5 Tips for Being First to Market in Newly Regulated States

The benefits of being first to launch in a newly regulated cannabis state are numerous. Here's how to ensure your group is among the first to market in your state.

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The benefits of being first to launch in a newly regulated cannabis state are numerous. New licensees attract investment, talent and media exposure. They usually enjoy strong price points and have the chance to set regional benchmarks for excellence by being the first licensed business that consumers experience. On the flip side, a late arrival can be challenging for your brand as you try to differentiate your company from the rest of the pack. And besides, no one likes coming in last.

Here are five tips to help ensure your group is among the first to market in your state:

1. Avoid Over-Complication. In today’s cannabis industry, supplier and service provider options are seemingly endless. That’s evident when walking across any cannabis trade show. There are so many novel products, technologies and best practices that it can quickly become overwhelming. Start with a tried-and-true cultivation method and use proven equipment that has been around for years. Don’t be afraid to be boring! The goal is to arrive first to market, not demonstrate that you can buy all the latest and most expensive grow technology. Patching together pieces of all the newest (and untested) technology is a sure way to over-complicate the process.

2. Hire Key People First. Hiring an experienced master grower and general contractor will ensure a smooth, expedited launch with minimal mistakes. Your general contractor should obtain all necessary permits, schedule inspections and review building codes. The master grower will handle all production planning, hiring and purchasing. Having dedicated people handle these important but time-consuming tasks will allow you to focus on the numerous other issues that are sure to arise during the first six months of your start-up.

3. Build Simple. In most instances, it isn’t necessary to complete construction prior to beginning cultivation. Depending on your state’s specific laws, it’s usually acceptable to start cultivation on a small scale in parallel to construction of the main facility. Clones and seedlings require little space during the first six weeks of their life as they move from propagation trays to small pots, so taking advantage of this time will guarantee a jump on your competition. If you’re growing indoors, consider starting inside of a retrofitted shipping container. If growing outdoors, consider building a secure mini-greenhouse.

4. Minimize Research & Development (R&D). Start-ups focused on becoming first to market should avoid or drastically reduce R&D efforts. Research is time-consuming, and the findings typically determine that more R&D is needed. Activities such as breeding, tissue culture and testing new technologies should be low priorities to start. Once production is underway, then you can safely trial new products and methods in a way that won’t jeopardize precious start-up revenue.

5. Minimize Genetics. Most cannabis genetics today are unstable. Germinating 100 seeds of a single variety can result in 70 different plants in terms of structure, flowering times and cannabinoid content. Starting cultivation from seed with dozens of varieties will quickly result in a genetic circus. Effort will be spent on controlling and refining genetics, when it should be focused on production. Begin with three to five varieties, grow them out and learn their characteristics. Once you have a stable production schedule and strong client demand, then you can expand and introduce new selections.

Ryan Douglas provides cannabis consulting services through his company, Ryan Douglas Cultivation, LLC. He has worked in commercial horticulture for 20 years and spent three years directing cultivation for Canada’s largest licensed medical cannabis producer.

August 2018
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