Colorado has long been a pioneer in its view of marijuana. It was one of the first two U.S. states to legalize both it for both medical and recreational use and as Colorado forges through the stoner stigma, it’s not only capturing international headlines but also the attention of tech investors locally and from across the country.
"There has been a very short period of time for cannabis business owners or cannabis users to openly, publicly discuss the technology they need to make this industry happen, allow for its growth. For tech investors, that is a phenomenal opportunity to experience the rush of an emerging industry and leave their fingerprint on an entire social and political movement," Byron Jorgenson, the interim CEO of Surna, a cannabusiness that creates hardware and software for growers, said.
Among the players leading these movements are PaylPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg — who both have set up venture firms soley based on puffing cash into potrepreneurs.
While the momentum around weedtech is higher than ever, there is still work that needs to be done. Colorado is demanding changes in banking — the Federal Government still upholds marijuana as illegal, so businessowners don't necessarily have legal, insured institutions to stash their cash.
As these regulations are being sorted out, entrepreneurs aren't putting their THC-nologies on hold. Here are five of Colorado's most budding cannabusinesses with strong strains of tech.
From left to right: Co-Founders Chase Beck, CTO and Jennifer Beck, CEO of CannaBase
High There! is an app that's been dubbed the "Tinder for Pot Smokers." It's a hyper-focused (though to some, that description may be ironic) niche app that caters to those who like to toke up, order take out, talk about life or transcend mountains together. CEO Todd Mitchum invented the app because he found it difficult, and sometimes negative, to have the "I smoke weed - do you?" conversation on dates. To get on High There!, users note their consumption preferences or behaviors — like whether they're the wax on or wax off type or if smoking makes them want to run out to get french fries or immediatly become a couch potato. High There! is available in states where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use.
From left to right: CFO, Dan Rogers and CEO, Brandon Jennewine of CannaSys, Inc.
CannaSys is a well established, publicly traded cannabusiness that exists to offer tech solutions for the cannabis economy. They have four product offerings: CannaTrade, CannAssist;, CannaCash and ExchangeHemp. The CannaTrade service is a mobile, real-time wholesale marketplace for cannabusinesses to trade, buy and sell products within their state. Second is CannaCash, the industry's first pre-paid pot solution offering gift cards and a payment system that allows dispensaries to collect cash, offer pre-paid cards and advertise with their communities. CannAssist is the division that offers services like IT support, network security and camera/monitoring services. ExchangeHemp is a trading platform that helps raw hemp growers work with distributors.
We caught up with Brandon Jennewine, CEO of CannaSys who told us about where the opportunities are for technology to take away/enhance current strains in distribution and growth and what you should know about pot stocks.
BIC: What are some hurdles cannabis distributors and dispensaries are currently facing and how do you see technology solving those issues?
BJ: Efficiency in analysis on the supply side in terms of their interactions with retailers. For dispensaries, really getting to know their customers better and driving loyalty and repeat visits. Our technology, BumpUp, focuses on the second one by providing a toolset for dispensaries to use in communicating with, segmenting their customers appropriately and providing end-to-end tracking of their outbound campaigns. For the first item, we are working on various offerings to allow vendors such as edible/hash companies to gain better visibility into their overall sales pipeline in addition to measuring the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and reordering processes.
BIC: What should we know about investing in marijuana stocks?
BJ: It's still the wild west in terms of both quality and quantity of stocks out there. As of yet, GW Pharma (GWPH) is the only cannabis-focused company on the big boards. When investing, I'd suggest plenty of due diligence in making sure the team has industry experience and that their press releases can be followed-up with actual products or services. Look at their 8-k filings and, if a reverse, look at the information on capital structure and team. Some are pretty fascinating reading.
Weave is a platform where dispensaries can track their customer information and customers can track dispensary's inventory. At it’s seed, Weave is a data company and is blazing trails in an industry where capturing data around consumption patterns only recently became legal — and is king. The company is currently in beta, but you can expect to use it as a resource to take the strain out of your preferred strain at local dispensaries.
We caught up with the CEO of Weave, Christian Nitu and learned how they plan to toke with the government and what they learned as a budding cannatech company.
BIC: How can Weave's technology be valuable to the Colorado government?
CN: Weave's product offering to the industry is understanding data, big data that can be made sense of to figure out what items are popular in areas, what are people buying, asking for, and how do those relate to other businesses in this space. We haven't dialed down our approach to working with government agencies just yet, but one of our goals is to access and disseminate more information about products for consumers and industry individuals to observe.
BIC: What has been the most valuable lesson Weave has learned in beta?
CN: The most valuable lesson we have learned is that not every dispensary retailer is the same. Sure, they might all sell weed, but every store has tuned their operations and workflow differently from one another. On Weave's end there are a lot of idiosyncrasies particular to each store environment, so we have worked hard behind the scenes to develop products that enhance the consumer experience but also help drive efficiency for retailers and businesses in this industry. They have enough issues on their hands, software should not be one of them.
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