Featured Cannaprenuer: John Yang
CEO and Co-Founder of Treez
Feature: John Yang
Location: Hayward, CA
Cannabis allows for creativity without limits – and Treez is a prime example. John Yang and his business partner Shareef originally created Treez to help with managing Shareef’s business. Soon, however, they realized they had developed a program that would change the cannabusiness dramatically.
Treez gives cannaprenuers an amazing tool to use to advance their businesses. It allows for rapid patient intake, inventory management, amazing analytics, and great organizational tools for employees. And as if that weren’t amazing enough already, the system automatically updates to reflect changes in local, state and federal regulations!
I got a chance to catch up with John and talk about the development and creation of Treez. He also told me about his hopes for the future of the cannabis industry and shared some of his perspectives on what we can expect moving forward.
Here’s what John had to say…
CM: Treez is an amazing platform and I’m excited for our Cannabis Magazine readers to learn more about it! However, before we get started, I’d like to learn more about your personal story. Can you start by telling us about where you’re from?
John: I was born in Shanghai China but had the luxury of immigrating to the states when I turned 7. My father owned a local computer store out in Reno, NV and I grew up inside the confines of our mom-and-pop computer shop.
My pop made the sales, serviced the PCs and my mom took in the money. As the business grew, instead of hiring additional labor, I was thrown into the mix at the age of 12. So, at 3pm after school every day, I got to interact with our customers – listening to the problems, figuring out solutions through hardware/software and selling them our services.
CM: So you got your start in the technology industry at an early age! How did working in your parent’s computer store influence your career in the technology industry?
John: Well, the beginning of my career and my love for solving people’s problems definitely came from working in my Dad’s computer shop when I was kid. I really loved fixing things for people – taking care of their issues with technology, so they could get on with their lives and their businesses.
The early-on experience carried over into my working days when I joined Accenture straight out of college. The same problem, solution, sales mentality carried over to our fortune-500 clients.
CM: What drove you to create Treez?
John: Well, I got into enterprise software and worked around until the entrepreneurial bug bit me and I decided to start my own company. That company made point of sale software for restaurants and was doing pretty well. Then, like a bolt from the blue, cannabis came into the picture and I realized that I could make a real impact in the industry. It’s been a steady diet of Treez ever since.
CM: I know from our prior conversations that Treez started out as a project for your partner’s company. How did you meet, and when did you decide to make Treez a public service?
John: I met Shareef, my business partner, through a mutual acquaintance. He [Shareef] asked me to build a solution for his dispensary, the Garden of Eden. It was an exciting opportunity. Shareef and I have the same level of drive, energy, and passion for everything we do, so it was a pretty easy marriage of our talents.
He’d present me with a problem, and I’d solve it with software. This happened over and over and before long, we had a whole system in place. From there, it didn’t take us long to figure out that we should go bigger with our scope and offer Treez to the general public.
CM: Will you tell me a bit more about Treez and explain what your business does to our Cannabis Magazine readers?
John: Treez is the perfect marriage of cannabis industry experience and enterprise software development. What Shareef and I set out to do was to automate and optimize every process inside a dispensary that we could think of – removing as much human error from the day to day operations as possible.
We have also tried to “bake in” as many best practices as we can by taking all the systems that work well and continually incorporating them into Treez. We’re always learning, and when we come across something in the industry that works, we absorb it into Treez as quick as we can.
CM: In your opinion, what is a special aspect of Treez that makes it stand out from its competitors?
John: I’ve actually asked many of our current clients this question and the consistent response is that Treez understands workflow. Whether out of the box or in response to a customer challenge, our mission is to solve for our customers. That means accomplishing tasks in the least amount of keystrokes, with utmost accuracy and efficiency.
CM: I can only imagine the time and care it takes to create a program like Treez. Can you tell me about your team? What’s your dynamic?
John: We’re still a smaller company as startups go and our employees are extremely diverse, which is just how I like it.
CM: I’d imagine that a small team like that works really well together.
John: Exactly. Everybody has a point of view and between them, they cook up some really amazing ideas.
CM: I’m curious about what your company culture is like. Tech is known for being innovative with company culture, and cannabis is a culture based industry. I imagine the union of the two would make for an interesting environment.
John: Software is interesting in itself when it comes to culture, and then when you add cannabis it does get really interesting. I think the image people get in their heads when you talk about cannabis software is that we all take bong rips at 11am when we roll in on skateboards with our dogs in tow and write some code.
Treez isn’t like that, but we are a tight family. Our secret sauce is that we are all extremely passionate about our customers and the industry. I’ve got some great, brilliant folks working for me, and I’m grateful for that every day
CM: You’re an early mover in the cannabis industry. Can you tell me about any difficulties you’ve had with working to bring Treez to market?
