Home Uncategorized The Great Aggregator: Seed Talent and the Growth of an Educated Industry

The Great Aggregator: Seed Talent and the Growth of an Educated Industry

78
0
SHARE

Founded in 2020, Illinois-based Seed Talent is a platform that aims to reimagine how the cannabis industry educates itself, but even that description fails to convey the scope of what the founders of this unique offering consider its far reaching potential. As explained by co-founder and CEO Kurt Kaufmann during a recent call with CBE, the ultimate goal of Seed Talent is employee empowerment, a singularly difficult task that when successful will, they argue, brings unexpected benefits to all involved parties.

Kaufmann worked at Green Thumb Industries before starting Seed talent, and I asked him if there was a connection between the former experience was an impetus for the latter one. “100 percent it was,” he replied. “I would go as far as to say it was the entire genesis of, or at least the focus that we have as a business. Coming out of Green Thumb, I joined Rona Borre, who has been in executive search for 25 years, working with the likes of McDonald’s, All State, United, and she was looking to get a cannabis practice going but wanted it to be differentiated from other things that were out there.

“When I was at Green Thumb,” he added, “one of several things I did within the business was founding their cannabis onboarding program, where we trained between 500 and 700 salaried employees over the year that we ran the program. I said, ‘We can definitely have education be a core tenant to what we’re doing on the staffing side.’ Lo and behold, that ended up being really the golden goose and the exciting thing we were doing. And once we got the business launched with a focus on staffing that had an education component, our clients started saying, ‘We love this education. What else can we do with it?’ One of the reasons I created Green Thumb’s cannabis onboarding program was we were bringing in 50 to 100 people a month; generally, they were coming from outside of cannabis, from traditional CPG roles and traditional retail. and they had great transferable skills they were bringing to the space, but they fundamentally lacked any knowledge that was cannabis specific, to really add value. So, that’s what I ended up launching, and I knew that if it was a challenge at GTI, it was going to be a challenge at other places because there was no player in the space.”

The program supports every type of role, said Kaufmann. “Though we do have a major focus on frontline workers and high-volume roles today, and to honest with you, it’s an emphasis that we should put on that, because as an industry we’re depending on $17 to $20-an-hour employees to frankly educate the entire country on safe consumption, cannabinoids, product differences, you name it,” he added. “So, we focused on foundational education, which through Seed Talent we offer to everybody, and when I was at GTI we offered to everybody, because whether you’re an accountant, a retail leader, or a product development person, you need to know the foundations of cannabis, cannabis history, cannabinoids, terpenes, all that jazz. Then, as we transition a little closer to the tip of the spear, which is the retail level, we as an industry have to empower those people with the knowledge to be successful and create really dignified customer and patient experiences. With my time at GTI, we had done that human-to-human live training, but with the advent of the pandemic and just the challenge of the pace of scale, they needed a better solution. That’s what we’ve been working to build out, and it’s really morphed into even more than that.”

It seemed like a formidable task considering the extreme range of experience among retail workers, not to mention other skill sets in the industry, such as cultivation and production. “The challenge that you’re highlighting is there isn’t a standard of education,” said Kaufmann. “So, in Southern California, there may be a budtender that’s been working for 10-15 years who really does know their stuff, but what they know is what they’re generally self-educated on. One of the challenges we have if we want to develop our industry into a sustainable beast is standardization. One of the things Seed Talent is doing to address that is we are now a national assessment and training partner of the National Association of Marijuana and Cannabis Educators (NAMCE), the first trade group that’s coming together to say that there are people who know what they’re doing, there are education companies that are doing things the right way, and there are thousands if not tens of thousands of people who think they’re doing things the right way but they have no standards experience.

“Those are the challenges that we’re working to tackle,” he added. “So, what we supply today is a lot of foundational education, not just on cannabinoids and terpenes, but one of our primary drivers is product education, where I would point out the people that go back to Prop 215. What we knew two years ago or five years ago about cannabis has changed, and it’s going to continue to change every single year, and that’s where I give credit to states like Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, that have continuous education requirements. The state of California does not have that, so how do you expect someone on the front lines to stay up to date on the shifting science around cannabinoids and terpenes as one piece of it. But the other piece is the pace of innovation on products means that every week there’s a new product that a customer or patient is going to ask them about, and if they’re not supplied with fact-based information about those products, we’re not creating a sustainable space.”

