I had the pleasure of interviewing Socrates Rosenfeld, West Point grad, former Apache helicopter pilot, MIT alumni, and now CEO of Jane Technologies, a retail tech company that has built the first online marketplace for the cannabis industry: iheartjane.com. Their patented software automatically connects products on dispensary shelves with local online shoppers and provides a curated shopping experience similar to that of GrubHub or OpenTable. Since launching 16 months ago in Santa Cruz, CA, iheartjane.com has grown to over 350 dispensaries across 14 states, which makes Jane Technologies one of the fastest growing tech companies in the cannabis industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thanks so much for letting me share my story! I was 29 years old the first time I ever consumed cannabis. Up until that point, I had served in the US Army. I went to the United States Military Academy, and then became an Apache helicopter pilot. After having served as a combat commander in Iraq, I transitioned into the civilian world, becoming a student at MIT. Like many fellow veterans, the transition was more challenging than I had expected. After having operated in very intense environments as a soldier, it was difficult for me to tone down that intensity as a civilian. Cannabis allowed me to find balance in my life again. It allowed me to find presence and connect with my loved ones — and most importantly, my self again. This is the reason why my team and I are committed to ensuring that others are provided with a safe and simple way to access a plant that offers so much well-being to this world.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
The fact that MIT conducted a case study and taught a class about our company was one of the more interesting chapters in our story. MIT is one of the most preeminent technology institutions in the world. For them to recognize that our technology had the potential to revolutionize retail was special to our team, particularly because many of us sat in that very same classroom as students not too long ago!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Discipline, consistency, and love. We have the discipline to focus on mastering one thing: to offer the best-in-class e-commerce solution, not only to the cannabis industry, but to the world. We have patented software that instantly transforms brick-and-mortar dispensaries into “click-and-mortar” retailers that now connects the products on their store shelves to local shoppers in real-time. BBy being disciplined in our focus , this enables us to continuously refine our technology, and to provide our retail partners and their customers with powerful features on a consistent basis. None of this would be possible without pouring love into this business. Love for the plant, the team, and for our customers. There’sat is thea reason our logo is a heart.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful for each and every person on the team. Anyone who has created something from nothing will appreciate how challenging that is. The more challenging something is, the more growth that comes from it. To work with a group of individuals who have the courage to embrace the challenge and dedicate themselves to their respective crafts, has been one of the more inspiring experiences of my life. This experienceIt reminds my time in the militarye of the teams I used to lead in the Army: Awhen a group of strangers who come together and to share in a common dreamobjective.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Always! We love studying how consumers in other industries shop for their retail items, food, music, movies, vacations. Most online shopping experiences offer a level of convenience and curation that is customized to the individual consumer. We believe the cannabis consumer deserves that same level of convenience and curation — if not more. We have nearly 60,000 products on our marketplace, from gluten-free edibles to CBD bath salts, and everything in between. We want to make sure that people can explore and educate themselves on these products in a very simple way.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We are proving the new age of retail, where retailers no longer have to view online platforms as competitors, but instead as resources to enhance the in-store experience. We enable customers to shop with the same level of convenience and curation as they would from a traditional online marketplace. Instead of pulling business away from local communities, every product is sourced from neighborhood stores in real-time. We have been gifted with the opportunity to prove to the rest of the world that the multichannel shopping experience is a beautiful model, and one that is being born here in the cannabis industry.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Endurance by Alfred Lansing. It’s about a British explorer named Ernest Shackleton, and his attempt to reach the South Pole. In my opinion, there is no finer example of small unit leadership than the one depicted in this that book. Speaking of discipline, consistency, and love… Shackleton and his men were the embodiment of those tenants.
You likely have heard of the famous cliche that in a gold rush the one selling the shovels makes much more than the one who finds gold. This is the modern day “green rush”. Can you recommend to our readers five technologies or services that can potentially be lucrative “shovels” for the cannabis industry? Can you give an example for each?
E-commerce is a necessity, as the majority of newcomers to this industry expect to shop for their cannabis products just like they shop for everything else online.
Point-of-sale systems are also an important piece to the value chain, as they are the central hub to patient information, compliance, and inventory control.
Text messaging and loyalty platforms are a critical tool for dispensaries and serve as one of the only ways to communicate directly with their local consumer base.
Given the fact that each state has its own set of regulations, most of which are constantly changing, compliance software is integral to the many licensed businesses that depend on them to operate within the confines of a very ambiguous legal landscape.
Lastly, I think this industry is waiting for a virtual payment solution that can enable secure and accountable online transactions. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but the company that does will make a huge impact on this industry.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
Do what you love. You cannot master that which you do not love, so why bother doing anything else? Be willing to fail big. It’s the only way you’ll be ready to win big. Serve others. The Army taught me that you’ll do extraordinary things when it’s for the lovesomething of something biggergreater than yourself.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Lead from the front. Respect doesn’t come from a title; respect is earned by being in the trenches with your employees. Embrace mistakes — they’re a sign of growth and an opportunity to refine your craft. (just don’t make the same one twice). Share the dream. Empower your employees with a sense of ownership and shared vision, and they’ll pour their hearts into their work.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Richard Branson is someone who I respect and admire. He’s not only a business leader who has mastered the art of building and branding successful companies, but he’s someone who recognizes his role as a fellow citizen of this world. Richard is someone who understands that some things are more important than the bottom line and that we can all do well by doing good. Fun fact: he was the keynote speaker at the very first industry conference I ever attended 3 years ago, and he shared about his inspiring work as a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. It was there that I learned that what we’re doing in this industry is indeed bigger than the bottom line.
Jilea Hemmings is the CEO & Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme. She is running a series on the latest innovations impacting the cannabis industry.
Originally published at medium.com