huge pain point. It's something that we're very focused on trying to solve.

Matthew: Okay. And you mentioned this last time you were on the show, but could you go over again how LeafLink makes money and what kind of fees, you know, a retailer or a brand pays?

Ryan: We started off the company really just charging a flat SaaS fee. It was important to maintain our position as an ancillary technology firm. We're not participating in transactions. So that is a monthly fee per brand to be on LeafLink. We launched ads, as I mentioned earlier, which has been, you know, about a fifth of our revenue through ads. And then the final revenue line. There's a few others that are kind of that are seedlings right now, I'd say, but the third is LeafLink Financial and the fees we charge attached to that financial product that's made available to the community.

Matthew: Okay. What about... We talked a little bit about flower already, but, you know, it's hard to launch a branded flower, but in terms of the price of where the marketplace is on cannabis flower wholesale, how does that impact transaction flow? Do you see a lot more increased transaction flow in the price drops or is there anything unexpected there?

Ryan: So on LeafLink, every state is its own marketplace. And so, there's variation from a state like Oregon to let's say Nevada, but people in Nevada can't see the price of those in Oregon, so there's like a...there's a state by state plateau or like an average that they tend to come to, but if you were to take the pricing of flower in Oregon, you know, and which at some point in the last 12 months could have gotten as low as, you know, $300, $400 and then you go to a place like Nevada and where there's products listed, you know, north of $1,200, $1,300, then, you know, that's...the variation doesn't exist as much within states, unless it's part of the brand's story. But if you were to look at the numbers across states, there's a significant amount of variation.

Matthew: So what kind of products do you think we'll see more of in the next year or two? You mentioned how dosist is making things just very simple and clean and clear. Is it just a move towards simplicity? Is there too much feature bloat now with cartridges and things or just, people are overwhelmed and they just wanna make a simple decision or where do you think the market's turning to? What's around the corner?

Ryan: Vape cartridges are probably gonna continue to grow, but I do expect, and I think there are some, you know, if not the winners, grouping of people that are winning very much so right now, and I'd imagine there's probably gonna be some consolidation around that in the next couple of years. There's a ton of money going into beverages right now, and it's a little confusing at times. I think a lot of it is based on R&D that's happening in Canada by liquor and non-cannabis beverage companies. It's just what they know. And so, I do expect that we'll probably see as a result of all that more beverage offerings coming to market. I don't know how that's going to be received, but I definitely know it's probably one of the categories as an industry that there's the most money, definitely the most money from the largest companies going into. I wonder how that actually impacts what we'll see, but I think the concept of non-sweet edibles, potentially beverages as well, things that are increasingly more similar looking to non-cannabis products, I think that's where we're gonna start to see this progression go because as the East Coast and states, even in the Midwest begin to transition, a lot of the states domestically that aren't on the West Coast don't have as much of a rich history of cannabis being a part of their local culture and I think that's gonna get factored into product creation so that we could...you know, brands will be able to appeal to new users, different user types, different patient types that may not be as familiar with the product from the get-go.

Matthew: It'd be interesting to see if there's more brand loyalty once some cannabis drinks start to take off. When I was in college, I worked on a beer delivery truck for a while and I asked one of the owners of the distributor, I said, "Hey, when there's a like a recession versus like when the economy is doing really well, like what's the difference in your business?" And I was shocked. He's like, "It's only about 1%. It's so consistent, you know, month to month." I was just absolutely...because he's like, "People drink in good times and in bad times." I thought, "Yup, there you go." You know, there's such an allure to the drink market because you can really hang your hat on it once people decide they're a Budweiser person or a Miller Lite or, you know, an IPA and they kind of tend to gravitate that and weave it into their life to some extent. So I can see why there's that interest there, but who knows if there's gonna be the loyalty like there is with alcohol. It could be a totally different animal.

Ryan: We shall see. I mean, this'll be when the recession eventually...whenever it comes, it'll be the first time that the industry's been this legally mature to...and see how it endures, but I'd imagine it's probably not too different. We'll see.

Matthew: Well, Ryan, I know you do a lot of interviews with, you know, candidates to hire them. I'm interested to understand... You know, we see studies come out and say, "Oh, these are the job skills that are, you know, trending and that employers are looking for," but you know, maybe in your last few hires or from a technology point of view, what do you consider the most important skills for a candidate to have when you're bringing them on board?

