“We wanted to bring an experience to folks that was both discreet and informational that could all be done from the comfort of your home.”
Rob Tankson & Kyle Powers, Co-Founders of PrestoDoctor
Feature: Rob Tankson & Kyle Powers
Location: San Francisco, California
Telemedicine is a rising practice in the United States. It’s like the modern day house call. People are still getting used to seeing their doctor from the comfort of their own home, through a Skype session or Factime call.
Rob Tankson and Kyle Powers teamed up to pair this new practice of telemedicine with the emerging cannabis industry. Using their knowhow from their tech and finance backgrounds, they have taken telemedicine, and especially cannabis telemedicine, to a professional and comfortable level.
I met these two in one of their partner dispensaries and could quickly tell they were up and comers in the cannabis industry. It has only been a few months since then and they have gone from up and comers, to leaders. Rob and Kyle chatted with me for a bit and we covered telemedicine, the future of the cannabis industry, and why some Venture Capitalists are chickens when it comes to cannabis. Here’s what the telemedicine dream team had to say:
PrestoDoctor | Founders Kyle Powers & Rob Tankson
CM: Hey Rob & Kyle! I am so excited to feature PrestoDoctor in the magazine. We met in that dispensary in Vegas and I really believe in you guys and think that PrestoDoctor is a great brand that people should know more about.
Before we get into the company itself, tell me a little about who you guys are! Where did you each grow up and where are you living now?
Rob: We both happen to be from the Midwest. It’s not what most people expect since we are in the cannabis industry. I grew up in Chicago and moved for college to San Francisco in 2006, which is where I live now.
Kyle: I am originally from South Dakota and moved to San Francisco for work in 2011. Like most kids from the Midwest we both grew up taking D.A.R.E. and hearing the negativity about cannabis.
CM: What were you each up to in San Francisco before starting PrestoDoctor?
Rob: I worked as an equity research analyst on Wall Street before switching to the tech space as an analyst at Google.
Kyle: I am a software engineer and before PrestoDoctor I was at the top Silicon Valley Technology companies including IBM and Google.
CM: You guys were both at Google?! Is that where you met?
Rob: (laughter) Actually, no. We met at a tech company that we both worked for after Google. We both happened to be really interested in combining our tech know-how with the cannabis industry, and we saw a need for it.
CM: And then, from the point that you met, how did you decide to actually enter the Cannabis industry together?
Kyle: There really was a serious need for a more dignified and convenient experience for medical marijuana patients. PrestoDoctor was created after we saw the great medicinal benefits of cannabis and noticed that many brick and mortar physician clinics were not the most desirable or knowledgeable places. We wanted to bring an experience to folks that was both discreet and informational that could all be done from the comfort of home.
Rob: We decided to take a chance and leave high paying technology jobs when we saw the need in the market for PrestoDoctor. It was definitely a risk but at the time we thought it was worth it, and we were right. We are now fortunate enough to be seeing the fruits of our labor.
Google Campus – BusinessInsider.com
CM: You guys, telemedicine and cannabis? That must be intense. It’s two emerging industries combined!
Rob: True, but we came from tech so for us the telemedicine part was a natural fit. We developed the PrestoDoctor concept around our familiarity with telemedicine and integrated it into the cannabis space.
Kyle: Our original idea was to develop a cannabis delivery app but once we noticed a lot of companies entering that space we decided that focusing on the physician recommendations was the way to go.
Rob: With PrestoDoctor we were able to develop a business model that could scale across multiple states and even countries.
Kyle Powers | PrestoDoctor on site at Emerald Cup
CM: So, Now that you have had some time to position yourselves in the cannabis industry, what would you say is special about what you do with PrestoDoctor?
Rob: PrestoDoctor is secure and HIPAA compliant which I think is special, since it really respects and protects patient information.
Also, we have already expanded the company from California to include patients in the state of Nevada. We are the first cannabis telemedicine provider to offer services in multiple states, and we believe we can take it global from here.
Kyle: We see PrestoDoctor as an industry thought leader. Of course everyone thinks that their company is the best. But truly, if you take a look at what PrestoDoctor is doing, we put a lot of thought and heart in to making sure the experience is the highest quality experience available in cannabis telemedicine.
CM: I love that you envision taking your company global. Tell me how you see cannabis playing on a global scale now?
