Greenbox robotics intelligent cannabis kiosk | Interview with Zack Johnson
Zack Johnson of Greenbox robotics discusses innovative cannabis technology, the future of the cannabis industry as a whole, and the complex journey of young entrepreneurial growth. From Massachusetts to Los Angeles, and from the music industry to the cannabis industry, Zack has had a fascinating journey.
Tell us about Zack Johnson, the young kid, versus Zack Johnson now as an adult. Did your background and experiences as a youth play a role in your desire to be an entrepreneur?
Zack: I grew up in the north shore of Massachusetts, raised by a single mother with two older sisters, making me the man of the house at a very young age. As a kid I always believed I would be a professional athlete but as I grew up, that vision shifted. I realised my propensity for creativity and my drive for innovation translated directly to an entrepreneurial role. I moved to California in 2009 to pursue an unexpected career in music through the development of my very first business in the entertainment space; a record label called 1st Round Records.
I was heavily influenced by Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel and it became apparent that innovation through business was my true passion. Having become “man of the house” at such a young age, it was my goal to create a successful business so I could provide for my family and for the future family that I hope to create.
Considering you’ve lived and worked on both coasts,where do you call home now?
Zack: Home is Marina Del Rey, California, but my heart will always be in Boston with the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and most importantly my family.
Zack, you’ve had quite a diverse set of creative business endeavors over the years. What motivates you to dive into new ventures and keeps your momentum going?
Zack: I am a big believer in answering the door when opportunity knocks. In some instances I have been at the right place at the right time, but diving into the cannabis industry was a no brainer. It is the fastest growing market since the .com era. The greenrush is growing by the day and being the first brand to market with an automated solution is my goal. Staying motivated has never been a challenge for me. There are no handouts in business, you need to work hard and build your own momentum if you want your company to be successful.
How did your early business experiences influence your next career moves? Can you share with us some of the highlights of your career?
Zack: In high school I interned for my godfather Jack Mcdaniel who taught me everything I know about business. He exemplified for me the art of navigating the delicate balance between applying the assertive temperament necessary to closing the deal, and simultaneously ensuring the customer always knows they come first. Had I not interned for Jack, I don’t think I would be in the position I am in today with greenbox, nor would I have developed the assertive confidence necessary to follow through the many entrepreneurial ventures of my career thus far.
On March 4th, 2010, six months into launching my aforementioned record label- and with no previous knowledge of the music industry- the first artist I signed secured the title of Number 1 album in the US and Australia. By sunday of that week, I had met with every major label, even sitting for breakfast in Jimmy Iovine’s home to discuss Interscope Records acquiring my label.
Since you worked in the music industry, how many times did people get your name confused with another famous artist whose name sounds alot like Zack Johnson?
Zack: While I am a huge fan of the singer, songwriter, and surfer Jack Johnson, I distinctly remember the biggest name mixup happening when I was scheduling tee time on the golf course. I have been confused with Master’s Champ, ZacH Johnson.
Were you surprised to find yourself immersed in the innerworkings of the Cannabis industry? What stood out to you in terms of key learnings?
Zack: I was not surprised because the idea of a brand new booming market is what excites me, and Cannabis incontestably falls under that market category. The potential to innovate and subsequently disrupt the market, the economy, and even the political environment, something the Cannabis industry will undoubtedly continue to do, serves as significant inspiration for my career change. Without doubt the key learning I have taken from the industry to date is the potentiality of success for ancillary business pursuits within and around the greenbox umbrella.
What biggest lessons did you learn while working as the Chief Marketing Officer for Cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles?
Zack: My experience in the cannabis industry came from my two years working at Hawke Media, the fastest growing marketing company in the country. As the Director of Strategy and Business Development, I pioneered our relationship with the cannabis world. My biggest lesson during this thrilling pursuit was the insight I gained into the importance of empathizing with the customer experience in order to foster lifetime value and connection with each individual customer.
Greenbox robotics feels like an invention that is going to revolutionize the Cannabis experience in a big way. How did you get involved with this product?
Zack: As the CMO of a metal fabrication company in Connecticut and 5 cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles, I envisioned these two parties connecting in this innovative way to eventually create the concept of greenbox. My manufacturing partnership is by far the most important part of the business in that it connected me to the dedicated team necessary to bring the greenbox to life. A cannabis vending machine may sound simple in conception, but it is complicated in production and required attention from a pragmatic and flexible team.
It clearly takes innovation and persistence to develop an offering like greenbox. What were the biggest obstacles you faced during the planning and production phases of greenbox? What were your greatest milestones?
Zack: The biggest obstacle was establishing the communication between two vastly different technologies. We had to create a hack between the fully integrated touch screen and the robotic arm to properly deliver the products that customers added to cart. We also had to challenge traditional vending machines by incorporating an “add to cart” functionality, which enables our customers to purchase as many items as they want in one single transaction reflective of an online shopping cart.
The proudest milestone was finally hosting my early investors at a successful demonstration of the greenbox model Z1 prototype. After that demonstration, we were able to place our first PO for 20 machines. On August 16th the owner of ERBA collective signed a contract for 4 greenbox’s and 1 CBD machine. This was a very exciting day for the entire greenbox team that opened a new chapter in the story of realizing this pursuit
What has the feedback about greenbox been like, both from a customer perspective and from clients who purchase the kiosk for their dispensary?
Zack: We spent a great deal of time on the engineering design and overall aesthetic of the greenbox machine. The guided interface and exposed windows have provided our early adopters with a welcoming and simultaneously curious feel.
Now that you’ve developed greenbox, and made it available to the public, what’s next?
Zack: Our goal is to connect as many dispensary owners with greenbox machines as is logistically possible to establish greenbox as a solution for inventory management and to manage the increasing volume of customers serviced at dispensary locations. We also plan to release new features such as home delivery, a rewards program, and a mobile application.
What’s one thing, besides greenbox, that you feel the Cannabis industry and culture is in dire need of? What is one thing, other than greenbox, that you feel has drastically shifted the dynamics of the Cannabis industry and culture?
Zack: I’d like to see less red tape; for the United States to completely legalize cannabis. Allowing for medical and recreational shops to exist and public trading. The culture should embrace the health benefits of cannabis, rather than the traditional “stoner” mentality.
Zack, can you leave us with any thoughts you are willing to share about what or who inspires you professionally and personally?
Zack: Without a doubt my mother is my biggest human inspiration. She raised my sisters and I all by herself while working full-time as a middle-school social worker in my hometown. She always seems to know exactly what to say or where to lead me no matter how hard or challenging the situation appears to be. The short of it is, I am a mamas boy, but in the best way! My mom is my hero my mentor. My first investor, Jack McDaniel, who shot down every invention and idea I pitched since high school until deciding to dive in with me on greenbox, has undoubtedly served as my biggest professional influence.