Does Seed Talent also encompass production or supply chain workers, cultivators, and even executive personnel in addition to retail? “It does, and just to give you a high level of what it is really all about, what our platform does is on the front-end for either new or existing employees, we’ve built the industry’s first role-based competency assessment of who you want to be,” he said. “Let’s stick with the example of budtender, though to your point, we do have extraction and cultivation assessments that will launch by the end of September. But essentially, if you are a new or existing person to the space, you would take an assessment when you are first looking to get on the Seed Talent platform that’s basically going to map out about 20 different areas of competency. It’s also going to highlight what you do know and what you don’t know, and what we’re working to build is essentially the system will then automatically create an individualized curriculum for that individual learner. Again, regardless of the role, those assessments will be built, and the individual is then able to enter the Seed Talent platform and get training from both internal training, their company onboarding, soft skills training, things like that, but also training from every type of vendor, from point-of-sale providers, brands, security, compliance, all the different elements in one ecosystem.

“Then, once they get into the role,” added Kaufmann, “Seed Talent’s platform is able to tie into a variety of different data sources, including production data and point-of-sale data to see if the professional development activities they’ve completed are leading to actual on the job success with measurable ROI. I wanted to kind of set the 50,000-foot view. As far as what we’ve built today – and we’re in about 1000 dispensaries right now – is that centerpiece where we have the largest aggregation of cannabis development content out there, and we’ve also launched the assessment piece, which is on pilot with the largest employers and employment agencies in the space. And the data-driven learning component is very exciting. We’ve been able to lift sales by 20 percent for employees actually being able to tie into those point-of-sale systems and track beyond job efficacy to provide remediation training when there’s a deficiency that’s identified.”

Is Seed Talent an alternative to the many cannabis educational or certification programs on the market? “Great question,” said Kaufmann. “No, Seed Talent is an aggregator and disseminator of content. And then, with our assessments, we’re a verifier of competence. What we’re doing with the work we’re doing with NAMCE includes bringing together initially 115 of the top existing legacy education firms that are in the country, all coming together. And essentially, you would take the certification from, let’s say, a Cleveland School of Cannabis, but at the end instead of getting just the Cleveland School of Cannabis certificate, you would actually go through a Seed Talent competency assessment, and what that does is it makes it far easier for the employer to judge the legitimacy of that certificate.

“You’ve got great groups like Marijuana 411, Trichome Institute, and Cleveland School of Cannabis, but they’re competing with fly-by-night organizations that say, ‘Hey, you can be a master grower in a 24-hour class,’” he added. “Of course, we know that’s not true, and so one of the things that we’re trying to do is clean up that confusion to allow professionals to understand which curriculums, courses, and companies they want to be aligned with. And then, once they complete those courses, we’ll be able to say a Cleveland School of Cannabis curriculum maps towards actual on-the-job competency, and we essentially played a similar role as a bar exam, where the bar exam doesn’t necessarily care if you go to University of Michigan or the University of Illinois, Chicago. What they care about is if you know the laws to actually be value-add in the state of Illinois. We’re going to be that for the cannabis space with our assessment.”

A focal point of the program is the Seed Talent Communities, and I asked Kaufmann if I were, for instance, a marketing professional, if it would be a marketing community I would want to join within Seed Talent? “Good question,” he said. “For an overarching category like that, I think that’s more a future state. Our communities now within the platform are brand communities, training communities, or physical locations such as retail stores. That is where we’re assigning curriculum, but we’re also in the process right now of creating a 280E certificate. So, similar type of setup. Somebody can have amazing accounting experience, but if you’re hiring them to be an accountant at your dispensary or multistate operating group, to be able to say you’re actually certified in 280E, it’s going to be that kind of extension, so to your point, they would be part of an accounting community.”

