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Building Software To Service Hundreds Of Cannabis Retailers
"We've essentially built the whole platform with on/off settings for nearly every feature, because things can change any day, in any province."
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In the early innings of the cannabis industry, there was a wave of enthusiasm surrounding the need to build state-of-the-art cultivation facilities.
During this time, there was growing sentiment in the industry in Canada that whoever had the highest production capacity had earned themselves a certain degree of bragging rights.
Pitch deck, after pitch deck enthusiastic entrepreneurs referenced the amount of cannabis they could produce as the basis of their inevitable success in the industry.
Billions of dollars were raised, however, fast forward until today and it’s estimated that there’s over 1 billion grams of cannabis sitting in the vaults of Canadian licensed producers.
During this same period of time, a select group of entrepreneurs were taking a very different approach to build successful businesses — as opposed to producing cannabis, they would instead produce the software applications which the industry would inevitably need to succeed.
For today’s publication of Four PM, I sat down with Ryan who is one such individual who decided to pursue this path — a decision that has been duly rewarded with hundreds of stores in Canada now using their software each day.
Ryan Lalonde is a former Business Solutions Consultant for Traction on Demand and is currently the Co-founder, and CEO of Buddi.
What was the insight that led you to build Buddi?
We'd initially envisioned Buddi as a budtender tool for medical dispensaries.
The idea was to enable budtenders to help medical cannabis users find products that would be optimal for their ailments. We did launch an initial version of this product with a couple of stores in Vancouver.
Right around that time though, the Canadian Government had just released the "A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada", outlining how legalized cannabis would be regulated. After reading that, we'd released that there would be a substantial need for customer education in the legal marketplace.
We pivoted our focus from medical to recreational; from that, Buddi was born.
What's been the toughest challenge you've faced as you scale Buddi?
Constantly changing regulations at a Province-by-Province level.
Because each Province is responsible for its own regulatory framework (ie. delivery, online ordering, taxation, distribution, etc) it's been tough to build a platform that's flexible and agile enough to meet the needs of any store in Canada. We've essentially built the whole platform with on/off settings for nearly every feature, because things can change any day, in any province.
It really forces us to keep on top of any potential regulatory shifts and get ready ahead of time, even sometimes building things that may not ever be used.
What advice would you offer to entrepreneurs who are considering building products for the cannabis industry?
Start very, very small, by fulfilling a specific pain point, then build outwards from that based on customer feedback and requests — I've always referred to this initial product as your "wedge".
For example, Buddi started in the rec market as a tablet menu system, but we were asked all the time by our customers "could we put this on our website?".
From there, we decided to build out our online menu and e-commerce platform. Find your wedge, and build from there.
What's the most valuable mistake you have made in building Buddi, and what was the lesson you learned from this experience?
I think that we could have done a better job getting our solutions into the market faster, and marketing them more aggressively from the get-go.
We always wanted to make sure everything was working close to 100% before diving in, which was to make sure we were protecting our customers from any regulatory or other risks.
With a new market that's maturing so quickly, sometimes you just have to go for it. I don't know if I'd change much of what we have done up to this point, I'd probably just have done it faster and taken larger leaps of faith.
What has you most excited about the future of the cannabis industry?
There's a number of things…
Craft cannabis, international legalization changes, BC/AB delivery, and loosening regulations around things like advertising.
I think the industry could look completely different in 3-5 years, so it's going to be very exciting to see how things will progress.
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