Ryan: Well, we just closed our Series B round. We raised $35 million like 3 weeks ago and we're really looking for...we wanna maintain this culture that we've built here of really, you know, hungry, execution-focused, trustworthy, high caliber, intelligent people. We actually have a number of cultural pillars that we really grade against their, you can see them on our website, but we grade against in the interview process. But one of the things we're going through now is, you know, we're a team of just over 80 people. We have almost 40 open roles and we're really bringing in more specialized skill sets and one of the things that's really important to us is to welcome people to the team that can take efforts that we've begun as, you know, as a few generalists here start some of these, let's say like a new product offering or a new revenue line and take that to the next level, but be able to pursue it and have the hunger to do it as a team of one, at least in the beginning. One thing that we're trying to control for is bringing on, you know, ABC grade person that has worked for an amazing company, has gotten to, you know, incredible schools, but they...you know, what if they come to LeafLink and the first day they wanna hire 10 people? You know, we still wanna maintain that scrappy cultural foundation, nature that we have as a company here at LeafLink and something we're really trying to protect against while at the same time trying to bring in increasingly, you know, skilled, hungry individuals that we can build together with.

Matthew: Okay. So it sounds like you mentioned having the generalist but then being able to focus, so kind of being able to go from Swiss army knife, do anything down to a scalpel, specialized skill and then move back and forth between those two things.

Ryan: And having team members with each of those different skill sets, however varied they might be, be able to work together and know the value of one to the other. I think that's, you know, another thing that we, you know, we've heard a lot of pain points around scaling startups is people tend to...everyone has a lot of ownership over what they do, but, you know, not being open to welcoming new faces, potentially even more experienced faces could really create gaps in our ability to grow. And so, one thing Zach and I have always been really excited about on some of the meetings, we're most pumped afterward are when people are taking ownership, or presenting new concepts, or executing on ideas, or even an interview, sit down with someone and we've had interviews where people are talking about things and it's almost as though they've been in our executive meetings and they're touching on topics that we're thinking through all the time and leaving those meetings excited, like what if we could bring that person here to LeafLink to build with them and have...you know, create with them for the LeafLink community and the cannabis industry. I mean, over 90% of the people at LeafLink wouldn't likely be in the cannabis industry if they weren't working here with us. And we take a lot of pride in that because, you know, back to what we said earlier about bringing a new standard, a higher standard to our clients where we believe they deserve, that's something that really keeps us motivated.

Matthew: You know, you've, raised capital before and you just closed a round. How do you feel like that has changed over the last couple of years? There's obviously probably more acceptance as you see more state legislatures creating favorable laws, but are the questions you're being asked different than they were two years ago?

Ryan: They are. They are. We, you know, we did our... We've raised $51 million to date. And when we spoke, I guess, Matt, when you and I last spoke, we probably had just closed our seed probably around...just had a seed round. And that round we did with a company called Lerer Hippeau, which is an institutional, you know, VC, great investor out of New York. And we were the first cannabis deal they did. And we took a lot of pride in being the bridge for them to get educated on the space and learn more about the industry. They've done three or four deals after us in the industry and, you know, similar to the deal we just did for the B with Thrive, you know, two and a half years later from that last deal. They've haven't made any other cannabis investments. We're the first bridge, but it's part of this like bringing knowledge to this larger audience about all the incredible things that are happening.

I'd say the nature of the conversation has definitely changed. There are people, there are funds that in the last 9, 12 months have been inbounding to us that we really couldn't get in front of three years ago and everyone knows the question of is it going to be a large industry, a great space, a powerful plan? Those questions are gone. There's inevitability. And even if we're on a call with someone now and they're not aware of those three things, there's probably something more fundamentally wrong with their operation or how they're thinking generally because it's just so clear. And so, the conversation and questioning is less around, you know, what happens. I mean, it was a little while ago now, but like what happens if Jeff Sessions wakes up one morning and says, "That's it?" Those questions don't really come up as much and it's really more now on, you know, how is the industry progressing. How... It becomes more of a conversation around our product and our team and what we're providing to the LeafLink community because it is at the end of day, we are a tech company and that's how we, you know, we wanna be seen. That's the value we wanna bring to our clients. And I think investors are starting to see that too. I do know that, I'm speaking from a technology ancillary company perspective, I do know that it's still challenging and a very...potentially very challenging for plant-touching companies to raise capital, particularly from name-brand funds or institutionally-backed investors. But even that's changing too. Like the idea of not touching a plant seems to matter less and less every day.

