DUBY: Alec Rochford, CEO and co-founder of new cannabis culture social network, wants to connect people.

He’s a happy guy, a humble guy, glad to be working in cannabis markets. When he started developing Duby, an iPhone app where cannabis enthusiasts can share content anonymously, he thought it was going to be just another share and like social network. Instead, it’s enabling users globally to connect locally.

Duby’s got a lot of buzz. Mr. Rochford was kind up enough to pass me a virtual duby on Skype so we could catch the buzz too.
  J: Let’s just start with what would you like to tell our visitors about Duby?
Alec: We’ve been working on Duby since last August so we’ve been working on it for a long time, but we launched that public beta for the latest versions on iphone in early April and since then we’ve learned a lot. In the last year we’ve learned a ton and this industry has just been fantastic. Users are great, investors are great. The entrepreneurs are great. it’s the nicest people in the world so I couldn’t be in a better industry, I think.
“The way that we built this is when you launch a post, you’ll send it out to people that are closest to you. When you “light up a duby” it will be “passed” to the people closest to you. ”
J: That was the testing phase that started last August?
Alec: Last August we started working on duby and we’ve actually pivoted three different times to get to where we are right now. We started off as a deals app, because we were talking to users and users were telling us they wanted to find cheaper cannabis products because they’re so expensive in the dispensaries. So we launched kind of a like a little beta for a deals app, trying to figure out if that would have some traction. You know, it really did hit a spot in the market that needed something, some attention, but it didn’t have the long-term differentiator that we were looking for. So then we pivoted to another idea, and another idea, and we ended up over at this viral social network right now.
J: What are your goals now, with that in place, now that you know what your focus is?
Alec:: What we’ve been working on in the past few months, and what we’re doing over the next couple months, is improving the app, building out the features that users are telling us that they want. We receive a lot of emails every day from people saying ”Hey, I think you guys should build this” or “you should change this”, “I really like this but I don’t like this” so we’re listening to all the users right now and trying to figure out the best way to kind of mash everything together, if that makes sense.
“We were able to build a platform that’s very secure and people can share information and we’re really able to make sure that nothing illegal is going on inside of the app. ”
  J: What’s the philosophy of the company?
Alec:: To connect cannabis enthusiasts and medical patients around the world on a platform where they feel comfortable interacting. You know, one of the things I’ve seen, it’s interesting, I didn’t think that this platform was going to be what it is now when we launched it. It’s changed a lot and users have kind of driven it in the direction that they want it to go. We thought originally it was going to be this social network where you share your pictures and comment and whatever else, I mean it is that right now but people are actually connecting beyond that. For example, something that I see is a trend is that they are snapchatting each other, outside of the app. They’ll give each other their snapchat names and leave the app and try to connect on a more personal and emotional level.
J: Let me understand correctly. On Facebook, your posts go out to your friends and then it’s on your public timeline. On Duby, your shares go out to other Duby users in the area that you have not necessarily connected with before? 
Alec: Exactly. That was the whole philosophy behind the app that we are really trying to highlight. It’s not about the followers you have. On Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, if you want to have something trend, you have to have hundreds of thousands of followers. On Duby you don’t need that because we were trying to make it a different type of social network. The way that we built this is when you launch a post, you’ll send it out to people that are closest to you. When you “light up a Duby” it will be “passed” to the people closest to you. The amount of people that it’s passed to is determined by this number called your “influence”, which is the gamification behind the app. If people are passing your content, you have popular content that’s trending around the world, your influence number will increase but it can also decrease. If your content is popular you can send it to out to more people, and then that allows you to have an even higher influence and be more of a power player inside the app.
J: Is Duby currently only operating in states where medicinal or recreational is legal? Is Duby available in other countries and how does the response differ in countries with a less lenient attitude?
Alec: Duby is worldwide. You can download the app anywhere around the world. One thing we had to do…my partner, his name is Russell Thomas. Before Duby, he was leading security teams at Fortune 500 companies for the past 20 years or so and so I got really lucky with having him on the team. We were able to build a platform that’s very secure and people can share information and we’re really able to make sure that nothing illegal is going on inside of the app. So if someone types something like “buy” or “sell” or something like that, we can get in there and just make sure that it’s not some sort of illegal activity that’s going on and we do our best at that, essentially.