John: Any change in an operator’s existing process is difficult. Change is hard, and Treez dedicates its customer success staff to make sure the customers see the value and returns in any operational changes imposed by software.
From an industry standpoint, we believe that Treez is capable of more than just being a software solution for operators.
“We believe that Treez encourages our clients to actually do better business by using our systems and practices, and utilizing the data that we gather for them.”
I can easily see many of the things that we’ve baked into Treez becoming industry-wide practices in the future.
CM: I know that people like sticking with what’s familiar to them. Have you had any issues with convincing people to switch over from their older software?
John: You go with what you know, right? It’s a challenge. On the other hand, I don’t know too many owners who have mixed feelings about switching away from the older software.
Our experience is that most people are just waiting for something better to come along, and when we demo Treez for them, they are ready to sign up on the spot. The feedback that we’ve heard over and over is that people will endure the inconvenience of changing their systems as long as there is something better on the market. Treez, we think, is that thing.
CM: Speaking of changes, how do you see Treez evolving as recreational legalization becomes more widespread?
John: There’s no downside for us. Treez will evolve with whatever regulations we end up with and we are already developing with recreational sales in mind.
“Treez was never a medical only program. We saw the writing on the wall and engineered our development process accordingly.”
CM: How do you think tech’s role in the cannabis industry will develop?
John: There’s no question that tech is the future of cannabis. We’re already developing things like self-service kiosks and robust delivery options for our clients. And I’m sure that this trend will continue. We love that stuff. We love innovation and new toys to play with.
But we also want to have a big impact in the parts of the dispensary that customers never see or interact with. Inventory, purchasing, reporting, taxes, and employee management. It’s those things that will make or break our clients in the future – not whether they have a shiny kiosk out front or not.
CM: What new technology do you look forward to seeing in the cannabis industry as it continues to progress?
John: I think we’re all looking forward to the day when the skies are filled with Dank Drones that deliver your cannabis to you wherever you are.
CM: (laughs) I think you’re right about that. While we’re on the topic of progression, I’d like to hear more about the changes you’re expecting to see within the cannabis industry in the next 5 years.
John: Well, I think we’re all bracing for some major players to enter the space and change the “cottage” vibe of the industry. It’s a double-edged sword. Big corporations and Banks entering the arena will most definitely smooth the road toward full legalization, but it will also kill off a bunch of mom and pops who aren’t preparing for the future at the moment. Ultimately, I’d like to see a mix.
CM: Do you think that’s possible?
John: Well, if you look at liquor, Budweiser has its place, but so does small batch bourbon. I think cannabis can be the same. We need to keep the mom and pops afloat so we can see a healthy mix going forward
CM: Very true. I hope you’re right. I know that the technology sector of the cannabis industry also faces challenges from major corporations entering the picture. What are your thoughts on companies like Microsoft making seed to sale systems for the cannabis industry?
John: I think it’s great because that means the industry is now being recognized by the biggest of software companies. Competition breeds more innovation and I am eager to see what Microsoft or other stealth startups, conglomerates come out with.
“Treez has a core founding team who are industry leaders at what they do – and we need more like minded people to further our industry as a whole.”
CM: Where do you see the cannabis industry playing on a global scale?
John: Well, first I think we’re looking at interstate commerce, but as the dominoes fall and other countries start the legalization process, I think we’re all looking forward to the idea that America may actually have something to export in the near future. If I’m a kid in France and I can buy cannabis imported from California, I’d be all over that.
CM: What do you think the timeline for that might be if that happened?
John: That depends. We have yet to see if this administration will be as openly hostile toward cannabis as the Attorney General appears to be. We may find ourselves in a four year holding pattern until a hopefully more understanding administration takes over. We shall see.
CM: You make a good point. I always enjoy our conversations because I think you’re very insightful when it comes to technology and the cannabis industry. Our time is almost up, but before we go I’d like to ask one last question. Are there any events you’ll be speaking at this year that our readers can attend to hear more about your perspectives?
John: We were at MJ Biz Con in Las Vegas last November and we had an absolute blast! We met so many enthusiastic people and made so many new friends. Not only did we gain a bunch of new customers but we were able to network with investors and speak to a whole slew of companies that were interested in integrating with Treez.
Other than that, we’ve done some regional things. Right now, we’re busy looking at our client’s data and seeing what impact Treez is having inside their businesses. I think that will be the next topic I’d like to speak on.
CM: I’m sure it will be received just as well as your last presentation!
John: Yeah, There is so much value in the data that I’m sure people are just missing, and it’s costing them every day. I think it’d be very beneficial for people to hear.
CM: Thank you so much for interviewing with us today John! I always love hearing what you have to say, and appreciate you taking the time out of your day to share your insight with Cannabis Magazine readers!
John: You’re welcome! Thanks for having me!