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Blues Traveler’s Brendan Hill helps the cannabis industry keep the beat with KlickTrack

Oct 10, 2018

After spending the last 25-plus years keeping the beat for Grammy award-winning band Blues Traveler, Brendan Hill has been making a name for himself in the cannabis industry with a new inventory tracking system he calls KlickTrack.

Best known for launching Bainbridge Island, Washington’s Paper and Leaf, KlickTrack co-founders Steven Kessler and Brendan Hill aimed to create a product built by cannabis retailers to solve common problems faced across the country.

In music production, a click track is another word for a metronome —a device that keeps the drummer and band in time. Hill’s KlickTrack application aims to do the same for cannabis retailers by uniting a product sales platform, compliance translator and point-of-sale system in one streamlined platform.

According to a recent statement, KlickTrack is all about the customer.

[Andrew Russell wants a minute of your time: Golden State Government Relations and the California cannabis lobby]

“KlickTrack enables retailers to run their business on a brand-specific product database, highlighting consumer and budtender reviews and providing consumers with a 360-degree view of cannabis strains and brands,” read the statement. “Inspired by Amazon and Apple, KlickTrack gives retailers the tools they need to provide consumers with the best possible experience.”

Brendan Hill/ KlickTrack

KlickTrack’s team boasts more than a decade of cannabis industry acumen, including Parham Farsi, a full stack senior solutions architect with experience at Harvard and Honeywell; Chris Cooley, KlickTrack’s application architect and world-class developer, designer and problem solver; Carl Schoenleber, manager of general operations, analytics and optimization with previous positions held at Lynda.com and Expedia; and Sara Otepka, strategic product advisor with over a decade of product development and management experience at Amazon.

KlickTrack offers retailers the ability to run their business on a brand-specific product database and unite everything from incoming deliveries to sales completion and government reporting under one platform, saving time and money.

Key features of the platform include a product registry, which gives retailers the ability to manage their business and offer products organized by brand, as well as proprietary data architecture, which reduces redundancies and enables retailers to uphold customer service on high traffic days. The product also includes data segmentation tools, guaranteed compliance, and intelligent workflows and reporting. The KlickTrack queue enables retailers to create orders at the register and on the floor that can be seamlessly fulfilled by the back office in real time.

Bud’s Garage, a cannabis retailer out of Everett, Washington, is one of the first retailers to join KlickTrack’s beta program. Brian Bodge, Co-Owner of the company, had nothing but praise for the app.

“We have tried countless products intended to solve retail problems and streamline across product management, point-of-sale, and compliance, but these individual solutions are often costly and disjointed,” said Bodge. “KlickTrack is different. It’s clear KlickTrack was built by a team who understands cannabis retailers and knows how to meet our needs.”

PotNetwork sat down for a brief jam session with Brendan Hill and his partner Steven Kessler to learn more about the KlickTrack application’s development and features.

Steve Kessler/ KlickTrack

First of all, can you tell our readers a little about the app? How did you first come up with the idea for KlickTrack?

Brendan Hill: We started with Paper & Leaf June of 2015. We visited a bunch of shops prior to opening, and we saw the way the industry was starting out, and we decided we wanted to do it differently. Luckily, we had this amazing open space on Bainbridge Island that we were able to get into, and just kind of create an art gallery feel. For us, we wanted to change the stigma.

It’s very rewarding to see all the good reviews we’ve been getting and how our community has embraced us. That’s part of our trying to find out what the community wants but also what they weren’t expecting, which was a very high-end retail environment with very knowledgeable staff and highly curated products. People come in, and they’re constantly surprised, like, “Wow, this is really nice in here,” you know?

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Steve Kessler: And I think one of the things we did early on, right out of the gate, was we realized that brands were coming and we were one of the first shops, I think, in the country that really not only put an emphasis on brands, we actually highlighted brands individually in the shop. That really carried us over into why we developed KlickTrack. We were very brand-conscious, we saw the industry three-dimensionally. We saw it very much like wine and beer, craft wine and beer; we saw that it was going to move.

Also, there was a strong medical element and naturopathic side to it. So we knew and understood what was coming. And when we started to merchandise the way that we did and set the shop up the way that we did, it obviously brought problems. I’m sure you know about some of those problems in the software side of things right now in the industry.

Did you try other point-of-sale, seed-to-sale-type systems before you ventured out and made your own?

Steve: Yes. We’ve been open three and a half years now, so we’ve had quite a bit of time. We used two or three solutions on the point of sale side. More than that on the menu side, maybe three, four, five on the menu side. We tried using loyalty preorder software; we spent thousands and thousands of dollars on cumulative services.

What we realized we needed with KlickTrack was a kick-ass point of sale, first and foremost. It has to work, and it has to understand the industry, understand the unique compliance part of the industry, and also just really work like the good ones do.

