Dane Pieri: Marvina
He’s right about one thing – Whether you use cannabis or not, the experience with it is still a tad uneasy. It’s becoming more normalized, yes, but it’s not quite there yet, which leaves us still having to be wary about who we vape around or where we store our CBD tinctures. So, how does Dane Pieri, founder of Marvina, seek to change this? By refreshing the name of cannabis, curating an assortment of top-shelf cannabis in beautiful packaging, and delivering it straight to your door, free of any stigma! He believes that if we take this first step in treating cannabis with the same respect and elegance that we take towards other products, that eventually, normalization will be a thing of the past. And that is just ONE of the things we took from our conversation with him. Delve into more of it below!
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
For me it was when I realized that we had here, a once in a lifetime opportunity. A lot of times when I’m making decisions these days, I’m trying to maximize on how I will feel about this decision in the long run, say 30 years from now. And in the case of cannabis, the answer is pretty clear – this is a really fascinating thing and a really important change and I wanted to be a part of it instead of simply witnessing it.
It’s this that makes me imagine talking to my grandchildren in the future and them wanting to know what it was like to see cannabis rise above the prohibition and become normalized and me either telling them, “Oh yeah… I was alive then,” or telling them, “Yes… I was part of the industry when it happened.” I would much rather be saying the latter to them.
For me it was when I realized that we had here, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now?
Most of my career I’ve been working primarily in design in consumer technology startups. That definitely taught me a lot about the consumer web and how to interact with your customers through a digital medium; like a website. It also taught me a decent amount about marketing and social media and even more generally, how to grow a business, and how to grow an online business. So, that has very much influenced how I’m approaching the cannabis industry. I’m building consumer technology just as I would in any other industry, but it just so happens that I’m in this industry and I’m helping people get access to cannabis.
Tell me about the point in the time you realized the coming of the ‘green rush’?
So, there was a specific moment back in October 2013 when I really just realized what was going on and was actually surprised I hadn’t thought about it sooner. That following weekend, I went out and bought two books, Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady and Joint Ventures: Inside America’s Almost Legal Marijuana Industry by Trish Reagan and I ended up finishing Humboldt in one sitting and then immediately after that, I went out and found a ton of other books to read and videos to watch and really just did my research. I just remember clearly that it was that specific weekend that I had the realization, bought those books, and got started!
What are you doing to impact the industry?
I think one of the important things that we are committed to on a daily basis at Marvina is to constantly be raising the bar. That is the guiding factor in everything we do; it’s in the way we designed our logo, in the way our website looks, in the type of product that we’re offering, and how we conduct business with our customers.
Another huge impact that we are making is through our efforts to normalize cannabis. For most people in America, cannabis is still very mysterious and sketchy and is an overall strange experience. Whether they use it or not, their interactions with it are still very sketchy. We seek to change that and hope that one day, cannabis will be just like any other consumer product. So, to do this, we are doing our best to act as if that’s already the case; we try not to use slang terms, we’ve kept our website clean and inviting instead of dark and mysterious, and we treat our customers just as we would in any other space. We feel that if we pretend that it’s already normalized, then we’ve taken the first step we need to take to actually make it happen.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
What does a typical work day look like for you in your business?
I usually get started around 9am. First thing I do is email and catch up on everything that came to my inbox overnight. Then, I create a to-do list of things that I want to get done that day; I actually have two sets of lists: one for that specific day and one broader list for the entire week. During the day, I might have some phone calls or meetings around the city, but it’s in the evenings when I get a lot of work done. The evenings are great for doing things like writing code, programming, and working on your strategic plan which are tasks that are best done uninterrupted. I work through the night till I go to bed, which is somewhere around 1am.
How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?
Aside from the range of inspiration that I find inside the cannabis industry, I like to pull inspiration from outside the industry. Our packaging was very inspired by speciality food industry, our merchandising was inspired by the wine industry (assortments and tasting notes), and our consumer technology really came from the web startup niche here in San Francisco. Finally, one of our advisors is doing some really cool things in the coffee industry and started a coffee subscription business and so we have taken a lot of inspiration from what he has done because we think it’s applicable to cannabis as well.
Tell us about an esteemed achievement of yours.
One accomplishment that I’m very proud of was my senior project in design studio. The prompt was this: What is it that you want to be doing 5 years from now? Now, do that for the semester. I knew I wanted to be doing something in technology, so I started a website called, Retrographer.org. I started by collecting thousands of historical photos of Pittsburgh from the City Archives and put them on the website and created a tool that would allow people to geotag them, essentially allowing people to assign a specific location and angle to each photo with Google Maps and Google StreetView. When people did this, they could see what a location looks like now and what it looked like 100 years ago. I was able to get thousands of people from Pittsburgh to start geotagging these photos and the website is still online today. That was something I was really proud of doing: designing and developing a tool for the ‘history buff’ community in Pittsburgh. It made a difference!
How would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?
I’d say do what I did. Spend the time and put in the effort to educate yourself first. There are a lot of great books out there as well as other resources to teach you about this fascinating industry. Then go out and start meeting people – Go to the conferences and talk to anyone whose willing to talk to you! If you live in a state like California, just get up and go to different dispensaries and just walk in and see what it’s like. You can get a really solid feel about the market is like from inside the walls of a business that is selling it. Then step back, figure out what you want your part to be in this industry and get to work!
There are a lot of great books out there as well as other resources to teach you about this fascinating industry.
What’s your newest knowledge about the marijuana industry?
I think something that I’ve learned in the last couple of days, or rather, has been reiterated to me lately, is how interesting a story this is to diverse national audience. Even people who don’t spend all day every day thinking about cannabis, they realize that this is a topic of growing importance and so, for those sitting around the edges, they are intrigued by this interior story. We’ve gotten a lot of inbound press and a lot of that is because we are doing something interesting, incredibly interesting!
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
I think it will continue on the same trajectory. Something that interests me specifically is the growing interest in the industry from Silicon Valley. When I started, I felt like there was no one else around me that had the interest in cannabis like I did. Then, over the course of a year, we saw companies like Eaze, Meadow, and ourselves doing similar things. That was really a huge transformation and I believe it will keep going. Just last week, we saw that Peter Thiel is investing in the cannabis industry and I think that will spur a lot of interest in this movement.