Whey, a leader in building cannabis dispensary tools, is expanding out of California. Since its founding in 2014, the company has focused its efforts on its home state, but has recently partnered with Michigan-based Wellflower.
The company has retooled its cannabis platform for the Michigan market and now offers the service statewide.
“California is challenging,” CEO and co-founder David Hua told gotechbusiness.com. “We’re still growing, but it’s necessary to look at other states with more density.”
Hua explained that the company has gone as deep as possible in California. As a result, the company is in a healthy position, profitable and is not currently looking for additional fundraising, and can carefully choose its next market.
“We love Michigan so far,” Hua said. “In California, we work with operators that have been in business for over a decade, and they can have a bit of a counter culture. While in Michigan operators have professional experience and have worked in a number of other stores. And they’re trying to verticalize, a trend that we see too [in California].”
Meadow sees Michigan as a springboard to the East Coast, especially New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts is underway,” Hua said. “New Jersey is just coming down with both feet on the ground. New York is kind of where everyone looks at how they’re going to structure the regulations.
Cannabis operators have a growing number of tools at their disposal, and Hua finds themselves often overwhelmed by the variety of single-use platforms available. Rather than stacking different APIs and platforms, Meadow’s all-in-one solution provides a complete toolset – from marketing to e-commerce to delivery to customer loyalty programs.
Meadow is expanding without the help of additional outside capital. The company’s last raise was in December 2018, and it has raised just $2.34 million since its inception. Hua told gotechbusiness.com it had offers to go public in Canada, but is happy with its decision to keep the company private. He points to the cannabis industry’s slower-than-expansive growth as one of the problems in seeking venture capital in the space. There is a sort of reckoning, he says, that local and state rules artificially limit the growth of cannabis dispensaries, and this goes against the startup mindset of exponential growth.
“Okay, you’ve collected all this money,” he said, “and you’re going to 10x, and there’s not enough room for 10x.” According to him, this leads cannabis startups to look to other areas to grow, leading to building products and services beyond the company’s core competencies. “The complexity of what you’re trying to do increases dramatically.”
Meadow’s strategy has always been different. The company was part of the Winter 2015 Y Combinator class, but didn’t raise a Series A and stayed small. It reached profitability in early 2022 and believes it can serve its customer base without outside influence. The company currently employs 14 people, with an average length of service of approximately five years.
Expansion outside of California could force Meadow to change its slow-growth strategy. However, Hua doesn’t expect to need outside funding unless there’s a catastrophic moment — cannabis planning delays, federal legalization, or interstate trade that allows operators to move cannabis freely across state lines.