An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Jeff Wells, the founder and CEO of Metrc, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Metrc – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Metrc brings transparency to legal cannabis markets, allowing state regulators to see every plant and product in the marketplace. Our data shows where products are, where they came from, and what went into them, all in real-time. At its core, Metrc is a technology company that helps ensure regulated products are tracked and secure.
In 1993, I co-founded a company in Plant City, Florida (the winter strawberry capital of the world and home of the annual Florida Strawberry Festival) that provides supply chain solutions to regulated consumer products in the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries, including strawberries. In 2010, we expanded our capabilities to track cannabis with the first seed-to-sale tracking system for government regulation in Colorado. Since 2018, the company officially became what we know today as Metrc.
From a leap of faith into our first state contract in Colorado, our software and RFID technology are now the leading system in the nation for cannabis governance, tracking marijuana from seed-to-sale in 13 states and the District of Columbia. I’m proud to say Metrc is the only seed-to-sale system on the market with a contract turnover rate of 100% and last year, the Colorado Office of the State Auditor called us the “cornerstone of the state’s regulatory structure for medical and retail marijuana.”
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Our biggest hurdle is shared by many others in the industry – bringing transparency and consumer safety to an industry that previously operated underground. Government officials want a reliable and effective tool to monitor the industry, growers and business-owners want an easy-to-use system for reporting that keeps them compliant, and consumers want assurance that the products they are buying are safe.
It’s challenging to meet the goals of all the stakeholders at the same time, particularly because no state’s legal framework is the same. Metrc has carved a niche and valuable role for itself in the industry, acting as compliance reporting tool for state auditors, a supply chain assurance tool for business owners, and source of truth for consumers in our 14 U.S. jurisdictions.
What does the future hold for Metrc?
Our company has over 20 years of experience using battle-tested RFID technology to track inventory for regulators in various consumer-facing industries. But when it comes to cannabis, it was a whole new industry for us in 2012. Since then, we’ve been able to hire some of the top minds in business and government to further develop our ability to serve our clients. Our team has grown by over 60% since 2018, including the addition of former Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Department Director Lewis Koski as our Chief Operating Officer. His experience in policymaking and regulation is virtually unmatched in this industry and we’re lucky to have him in Lakeland.
We are also looking forward to supporting our newest client, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy, as they launch their adult-use marketplace in the coming months. I believe will be a lot of activity in the Northeast around legal, adult-use cannabis and we’re excited to have secured our foothold in the region.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Lakeland?
As a Floridian since 1971 and an engineer by trade, it’s heartening to see tech startups and small businesses grow outside of the traditional northeastern and west coast hubs. It’s still not on par with other major cities in Florida, but growth is happening. It’s an exciting time for economic development both in the cannabis industry and in our own backyard.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Whatever you are interested in, look at the entire supply chain, ecosystem, and infrastructure of that industry to understand how you can play the most valuable role. In my experience, it’s better to be excellent in one key area than to be average in many. I see this a lot in industry, and it distracts CEOs from their core business. I’ve seen startups with cash flow challenges reinvest in new lines of business rather than their own people and the results are poor customer service, system crashes, and data breaches. My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to always keep an eye on long-term stability and not get distracted from your core mission by short-term gains.