Brian Williams, founder of a technology operations firm for cannabis businesses

Brian Williams

Founder of Wayne & Reed Digital. Courtesy Photo.

How did you identify this business opportunity in the cannabis sector? What was your “aha” moment?

I’m an engineer with experience in large-data analysis, and my “aha” moment came when I analyzed a little data about the cannabis industry. The growth year over year was stunning in Colorado. When I realized the population of the state versus the country, a light bulb went off. This is the gold rush, the internet boom, the personal computer revolution.

 

What have you learned about evaluating business partners in the cannabis industry?

Assume nothing. In business, there’s a reason we have contracts, and it’s because we understand that things happen off-plan, and we need to readily anticipate potential risks.

In cannabis, that list of potential risks is longer, which requires a deeper level of digging to get deals done. Build real relationships. Speak in person or via phone often. Know who you are dealing with. It makes a difference, especially in the long run.

 

What is your advice on avoiding mistakes? Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

I overvalued my transferable skills from other places, coming into the cannabis space before having a mature knowledge of it. I’m a coder, and we feel like we can code anything.

When you come into cannabis, there are so many loopholes and trapdoors that don’t exist in other spaces. My advice would be to spend as much time reading industry reports as you spend working on your individual business.

 

How do you do that while building a business?

I stay intensely informed. Cannabis professionals have to be avid readers and researchers, because something will change under your nose that can flip your business model upside down.

Be hyper-informed and involved. Read great sources of information every day. Be intentional about it by taking notes, emailing authors, connecting on LinkedIn and really digging in deeply. Being informed will help make navigating the choppy waves of regulation in this quickly changing industry much easier. Knowledge is key.

 

How do you see this industry changing in the coming years?

It will become very diverse and versatile, and I also predict the industry will become hyper-local. I think there will be a few big players on a global scale starting to emerge, while high-quality local entrepreneurs will offer different varieties of value to their customers. Products will become global, while experiences will remain local.

 

What is an opportunity the industry may be missing?

I think there are two opportunities the industry may be overlooking right now. First is utilizing technology beyond just regulations and reporting. Embed technology into operations, customer relationships and more to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

The second is men of color. As a black man, I know we are very interested in outcomes related to the cannabis space, and we’d make excellent advocates, entrepreneurs and supporters of the industry if properly engaged.