Interview with Eddie Miller, Founder of greenrush
On February 26, 2019, Eddie Miller, Founder of greenrush, will be speaking at Kahner Global's Cannabis Private Investment Summit in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The event will host more than 130 industry leaders and investors for a day of collaboration and networking.
1. What brought you into the cannabis industry?
I’m a serial entrepreneur who’s been building ecommerce marketplaces for sixteen years. I helped found PubCrawl.com and NewYearsEve.com, a marketplace for New Year’s Eve tickets that reached three hundred cities globally.
About six years ago, a San Francisco real estate developer and close friend suggested that I invest in a property that we could lease above the market rate. Our first tenant sold cannabis, making it hard for him to find a landlord who’d take a risk on him. For us it was a chance to rent our space at a premium and to observe an operator in the emerging cannabis market.
We watched his business grow rapidly, and eventually my co-founder, Paul [Warshaw] and I decided that we could apply our experience successfully building marketplaces and ecommerce technology to cannabis. That’s how greenrush was born.
2) Were there any barriers preventing your entry into the cannabis industry?
Most certainly. greenrush is a technology company whose potential customers—cannabis retailers—were very resistant to having their information in the public domain and their transactions recorded. While consumers loved our services, convincing retailers to use them was a big challenge early on.
3) How does your business model differ from others in the marketplace?
We are unique in that we operate as a two-sided marketplace. We simultaneously create demand and supply by partnering with licensed, legal cannabis retailers while attracting and acquiring customers. Other services, such as Eaze, follow more of a franchise model and work exclusively with one retailer per geographic location. That retailer effectively assumes Eaze branding and its pre-defined set of products.
greenrush more closely resembles GrubHub or Amazon, operating as an open marketplace with a huge product selection. Whereas Eaze lists around seventy-five products, we offer seventeen thousand.
4) What are your priority markets outside California and plans for expansion?
Our upcoming markets outside of California, in order of priority, are Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. We will expand into those markets in 2019, leveraging our preexisting relationships with retailers in each market. Florida will be first. Michigan may take a little time, possibly later in the year after we sort through the complex regulatory framework there. Expansion into Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey is already in progress.
5) What most excites you about the future of the industry?
What’s most exciting is that we get to invent and define it. Most large cannabis businesses are purely infrastructural—that is, they’re vertically integrated and manage cultivation, extraction, production, distribution, and retail.
We’re different. We focus on ecommerce and on-demand delivery, similar to other markets including food delivery and travel booking. With our approach we’re paving the way for building ecommerce relationships between the consumer and the retailer.
6) Will this market consolidate?
I’m convinced that the market will eventually consolidate—and how that happens depends on how federal legalization in the US plays out. Ultimately, I think there's enough room for greenrush and other players to develop very different models. Some will follow a franchise model, while we’ll empower retailers—from mom-and-pops to large-scale operators—by providing logistics and ecommerce solutions.
Consolidation around greenrush will come from our acquiring complementary assets and integrating them into our suite of technology services, and from joining other enterprises that can help us deliver products more efficiently.
There is no “Amazon of cannabis” operating today due not so much to federal legalization as to regulations of local municipalities. It’s these regulations that ultimately govern retail sales in every California market and in every legal state. For Amazon to enter cannabis, it would effectively need to buy out the dominant players in every market to help it navigate the unique local market challenges.
7) Do you have any concerns about the future of the industry? Safety? Risk?
There is risk. But at this point you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. So many states have already legalized cannabis, and tax dollars are generating an economic impact in the billions.
In other words, I don’t believe that legalization will be overturned. But there are issues revolving around product regulation and whether the FDA and others in the value chain will complicate the process of bringing products to consumers. We’ll also see lobbying efforts by Big Pharma or Big Alcohol or Big Tobacco that attempt to avert cannabis taking a bite out of their sales.
From a safety perspective, the market’s only getting better, with increased regulatory oversight leading to better and safer products.
8) What are the most significant challenges ahead for greenrush?
They’re the same as for any major cannabis company. The primary one is financing, as attracting capital in the private market is a major challenge. The secondary challenge is the impact of regulations on operations. For example, the state of Colorado doesn’t currently allow delivery, so our operations there are strictly in-store pickup. We’re not sitting still, though, and are lobbying the state to allow for a delivery program that we hope to pilot. Similar laws in other states have hindered our ability to deliver; our challenge is gaining the support of the bureaucrats responsible for changing regulations.
9) What prospects are you most excited about?
I’m really excited about hemp-extracted CBD—a new market for greenrush. Since hemp CBD is legal in many markets where cannabis is not, we can enter markets like New York and gain a presence there in advance of cannabis legalization. We’ll acquire customers that want to experience benefits of cannabis through hemp-extracted CBD, then market to them the moment cannabis becomes available for them to purchase.
10) Can you comment about your team, your values, mission, and culture?
Certainly. Our number one mission is to provide cannabis to the customer in the way they want it to be provided to them. Whether from express pick-up or scheduled delivery or express delivery, everything we do in our business is built around the consumer. It’s our mission to educate and to enable customers to make informed decisions.
Building a sustainable business, one that empowers all the stakeholders, is central to our mission. We’re empowering mom-and-pop retailers to survive and compete. We’re a solution for those who can’t build a multimillion-dollar logistics platform, offering them ecommerce technology at no upfront cost. And we’re creating communities. These shared values permeate our office culture and are infused into our meetings and discussions.
We believe cannabis is a social product and, as a social product, we want to socialize it across the world.
11) Can you comment on your investors, influencers, how you are reaching your customers?
We are raising our Series B, which we kicked off last week, targeting $15 million in financing at a $65 million pre-money valuation. We also have relationships with High Times and with Dope Media. As media and lifestyle businesses expand and cannabis increasingly becomes part of mainstream culture, we’ll align with new partners and clients. Together with our ongoing acquisition efforts—among them paid media and influencer programs—we’ll help bring cannabis and its benefits to millions.
The Cannabis Private Investment Summit showcases the best and brightest cannabis entrepreneurs in the industry and is the premiere summit for institutional investors, family offices, and ultra high net worth investors. For additional information on greenrush, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sign up for Kahner Global’s 2nd Annual Cannabis Private Investment Summit Florida, being held on February 26, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, click here.