"Our mission is to help bring transparency to legal cannabis," Stephen Albarran, cofounder and CEO of Palo Alto CA-based Confident Cannabis, tells Civilized. "That's the main driver, and the whole business model."
Given the rapid expansion of North America's legal cannabis industry, he says, it's increasingly difficult for growers to a) stand out in the crowd, and b) for consumers to measure the quality of the herb they're smoking.
Albarran, who started the company with president and co-founder Tony Lewis and fellow Stanford University business school grad Miller Aaron, is looking to cut through the clutter. It works roughly like this: a grower logs in to the software program, Confident Cannabis, and enters the samples they want to test. After the samples are sent off and the testing is complete, the harvester can then log in again to see all their data, including THC and cannabinoid ratios, and how their product ranks on various metrics compared that of other producers in the state.
If they're happy with the results, they can print a certificate of analysis, and labels indicating the percentages. That way, they can sell their stuff at top-shelf prices - and consumers can come to expect a certain level of quality.
"Cannabis is very complicated with many good and bad compounds in the plant: good, as in terpenes and cannabinoids, and bad, as in pesticides and residual solvents," says Albarran. "All of those things change how the patient feels, and the quality of the product."
Under the current system, labs send cannabis testing results to growers in PDFs, a format Albarran describes as "very inefficient." Unlike other laboratory information management systems being used in the cannabis industry, Confident Cannabis is designed "only for the cannabis industry's needs, without extra stuff.
Plus, it's an aesthetically pleasing interface, which takes advantage of one of the differences in this industry: the growers can use the lab tests as marketing tools. "It's very important to make them easy to read for non-scientists, as well as visually attractive, and easy to share," says Albarran.
After the testing is complete, "we publish it to a platform, they can share their test results page with potential customers, and that unlocks the data."
Confident Cannabis is like Etsy or Autotrader
Although some have called the startup the "stock exchange of weed," Albarran disagrees with that analogy: "We're more of an Etsy," he says of the online marketplace for handmade and vintage items. "Or maybe Autotrader. It's a marketplace where you buy variable products, all of them unique and small-batch. 'Stock exchange' implies commoditization, and that's not our aim."
Nor is it all about finding the cannabis with the highest percentage of THC.
"At the dawn of legalization that [high THC content] was what people were looking for," says Albarran. "It's like alcohol prohibition, when people wanted to buy strong bathtub gin - now they want beer and fine wine. Businesses and consumers are now looking for the right experience."
When it comes to marijuana there are, of course some things lab testing can't tell you - a fact that Albarran readily acknowledges.
"You have to look at the size, the smell, and other things the lab test can't capture," he says "But we do have a ton of data that can help you make a decision."
Banner photo: Stephen Albarran, first from the left, is one of the founders of Confident Cannabis: "Our mission is to help bring transparency to legal cannabis. That's the main driver, and the whole business model."