From Military Commander To Cannabis CEO: The Story Of One Of The Fastest-Growing Tech Companies In The Marijuana Industry
Socrates Rosenfeld was always an athlete. When he had to choose a college as an undergrad, he went for the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, better known as West Point Prep. He graduated in 2004 and went straight into the army to serve as an officer.
For seven years, Rosenfeld flew in (and then commanded) a team of Apache helicopters in Iraq. “I led a very Army life,” he told Benzinga during a recent conversation.
At one point, he decided to leave the military and come back home.
“It’s a hard transition when you come back from combat,” he said. “While I was never officially diagnosed with PTSD, it was certainly difficult to integrate back into society. Actually, most veterans I’ve talked to find leaving the service and entering civilian life is a significant, stressful transition.”
After trying a bunch of different things to cope with this shift in his lifestyle, Rosenfeld came across marijuana. He had never tried it before; he was 29 at the time.
“For me, this is a very special, medicinal plant, which allowed me to settle things down and reconnect not only with myself, but also with my loved ones like my wife and my friends,” he continued. “This finally allowed me to move forward and make that transition into what I wanted to do next: business school.”
This time, Rosenfeld picked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“It was a very interesting life experience. During the day, I was learning about fast-growth tech and entrepreneurship, and in the evening, I was trying to learn about cannabis for the first time in my life. And I always dreamed of putting those two worlds together.”
However, the opportunity would not present itself for a few more years. In the meantime, Rosenfeld would graduate from MIT and move on to work for McKinsey & Company, where he’d continue to learn about fast-growth technology, about how the Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s, 1-800-Flowers.Com Inc (NASDAQ:FLWS)’s and GrubHub Inc (NYSE:GRUB)’s of the world got to where they are today.
This experience led Rosenfeld to realize that cannabis consumers did not have a marketplace like the aforementioned do. “Even though I was a legal, medicinal patient in California, the shopping experience was very difficult and fragmented,” he said. And so, Jane Technologies came to be.
Rosenfeld now serves as the CEO of Jane Technologies, the only online marijuana products retail platform with real-time availability. Since its launch in May, the platform has been adopted by more than 100 stores and dispensaries across five states the U.S. Even more impressive is the fact that in just five months, Jane Technologies has managed to drive the average cart size from $45 to $90, while reducing the customer buying cycle from 12 days to two days.
A few elements seem to have been key to this company’s success. On the one hand, its platform is the only one that can integrate with every store’s point of sale software in real time, allowing users to either order or reserve specific products at any of the participating locations. On the other hand, adoption among retailers has been very fast because Jane Technologies doesn't charge a fee for its listing service, only charging dispensaries $1.00 every time someone orders through the system.
“When people join our marketplace, they shop more frequently at local dispensaries, they build larger and larger carts because they are able to find all these ancillary products that suit them, and they are coming back more and more,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s a win-win situation that will support small businesses a lot more than other e-commerce players out there, pulling business into their brick-and-mortar locations or delivery services, instead of taking it away from them.
“We are seeking to transform brick-and-mortar into click-and-mortar.”
As of Oct. 24, more than 12,000 unique products can be found and bought on iheartjane.com.
The company’s seed money came from Rosenfeld and his partners’ friends and family, who chipped in with more than $1 million, oversubscribing the round.
“A lot of military veterans (general officers, specials operators, etc.) invested in us,” the CEO said. “They see this as an opportunity, because cannabis is working for the veteran community, and they want to support a veteran-owned business.”
People from the MIT community are also providing plenty of support, he added. “They are really interested in the way our technology is creating a new way to shop in terms of e-commerce."
Rosenfeld likes to think of the business model as an intersection between Amazon, because of the e-commerce aspect of Jane; Yelp Inc (NYSE:YELP), for the reviews and listing side of it; and Shopify Inc (US) (NYSE:SHOP), for the e-commerce platform it offers businesses.
Given that Jane Technology’s platform is easily scalable, the company is getting ready for a Series A raise. The target amount has not been made public yet.
“We are now in a position where we have the traction and a very well-established team that’s doing great things, so we feel a new raise is the next logical step,” Rosenfeld said.
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