See also  Kentucky’s medical marijuana executive order goes into effect Jan. 1. What to know

What about C-suite positions? “I think the data-driven learning and the assessment piece are more focused for high-volume roles that are a little bit closer to the tip of the spear,” said Kaufmann, “but we have many C-suite executives that utilize Seed Talent’s curriculum and access to premium content to self-educate. Again, I think what we’re looking at also is how do you validate somebody’s understanding of the space. With that CEO, it doesn’t matter as much if they know the specifics of cannabinoids and terpenes, but at a high level making sure that you’re getting people that have some level of competency is key. So, I’d say the C-suite is usually using Seed Talent more for learning and development than actually assessment and data driven, but there’s definitely application for all.”

The Seed Talent platform was conceived to address three core gaps in the current market that all contribute to normalized professional development:

Sharing Communal Knowledge
Recognizing Legacy Skillsets
Improving Corporate Culture through Professional Development

The second bullet point seemed especially relevant considering the fact that corporate and legacy elements in the industry are at such loggerheads. “One of the advantages of the assessment is that it allows people to take assessments that have never taken formalized training,” said Kaufmann. “If you are from the Emerald Triangle, or you’re coming out of Prop 215 and you’ve been a budtender for 10 years, and you want to create a position for career mobility, I don’t think you should have to go spend $2000 or $3,000 and get a certificate. I think you can put in the work, and all you need to do is have a way to communicate your competency to an employer. And one of the things that we’re very excited about on the assessment side is that after you take our coursework but before you ever consider paying for classes, to be able to say that you are good, that you’ve been in this space for 10-15 years, and work at a skilled or intermediate level, and are worth more to your dispensary than somebody who’s fresh out of college who can only pass our first level even though they happen to have a certificate from the University of Maryland.”

Conversely, would Seed Talent help an executive better appreciate the skill sets of legacy people and how they can utilize them in their MSO endeavors? “That is one of the top-use cases on the assessments, and I’ll use the bar exam again for comparison,” said Kaufmann. “There might be a top-notch lawyer out there that absolutely kick ass, but at the end of the day for the law firm to hire that person, they’ve got to be able to pass the bar exam, but one of the big challenges right now is there have been a lot of people who have no ability to determine the competency of the person that they were hiring.

“They hired the master-grower or the best retail person and put them to work only to find out they were full of BS,” he added. “Our competency assessments on the cultivation side will map out at three different tiers, and those will be done in September. Basically, tier one is if that person is good enough to be a cultivation tech. Tier two, is that person good enough to manage a room and a couple of people; and tier three is if somebody can actually run a cultivation center. And it is objective; there is no opinion; you either know the stuff or you don’t. And then as we know, cultivation is both an art and a science. We basically will be able to verify the science side, and the art side is obviously the efficacy of that person in the world.”

Is AI part of the program’s shared common knowledge component? “Absolutely,” he said, “and that is the next evolution that we are in full production on right now. The sharing of community knowledge is key to the entire evolution of the cannabis space. When you and I first learned how to roll a joint, it wasn’t by a book or a school, it was through a friend. And so, for us to be able to continue to have the same sustainability that we’ve had in cannabis, I believe the sharing of that communal knowledge is only going to become more key. We just need to find a way to do it at scale, and that communal knowledge could even be a brand like GTI’s Rythm wanting to share the features and benefits that they see of their products at scale with budtenders so they can then share it within their community.

“The big thing is price compression, which is this underlying element that touches all of the points we’ve talked about” he added. “Price compression is devastating our industry right now. It devastated Oregon a couple of years ago, and we’re seeing the impact in California today. And to me, it happens because the member of this space, from consumers to budtenders to brand builders and chief executive officers, don’t know how to sell on the value of their products. So, they default to the highest THC, lowest dollar, no differentiation. What we’re talking about is how we build an infrastructure that makes the entire industry sustainable by focusing on selling the value of the products out there and on value creation in the new products that are released.”

Is that a part of what Seed Talent means when it talks about improving corporate culture through professional development? “The reference on the website to improving corporate culture is borne out in my experience not just with GTI, but with most of the multistate operators out there,” said Kaufmann. “I think the challenge is, there’s such an emphasis on how you get into the industry, and then once you’re in it’s how many widgets can you sell as quickly as possible, and you can’t even think about a promotion because you’re moving a million miles an hour. For us, the culture pieces are multifaceted, but it’s providing a path of ascension for cannabis employees who define the requirements that it takes to move up in an organization. The cultural challenges come from people that are very passionate about the plant, but then join some of these organizations to find out the only focus is moving widgets, because they don’t know the differentiation of the product. So, I think it’s really a multifaceted thing that starts with what is the foundation of the space and what are we trying to do, which should be creating value, and not just moving undifferentiated widgets.”

