As budding industries go, it doesn't get any faster-growing than the legal marijuana industry. Many states have relaxed their laws about possession of cannabis, which in turn has spurred new businesses to support the entire supply chain required to grow, distribute, and sell legal marijuana.
Two years ago, the founders of Denver-based Cannabase saw an opportunity to become a major player in the industry. Cannabase was founded as a B2B marketplace for licensed marijuana businesses to connect with each other. Retailers and cultivators use Cannabse to research, connect, and negotiate deals with business partners.
At the heart of Cannabase's efforts, according to CFO Erik Romero, is information. In Colorado, the Secretary of State's office maintains and publishes a list of licensed businesses, but it's difficult for businesses to understand who owns the licenses and what regulations might affect a potential business arrangement. For such a heavily scrutinized industry, keeping on straight and narrow is crucial.
“Our customers need to stay legally compliant. They need to know they're only transacting with other legal entities and understand the regulatory structure,” says Romero.
Things get even more complicated when you consider the expanding legalization efforts nationwide. Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. have each legalized marijuana to varying degrees. And some cities, such as Portland, Maine, have enacted local-level laws that partially decriminalize the drug. Understanding what is legal and what isn't has gotten very difficult.
To help Cannabase become the “Bloomberg of legal marijuana,” Romero would need to track all of these moving parts in a suite of apps that could then deliver rock-solid information to customers. To support these efforts, Romero built a suite of apps on the Intuit QuickBase platform.
With no QuickBase or programming experience coming in, Romero was able to build a QuickBase app that enabled Cannabase to gather and store the information it needed to serve its customers.
“There really isn't any software out there that's built to handle the craziness of this business, so I had to build it myself,” says Romero. “QuickBase has been great for us, because it's so flexible.”
By using Zapier (an online platform that passes data from connected cloud apps seamlessly, based on triggers), Cannabase is able to automate the flow of information and use it to keep its customer-facing apps up to date. Maintaining this level of discipline helps Cannabase differentiate itself from the competition, who don't offer the level of depth or sophistication Cannabase has worked hard to build.
“We're a data-driven technology company. Our competition is often people who put up pretty Wordpress pages, and they're gone in three months. We have serious technology and serious data available to anyone who wants to use it,” says Romero.