Bitcoin Seed Store & Strain Grade: Anonymous CEO reveals the ups and downs of the cannabis seed business

With all the excitement around the cannabis industry, and the constant media coverage, and the ever-evolving law reform, we sometimes forget that cannabis is not yet fully mainstream. Not just in the USA, but all over the world. Founder and CEO of BitcoinSeed Store, a store where you can make agricultural purchases with bitcoin currency and Strain Grade (a.k.a, a strain review web site, reminds us of this. Because it is still illegal to germinate cannabis seeds in most places, this CEO prefers to remain anonymous. So I’ll just christen him Sir Purple Haze. Sir Haze actually was able to parlay the skills he learned creating and perfecting his two online endeavors, graphics and the web, which he hopes to leave soon in favor of full-time cannabis tech success. Although he was at first hesitant to share his experience on a resume, lately he’s finding himself ready to say “Fudge it!” and display some cannabis pride!
Sir Haze was kind enough to partake in a clandestine session with Cash Cow Cannabis to tell us more about his struggles and triumphs working in an industry where some have yet to emerge from the shadows.

“The aim of Bitcoin Seed Store is to help spread the use of bitcoin and help show that it can be a viable alternative to a cannabis industry that suffers so badly with banking regulations.”
  CCC:  Tell me about what you do, and your two inter related cannabusinesses.
Sir Purple Haze: I own and run the world’s first ever bitcoin seed bank, Bitcoin Seed Store and the strain information website Strain Grade. The aim of Bitcoin Seed Store is to help spread the use of bitcoin and help show that it can be a viable alternative to a cannabis industry that suffers so badly with banking regulations. The aim of Strain Grade is to provide the necessary strain information to help medical cannabis users choose the right strains. Bitcoin Seed Store started in 2013, and Strain Grade in November 2014.

“The aim of Strain Grade is to provide the necessary strain information to help medical cannabis users choose the right strains.”
  CCC: I feel Strain Grade can be equally useful to recreational users.
Sir Purple Haze: We’re aiming at both. At sites like Leafly, it’s the opposite. I don’t want to say they are ashamed of cannabis but the way they portray themselves is very kind of low key, it’s very plain. I think the guy’s idea was for you to be able to look at strains on your phone in confidence and not have other people looking and saying “What are you doing?”, and I can understand where they are coming from. We’re a little less that way. We’re happy to be aimed at recreational users as well as at medical users.
It’s hard because it’s just starting, it’s like a big mass of them at once, and I guess we haven’t quite worked out as an industry the best way to categorize them in a standardized way. I’m sure something like that will come along.

There are so many badly done websites in the cannabis industry and we're aiming to change that.  I don’t know if it’s laziness or because it was never a properly recognized industry but people are allowing themselves to slack on design, or customer service. We’re hoping to be one of the websites that is the opposite.  Other than Leafly, who have set the standard. With becoming accepted, this has to change.
It’s also a follow on from before the internet. Mail order customer service was quite bad back in those days. Because there was no instant email to let them know what’s going on. It’s changing and I hope what we do, people like it, as opposed to being kept in the dark. People who come into my friend’s head shop say how bad the customer service is at seed banks especially some of the big ones.