Say an MSO has stores in several states. Would the employees in those shops take part in Seed Talent, and would that information and data then be shared with other budtenders? “Many of our clients are MSOs,” he said. “We are the retail training partner for Sunnyside, for Zen Leaf, for Ascend, and for all intents and purposes for all of the Rise/Green Thumb locations, and what our platform does is exactly what you’re describing. When a budtender is on our platform with an MSO group, they have access to company onboarding and all of the required coursework. And one of the cool things that we’re starting to see is a bigger emphasis on creating solid training teams in these multistate groups, and then we really act as the distribution channel for them to get that content out to all of the stores. They get the company stuff, but they also get the brand and vendor and service training from all of the different providers that interact with that location.

“Using the example of folks in California,” he added, “they would get best practices from their company and the company state-required coursework, but they would also get access to branded vendor training from all of the different suppliers that are selling through them. So not only would that person know cannabinoids and terpenes, but they would also know the specific features and benefits of products. And then to your point they would also be able to reshare best practices with folks in other locations as leveraged by their training team creating content, and then leveraging Seed Talent to communicate that out.”

A core aspect of the program is its constant evolution. “Seed Talent’s model is we give away about 10 hours of foundations training for free,” said Kaufmann. “An Intro to Cannabis course, an Intro to Retail course, and an Intro to Cultivation course, and then we also give away for free a few other general eds. Our business model is not selling content, but we update those courses usually twice a year, which is what we’ve done over the last few years. But what we also do is continuously add new content providers. We’re really a distribution network, the cable company to best-in-class training providers acting as the HBO, the Showtime, the Discovery Channel of cannabis. If you’re in Massachusetts and you want training from a best-in-class person in California, it can be a pain-in-the-ass to get that all set up. What we can do is take that knowledge and basically have one platform that your folks log into, and when you as a store manager decide that having HBO, that having that best-in class training from California is worth it, you pay that vendor, and you don’t have to set up any new platform; it is automatically added to your curriculum.”

See also  Dama Financial to Acquire GrowFlow

And can smaller companies benefit from Seed Talent as well as larger ones? What sort of line item is required, and are their upfront costs as well as monthly fees? “So, again, we host; we’re an aggregator and disseminator, so the fees that we’re getting are for hosting on a retail side, the host training and disseminating it to your store,” he said. “So, if you’re at a retail location, you’re paying by location to be able to get access to all of the content that’s available on the Seed Talent platform, and if you’re a content creator, which can be a brand service provider training company or if you want to provide content for your own staff, you pay us to disseminate that. From a line-item standpoint, our smallest contract for retailers is $199 per month, and then for larger retailers that are really maximizing every single feature that the Seed Talent platform has, you’re looking at probably closer to $500 per location if you’re all-in with our enterprise.”

Is there no part of the cannabis food chain that Seed Talent does not address? “That’s correct,” said Kaufmann. “The one thing I would just highlight is that marketing/sales is education in the cannabis space. To that point, if you’re trying to get somebody to switch from HPS to LED lights, you have got to convince them why LED is better. And then equally as important is that they’ve been growing with HPS for the last 10 years, so once you install those LED lights, you need to train that person on how to effectively use your product. Otherwise, you’re going to get a call in 90 days that the crop sucks and everything is done. So, we’re working with basically every type of vendor, from SAAS providers to equipment manufacturers to brands, to ultimately be a delivery vehicle for their education materials out to the trade, because education is what drives adoption and sales.”