“The way that we have it is you can go inside the app, create an account, we ask you for the littlest amount of information possible”
J: So not facilitating any illegal activity, just commenting on it, if you will. (laughs)
Alec: Yeah, Yeah. I mean, cannabis enthusiasts, they want to connect with each other. It’s interesting, what I’m seeing inside of Duby is a lot different than what I thought it was going to be. It’s a lot more pictures of selfies, pictures of people than products. There’s still a lot of product in there, but we’re starting to see a trend where it’s more social-looking pictures because these people really do want to connect with each other.
J: Do you think that has anything to do with the idea that cannabis culture has always been kind of anti-commercial? What do you think is the reason behind that trend?
Alec: Well, I don’t think there’s a corporate feel. It’s a lot of pictures of product, but more like native pictures. People will take pictures of their bud or the different product they’re buying at dispensaries and trying to see what can trend worldwide. But I think it’s more or less that people think “what’s the most social thing you can do inside the app – taking a picture of your bud, or taking a picture of yourself?”, if you really do want to have a personal or emotional connection with someone, and that’s what we’re starting to see, that people do really want to connect, and we’re trying to figure out ways inside the app to allow them to connect on a more personal level and build relationships with people.
J: Cool. One of your big advantages is the anonymity and it is a problem, for example on Facebook, people are afraid to share stuff with, shall we say, risky content or subject matter.
Alec: When we started this app, we thought the anonymity was something that was going to be a lot more important and it’s interesting. The way that we have it is you can go inside the app, create an account, we ask you for the littlest amount of information possible, but basically all we need is an email address, so if you lose your password we can get you your password back. But honestly, we don’t ask for that much information and people tell us a lot of information about themselves inside the app. So I think it’s starting to change a lot. The majority of users post information about themselves. So I feel like people are out and proud about it, about cannabis now.
 J: Cannabis Crusaders, I call them.
 Alec: Ha-Ha! Exactly!
J: How many users do you think you have approximately now?
Alec: We’re adding about 400 users a day right now, and the only platform we have is for ios. We just launched about 9 weeks ago or so now. We just started adding a lot of those users recently, so I think we’re a little over 10,000 now, like 12,000 or something.
“What separates us not just from our competitors but from any other app is the algorithm that’s behind the app”
J: What are you doing to attract more users? Strictly word-of-mouth?
Alec: Yeah, it seems like the majority of users are coming in through word of mouth. A lot of them are coming in through facebook and instagram, seeing us, our presence on there. We have a pretty good presence on social networks, on twitter.  Alot of them are coming through there, about 70% of them.
J: Who do you consider your competitors, and what separates you from them? In our post on trends in the industry, we had you along with MassRoots, High There.
Alec: What separates us not just from our competitors but from any other app is the algorithm that’s behind the app and the way people share information. Nobody’s really been able to pull off what we have in this app, as far as how the algorithm works. It is something that’s unique when you can share information to people that are closest to you based on proximity, and the users are starting to understand more how it works. We tried to simplify it and people are in the app talking about it, “Oh, I had this many passes and look how far my duby went”, and are sharing their stats externally. I saw a post on instagram last night actually where someone was sharing “I had 30,000 shares, I just created an account 4 weeks ago” So we’re starting to see a lot of that and I think that’s what separates us from any other app out there.
J: I really enjoy the tagline and the wink winks to the culture too, like sliding right to “pass the duby”, left to “put it out”.
Alec: Users enjoy that too. It’s interesting, we were trying to figure out recently if we were going to change some things within the app and that’s something that we realized is here to stay.
J: How would you describe what the app is about in 4 words? For example, a lot of people hear the slide right or left feature and they think “Tinder for stoners”. Do you see any comparison?
Alec: It all depends on how you design the interface. When we were creating a viable product and just trying to get it out there and test it, that was the easiest way to do it, and so the interface will change, in how it looks, and how it feels, but the way that it works will stay the same.
“I was a full time student with a full-time day job, then at night working with start-ups over the phone with my cousin Russ in Colorado, and eventually we just said “Hey, let’s do this.” We’ve always wanted to do a start-up”
J: Now I’ve read you are just a stoner who moved to Colorado and started doing this thing. I know there’s more to the story than that. Tell me more about how you got into this industry and why you choose the tech sector.