Rob: On the global level Israel is leading the charge in cannabis research by far. Canada is very liberal and forward thinking regarding the plant. I see cannabis eventually being a replacement for many prescription medications across the globe.
We see PrestoDoctor as an industry thought leader. And we have developed PrestoDoctor into the household name for cannabis-knowledgeable physicians.
PrestoDoctor expanded to the State of Nevada in 2015
CM: This industry is still in its infancy. Looking back on where you started, what are the most memorable initial challenges you faced entering such a new and developing marketplace?
Rob: One of the major issues we faced initially was customer acquisition. There are a ton of limitations on where Cannabis related companies can market and advertise. Without being able to use traditional marketing channels like Google, we had to get creative at first.
Kyle: With the connections we had from tech, we were fortunate enough to be able to strategically get our ads listed on Google for 4 of our first 6 months which drastically helped our initial growth.
But, there are still some issues that we face now…
CM: Really? Like what?!
Kyle: Right now, as we are expanding, our highest priority is making sure that the telemedicine laws and cannabis evaluation laws match up before entering a new market. People are still getting used to telemedicine so some states have some limiting regulations.
An example where this is not that case is in Colorado. Medical cannabis patients in Colorado can’t be evaluated for a cannabis recommendation via an online telemedicine platform, so PrestoDoctor can’t serve patients there.
Yes We CANnabis
Rob: There is that, and even issues with funding. We have more traffic and our physicians have served more patients than other telemedicine platforms which aren’t in the cannabis space. But, because we are in the cannabis space, investors are more willing to go with similar platforms which are less successful simply because they perceive a lower risk factor.
“There is still so much hesitation in cannabis investing.”
CM: There must be some investors willing to take the risk. You guys live in a venture capitalist mecca, have you seen a rise in cannabis venture funds?
Kyle: Cannabis VC funds definitely exist. But, there is still so much hesitation in cannabis investing as opposed to venture capital firms in the traditional tech space where people are running to invest.
This is mainly due to the lack of consistent regulation in the space in the United States. There are cannabis specific funds and angel investors, however, not a huge presence of serious investors in the space.
CM: One thing that a lot of cannabis companies have had to get creative with is their social media accounts, with some getting shut down! How important do you think the internet and social media will be in the shaping of this industry as it moves forward?
Rob: Social medial and the internet will be HUGE since most millennials get their news and information from these sources now rather than traditional news channels or outlets. The information disseminated on social media will help educate and influence both current and potential consumers and patients.
Now, some of the large social and search platforms like Facebook and Google don’t allow advertisement due to cannabis being classified as an “illegal substance.” Even thought it is state regulated and legal in certain states they still do not allow the social ads.
“The information disseminated on social media platforms will help educate and influence both current and potential consumers .”
CM: How else do you think tech’s role in the cannabis industry will develop? What services do you think may be provided through websites or apps as the industry progresses?
Kyle: I think tech will be huge in helping accurately account for several things including financial business transactions as banks will eventually begin to allow cannabis transactions.
Next, analytics and testing will be heavily technology based as well as the continuing cannabis research.
CM: What other areas of the industry do you think will see major growth in the next few years?
Rob: I see growth in analytics both for dispensaries and for physicians. Companies and governments will want quantitative data about what types of products people are using, and for what purposes.
CM: (laughter) Ok, so tech is the thing to watch! Where will I be able to see you guys this year? Are you speaking at any events?
Kyle: We are currently being considered to speak at a few events this year!
CM: Well, keep us up to date on that for sure! With all the events emerging in the cannabis space it can be difficult to choose which ones to go to, what are a few that you suggest people attend?
Rob: I highly recommend people to attend the Marijuana Daily Business Expo and Conference in Las Vegas, Abracadabs, The Emerald Cup, High Times Cups and the New West Summit.
“In the next five years we would like to see an industry that has regulation, allowed research, strong analytics and a maintained focus on treating medical patients.”
CM: Thank you guys so much for taking your time to talk with me. It’s always a pleasure. I look forward to seeing you around at some of the events this year!
Rob: Thanks for taking the time to interview us. We truly appreciate it.
Kyle: We always make an effort to fit industry events into our schedules. You’ll see us around for sure.
Rob Tankson & Kyle Powers | PrestoDoctor.com