As the legal weed train continues to roll on (preemptive apology for all puns henceforth), the business case around marijuana grows into the billions. Eight states in the U.S. have fully legalized it (welcome to the club, California!), four expanded medical use this year, and five are hoping to legalize recreational use in 2018. It’s a bullish market, no doubt, and one we cover frequently. Check out our past posts on seed-to-sale startups, stocks to invest in, and the 5 biggest startups by funding. One of the most basic questions about this new boom, though, is where, exactly, can we buy our weed now. Legality means no more coded texts and visits to random strangers’ houses. Well, wonder no more because online marijuana marketplaces are multiplying like rabbits, with sophisticated vendors established for both wholesale and consumer. Let’s separate the seeds from the stems, and see who’s smoking in the weed biz.
The majority of online marijuana marketplaces are targeting consumers, with apps that let you browse nearby dispensary offerings, order, and have delivery within a couple of hours. The basic premise is the same, with each company adding its own little twist to stand out. It’s worth noting that this market of consumer marketplaces is rather fluid—as more states legalize, the number of startups jockeying to serve them only grows. (And a few fall by the wayside, too.)
We’ve covered Eaze before, but they’re worth a new mention because they have since raised an additional $27 million in funding. That puts the company at a whopping $52 million in total funding since its 2014 founding. Eaze only delivers medical marijuana in San Francisco currently but with full legalization now in effect in California, look for this startup to explode even more.
San Mateo-based greenRush, not only wins the pithy tagline game (‘Buy Weed Online’), but is also considered one of the dominant players in delivery. With $3.6 million in total funding, greenRush casts a wider net than Eaze, servicing California, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon, with plans to expand into several more states in 2018.
Meadow was founded in San Francisco in 2014 and has raised $2.2 million in total funding. It’s differentiating itself by doing more than just delivery, aspiring to develop multiple tech solutions for the marijuana industry. In addition to its online marketplace, the company has launched Meadow MD, a platform connecting patients and doctors for evaluations, and Meadow Platform, a SaaS platform meant to cover every step of retail and delivery for cannabis, including point of sale, inventory, delivery, compliance and more. They even convinced a real doctor to go on the record about the benefits of marijuana:
And one more California-based delivery service is worth mentioning. Grassp has $1.5 million in total funding since its 2014 founding and sets itself apart from the pack by focusing on security for medical marijuana patients.
Jane Technologies, founded in Portland, Maine, in 2014 has $1.2 million in total funding and is a marketplace focused on personalization via data analytics and real-time updates on dispensaries’ product on hand. The company’s technology works with any point-of-sale system to allow its users to search live menus at any dispensary in their area. Need some Sour Diesel in Denver? Here are some of your options as of today:
It also offers a SaaS platform for dispensaries that manages logistics and route management, business intelligence, marketing and more.
The Business of Buds
The B2B side of the cannabis trade is much less populated and trickier to navigate; one of its major players recently shut down, in fact. Tradiv was founded in 2014 with $1 million in funding by a military vet who wanted to build “the Amazon of the marijuana industry.” As the founder said in a 2016 interview, “The broker system is how weed has been traded since the 1930s. It works well with illegal markets to minimize contacts between growers, distributors, and retailers, but it’s not good for a scaling business”. He was right, of course, but perhaps not fully prepared for the rigors of running a startup. Check out this wild ride of a story for more, but in short, it involves conversations with God. As one does when high.
Moving on to companies still in operation, we have LeafLink, founded in New York in 2015, with $14 million in total funding. The company calls itself the “industry standard wholesale management platform” for cannabis, and seeing as it has 90 percent market penetration in Colorado and Washington—two of the earliest adopters of legal weed—we’re inclined to believe that. An online meeting place for producers and retailers, LeafLink is something of a matchmaker between these two integral parts of the industry. OK, fine, we’ll call them the Tinder of weed.
Over 400 marijuana brands use the platform to streamline order processing and generate new sales, while 1,700-plus retailers are able to shop all their favorite brands in one place and manage inventory more effectively. Also, they get extra points for the company tagline: “The New Standard in High Tech”.
Cannabase was founded in 2013 in Colorado and was acquired by cannabis-software tech company Helix TCS in 2016. Cannabase is the largest and oldest wholesale platform in the industry and represents over 72 percent of all cannabis licenses in Colorado—a stat from a 2016 press release, so we’re betting that number is even larger now. As we’ve written about before, Cannabase also partners with software company—and fellow Helix subsidiary—BioTrackTHC, to help power its negotiation dashboards, real-time searchable maps, and wholesale marketplace.
Last but not least, there’s Confident Cannabis, a Silicon Valley startup aiming to bring transparency to the trade through data. Founded in 2015 with $3 million in total funding, the company offers solutions for growers, sellers, and labs, all in an effort to make you more knowledgeable about what, exactly, you’re smoking. As anyone who’s ever partaken can tell you, you never really know what you’re going to get until you smoke it (triple that fact with edibles.) Confident Cannabis is changing that, by creating software for labs that tests and tracks potency.
That information is translated into detailed product descriptions (above) that are then passed on to producers, dispensaries, and ultimately buyers. Basically, as TechCrunch put it, Confident Cannabis is “real-time data about who has the best pot and who’s buying”. Sign us up.
The Cannabis Business Times (yes that’s a thing) issued its 2017 State of the Industry Report, calling the weed biz the fastest-growing industry in the U.S., a statement first made by the Huffington Report three years ago, and one that still seems to hold true. All the important numbers for 2016 are in the double-digit billions, and all signs point to that trend continuing for the 2018 report. As you can see, this is a crowded and still somewhat unstructured market, one that we’re betting will be forced to find its feet as the behemoth California market demands modern solutions this year. Writing about all this has been quite taxing, so if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some delivery apps to test.
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