I had the pleasure of interviewing Ross and Zach Lipson, brothers and Co-Founders of dutchie- an online ordering platform for cannabis delivery/pickup from local dispensaries. With Ross’ background in online food ordering services and Zach’s background in technology product design, the two bring unique expertise to the cannabis industry. Through dutchie, enjoying your favorite cannabis products is just a few clicks away.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
The story behind dutchie really began long before the company launched, back in 2012 when Ross sold GrubCanada, the largest online food ordering company at the time in Canada. After spending over a decade in the online food ordering space, and perfecting the model he moved back to the states, settling in Central Oregon, an area that just so happened to be known for producing high quality Cannabis. Meanwhile, Zach was working as a consultant doing interface and product design for consumer facing startups and went on to co-found a startup in the finance space. That company was later acquired and around the same time, Oregon announced that it would be legalizing the recreational delivery of Cannabis. Upon hearing that news Ross had that lightbulb moment — “Hey, what if I take everything I’ve learned in online food ordering and apply it to this market? Instead of food, let’s create a website that lets people order cannabis.” The stars just kind of aligned — Ross had the experience in online ordering and was in the right place (Central Oregon) at the right time (delivery), and Zach had the experience in product design, creating similar sites to this, and was looking for his next venture. So we teamed up with a developer, Sam Ellis, to handle the technical side of the equation and got to work to building the business.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
A few months ago we had a customer on live chat ask us how to request light sauce on their Pizza. Our first thought: “Uhh what the…”. Our second thought: “They must be getting us confused with someone else…”. Our third thought: “Wait, is it possible that one of our dispensaries actually has Pizza on their menu?!”. Well, third time’s a charm. It turns out one of our dispensaries had actually teamed up with a local pizza restaurant and was allowing customers to purchase pizza, along with their Cannabis, on dutchie. We loved the idea and thought it was a great example of how dispensaries can use our tools to customize their menu and have some fun with the platform. We definitely got a good laugh out of that one too though.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We go to incredible lengths to make sure our customers receive the best possible service in every aspect of their experience on dutchie. We’ve made customer support one of the foundational pillars of our company. We have in-house customer support specialists, budtenders to help with recommendations, and developers standing by to help with technical issues. We also are committed to talking to and listening to our customers in terms of requests, feedback, suggestions and just getting to know them in general. We may even send a random gift or two when they least expect it ;)
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?
We’ve been fortunate to have not one but two people that have significantly helped us along the way. Our father, Ron Lipson, has been a successful entrepreneur and inventor for over 35 years so we grew up in a household that encouraged us to pursue our ideas and take risks. We never knew it any other way. He’s been a huge supporter over the years and has showed us the hustle, grit and creativity you need to build a business. We’ve also been fortunate to have guidance from our Uncle, Larry Freed, who was the CEO and founder of a large venture backed tech company that he grew from a startup to a sizable acquisition in 2013, after which he began investing. Larry’s been a huge influence on us, keeping us grounded and making sure we’re always thoughtful and calculated in our approach. He’s also been an invaluable resource in helping us navigate through some of the more difficult decisions and “grey areas” that startups inevitably deal with. Between the two of them, we feel we get two very different, but equally helpful, business perspectives.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We’ve gained some really deep insights into what customers actually want out of an online ordering platform in the cannabis space. We’re using this to develop some innovative features that will help our customers quickly get to their favorite products and find the best dispensary to purchase it from. Essentially we’re taking a lot of the guesswork out which is something we’re very excited about. We have a number of partnerships with other CannaTech companies in the works as well.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We’ve had some intimate conversations with customers who are physically unable to visit a dispensary, so they use dutchie to have the dispensary come to them. They’re suffering from some pretty serious ailments and sometimes dealing with a lot of pain, so making it easy to get their medicine can be literally life-changing. There’s been a number of heartfelt thank you’s and it’s those moments that make it all worth the while.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. Talk about a classic. Who knew there was such wisdom in a kids book about a tree that continues to give us gifts? We ask when we need, and always give when we can — a valuable lesson learned there and certainly one we’ve applied to our work and our relationships in business. A more recent (and more adult) favorite of ours is a book called “Give and Take” by Adam Grant which highlights this concept in a more modern business setting.
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 5 technologies or services that can potentially be lucrative “shovels” for the cannabis industry? Can you give an example for each?
Point of Sale Systems: Greenbits. Wholesale Management: Leaflink. Seed to Sale Management: Trellis. Seed to Sale Tracking: Metrc. Business Processes/Services: Vangst.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
1. Know and understand your customers intimately. You have to feel their pain before you can solve their problem.
2. Build a great network of advisors and Listen to them. You don’t know what you don’t know so value their experience.
3. Find the lesson in your failures. As entrepreneurs, we get knocked down over and over again. It’s important to stay hungry, always get back on your feet and stay optimistic that you will seize the opportunity you set out for.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Lead by example, empower and motivate your people, and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Learn to let go and delegate, this is a big one. A one man army will never win a war. Surround yourself with people that are great at what they do, then let them do it.
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. :-)
Jeff Sessions — Forget breakfast or lunch, all we would need is a quick cup coffee to convince him of the benefits cannabis provides. And although he’s passed, Jack Herer. To let him know that he was right and the rest of the world is finally catching on!
Jilea Hemmings is the CEO & Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme. She is running a series on the latest innovations impacting the cannabis industry.