“We’re happy to be aimed at recreational users as well as at medical users.”
CCC: I find that to be a common complaint. Bad experiences, a lot of slackers. It’s part of what has to be changed about the perception of cannabis consumers.
Sir Purple Haze: I guess it’s been an evil for so long now that people let themselves slack because they can.
CCC: When, how, and why did you start Bitcoin Seed Store?
Sir Purple Haze: I started studying bitcoin in 2012 and when I finally bit the bullet and bought something, I watched my money just go up and up and up. I started Bitcoin Seed Store in 2013 initially, after I became a little obsessed with bitcoin. While I was learning about it, I was trying to come up with a way to make a little bit coin on the side and that was it. There were all these people with bitcoin but they had very few places to use them so I wanted. When we first started, there were a couple others out there, but I’m fairly certain they’re not around anymore, they’ve given up. It’s the kind of people who are only in it for the money, as opposed to doing something to help.
  CCC: Tell me about the evolution of Strain Grade.
Sir Purple Haze:  Well it actually started out as a shitty blog that reviews each strain. I wanted to do something separate from Bitcoin Seed Store that would have more information for people. It was literally the worst thing I have ever created. One day I looked at it and thought I can't put my name to that! I really have to do something! It kind of spiraled out of control from there on. I worked on the design, and I became really happy with it. It’s, ha, grown from there, really.
CCC: Do you try to be for your customers what you would want as a customer?
Sir Purple Haze: Yeah, yeah, of course, and I don’t  think there’s really any other way you can run a business and you shouldn’t run a business any other way. Not doing that seemed alien to me. It’s the only way we operate.
CCC: How do you handle customer service requests and satisfaction?
Sir Purple Haze:  We always just try to be as open with people as possible. There are a lot of seed banks that have a bad rep for customer service. Maybe years ago when you had to mail order seeds it was acceptable but the internet has changed all that.
CCC: What separates Strain Grade from your competitors, like Canlio and Medical Jane?
Sir Purple Haze:  Good question. I haven’t heard of Canlio. It’s kind of hard, when you get to a certain stage, not too much differentiates between the main ones. We like to try and be diverse in what we’re putting out there. Not focus too heavily on one kind of strain or one kind of news story. We want to be a place where anyone can go to find something of particular interest to them.
CCC: How do you feel about the competition? It’s been bubbling under the surface and now companies are experimenting in full public view because of the internet.
Sir Purple Haze: There’s always going to be competition regardless. My way of looking at it is: there’s always enough to go around, always enough people as long as your site isn’t an absolute piece of s***. Then you’ve got some chance.
CCC: Why did you start when you did? Did you look at the industry and say I need to get into it now! Or was it more organic - you learned about bitcoin, said “I’d like to do something, I think I should do this?”
Sir Purple Haze: It was really more organic. I’ve always been, for a long time, involved in cannabis in some way. It just seemed like the logical next step, really. Even if the industry wasn’t taking off, I would have done it regardless. It’s nice that it’s happening, but it’s not something that made me make any decisions to do it.

“It was self-funded at the start but now it runs itself. There are a few people we partner with in both the UK and US.”
CCC:  Who do you consider your main user market for Strain Grade? Where are they coming from?

Sir Purple Haze:  With all the legalization going on in the US we wanted to do something to help people with finding the right strains but with more information and details about the medical benefits of each one.

CCC: How do you raise capital or get funding? Do you partner up with people?
Sir Purple Haze: It was self-funded at the start but now it runs itself. There are a few people we partner with in both the UK and US. We’ve got a couple of writers for strains reviews, and I’ve got people in the UK and we help promote each other and help each out.  I do the tech stuff, the majority of it, to a point. If I can’t do it myself, I’ll get someone else to do it. But I like to try doing things myself first.  If you’re having trouble with code or something, nine times out of ten, someone has asked on a forum, and nine times out of ten, someone answered it. I like to try and be as independent as possible. I quite enjoy it at the moment.

“We’re working on the community side of it, building a forum and way for visitors to the site to interact with each other.”
CCC: What is your standard for the reviews? How does your grading system work? Sometimes the results can be wildly contradictory between the site and the users.
Sir Purple Haze:  That’s one of the hard things to nail down. People react differently to different strains just as to different drinks, so sometimes, we’ll review something we like and someone else will hate it, or absolutely love it when we think the opposite. A lot of it is personal preference. We have people who will send me reviews of strains as they are trying them in Amsterdam. I try to be as objective as possible, really. There’s always going to be personal experience, you can’t get around that, so we just try to be objective.
CCC: What actions do you take to promote it, to make yourself stand out?
Sir Purple Haze: It's all online of course. We use social media, web ads, competitions, we even have a mobile app! We send out email campaigns, use Twitter quite a lot. We’re working on the community side of it, building a forum and way for visitors to the site to interact with each other. You’ll be able to message each other, post where you bought reports or strain reports, whatever you want really. We try to interact with our followers, post pictures, links to interesting articles that we’ve written, or other people have written.
CCC: Sort of a social network?
Sir Purple Haze: Not so much. I just feel like because it varies so much with what we think about each strain, it’s a good idea to let people be vocal as much as possible.
CCC: Tell me a little about the app for Strain Grade.
Sir Purple Haze: At the moment it’s a bit of a stop gap. It’s an android app that shows off our most popular strains and it gives people the ability to jump on the site and view them as well. The plan is in the pipeline to build a better app that’s not just limited to 30 strains. The app is free.
From my side of things, the app is a clever way to get people to come to the site and get more exposure really. I don’t have the massive marketing budget weedmaps or leafly has so I tried to do something different, and that’s how it came about. It’s quite basic. It looks nice, the designs really nice. We’d like to add a search engine.

