Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Curt Dalton, Founder & CEO of Cannabis.net, an online destination and mobile app canvasing the entire Cannabis Industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
That is a tough one since you have to pivot every day in this space due to the legal changes, the advertising changes, the content rules, and just about anything else that could change around CBD, hemp, or cannabis, on a daily basis. I would say buying the domain and having Hillary being a 96% chance winner at 5pm on election night according to the New York Times was certainly a curveball. I am not saying that Hillary was some big pothead, but at least she was a Democrat, and Bernie would have been in her cabinet or in a position of power. We would be in a much different place today with cannabis legalization if a Democrat had won the election. I will still say to this day though, it was 10x more important that California voted in recreational cannabis on that same ballot that we voted for Trump or Clinton. If I had to lose one of those elections, California legalizing recreational cannabis was much more important than the presidential elections for cannabis only. California is now the 4th largest GDP in the world, as California goes, so does the rest of America. If we had lost that ballot initiative and Trump/Sessions got into power, we would be in a world of hurt on the weed side.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Usually mistakes in a startup cost money so I am not sure how funny they were, but one mistake was on the mapping of dispensaries and medical marijuana doctors. We knew people didn’t like Weedmaps and generally had to hold their noses dealing with them, so we figured they would jump at the chance to move to a new mapping and menu system. What we didn’t realize is that mapping is a winner-take-all game and Weedmaps and Leafly own it. You need critical mass, like a social network, on your mapping, then you can charge the prices that Weedmaps charges. As I have always said, he who controls the traffic makes the rules, and Weedmaps controls the mapping and menu traffic. The assumption that if you get 10% of the map traffic that Weedmaps has, you will make 10% of what they do was not correct. People will put up with the treatment they get from Weedmaps, and the prices they have to pay, because Weedmaps can deliver so much traffic to their dispensary and to their offers online.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes, the podcast and streaming media seems to have caught up with us as we are working on a variety of new podcast deals with PNC Media as well as a possible streaming or weekly TV show that covers the week’s stories in weed. I have shied away from doing solo podcasts because I get tired of hearing my own voice and it seems boring to me, but now that I co-host a show and we have plans for some spin-offs in video and audio media, it makes it much more fun!
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?
So many people I couldn’t even list them all here. I will start with my parents for my upbringing, my work ethic, my college education and drive to just love hard work and new projects. So many mentors along the way have given me good advice or put in a good word for me when they didn’t have to. I always try to return the favor to other people who are coming up as well.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
I am a big lean startup guy, so all the principles that come with that philosophy should be looked at by big legacy companies that may not be as nimble and able to pivot as they were when they were first starting out. I co-teach an entrepreneur startup class every year at a local high school through the Babson College Entrepreneur Program and we teach the kids to look for pain points to solve when starting a company. People will only pay money to have a pain solved, whether it is as simple as a hunger pain (you buy food), or a pain in getting payroll out to 5,000 people on time (HR services), so you need to be able to pivot and solve the pain points of your customers, they will pay you for doing that. In the media weed niche, it is tough, because 84% of the people that come to Cannabis.net want to buy weed and I can’t sell it to them, yet. So, I can’t solve my user’s biggest pain point, and that is very frustrating until the Federal law changes.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I think every CEO I have ever met or interviewed has their own style, some more effective than others. I don’t think there is just one way to govern as they say, but in general, lead by example. Be the hardest working person in the office, be the first one there and last one to leave, show that you have a ton of skin in the game and you are sacrificing too. Empathy is a big trend with leaders now, putting yourself in people’s positions in life and realizing there may need to be a mental health break, or a day off to take care of family stuff, and realizing that it is okay and those things make you a better company overall.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 you and I are actually doing that right now, being at the forefront of cannabis legalization here in the 2016 to 2022 years of ending prohibition. Just being part of this historical time of change and getting people that need the plant a legal way to get it is HUGE. We will look back in 20 years, once cannabis is legalized around the world, and sold everywhere and realize the people that worked on the front lines of stories and changing perceptions about marijuana were true leaders in getting things changed in the voting booth and in Congress. Electing leaders that were pro-cannabis, removing leaders that didn’t want the plant legalized – it’s all happening right now. The movement to legalize is a once-in-a-lifetime moment so just being able to get stories and news out to people though Cannabis.net and helping the legalization movement is inspiring to me. Millions of people with PTSD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, sleep issues, alcoholism, and so many more afflictions are about to get a new, legal, natural way to reset their bodies and start to get healthier. Sick days decrease in legal cannabis states, people begin to get hope again when their anxiety or arthritis goes away, people start to walk and exercise again, the plant is amazing, really!