Alec: I’m not as big a consumer as both my partners on my team.  My other partner, Russ, is actually a medical user,  his son’s a medical user. I originally moved out here about a year ago, last June or last May. Before that I was over at ASU and I was working in commercial real estate. I was doing a lot of sales my whole life, and I was in the navy.
J: You were working in commercial real estate when you moved to Colorado?
Alec: No, in Arizona. I was a full time student with a full-time day job, then at night working with start-ups over the phone with my cousin Russ in Colorado, and eventually we just said “Hey, let’s do this.” We’ve always wanted to do a start-up. We both love cannabis and there’s a lot going on. So we said “Let’s pull the trigger.”
J: Your partner is an MMJ user and on your website it says the target is MMJ users. Why not recreational, because I think rec users would love it too!
Alec: We target both. We don’t necessarily target one side or the other. Actually, it would be difficult to target one or the other on its own. There are a lot of medical users in the app, who are very open that they are medical users and I’d say it’s probably the majority, honestly. It doesn’t matter to us, recreational or medical. All that matters to us is that it’s the cannabis community. I don’t see a difference.
“We could create a platform that allows them to feel comfortable and connect with each other and share information and be social”
J: Was it a personal thing or an opening in the market? Was it like, this is an app I would like to use or did you see an opening and fill it?
Alec: My partner Russ, it was a totally personal thing for him. He thought of this idea last year, around August or September. He was thinking “this is something I would want”. And I started to get really into the idea. Mainly – Russ was explaining this to me – he says to me “I’ve been consuming cannabis my entire life, and it’s been this secret thing that you can’t bring out into  public and it’d be so cool to connect with people, but connect with them locally, so you could see what’s going on around you, in your neighborhood or in the town, down the street or wherever it is, it’d be cool to see what people are doing, connect with them. If I’m alone on a Thursday night, Friday night, and I wanna hang out with people that have a like-minded interest. Like cannabis consumers, who are very different than any other group on the planet, the best group of people, the nicest group of people. We could create a platform that allows them to feel comfortable and connect with each other and share information and be social.” So my partner Russ was the guy who really wanted this idea and he really pushed us to do it.
J: What was the raising capital process like for you? What insight can you give us into that?
“We wanted to get investors who really see the long term goal, who are cannabis consumers”
Alec: We were fortunate enough to have the ability – my partner is older than me, I’m young, I’m 24, he’s older than me, around 40 years old – and he was able to fund us for about until June. We were able to get this going, we didn’t need a lot of money, we know how to really grassroots everything and do it as lean as possible. We raised our first seed round in early June from a local investor here and it’s enough to keep us going and really keep us moving. We’re adding a couple other parties into that same raise this month. It’s like raising money with anything else. We wanted to get investors who really see the long term goal, who are cannabis consumers. Our main investor now is a pretty big local investor, he’s a big guy. He, uh, consumes daily and he really gets it and he’s all about the end goal, which is really connecting people and making a product people love. Not focusing on the monetization side of it, but the product, and he’s just all about it. We got really lucky there. But I think raising money in this space is just like any other space. There are investors who are outside of this industry and want to get in. I don’t know if it’s easier to raise capital than it is in other spaces, but it is exciting!
J: What are some specific struggles of working in the cannabis tech industry?
Alec: I think we have a lot of struggles just like any other start up industry, as far as tech and anything else, but there’s nothing that stands out to me. A lot has changed over the last 18 months or so, to where I don’t think there’s really anything negative that we deal with right now. I think everything that we want to accomplish, we accomplish. I think a year ago, it was really hard to find developers who wanted to work in cannabis. It still is a little bit, there’s still a little bit of stigma there that if I’m a developer and I go to work for a cannabis company, that maybe I don’t want that on my resume, will it affect my future career if I go to work at Facebook. That’s what I was reading from these guys when I was talking to them. But we have really, really good developers, and we have some of the best developers probably in the industry. So I think that it’s getting a lot better in that regard.
J: What feedback have you received? It seems people are doing what your original intention was, connecting with each other in their community. What are some examples of the email suggestions you’ve been getting?
