Cannabis Interview – Ryan G. Smith – Leaf Link
The cannabis industry may be taking off, but let’s not forget, it’s still in its infancy, which means there’s still a lot of room for bringing more technology, innovation and efficiency.
We had the chance to sit down with Ryan G. Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of Leaflink, the cannabis industry’s wholesale marketplace, which is defining the way that thousands of cannabis brands and retailers manage and track their orders and relationships, so they can focus on growing their businesses
Unlike other industries where processes have been long-established, cannabis is full of potential – we see it as an opportunity to define, not disrupt.
LeafLink, the cannabis industry’s wholesale marketplace, is currently processing approx. 16% of all wholesale cannabis transactions in the US. Can you tell us a bit about what LeafLink does and how you will continue to gain marketshare
Ryan: As the cannabis industry’s wholesale marketplace, LeafLink connects over 1,100 legal cannabis brands with over 3,200 retailers to help them streamline communications, process orders, and manage their inventory. Currently, we’re in 22 territories across the US and Canada, and we work with about 4 out of 5 retailers in each of these.
We recently hit an enormous milestone: $1 billion in annual wholesale orders through LeafLink’s marketplace. As the industry leader, we’re really focused on making sure our community grows as the cannabis industry does.
Ryan – what is your background and how did you come to found LeafLink?
Ryan: I’ve always been interested in building and developing marketplaces. Before LeafLink, I founded another B2B startup that explored this dynamic.
When my co-founder Zach Silverman and I started the company in 2016, cannabis was brand new, and we sensed a real need among growing companies in the space for the kinds of efficiencies a tech-enabled B2B marketplace provides.
Unlike other industries where processes have been long-established, cannabis is full of potential – we see it as an opportunity to define, not disrupt. LeafLink uses marketplace technology to optimize the efficiency of the cannabis supply chain, and since day one, everything we’ve built has come from the core needs of the LeafLink community.
One day, people will look to the cannabis industry as a standard for tech-enabled supply chains of the future, and LeafLink will be at the center of that.
Earlier this year, LeafLink announced a partnership with Canopy Rivers to launch a new joint venture called LeafLink International. What is the purpose of this venture and what does it mean for LeafLink?
Ryan: We’re really excited about the opportunity to partner with Canopy Rivers and expand outside the US.
LeafLink International is focused on bringing our wholesale marketplace tech to global cannabis markets, and this partnership has been instrumental when it comes to setting the standard internationally.
As of this year, we are operating in multiple Canadian Provinces, and we have plans for further growth and expansion of the platform in the works.
LeafLink released a beta version of LeafLink Financial this year. Can you tell us more about LeafLink Financial and what functions it will provide / problems it will help solve once it’s fully launched?
Ryan: We’re not ready to officially announce a launch, but I can tell you that we’re already solving huge financial and payment problems for our clients in the beta.
We’re interested in streamlining collections and accounts receivable for brands, while offering retailers cashless and electronic payments with net terms. Stay tuned.
What wholesale trends have you seen recently that may lead into 2020?
Ryan: There are a few big things to watch for: a momentum toward interstate commerce; the entry of big pharma; and the increased popularity of companies that invest in building a true CPG brand.
One of LeafLink’s primary bets was on the idea that branded products would be the future of cannabis. Un-branded flower is becoming a commodity and people are consuming cannabis in increasingly creative ways. Anything with fat or sugar can be infused with THC, and we’re seeing brands really invest in consumer marketing around these products.
Currently, there are about 80 new cannabis brands launched every week in the industry and nearly 100 brands joining the LeafLink network every month. We expect that number will only increase in 2020.
What’s next for LeafLink?
Ryan: As a marketplace, we become more valuable as we empower our client’s growth. In addition to bringing LeafLink to more national and global territories, we’re exploring opportunities around capital movement and logistics for our clients.
There’s also an interest in the data we’ve garnered through the platform and we’re beginning to build tools that can give our clients access to solutions that help them scale more efficiently as they, too, enter new markets.
We have a vision of a truly virtualized supply chain and are building tech that brings our cannabis industry closer to that.
Ryan, thanks for taking the time!
Ryan: Thank you for speaking with us!
Ryan G. Smith – Co-Founder and CEO of Leaflink