Brendan: You know, our tagline is “All Together Now,” because it had been such a disjointed mélange of different types of software out there. In order for us to get out to our customers, you need to have point-of-sale, you need to have another company that was doing a menu, another company that was doing your texting, another company that was doing your pre-orders and all that. So we finally just put everything into one environment or ecosystem.

Steve actually had the idea in May of 2017, and we just started working on it, and we partnered with some amazing guys here on Bainbridge Island, Chris Cooley, Carl Schoenleber, and Parham Farsi, and they just put their heads down and developed what Steve had in his mind. Now, we’re running it in the shop, in a beta format, now almost three months and working out all the kinks. It’s fast, it scans unbelievable well, and all the elements are coming together. So we’re really excited to bring this product to market.

Is KlickTrack usable in any state?

Steve: That’s a good question. The reason that I connected with Chris so quickly and started getting into bed with these guys was that they were already tied into several of the traceability systems. Currently, we are completely tied to Leaf data systems here in Washington. We are also tied into BioTrack, so that opens up several other states for us. And then, Metrc is the one that we are tying into currently; we expect to be fully tied in by mid-November. Our goal is mid-November. Prior to the January 1 date where all California retailers will be required to report through Metrc, we’ll be tied in by then.

Brendan: And that’s the track and trace.

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Steve: So, we built it for a multi-state, this is something we want to scale out throughout the entire country, we have an eye on creating a robust product registry. We’ve already started doing it here in Washington. That registry will actually begin to put that emphasis on brands and products and away from strains, and really focus on getting whether something is a new five-pound lot that we can have historical data on, for instance. We’re just building something that can live, eventually, across state lines but at least, currently, within the state limits, we’ll have real robust data on products and sales.

Paper & Leaf

I think your focus on brand is extremely important because, for example, you don’t walk into a liquor store and say, “give me a merlot,” and walk out with whatever they hand you.

Steve: You just nailed it right there. I brought in someone named Sarah Otepka, and she was a product developer and high-level management at Amazon for years. She just immediately saw what we think is the bigger idea, which is wanting to get control of the SKUs through a product registry in the way that Amazon redefined purchasing online. We brought someone in on that note who had expertise in what we were trying to do.

Do you have any plans to attend any upcoming trade shows?

Brendan: Definitely. The big one for Washington is Lemonhaze coming up October 25 and 26 at the Tacoma Dome. We’re definitely going to have a presence there. And then there’s a lot coming up. There’s the one in California, the one in Vegas. You know, they’re smattered throughout. We’re focused on Lemonhaze because that’s kind of our big coming out party. And then, you’ll probably see us at a bunch of other ones.

Marketing-wise, how are you differentiating your product from other solutions?

Brendan: Well, for me, I’ve been in music for 30 years with the band. With our aesthetic with Paper & Leaf, I think we’re just trying to combine that with the rock and roll aspect of what I do, I have done my whole professional life, and then the cool creativity of the flow and everything that comes with cannabis and the artistic community. There’s a lot of really great and fun ways to kind of market this. But, you know, ultimately, KlickTrack means bringing things together — keeping things on time and in the pocket is kind of our other motto.

Steve’s an artist in his background, and I’m an artist in my background, and I think that’s one of the cool elements that we are bringing to this. My band’s out on the road for six, seven months out of the year so I can kind of go out there and pitch this to a bunch of recreational and medical dispensaries across the country. We play Colorado every Fourth of July, we do east coast, we do Florida, and I think for me it’s just getting the word out there. This is about the potential for a nationwide database, a pot database, it’s kind of really appealing, and I think KlickTrack sort of brings it all together. I think that’s where we’re coming from.

[Cannabis investors embrace New York as the capital center of the universe]

Steve: On the business side, we have certain features that no other point-of-sales have. When I go and talk to other retailers — we’ve spoken to a few — the first shop we approached in Washington to do beta said yes, and they’re currently setting up a full beta, Bud’s Garage here in Everett, Washington, a high volume shop. But what we do is, we offer things like a queue mode, and we basically extract compliance away from budtenders so you won’t lose your license.

We have something called a queue mode. In the cannabis industry, you can’t touch and handle products on the floor, so we built this queue mode which enables retailers to take their salespeople and bring them out onto the floor which is an Apple-style selling technique. You can build orders on the floor and send them to a fulfillment queue in the back. Your orders can be quickly fulfilled and brought out to the register, and they’re waiting there for someone to check out.

Do you have any other expansion plans to grow into any other kind of applications or stores?

Steve: We do. Within the app, the way that we’re building it will open a very big door that we see once we grab some significant market share. We are ultimately going to turn our menu to a consumer-facing menu where customers can actually comment directly on the product. This brand emphasis that I’ve been talking about, we’re going to first have the budtenders in the shops comment directly to those products so that people can read those reviews and take pictures, and little videos, and add them right on. And those will live historically with those products so that people ultimately will be able to engage in that conversation. So, as for expansion, yeah, we’re trying to become the Instagram for weed as well, you know?

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