Alec: The biggest one we received is that people want to see more local, more what’s around them in real time versus what’s going on around the world, which is very interesting. When we created this app, we thought it was going to be the exact opposite. That you’d want to go on Duby to see what’s going on worldwide, what’s trending in cannabis worldwide. But the majority of users want to see what’s going on locally, around them and they want to connect with people locally, around them in a way that they feel secure. So that’s a lot of the changes we’ve been making, trying to figure out how to help them connect with people locally, share information with people locally and make that a little more exciting. Add some options there.
“We’re getting really close with Android, we’re probably about halfway done with the development. I hope that we can launch it in August”
J: In Colorado and Washington, it’s more accepted. Let’s say in a place like Romania, some places that have harsher laws, how would you reach an audience, so that if someone in Romania who has the app would have users to “influence”?
Alec: Ideally, you want that to be as close to you as possible. But if you’re in a country that doesn’t have any other users on it, the next country over would be what you see. It would be the closest dubys to you. As it becomes more populated, we have more content on the app, we have 1500-2000 Dubys that are created every day, we’re adding a lot of users so eventually it’s going to get to the point that it’s going to be everywhere, and that will solve that problem.
J: So if I’m in Romania and the closest duby user to me is in Germany, my duby would get passed to him, even though he’s so far away, because he’s the closest?
Alec: Yup, yup, that’s how it would work. For now, whoever’s closest to you that’s active on the app would receive that. I bet you that there are users that are somewhat closer.
J: What’s cool about cannabis now and the industry now is it’s about breaking down stereotypes and getting people to be out and proud about it.
Alec: Well, yeah, that’s the end goal of the app, you know. I think a lot of the cultures and the stigma is going to change over the next  5-10 years. I think we’re going to see a big shift, we’ve already seen a big shift here in the U.S. I think it’s only going to go more in the right direction. I think internationally we’re going to see a lot of changes as well. From what I’ve seen on the app right now, we do have a lot of international users. It’s only going to keep growing. I think our biggest audience is going to be international down the road. I’m excited about connecting everyone so they can all share together even if they’re in a place that the culture isn’t there yet, they can at least jump on to a platform with like-minded people and be social and be who they are.
J: That is what changes the attitude over time, when you get people to accept it. So I read about plans to monetize Duby. Was it always an intention to monetize, or was it just for fun at first?
Alec: You know, monetization isn’t going to be anytime soon. Eventually, you have to do it, just because it costs a lot of money to run an app and pay for everything. It really is a lot more expensive when you get into the nitty-gritty of it, but we don’t plan on monetizing it anytime soon. When I say soon, I mean I don’t plan on monetizing this app in the next year, two years. We’re trying to build an app that users love and that they want to use, and a product that they want to get on and use every day and they’re proud of. Once you figure that out, when you have something that’s cool that people like to use, then you can start playing around with it. Start figuring out “Do I want them to see an advertisement for a product that I like that I would actually want to see?” vs. just slamming them with stuff they don’t want to see. We would like to take a higher level approach than a Facebook, but like I said, it’s not going to be anytime soon.
J: I wanted to ask, and you sort of answered, how that might affect your customer base.
Alec: They wouldn’t want to see that right now, and honestly we’re way too early and there’s no reason to focus on that right now. We need to create something that users love. Once we have that, sure, let’s start playing around there, but again, it’s more important to create a product that people love and that would make me way happier than monetizing a company.
J: You say you’ve been quiet lately, just trying to focus on listening to users, and you’re ready to start talking about some of the things you’ve been working on. So, what new things do you have to talk about?
Alec: Mainly things that are going to allow people to connect on a local level. One thing we recently launched that’s doing very well is the videos. People are uploading a lot of videos and that’s doing very well. Something that we’re going to be adding in is the ability to chat with users a little more privately versus right in the middle of Duby. We’re planning on adding a direct messaging feature, we’re playing with some real time features so people can connect in the moment, right now type of scenarios. Playing around with things like that, but it’s really focusing on how can we give people to ability to connect in a way that they feel more comfortable. We’re getting very, very close to that.
J: What do you have planned for the upcoming Android launch? What features will be introduced or bugs fixed?
