High Tech: 5 Cannabusinesses on the rise in Colorado

by Maura Gaughan
April 20, 2015

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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.

 

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From left to right: Co-Founders Chase Beck, CTO and Jennifer Beck, CEO of CannaBase

CannaBase

Cannabase is a suite of mobile apps that connects tokers to cannabusiness owners. They have three offerings that allow you to log your stoned hours, find a dispensary and get cannalytics around 420-friendly data. Cannabase Connects allows users to create a social profile, learn about "trending" strains, rate and review stores among a number of other interactivities. Cannabase Maps show all the dispensaries in the user's area and even provides directions. The app is a private network that licensed Cannabusinesses can use to gather analytics, connect with other companies and is a secure center for employees to login to for a number of features.
 
We caught up with Jennifer Beck, CEO and founder of Cannabase, and got their take on how the industry has evolved.
 
Built In Chicago: Aside from the legalization of recreational pot, what are the most significant changes you've seen in the marijuana industry since you started Cannabase in 2013?
 
JB: The end of vertical integration (a regulation that required dispensaries to produce 70 percent of the product they sold) had a tremendous impact on the wholesale market, business planning and industry opportunities. The Cannabase Marketplace saw a dramatic spike in wholesale listings across the board. Dispensaries who hadn’t mastered the art of growing could suddenly buy 100 percent of their inventory and focus on the business side of owning and operating a dispensary. For the very first time cultivator and dispensary licenses were issued by the state independently from one allowing for true specialization within the industry.   
I personally enjoyed realizing how little the general consumer knew (or maybe cared) about the end of vertical integration, the same way most shoppers don’t really care about the supply chain of the produce they cook for dinner. It was interesting since cannabis has always been such a movement in Colorado and in some ways this was the first major industry shift that was probably just boring to anyone outside the industry. I took that as a sign of a maturing industry — the novelty wearing off a bit.    
 
BIC: It seems like Cannabase has done a great job with user acquisition. What is your approach to connecting and engaging with audiences?
 
JB: I wish I had some magic secret to share because the truth is kinda boring — we just work incredibly hard to provide real value to our users. We listen, pivot when necessary and keep pushing forward. 
 
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High There!

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. 

 

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From left to right: CFO, Dan Rogers and CEO, Brandon Jennewine of CannaSys, Inc.

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.

 

 

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StrainData 

StrainData.com is where curious canabis consumers meet crazy chemists. The online platform is essentially a library of facts and findings on the medical benefits of different strains of pot. Type a question or plug in a medical condition into the search bar and learn which strains and canniboids are fit to fight, heal or prevent the problem. Interestingly, on the site you can learn which strains help with issues like sleep apnea (Purple Haze, Moby Dick and Bangkok Bliss, are a few FYI) and appetite loss. The StrainData.com platform is a hub of the efforts of CannLabs, a well-renouned, high-tech marijuana research center that processes pot on factors like potency, homogeneity, heavy metals, and pesticides. StrainData.com also features a map of dispensaries that carry CannLabs certified goods so when a user searches by condition, they can easily discover where to pick up the right pot.
 
High Level Knowledge: did you know that some cannabis strains can actually help with bone growth and even reduce the risk of artery blockage?

 

 

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Weave

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.

Have a tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Email us via [email protected]

 

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