“We operate fully within the law. We’re not allowed to give grow advice because it’s legal to sell seeds but not to germinate them which is obviously really annoying.”
CCC: What are the biggest risks?
Sir Purple Haze: I guess people would say price volatility but I rarely look at the price anymore. I looked a couple of days ago for the first time in several weeks and it had gone up by about £50! Bitcoin can be quite volatile in price. A lot of people who don’t know it or use it, will use the volatility as a big negative. I got beyond that stage and I know the underlying technological worth behind bitcoin, and I’m pretty certain it is very, very undervalued .

CCC: What are the biggest rewards?
Sir Purple Haze: Compliments from people and being involved in something new and exciting.
CCC: What are the specific struggles of working in the cannabis tech industry?
Sir Purple Haze: It is a new industry so a lot of companies are still finding their feet. As an industry were still working on the best way to do things. Some companies like Leafly have been doing some great work to educate people and help normalize the image of cannabis.

CCC: What is it like operating in an industry with such strict regulations?
Sir Purple Haze: We operate fully within the law. We’re not allowed to give grow advice because it’s legal to sell seeds but not to germinate them which is obviously really annoying. I should be able to give people as much information as possible when they buy from me. It’s ridiculous when you think about it. I can pay taxes on it, they’re happy to take my taxes but I can’t sell grow equipment with it and a host of other things that you’re not allowed to do.
CCC: Do you ever feel limited?
Sir Purple Haze: Of course it’s limiting, I feel limited. Certain things maybe you can’t advertise in. For example, when I first created the site, I created a google + page and within about six weeks of having it, they decided they would no longer let me have the page because of what I was putting on there. Just pictures and articles and links to the strains on my site. From that side of things it’s kind of annoying. 
And from my side, for example, I wouldn’t share something from my strain site on my personal face book feed and I shouldn’t feel like that, you know. I should share every article I post, you know?
CCC: What laws are you hoping to see relaxed that would make your operation easier?
Sir Purple Haze: There's one I can think of...
CCC: What I like are the extra articles and recipes. I could surf it all day. What do you think are the most appealing features of Strain Grade? What could be improved?
Sir Purple Haze: Personally I love how it looks, even if I’m biased! It's a great way to get information and see what people like about different strains. I love every aspect of it, same as everyone who loves what they’re doing. There’s not a moment, even when I’m doing social media or the website, that I’m not enjoying it. I’m genuinely interested in every aspect of it. There’s not a topic within it I wouldn’t happily read about or write about or talk to people about. I love it all!
CCC: Do you have any future plans for expansion?
Sir Purple Haze: That’s one of the sides we’re working on, more articles, more recipes, and interesting bits to read on there.  We're in the process of adding a load of new strains. And we have some very interesting things in the pipeline, especially for Strain Grade
CCC: Where do you see the industry going and where does Strain Grade fit into that?
Sir Purple Haze: I think utmost maximum it will be fully legalized in the US in ten years, maximum, and that is seriously pushing it as well. I think 99% of the states will have fully legalized it, so federally they’ll have no option but to do it, and other countries will fall in with that. Basically the quicker America gets a leave on, the quicker we can all get on with it. (laughs) We won’t do anything until America pulls its finger out so please hurry up!
CCC: If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

Sir Purple Haze: Sell everything I own and buy bitcoin as soon as I heard about it!
Well, Sir, you certainly have pioneered a brilliant, first of its kind idea with this use of bitcoin, and a strategy that is very smart. Thanks for sharing some more specifics about it, and we wish you luck and freedom for the future!
DISCLAIMER: The professionals and companies described are not associated or affiliated with Cash Cow Cannabis, and they may not endorse Cash Cow Cannabis or the information provided. The names of other companies, products and services are the property of their respective owners.

No comments:

Post a Comment