Alec: I’m really excited about the Android launch. There are a ton of people who have been messaging or emailing us for the Android for months. It’s been a shame that we haven’t been able to build it sooner. It’s just one of those things, you have to put it off and make sure it’s going to work then go on to Android. We’re getting really close with Android, we’re probably about halfway done with the development. I hope that we can launch it in August. That’s what I’m hoping. It’s going to be exciting because we are launching new features exclusively for Android. Test them out and see how those do. I’m really excited about that.
J: Can you give me a preview of any of those features?
Alec: Something that’s going to be interesting is we’re launching a new interface. You’re going to have the ability, for example, when you open up Duby, it’s not going to look like..even though it looks nice and it’s pretty now and we’ve put a lot of work into it..It’s going to look somewhat like facebook or twitter, it’s going to look so great and it’s so native to Android, so Android users are going to use it and the buttons are how they want it, everything works how they want it. We’ve spent a lot of time really trying to make it for Android. So I think that’s going to be really exciting and separate us from other apps in the space.
“People are uploading a lot of videos and that’s doing very well. Something that we’re going to be adding in is the ability to chat with users a little more privately versus right in the middle of Duby”
J: I personally can’t wait for it to come out on Android. Beyond that, what are your future plans for expansion?
Alec: The biggest thing for us right now is we’re not so focused on growing the app as big as possible right now. What we’re focused on right now is improving what we have for the users that we have and once we have all of that situated, where everything in the app is running, our viral loop is at the best it can be, then we’re going on to turn on the gas, so to speak, and start really advertising and add a lot more users. Right now, we’re doing really well. Probably 25-30% of our users are active daily on the app. The active users are very high, and we’re just trying to figure out how to improve that even more, to stand out more in the industry, and to just make a better app. Then we just really turn it up, get it going and expanding.
J: Quick question: Why did you decide to spell it the way you do, with the u-y?
Alec: Ha-ha. You know, Russ actually thought of that. We were playing around in his garage designing logos, just drawing them out. When you want a name for an app or anything really in the tech industry, you want it to be a little bit shorter and a little bit easier. At the same time, we wanted to do something that was just very different. It’s interesting – one thing I’m seeing in the app right now is that people are actually changing the way they spell doobie. They’re actually spelling it “d-u-b-y”. I thought that was kind of cool. It’s shorter, it’s easier. I feel like doobie is more of a vintage word. We’re bringing it back and making it a little more modern, whatever it is.
J: Version 2.0. The Reboot. The Redoob! So, finally, if you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
Alec:: Oh man, it’s too much! It’s like that with every start-up that you do, you’re going to make a thousand mistakes, and that will help lead you to where it needs to be. But it’s going to be like that every time, I think. In my mind that process can’t be avoided. I don’t really look back and think “Is there anything else I could have done differently.” I’m more or less trying to focus on where we are right now and where we want this to be in five years. You know, “What is the vision of the app?” I try not to dwell on different mistakes that we’ve made because that always going to happen, everyone makes mistakes. We make mistakes every day with Duby. And we need to execute and fix those very quickly and try to make this app better but just stay true to the long term vision.
“From what I’ve seen on the app, I’ve seen a lot of pictures of rallies, legalization rallies, not just in the U.S. but in Canada too”
J: Well, you know, the international community is really taking its cues on legalization from the US so I think connecting North American users with international users on Duby could really help move that along.
Alec: From what I’ve seen on the app, I’ve seen a lot of pictures of rallies, legalization rallies, not just in the U.S. but in Canada too, and it is really cool to see the pro legalization people in the app trying to spread the word and really showing everybody around the world what’s going on. It’s really cool, when you can see it unfolding in real time, “Oh look, they just legalized Oregon, and there’s another rally right now in Vancouver”, it’s really cool to see that.
J: And that brings us back to your theme of connecting people. Nothing brings people together like sharing a duby. Thanks for sharing your duby with us, Alec, and we are totally excited here to get into the app and see what you guys are packing up for us in the future.     
Well, I just want to say I think there was a lot to learn in what Mr. Rochford had to say about starting an app venture– That you need to be flexible, listen to feedback, fill a need you may not even know exists, focus on your users, and have patience to grow and cultivate. Thank You again, Mr. Alec Rochford.
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.

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