152 Tech: Innovating the cannabis retailer experience
SFU VentureLabs’ client company 152 Tech was founded to create smarter retail solutions for regulated industries. They create simple platforms that are easy to operate and maintain; providing secure business data all in one location.
Shaun comes from a quick-serve restaurant background, where he helped run his family’s restaurant for 7 years. Point of Sale (POS) systems were a key tool for them to do all their recording and understand their store’s sales and demands. Although, on top of their POS system they had to manage 5 to 6 other third-party applications for inventory records, coupons, and food delivery services.
“I saw how difficult it was for my parents who are older than me and not as tech-savvy around operating systems. My gears started turning and paying more attention to the immense amount of disconnects present within POS systems.” From this problem came 152 Tech, where they created MOS.
The term POS was coined in the late 70s, where it describes the time and place a consumer completes a transaction. “We thought that in this day and age where there are so many external touch points to connect with a physical retail brick and mortar store, that a POS also needed to innovate.” They call this system a Merchant Operating System (MOS). Shaun explained how this way of operating was offered in the e-commerce world, but there lacked a service for physical stores. 152 Tech takes “POS into the new era of business. Apps are involved, inventory management is involved, and CRM is involved.”
Centreel, an end-to-end retail management system for cannabis is 152 Tech’s first product, inspired by a true need Shaun had as a consumer. He told us a little bit about his personal health story:
“When I was younger I used to have seizures, that started in about grade 5. My pediatricians at the time were telling me that I would have to take this thing called valproic acid all my life. I started going to VanCity Weed, the first Cannabis store in Vancouver that was municipally licensed & regulated. I was tinkering around with CBD and THC, going to VanCity Weed to grab CBD capsules and Indica as an alternative medicine for my ailment. Now I no longer have to take valproic acid.”
He became a frequent customer at dispensaries and found out that these stores were doing around $200,000 to $500,000 a month in volume, but their inventory was still being logged in physical logbooks. Shaun thought “they could really benefit from an optimal solution here.”
“The point of sale industry is kind of set in stone and there are a lot of grandfathered systems in every retail environment.” Often cannabis stores would be using POS systems designed for restaurants because there wasn’t anything out there to fit the specific industry yet. Shaun saw this gap and began brainstorming ways to create a system that would suit the needs of cannabis retailers on multiple levels.
Centreel was first developed as a front-facing app, similar to WeedMaps. But, they found that being able to efficiently and seamlessly connect to the point of sale was most important to bridge the gap between consumer and retailer. 152 Tech wanted to “introduce their MOS in this evolving market where retailers were needing a lot of support for evolving compliance. Just having a standard shopping experience for consumers was also hard to establish.”
“There are about 5 to 6 third-party systems in a general cannabis environment right now,” which retailers have to pay for separately each month and manage to collect data from multiple sources. Shaun pointed out that “the more portals your data transfers and transmits through, the higher the probability of data drop off.” Centreel became their solution for cannabis retailers to “have one central place to handle everything.”
When we asked Shaun what set their POS apart from other systems currently out there, he said “it’s that we are a merchant operating system and not solely a POS system. Everything is combined with minimal third-party integration, so you can ensure your data is all in one place.” Centreel also offers one point of contact for support, “which is currently a huge issue for cannabis retailers.”
152 Tech has taken the last 4 years to develop in such a way that they are able to offset the costs to retailers, making it a lot cheaper than anything else currently out there. Another way Centreel MOS is unique within the industry.
Nearing the end of our conversation with Shaun, we wanted to know what’s next for 152 Tech and Centreel. Shaun expressed that they currently have a few competitors working on a similar solution who are focusing on their API integrations over the next year. Something 152 Tech has already been doing for the last 4 years. 152 Tech’s next steps are capturing the market in the cannabis space with a goal of servicing 50 tills for the next quarter.
A startup that has experience in what they are offering by truly understanding the consumer’s pain points is key to creating impactful products. 152 Tech has that background and experience, as they pride themselves on creating products made by experts for experts.