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Socrates Rosenfeld of Jane Technologies: “Retailers are responding to the new realities in many ways”

Retailers are responding to the new realities in many ways, but the emergence of curbside pickup is the most common. Customers no longer need to enter the store. It’s almost like a white-glove, VIP service with staff waiting outside for you to arrive. The usage of real-time analytics is becoming a trend in retail, with […]

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Retailers are responding to the new realities in many ways, but the emergence of curbside pickup is the most common. Customers no longer need to enter the store. It’s almost like a white-glove, VIP service with staff waiting outside for you to arrive. The usage of real-time analytics is becoming a trend in retail, with brick and mortar retailers now having access to the same information that has been historically reserved for the large ecommerce giants. Lastly, brands are finding creative ways to reach their customers through these innovative digital channels at local retailers.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Socrates Rosenfeld, Co-Founder and CEO of Jane Technologies. After leaving active duty in 2011 as a U.S. Army veteran and Apache helicopter commander, Socrates turned to cannabis to re-acclimate to civilian life. Because cannabis wasn’t legal at the time in Massachusetts where he lived, he was forced to rely on the black market, where he couldn’t be sure about the quality of the cannabis he was buying. The frustration of that experience, coupled with the lack of access to cannabis for his fellow vets, led Socrates to co-found Jane Technologies with his brother Abraham.

Jane launched in 2017 to provide an e-commerce solution for legal cannabis retailers. A big part of the platform is that customers can conveniently research and purchase cannabis products online. Currently, the company partners with over 1300 dispensaries in 28 states.

Prior to starting Jane, Socrates was an associate at McKinsey & Company. He graduated from the United States Military Academy and earned an MBA in entrepreneurship from MIT.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I got out of the military nine years ago to go to grad school, I thought it would be an easy transition back to civilian life. That wasn’t the case. I found it challenging to relax, something a lot of veterans experience. It wasn’t until I tried cannabis that I finally found some relief. It allowed me to dial down my intensity levels and reconnect with myself and loved ones.

Speaking with other veterans who had a similar experience with cannabis, it was clear that there were a number of roadblocks to accessing the plant. I knew that I wanted to contribute to the cannabis industry by providing consumers with a safe, informative, and transparent way to access the plant through powerful digital technology. The founding team members all have a personal connection to the plant, and together we shared the vision to create a win-win scenario for dispensaries, brands, and their customers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

For us, the best stories come from our customers, who tell us how finding the right cannabis products has helped them or their loved ones. They share how Jane has helped them to find the exact right product that truly relieves their suffering. On the flip side, we often hear from retail businesses using our platform that previously had minimal online activity. Using the Jane platform, retailers are now able to digitize their existing operations nearly overnight with an automated ecommerce solution. When COVID first hit, it was particularly gratifying to hear how the curbside pickup functionality allowed dispensaries to stay open in a safe and efficient way.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

As a founder, I had this wild expectation that hundreds of people would sign up for Jane on the first day. We received exactly zero orders on launch day — so that was pretty funny (in retrospect). That taught me Jane would not be an overnight success, and that this journey would require the utmost patience and perseverance. While our growth is now exponential, it’s helpful to look back every once in a while as a reminder of how far we’ve come — and what it’s taken to get here.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We work in an industry where brands can’t go direct-to-consumer with their products, and it’s also very difficult to advertise to consumers online. We are inventing some exciting tools for brands to build their digital businesses and reach consumers through our network of dispensary partners.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

My own experience taught me a few important tips to prevent burn out:

  1. Love what you do
  2. Work with people you admire and respect
  3. Solve problems that you’re passionate about and that are important to you

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to one individual person. I am grateful for each and every member of the Jane team. With a special thank you to the founding team for having faith in this idea and sharing the vision for Jane, they committed all of their energy to this company just as I did — and I am forever grateful for them.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our growth as a company has allowed us to create space for goodness both inside the company and out in the community. Internally, we encourage a company culture and team environment where people can grow authentically into who they want to become and can work on projects they’re passionate about.

Externally, we are building retail technology that accomplishes something that hasn’t been done before. Brands can connect directly with customers even though they can’t ship their products directly to them. We are supporting small businesses, respecting the plant by providing accurate information, and encouraging local commerce through a disruptive digital platform.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share three examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the pandemic?

Retailers are responding to the new realities in many ways, but the emergence of curbside pickup is the most common. Customers no longer need to enter the store. It’s almost like a white-glove, VIP service with staff waiting outside for you to arrive. The usage of real-time analytics is becoming a trend in retail, with brick and mortar retailers now having access to the same information that has been historically reserved for the large ecommerce giants. Lastly, brands are finding creative ways to reach their customers through these innovative digital channels at local retailers.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

I think people would prefer to support local businesses, but have been won over by the convenience of online shopping. I also see that COVID has revealed two very distinct things: people will pay more for safety and convenience, and they still crave the experience that goes along with shopping or dining. That leads me to believe that retail stores will remain, but will need to evolve to meet the new needs of the digital consumer.

Ultimately, our software was created to bridge the gap between convenience and community engagement. We think that if people could search for a product locally and have the ability to pick it up or have it dropped off the same day, they would choose to support local businesses 10 out of 10 times. Also, our software guarantees that you only see products that are currently available for purchase. Unlike Instacart, we are able to know without a doubt what is in inventory, avoiding the need to choose replacements or finding that something has been replaced with an item that only remotely resembles what you wanted. This real-time capability actually gives retailers an advantage over the purely online competition.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

These particular retailers have made ecommerce a pillar of their growth plans and have been implementing digitization strategies for at least the last few years. They have been able to meet the moment because they foresaw the need for omnichannel shopping. In addition to expanding their digital footprint, Lululemon is focusing on product innovation and market expansion. Both of which can be tested and accomplished through digital channels. It allows Lululemon to establish a customer base in an area before opening a retail location and to learn what the customers would like to see in future designs.

If we can learn anything from these successful retailers, it is that digitization can support rather than replace retail — and that customers can remain loyal if companies grow with them in this digital world.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Jane exists because physical retailers have been left behind and forced to build their own digital tools — when that’s not their specialty. That’s like asking a software company to open up a storefront. We want to empower brick and mortar with powerful ecommerce solutions as flexible as Shopify and as convenient as Amazon. We are giving them the tools to build their digital business easily, without the need to hire software engineers.

My advice to retailers: prepare for the complete digitization of retail infrastructure by leveraging flexible software that can integrate into all areas of the physical retail environment.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the only way to genuinely influence others is to focus on how one lives their own life. If I come to work and show love, respect and kindness, then the Jane team will in turn bring the same energy to their work. Change starts from within.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Instagram: @_iheartjane

Facebook: @iheartjanecom

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


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