By Tracey Lien | Los Angeles Times
For much of her career, Natasha Pecor followed a path well-worn by tech workers. She built her reputation with her first employer in the industry, earning the title head of platform at Yelp. Then she jumped to one of the giants, Amazon, where she worked as a product manager.
Most recently she parlayed that experience into a leadership role at a smaller start-up — a common move among techies willing to take a risk for a new challenge and perhaps a big payday.
But this start-up wasn’t exactly a tech company.
Pecor was living in Seattle when the state of Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana. “I saw this huge shift,” she said. “I never thought it would happen in my lifetime, and I knew I just wouldn’t forgive myself if I wasn’t part of it.”
So, two years ago she made the leap from Amazon to Eaze, becoming vice president of product at the 4-year-old San Francisco start-up, which operates an online cannabis marketplace.
For decades, those looking to change the world arrived in Silicon Valley seeking the latest frontier: social media companies, gadget makers, delivery and transportation apps, e-commerce platform.
But as the emerging markets of yesterday become today’s stalwarts, a growing number of technology workers are migrating to an even newer sector — so new that it isn’t legal at the federal level.
Pecor now works alongside more than a hundred designers, marketers, engineers and lawyers who left companies such as Microsoft, Lyft, Square and Postmates to help shape the future of the cannabis industry.
Other cannabis and cannabis-adjacent start-ups are also seeing an influx of tech talent. PAX Labs, a maker of sleek cannabis vaporizers, is run by the former chief operating officer of video game giant Electronic Arts and smart home company August Home Inc. Its workforce of a little more than a hundred includes designers, branding experts, operations and policy specialists, and hardware makers from Apple, Nintendo, GoPro and Groupon.
Design agencies and consultants that once exclusively worked for technology clients are increasingly working with companies in the cannabis industry.
Conditions are ripe for this kind of migration, according to analysts and investors, who believe three factors make pot so attractive to techies.
The first is money: cannabis start-up wages are comparable to small to medium-sized tech shops. But as cannabis sales soar with more states legalizing recreational use, there could be a potential windfall for those who get in early. The U.S. cannabis market is expected to grow to $75 billion in sales by 2030 from $10 billion, said Troy Dayton, chief executive of cannabis investment and market research firm Arcview.