I asked Kaufmann if people are incorporated Seed Talent into their POS systems, and if so, what are the results? “Yes,” he said. “This is the data-driven learning component. Seed Talent’s ultimate goal is to aggregate, disseminate, but ultimately to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time, and the easiest way to do that is through leveraging the power of the data. So yes, we just got out of a five-store pilot in Illinois where we were able to demonstrate a 20 percent lift in sales within seven days of completing the remediation course that was able to be sustained for 60-plus days out and represents an incremental value of $1,400 per employee per month. We are now expanding that pilot to about 20 locations, including the largest cannabis retailer in the country, the largest retailer in Illinois, the largest retailer in Arizona, and the largest retailers that covers Mississippi, Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas are all entering pilots on data-driven learning, and if we can repeat that we’ll be in full monetization going into the new year.”

On that point, what does Seed Talent require to move into a new state? “We can enter any state at any time,” he said. “We are in 23 states now, and I’d say about eight of those were by accident where somebody signed up, somebody got a link, somebody saw value. The thing is, Seed Talent gives a lot of stuff away for free that everybody needs. Introduction to Cannabis is a two-hour course that we give away because we believe in universal access to baseline education. And so, we’ve had groups in Montana, New Mexico, states that we’re not quite as focused on, signing up for Seed Talent. Once we get a retailer signed up or we get a brand signed up, we then go to the other participants in the space. Again, we’ve spent a lot of time focused on retail because that’s where about 80 percent of our user-base is today, but no different than if we get a cultivation center that signed up, their staff needs Intro to Cannabis nine times out of 10 as well. And once they’re signed up, we’ve got a really strong referral program, so if you’re working with a vendor and that vendor wants to train your staff, connect them with Seed Talent and we’ll build out an entire curriculum with that group to help support your organization. That was a long answer to the question, which is we don’t really need anything to enter a state. We just need somebody who values education, and we have an offering that supports it.”

Or a country? “It’s funny you said that, because I just had a conversation with a gentleman in Ecuador,” said Kaufmann. “We’re also in active conversations with a group in Germany. And the big thing I want to emphasize is our platform is focused on employee enablement. We want to enable employees to have access to the information and the resources they need to drive strategic KPIs, and to create growth opportunities for both them and the business they are a part of. It’s really enablement, and it’s a shift in the change of the mindset. People think of e-learning as sexual harassment, diversity, inclusion, and I don’t want to make light of those courses because that’s very important. But what we’re talking about is essentially acting as a digital supervisor and manager to get the most out of the workforce. It benefits the industry, benefits the company, and it also benefits the individual employee, because if they can prove that they’re more effective on the job, they’re going to get paid more, and they’re going to enhance their opportunities for career mobility.”

Speaking of data, one of the things I’ve said for years about this industry is that it is one of the most data rich industries that exists, but a lot of the data is siloed, and it’s very frustrating in a sense, because that data is not fully utilized. II could not agree with you more,” said Kaufmann. “The number of conversations I’ve had with people who are so protective of their data that they’re not using it to improve their business, I don’t have enough fingers to count. The power of data is only as important as how you can put it to use. There are so many companies out there – BDSA, Headset, other groups – that do a great job sounding the alarm. ‘We’ve got a problem; prices are dipping, this product is not selling.’ They can tell you where the problem is, but what Seed Talent is able to do is leverage that data to automate what happens next.

“The equation I’ve used is those guys are the fire alarm and we’re the fire department,” he added. “Most of the challenges that are revealed in data can be traced back to an individual or group of individuals that are not executing at their best. Average basket of goods, things like that, because if you can start to identify where you have individual budtenders that are not at least within an acceptable average threshold, that’s where your KPI drain really comes from. And what we’re able to do is approach a retailer that has dozens of locations, and if we can just get the bottom 10 percent of their employees not to be rockstars, but just bring them up to average, that represents an incremental lift of thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars per location. And by the way, they don’t have to do anything. We will tie into their data repository and automate all of the next steps.”

Considering the razor-thin margins some businesses are working on, those sorts of savings are significant. those sorts of savings are significant. “Huge,” concurred Kaufmann, “And that even applies on our brand training side. We can show an 80 percent reduction in the cost it takes to reach a budtender, and that number is conservative. Right now, most brands have a huge human capital expense, because they hire brand ambassadors to go out and say the same thing day in and day out that’s just foundational knowledge. What they should be doing is automating that foundational knowledge through a tool like Seed Talent, and when their reps are in the store, they are not talking about features and benefits but building authentic relationships and working to drive sales.”

