A Tech Startup Didn't See the Solution They Were Looking for, So They Built It
The founders of Drop Delivery, all under 30, believe there is no other industry with a greater opportunity for innovation than cannabis.
In 2019, serial entrepreneurs and sisters Vanessa and Jade Gabriel, along with their high school friend, Marc Lopez, saw the need for an all-in-one delivery tech solution for the cannabis companies and retailers. So they founded Drop Delivery, a technology that consolidates the primary sales processes into one cohesive system, including white labeling, a consumer-facing e-commerce app, and website, live inventory tracking, compliance reporting, automated marketing tools and SMS, a digital loyalty and rewards program, last-mile logistics, and a driver-specific app.
The team, all under 30, was not new to cannabis. They sold their previous startup Greenlight Technologies, an order-ahead marketplace, in 2018, only seven months after launching.
Recently, Drop Delivery completed a successful Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg-CF) offering through Equifund in just seven weeks, making it the fastest offering to hit $1 million on the platform.
Green Entrepreneur talked to the Drop Delivery team CEO Vanessa Gabriel, CTO Marc Lopez, and Chief Product Officer Jade Gabriel about their journey.
From left to right: Head of sales Quincy Taylor, CEO Vanessa Gabriel, CTO Marc Lopez, and CPO Jade Gabriel.
You bill Drop as the first all-in-one platform for cannabis delivery. Why do you feel the tech options in the cannabis industry have been so fragmented up to this point?
VG: It’s a lot simpler to focus on one problem and create a solution around that instead of five problems and that’s why relying on multiple software solutions to operate a cannabis business has become the status quo. So, with our passion and our drive to always provide a better experience in whatever we build, we took a look at what was out there and had the vision to see that “hey, this will work better as an all-in-one solution.” Then we just had to build it. [laughs]
ML: The truth is that [building and managing an all-in-one platform] is a massive undertaking. When people hear about what Drop Delivery is, they think, “OK, if you’ve built all this, but there’s no way that you’ve covered every single point that may have been covered on say, a last-mile company that specializes in just that." But our message is, we’ve given our clients the pieces that they actually need rather than something that is built for other industries, which can get weighed down with things that the cannabis industry does not need.
What are some of the lessons you've learned about raising capital?
VG: Number one: Never give up. And always know that—especially if you decide to take the route to raise outside capital—you are going to hear a lot of ‘nos’ before you hear the right ‘yes.’ And the right yes, for us, after all the nos that we’ve gotten over the past 10 years, was to go the crowdfunding route. And number two: be open to exploring alternative routes. I’ve seen people caught up in pursuing traditional capital and the big VC firms, but I think that crowdfunding has proven to be a very viable and successful route to try. We’ve seen that with other companies in a multitude of industries.
Why did you decide to go the crowdfunding route?
VG: We felt that not only there wasn’t much to lose, but it actually aligned with who we wanted as shareholders, and who those shareholders would be in the future. It worked out how it was supposed to: being able to have shareholders that looked like us, that believed in us, and that could be anybody across the country -- that was really exciting to have that relationship with our shareholders instead of a large VC firm.
What is the future of buying cannabis?
ML: I believe we’ve shifted to the new normal of how cannabis will be purchased and the future will be digital on-demand shopping experience. With the pandemic, we’ve seen the delivery economy thrive from getting your groceries delivered to ordering from your favorite restaurant we know cannabis will follow this trend and Drop is pioneering this technology to do just that.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities in cannabis tech?
JG: Data. Using automation and machine learning to go that extra mile and receiving automated and actionable insights that can be put into place intuitively. Right now, there is so much data flooding in, but if you’re not doing anything with that data, then what’s the value? I think the future is taking that rich data to the next level of how it can help these businesses grow and increase their sales in a streamlined and effortless way.
Why should tech entrepreneurs look to the cannabis industry?
VG: There is no other industry with a greater opportunity for innovation right now, and that’s what technology does best. Legalization is a major driver of that; state-by-state legislation, whether medical or adult use, creates an immense new infrastructure of oversight, compliance, logistics, and more -- and that can only be managed effectively by technology. So I feel there is going to be a sustained demand for tech and tech expertise at every part of the industry, and what we’re doing at Drop Delivery is only part of it.
What advice would you give to wanna-be cannabis tech entrepreneurs?
VG: Just go with the flow. In the cannabis industry, things are changing all the time: new states are legalizing, existing laws are changing. In cannabis, there is literally something new every day. Stick to your vision but be flexible.