If you've lived in L.A. long enough, you probably remember a Venice beach that was gritty, graffitied and full of ganja. The smell of weed was ubiquitous, and would often emanate from the Sunday afternoon drum circle where locals and tourists roll and smoke joints with little discretion. They still do, but the dreadlocked, sandy, grimy raw counterculture that once defined Venice Beach hardly exists past the Boardwalk. Thank the progression of Silicon Beach, along with the marriage of tech startup culture and the cannabis industry. Pot culture in L.A. isn't what it used to be.
With the legal adult-use cannabis market soon to be active in 2018, a number of forward-thinking entrepreneurs, such as the guys behind Tökr, are seeking to “modernize” the weed industry.
Tökr is an app (available on iTunes or Google Play) that aims to simplify the shopping experience for the cannabis consumer, while providing valuable data and information to retailers. It officially launched on Sunday, with a hopping launch party just off the Venice Boardwalk to spread the word to the startup's community — the company is, after all, based in Silicon Beach.
“With Tökr, we're creating a simplified and personalized shopping experience for the tech-savvy cannabis consumer,” says Brian Campbell, co-founder and chief product officer. “We really believe that the cannabis industry has been underserved with tech, so we're bridging the gap between cannabis consumers and dispensaries to give them the products they want when they want them.”
For the consumer, Tökr informs them about products, prices and where they can be found. It allows them to discover deals at nearby dispensaries, and Tökr uses the person's preference history to customize the app so they can find products and strains they'll be likely to enjoy the most.
The company's goal is to act as a cannabis industry cross between Yelp (showing the location of dispensaries), Groupon (offering consumer deals) and Netflix (personalized recommendations based on history and preferences).
Tökr also aims to serve dispensaries. The app provides them with tech solutions to drive traffic, increase their sales and market their inventory, while also building stronger connections between retailers and customers. Dispensary owners can use the app to obtain analytics about when customers want products and which kinds of goods come up most in customer searches.
Moreover, while the startup is based in Venice, consumers can search deals and products anywhere in the city. And the app's technology soon could become available in markets outside California, such as Oregon.
As much as it is a service, the app is an analytic tool that industry players can use to better understand the cannabis space. “We're providing a free solution for customers and dispensaries. With the data we're collecting, we're able to break down who's claiming deals or viewing menu items, and taking all that information to identify industry trends,” Campbell says.
For example, of many app users who crossed through a region like West Hollywood, maybe 80 percent told Tökr they like indica. “We turn around and give that data to a dispensary. Maybe 10 percent of those people shop at your store. Now you can hit that other percentage, hit users' mobile devices through push notifications, build brand awareness and let them know the products you have,” explains Matt Singer, co-founder and CEO.
So far, the app has partnered with about 40 dispensaries, including Green Goddess and 99 High Tide, and is continuing to branch out.
“We want higher-end dispensaries to promote the forward-thinking brands in the industry,” Singer adds. “That's what people are comfortable to go get as you modernize this industry and make our grandparents comfortable with cannabis.” Brands like hmbldt, a regulated dose pen, for instance, are changing the image and feel of cannabis consumption, bridging the gap between adult use and medicinal use by repositioning cannabis as a wellness product.
At the launch party on Sunday, replete with DJs, food truck snacks, plenty of Instagram photo ops and a free surfboard giveaway (designed by a local shaper), the new face of the cannabis industry was pretty clear. While the pot-smoking hippies rolled their joints just half a mile away at the drum circle, tech-savvy millennials lined up down the side street to get free merch, download the app and explore what Tökr has to offer.
“We want to be the cool lifestyle brand on the block,” Singer joked at the launch party. But kidding aside, that's what the startup has positioned itself to be. “We're looking for the sophisticated cannabis consumer,” he says. “We're simplifying tech and cannabis. With a new [adult-use] market, we need new solutions.”