What is the reason behind the significant turnover of budtenders in this industry, and is Seed Talent a potential solution to addressing that? II very much think so,” said Kaufmann. “Headset had a report maybe a month or two ago that looked at I believe 12 states, and the turnover in those states, and I would highlight the state that had the lowest turnover. Do you remember which state that was?”

I did not. “The lowest state was Illinois, which has 100 percent adoption of Seed Talent,” said Kaufmann. “When we launched a brand training course in the state of Illinois, over 60 percent of all budtenders in the state completed it within 60 days of the course launching. Illinois has the lowest turnover of the 12 states that they looked at, and I’m going to boldly say that the access to education that we’ve given folks is a big piece of that puzzle, and particularly when you look at the 2021 MJBiz article about the high turnover in the industry, where they listed two primary reasons: a feeling that employees didn’t have the resources they needed to succeed in their role, and they didn’t feel that the company cared about their professional growth. We can solve those things through providing that education, and then providing things like data-driven learning as well as the competency assessment. So yes, I’m a big believer that what we’re doing can help solve those issues, because nobody wants to work in a job where they feel like they don’t know what they’re doing, and that their company can’t even identify that they’re doing a better job than the person standing next to them.”

See also  Why Demand for Tech Talent in Cannabis Cultivation Is at an All-Time High

It sounds as though Illinois provided a proof of concept for Seed Talent. It sounds like Illinois was proof of concept for the company. “Very much so,” agreed Kaufmann. “When we launched in Illinois, we spent less than $10,000 building out our product. We took some existing software that was out there, completely repurposed it in a way that it was not meant to be used, and we found that out when we completely broke it at 4000 users. But we built a proof of concept. When we originally launched in Illinois, it was based off of my personal experience. The state needed coursework, which we gave away for free, and the company needed brand training from their vendors in a scalable way, because the retail experience frankly sucked. You’d walk in and say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for something high in limonene.’ The budtender would respond, ‘Lima what?’ Or, ‘Tell me the difference between Dogwalkers and Swift Lifts?’ ‘I don’t know, man, they’re prerolls’ We’ve been able to change that paradigm where now we’ve got people selling on value. And I know there are other reasons why MSO dominate in the state, but the reality is that this is going to be one of the most educated markets in the country, and we’re seeing sustained pricing, lower turnover, and a lot of interesting things born out of a more educated industry.”

It also sounds as though that education will extend beyond the employee to the consumer and patient. “That’s an area of expansion that we’re working on right now, and I agree 100 percent,” said Kaufmann. “Arizona is an interesting market in that regard. I just spent a week out there; we now work with over 60 percent of the stores in the state. Interesting market, very value-driven, very price-driven. BOGOs (Buy One, Get One) on absolutely everything, and we’re now working with some of the best groups out there, and I’m very proud of that, but a lot of the consensus among retailers was that they don’t need an educated staff, because customers just want the cheapest stuff. Well, no, they want the cheapest because the people behind the counter can’t sell them on value.

“So, the paradigm shifts we’re doing in some of these markets is to start getting the consumer to walk in and say exactly what I said before, ‘Hey, I’m looking for something high in limonene,’ and to have the person behind the counter help them,” he added. “That’s where my belief in this industry is going towards, and I think we see this in a variety of markets. There’s a perception in traditional retail that retail is done. I don’t believe that, and if you actually look at several of the specifics, that’s not the case. What’s happening is that valueless retail is dying. If I can’t get any more value going into the retail store than I can get by ordering online, why would I go in? It’s no different than when you’re shopping for skis or snowboards, or whatever it may be. If I can go into a place and I talk to a budtender who really knows their stuff and can add value to my experience and expose me to new products that are going to benefit the outcome I’m looking for, I’ll go into retail. The problem is that everybody’s just so price driven that they think that’s what people want, and that’s not true, and we see that in a variety of other markets,”

Seed Talent also addresses compliance issues. “We’re actually one of the largest compliance training providers in the space,” said Kaufmann. “Many states have what’s called responsible vendor training, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania to a certain extent, and a few others require training. Some of that includes BioTrack and METRC training. We’re one of the largest suppliers of that in the space, and we also have a partnership that is core to our business model with a group called Marijuana 411. They offer a lot of compliance training that we don’t offer, and they distribute them through our platform. But yes, just like we’re starting to work with a lot of point-of-sale companies, budtenders need to be trained how to use that, as do retail professionals and cultivation folk. The staff component of our business is becoming a big piece as well. When you onboard METRC, when you onboard a POS system, how do you train everybody to do that? Are you really doing in-person training for entire dispensary chains? No, you need to leverage a scalable tool like ours, and we’re starting to do that on the compliance side as well.”

