By Riley Kaminer
You might say that there’s a tried and true formula to becoming a successful founder. Develop a product or service, scale, and exit.
What attracted entrepreneur Jeffrey Harris to the cannabis industry, however, was that the traditional startup model simply does not fly. “The industry is literally being born and growing up in front of our eyes,” Harris told Refresh Miami. “The whole ecosystem had to be built.”
Harris is up for the challenge, having been the CEO of customer relationship marketing company Inte Q (formally SHC Direct) and EVP of incentive marketing firm S&H Citadel. Still, the cannabis industry is unique because of the state-specific, stringent, and ever-changing regulations around the products businesses offer. That makes it hard for B2B SaaS providers to sell to cannabis companies. “You have to be very nimble and very adaptive,” explained Harris.
That’s where Springbig steps in. The Boca-based startup, which Harris co-founded and leads as CEO, has developed cannabis-focused customer relationship management (CRM) software since 2017. Springbig leverages artificial intelligence technology to predict cannabis purchasing behavior, helping pad their users’ bottom lines. The startup deals with businesses of all sizes – from one-location mom and pop stores to multistate chains – helping capture and leverage key customer data.
Harris sees this emerging industry as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: “The only comparison I could possibly make is when alcohol became legal again,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be in the middle of it and watch this industry being born.”
Harris’s message has resonated with investors. Last August, Springbig secured a $11.5M Series B round led by San Diego-based TVC Capital. Even though Harris had to raise this funding in the middle of a global pandemic, he said that in some ways it was easier than his first raise. “Now VC have already made their decision about investing in cannabis. In 2017, it was less clear.”
In early 2020, Springbig acquired BudTender. Harris explained that the acquisition made sense on two fronts. First, they were impressed by the product, which helps businesses manage their reputation through surveys or, as Harris put it, “SurveyMonkey for cannabis.” Second, they liked the Canada-based team, which gives Springbig access into our northern neighbor’s developed cannabis market.
Harris, a Chicago transplant, has spent two decades in South Florida. He has lived in the Boca Raton area for the majority of that time, and enjoys being active in the community.
“We have had great success working with students from Florida Atlantic University,” he said of the Boca-based college. “We’ve had a lot of interns from FAU who have become full time employees” with backgrounds as diverse as marketing and software engineering.
“We’re adding talent all the time. We would much rather find talent locally, but Florida is an attractive destination for out-of-state hires as well.”
The company, which already has around 130 full-time employees across all offices, hopes to hire another 20-30 people this year in all business areas [part of the team is pictured above] and is currently hiring for 10 roles in Boca Raton. In 2020, Springbig ranked 99th on the INC 5000 list of fastest-growing companies.
Harris plans to continue riding this growth wave for the foreseeable future. He noted that opportunities pop up every day, such as New York’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana. “It’s exciting that every day there’s a new prospect to call."