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

Ryan: So I can give you a book that... Yeah, so there's one book that I'm reading now that I think I'm excited about it because whenever I start reading it, I have to hop off the book and onto the website. So it's called "The International Bank of Bob," and I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's about this online lending platform called Kiva, not related to the cannabis company, where you can lend, you know, $25 amounts to entrepreneurs.

Matthew: Oh yeah, I've done that. I've done that in other countries. Microloans. Yeah.

Ryan: Exactly. There'd be like a mother who needs more like sorghum to sell at her shop or, you know, wants to buy more fish and these small amounts make... And it's not interest-bearing loans, but it's basically around this concept of empowering entrepreneurs or people in developing countries to kind of like literally learn to fish and then they can grow their business and there's no interest on it, but they do pay it back. And I think it's just so much more valuable and aligns well with, you know...even though I think a lot of our cultural like execution and building and creation here at LeafLink... But this book, in the book, the writer, he was a journalist, started lending through the platform and then spent a couple of years going around and visiting all of the people that he actually lent the capital to in these developing countries and basically profiles them and like the impact that, you know, a $500 loan had on this family in Honduras, like things like that, which is really, I think, powerful, interesting and it plays into like value of network effect and community online and all of these things that we spend all day thinking about, but in a personal betterment type way. So I've really been excited about invest...or, you know, donating, investing, however you wanna call it, through that platform, but also then, you know, this book particularly is something I'm thinking about lately.

Matthew: Yeah. The repayment rate is amazingly high too for you think the difficult circumstances a lot of these people are in. So that's really cool. What do you think is the most interesting thing going on in the entire cannabis field right now besides what you're doing at LeafLink?

Ryan: On the regulatory side, there seems to be... I think we're at a boiling point of social acceptance and the regulations seem to be catching up. And I often wonder if we'll ever see full legalization in the way we ideally think about it. And so, I think a lot of like the states act and some of these other pieces of legislation that allow more access to financial institutions, I think that that could be nearly like de facto legalization. And so, I think regulators and senators and even just like the number of presidential candidates or potential candidates right now that support legalization, I think we're gonna probably look back in 10 or 15 years. And although it still may not be legalized, there's some regulations that are being pushed through in pretty creative ways that, you know, may be effectively legalization or at least create enough band...you know, room for states to pick their own way. So that's something that I'm really excited about. I think there's a number of... This plays into a bit on LeafLink Financial, but some regulatory tech offerings that are coming to market as well to further support banks and financial institutions to be more accessible to the cannabis community. I mean, it's really such a shame that because companies on LeafLink, companies in the space generally can't use a lot of these financial institutions that are just taken for granted, other industries are almost forced to operate as if they were drug dealers. And I think when that changes and some of the regulatory technology that's coming around on tools to know your customer and things that lighten the load of financial institutions to due diligence on...to have due diligence on companies will be like, you know, almost an unappreciated win. That's something that I look back on as pretty impactful. That's moving along quietly, not getting a lot of attention, but there's a lot of exciting progress there lately.

Matthew: And here's a Peter Thiel question for you. What is the one thought that you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Ryan: If you asked most people, I think they would agree that the smarter you are, the better. I think that there are other qualities that in terms of building a company, in terms of serving your client, in terms of getting to wherever you're going, regardless of what your goals are in life are potentially more. And I actually think if you were to think about intelligence on a scale of 1 to 10, I think there's a plateauing that starts to happen around 7 or 8 and then if you go even further, you start to get to this level of specialization that actually becomes quite limiting. So I'd probably say that intelligence past a certain point may not actually be that valuable and has like a diminishing return. And there's other things around, you know, being comfortable being uncomfortable, and making errors, putting yourself out there in ways even when you're not completely sure that are actually more valuable to get to where you're going.

Matthew: Great points, great points, diminishing returns on intelligence. There's other skills that can shore things up and take you across the finish line.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Matthew: So, Ryan, as we close, how can listeners find out more about LeafLink, retailers and brands, you know, apply to get online. Please give us the details there.

Ryan: The best way to find us is at www.leaflink.com. Well, you can also reach out to us at info@leaflink.com or sales@leaflink.com. A bunch of us still get all those emails and we can connect with you there, especially connect to you with, you know, the teammates that are professional leaders in your geographic area. Feel free to reach out that way. It's definitely the best way to get in touch with us. And, you know, we love getting back within a day or two at most, so happy to connect that way.

Matthew: Great. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for coming on the show. Your business has really grown in the last couple of years and congratulations on all the hard work you've put in.

Ryan: Thanks a lot, man, and congrats to you on this podcast and we hear about it all the time. So it's an exciting growth too.

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