What about state regulators? Don’t they need educating, too? “I appreciate that,” said Kaufmann. “I’ve been pretty active in the Illinois scene. I was part of, for lack of better terms, think tanks here in Illinois. And we have offered Seed Talent training for free to every regulator I’ve come in contact with. It’s another example of the lack of education driving a lot of the problems we have in the space, and frankly, no one is educating the regulators, and that’s where we see some of these regulations come out. Look at Florida’s 10 percent THC cap, or at some of the home-grown regulation; they just scream uneducated.”

Has anyone taken him up on his offer? “They have not,” he said.

And when Kaufmann looks at the industry, what innings is it in from an education perspective? “Purely from an educational perspective, I’d say we’re in the second inning,” he said. “I think some of the research that’s going on in Israel and places like that is compelling. Domestically, I think it depends on how you look at it. Some of the research has really accelerated, but I think the focus and the need, and the understanding of education is still woefully lacking, and it goes into everything we just talked about. Again, one of the easiest canaries in the coal mine of lack of education in the space is price compression. When you can launch a quality product in Northern California and Illinois that is better in terms of terpene percentage and total cap percentage, and the consumer cannot understand why it’s a $60 eighth versus a $45 eighth, that means the entire industry is under-educated.”

Our time winding down, I revisited Seed Talent’s business, and asked Kaufmann what the company is currently looking for. Is it capital, new partners, more content? “So, we’re closing out our seed round this year, and we’re planning to do a Series A in Q1-Q2 of next year,” he said. “What we really need and what our funding is going to is really exposure and awareness of the platform. We’ve spent zero marketing dollars to date, and we got to 1000 dispensaries and all the brands that we work with through networking and the fact that we’re adding significant value, so it really helps sell itself. We want to spend our first marketing dollars, and then we really want to build on our product development team to be able to speed up our overall vision of building out the front end to become an unparalleled destination for upskilling and professional development, and then be able to assess those folks on the job in a more meaningful way. We want to be able to accelerate our timelines on our cultivation, on our extraction, on all of our other focuses, but that’s the plan as of today.”

Is anyone else doing anything like this? “We have competitors that compete with us in certain verticals,” said Kaufmann. “There are companies that do brand training, that do onboard training and things like that, but no one is really approaching things in their totality like we are. I think we’re rather unique in that there are competitors on the brand training side and in some of these specific verticals, but what I can tell you is we’ve had over 150,000 courses completed in the platform over the last year, and I have not found one competitor that can say that.”

Isn’t a part of the Seed Talent model to incorporate vertical competitors into the program? “100 percent, and one of the things that I’m working on in particular with NECME is letting people know we don’t want to compete with them to sell training content,” said Kaufmann. “What we want to do is help assess what content people need to be taking on the front end, assess after people have completed their coursework to see if taking their courses really adds value, and then if it does be the distribution platform so that they can continue to focus on creating best-in-class content, not worrying about the technology side of delivering that to their work.”

Before we rang-off, Kaufmann had a last thought he wanted to share. “The only thing I want to emphasize is that it’s not going to be interesting if we frame this on training,” he said. “The thing I want to focus on is that this is employee enablement. This is creating the foundations of a high-growth, sustainable industry, and education is a part of that. But it’s this entire lifecycle of bringing people in, creating really solid onboarding experiences, enabling them to maximize their performance, and then finding ways to recognize and reward them through a centralized system, which is Seed Talent.”

The post The Great Aggregator: Seed Talent and the Growth of an Educated Industry appeared first on Cannabis Business Executive – Cannabis and Marijuana industry news.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here