Step 1: Build software for pot labs. Step 2: Find out who has the strongest herb. Step 3: Create a marijuana marketplace connecting dispensaries with the best growers.
That’s the plan that scored $3 million in seed funding led by Slow Ventures for Confident Cannabis. Right now it’s on Step 2, having established the largest real-time database of cannabis in the world just nine months after launching.
Built by four Stanford grads, the Y Combinator and StartX company wants to corner a critical data stream in the fast-growing ganja business. For now, it’s the CarFax of weed. If it succeeds, Confident Cannabis could become the sticky-icky stock exchange, where growers and sellers connect.
The reason Confident Cannabis’ data is so important is that the effects of marijuana can vastly differ depending on the species (sativa or indica), strain, and quality.
Great sativa can make you feel euphoric and creative, while strong indica can provide aid with relaxation. Strains with large amounts of the chemical THC provide more of a psychedelic high, versus strains with great deals of CBD are better for pain relief and treating insomnia. But low quality pot can induce paranoia, anxiety, grumpiness, or lethargy.
The problem is you can’t tell much of this from just looking at it.
“You don’t know how you’re going to feel when you smoke it, but all that information is related to the chemical composition of the plant” says Confident Cannabis co-founder and CEO Stephen Albarran. He tells me he’s always been fond of marijuana, but the lack of transparency about its quality needed fixing.
That’s why Confident Cannabis makes a marijuana-specific laboratory information management system (LIMS). Third-party pot labs install it to track and deliver the results of the samples they’re sent by producers like growers, wholesalers, and manufacturers while remaining compliant with local laws.
Instead of receiving unstructured PDFs and drab Excel sheets, or having to visit the lab in person, Confident Cannabis lets producers log into a secure app to get beautiful, trackable charts about their crop’s potency.
Producers can then print the data on pretty labels to put on their products, send the graphs to dispensaries to convince them to buy their pot at a higher price, or even share the reports on social media for marketing purposes. They’ll also get a certification of analysis to prove their greens are safe to smoke, and free of pesticides or adulterants.
Confident Cannabis’ software is now available in Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, California and New Mexico, and soon will be in Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Arizona. It has over 1500 producers on the platform, and that number is growing 50 percent per month.
The growth attracted the $3 million seed from Slow Ventures, TEEC Angel Fund, “founders of Silicon Valley Unicorn companies that probably want to remain nameless”, the eight-person startup tells me. They’ll be spending it on hiring and acquiring producers and labs in its new markets.
“Cannabis is not a commodity. It’s very variable, and no one knows what they’re buying” explains the startup’s co-founder and president Tony Lewis. “If a business is going to buy raw materials to make edibles or vape pens, or dispensaries need to know what they buying for the customers, and users need to know what they’re buying from the dispensary”, Confident Cannabis can show them the light.
Buy ‘Dro, Sell High
With real-time data about who has the best pot and who’s buying, Confident Cannabis has many opportunities to monetize. It plans to sell a tiered “freemium Saas” subscription.
Pricing will depend on which parts of the software and marketplace clients use — from more basic features like lab result delivery, product label printing, and marketing content creation, to advanced offerings like planning resource allocation, legal compliance, and facilitation of wholesale trading. Essentially, Confident Cannabis will adapt to whatever emerges as the most lucrative use of its dataset.
“I think it’s really cool that this giant, fast-growing industry is being born in an era of technology. It’s not going to look like alcohol, or pharma, or big tobacco, or big agriculture” Albarran tells me. Data and transparency will trump regional monopolies and entrenched inefficiency.
Confident Cannabis will have to out grow fellow wholesale platform Leaflink, and a crop of new startups trying to become the trading floor for weed. This is the Green Rush. Everyone can smell the opportunity, and entrepreneurs and investors are rolling in fast.
But beyond Confident Cannabis‘ business potential, Albarran sees a chance to guide the future of both recreation and medicine. He insists “It’s good economically, politically, and from a health and a social wellbeing perspective.” The years after alcohol prohibition dictated the direction of the industry for decades to come. Now it’s that moment for the marijuana industry. He asks, “How should it look?”Featured Image: Pete Starman/Heath Korvola/Getty Images