Exclusive interview with the co-founder and CEO of Dispense, Kyla Sirni
B2B cannabis software company Dispense recently closed a $ 2 million seed funding and attracted a number of prominent investors. Co-founder and CEO Kyla Sirni comes from the hospitality industry and drives the company’s focus on providing retailers with the tools to connect with and serve their customers. Sirni spoke to New Cannabis Ventures about the dispensing platform, the company’s growing market reach, and connecting with investors. The audio of the entire conversation is available at the end of this written summary.
From hospitality to cannabis
In 2013, Sirni co-founded Tablelist, a software company that offers ticket reservations and guest management for the hospitality sector. The table lists team had just launched a brand new backend in January 2020. Then the pandemic struck and the hospitality area came to a standstill. Sirni accidentally got a call from an Illinois pharmacy. The pharmacy team was looking for some kind of reservation software to manage customer flow and maintain social distancing.
Sirni and her co-founder, Tim Officer, decided to see what they could do. You launched a very simple landing page for reservations within 24 hours. On its first day of use, the site processed 1,100 reservations at this pharmacy. With the hospitality industry closed and cannabis is seen as an essential business, Sirni and Officer saw an opportunity to develop a solution for pharmacies.
The dispensing platform began solely as a reservation system. That first pharmacy was the bustling location of Ascend Wellness Holdings in Collinsville, Illinois. The MSO introduced Dispense at other locations and finally asked if the company could also support e-commerce operations.
Until about eight weeks ago, the company’s team consisted only of Sirni and a CTO officer. The latest round of funding has allowed Dispense to add more employees, bringing the total number of team members to five. Sirni assumes that the employees will continue to be hired and that the team will grow to 10 to 12 employees by the end of the year.
The dispensing platform
Dispense offers customizable online menus that allow retailers to manage their products.
Dispense started in Illinois. Since then, it has expanded to Michigan, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Ohio. Working with Ascend Wellness has helped Dispense figure out what retailers are looking for in an e-commerce partner.
Dispense works with Ascend Wellness Holdings, including its Collinsville pharmacy, which handles 1,300 to 1,500 orders per day.
While Dispense is just getting started, the team is well aware of the M&A trend in the cannabis industry. He is open to the possibility of purchasing software to supplement his own software or merging with another software operator.
Competition in the e-commerce sector
Sirni points to Dutchie and Jane as the leading e-commerce players in the cannabis business. Both companies were well positioned to offer their services when the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out, according to Sirni. Although the Dispense team has learned from these companies, they believe retailers can offer even more to the cannabis industry. Dispense focuses on delivering these tools.
Seed funding and connection with investors
Dispense recently completed an oversubscribed round of seeding funding and raised just over $ 2 million. When the company started fundraising, Sirni wanted to bring both traditional VCs and cannabis VCs on board. The company’s investors now include NextView Ventures, Poseidon Asset Management, Achari Ventures, and Arrive (the VC arm of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation).
Lee Hower, co-founder and partner of NextView Ventures, has joined the Dispense board of directors. Sirni had existing relationships in the VC area. She had some conversations with companies that don’t normally run seed rounds, but they put her in touch with other VCs, including NextView Ventures. Abner Kurtin, the CEO of Ascend Wellness, made the first connection between Sirni and Poseidon.
The proceeds from the seed round will be used for recruitment as well as for sales and marketing measures. Dispense has already reached out to a number of larger funds with a view to potentially leading the company’s Series A, according to Sirni. The dispensing team will work to keep these relationships going, which will come in handy with the next raise.
Drive growth at Dispense
Dispense is currently well on the way to being available in more than 100 locations by the second quarter of 2022. The company is currently concentrating on its product range and the addition of further pharmacies. According to Sirni, the focus is currently not on sales.
In addition to the number of affiliated pharmacies, the company tracks metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and churn. Right now, the churn rate at Dispense is 0 percent, and the company aims to keep it that way. At a more detailed level, the team looks at how their customers use their tools.
Like all players in the cannabis industry, Dispense has to face the challenges that come with regulatory changes. As the company advances it will strive to stay one step ahead of these challenges while working to promote its name and product. While there are leaders in cannabis e-commerce, Dispense aims to show pharmacies that there is another option.
- How to Prevent Chronic Pain From Getting Worse
- Impacts of Nutrition on Chronic Pain Relief
- Medical Cannabis as Chronic Pain Medicine
- Illinois is awarding 55 more cannabis pharmacy licenses in the second of three license lotteries
- Central Coast winemakers and legal cannabis growers are looking for something in common