Leading A Highly Successful Cannabis Startup
"It's best for businesses to be a big fish in a small pond, then take a shovel to turn that pond into a bigger one."
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There is nothing I appreciate more than seeing people who I know succeed in the cannabis industry.
There is a saying that a high tide raises all ships, and while this isn’t absolutely true — as the cannabis industry grows there will endless opportunities to build businesses within the industry — however, knowing what problem to solve and maintaining a high level of focus while solving this problem at scale is much easier said than done.
A cannabis software startup that I have admired for a number of years now is Greenline who’s CEO Albert Kim I sat down with for today’s publication of Four PM.
Albert Kim is the former Lead Engineer for GoFetch technologies and is currently the Co-founder & CEO of Greenline POS.
What was the insight that led you to build Greenline POS?
I am motivated by 2 things.
1. I’m a big fan of cannabis retailers - I was a fan of them pre-legalization, and I'm a fan of them post-legalization. They do some of the toughest work out there and have an outsized impact on cannabis purchases, stigma, and perception.
They need help growing, and we're ready to do whatever we can.
2. Canadian businesses need solutions designed for them - I learned about cannabis retail needs early on, it was abundantly clear that nobody was happy with systems designed for US-based operations with some features turned on/off for Canadians.
We want to be serviced, not be an inconvenience. I knew that there was room in the market for POS solutions designed to solve our specific compliance workflows and push the industry forward.
Greenline has remained hyper-focused on the Canadian cannabis market, what was the thought process behind this decision?
I'm a believer in Canada and what we can accomplish as a nation in the next 100 years. Cannabis legalization is a big part of that, and being one of the first countries to legalize at a national level is really meaningful.
People ask if it's good to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond. I believe that's a false dichotomy - to me, it's best for businesses to be a big fish in a small pond, then take a shovel to turn that pond into a bigger one.
I'm also a believer that businesses can't do everything at once. We've seen numerous US-based competitors enter the space and struggle to make an impact.
Focus has been a big reason why 350+ cannabis retailers trust us with their critical infrastructure. We take a lot of pride in what we do, and are not afraid to invest in things Canadian retailers need, regardless of provincial market size.
The Canadian industry has continued to grow in spite of Covid — what were the main challenges you faced in leading a high-growth software startup during this period?
The rapid growth definitely caught us off guard.
When COVID hit, we were prepared for the worst, but the opposite happened. Our customer count grew by almost 300%, and we had to keep up with the demand. Now Ontario is issuing far more licenses than they've ever issued in the past, presenting massive opportunities for the entire industry.
Our biggest challenge has been hiring and scaling our organization.
I'm always on the lookout for top talent who cares about our space while maintaining the essence of what got us here in the first place. We hire all across Canada as a remote-first company, which lets us do things like hire former Ontario budtenders to join our incredible customer support and success teams.
I'm truly thankful for our team, our customers, our partners, and our investors who believe in the mission of helping cannabis retailers grow.
What has you most excited about the future of the cannabis industry here in Canada?
I really hope to see the rise of craft cannabis alongside direct grower relationships with retailers.
I believe that consumers will continue to prefer in-store retail to online (see the OCS report on their online/retail breakdown), and that there are incredible opportunities for cultivator brands to align with retail brands with the same values.
Of course, this will depend on all sorts of regulations, but we are in the early days and remain hopeful.
Did you gain value from reading this edition of Four PM?