Matt Chapdelaine – Finding Cannabis Real Estate

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Matt Chapdelaine – CEO of HerbFront

CEO Matt Chapdelaine of HerbFront, unknowingly actually took his first step toward the cannabis industry in 2004, when he became a commercial real estate broker in Chicago. In 2014, when Illinois legalized medical cannabis, Matt quickly realized that the cannabis industry was going to have a big impact on both commercial real estate and technology. On the advice of his friend, Matt looked to start a business that would combine his skills for both real estate and technology, thus HerbFront was born. HerbFront is the first real estate exchange platform designed exclusively for the legal cannabis market. The cannabis real estate market is growing exponentially, just like the rest of the cannabis industry, and Matt Chapdelaine is traveling all over the country to make sure HerbFront stays at the forefront of that growth. He even stopped off in our backyard to tell us what puts the wind in his sails.

What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?

A while back, I was working as a real estate agent in Chicago. I was selling a property in the suburbs and a potential dispensary was willing to pay way above fair market price. At first, I had no idea what made the property so valuable, but after doing some research I saw how hard it was to find a compliant property. Not only in Illinois, but all over the country. That was when I saw a great opportunity to put my real estate and technology skills to work in this industry.

Identifying compliant properties can be a long, inefficient and expensive process – we give our users the ability to identify the best properties instantly and at a far lower cost.

What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now?

I have been a commercial real estate broker for 15 years. In addition to that I started my own technology company about 4 years ago. The idea for HerbFront actually came to me through a friend, who suggested I merge my two areas of expertise.

Tell me about the point in the time you realized the coming of the ‘green rush’?

As I mentioned earlier, the demand for compliant properties across the country is so high right now. Furthermore, that demand isn’t going anywhere any time soon. We expect over 9,000 cannabis industry related real estate transactions in the next 4 years. Brokerage fees for that real estate would generate roughly $700,000,000. We saw that no one else was chasing this business and it would be a great opportunity to both support the industry and provide it with an important service.

What are you doing to impact the industry?

We are giving both states and municipalities, who chose to embrace cannabis in their community, a tool to implement new locations professionally and in accordance with the law. Identifying compliant properties can be a long, inefficient and expensive process – we give our users the ability to identify the best properties instantly and at a far lower cost.

Forbes magazine projected the cannabis industry to be worth as much as $25B by 2020.

Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Instead of a person, let me tell you about the office that we are located in, ‘The Merchandise Mart’. ‘The Merchandise Mart’ was built by Joseph Kennedy, who made his family’s fortune during prohibition. The irony of building HerbFront in an office building built off prohibition doesn’t escape me, I would go as far to say that it inspires me to remain steadfast in our mission.

How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?

From a real estate perspective there is so much opportunity in this industry.  The value of total,  state regulated cannabis real estate, is worth $5B as of 2015, and that value is expected to skyrocket in the foreseeable future. Forbes magazine projected the cannabis industry to be worth as much as $25B by 2020.

Tell me about an esteemed achievement of yours.

As a commercial real estate broker, I have closed over $500M worth of commercial real estate transactions.

Join the ranks: Are you a CEO, entrepreneur or someone in the cannabis industry who's making an impact? We'd like to hear your story!

How would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?

I would tell them it certainly is an interesting opportunity, one that only comes along once or twice in a generation. To add on, the cannabis industry comes with a lot of challenges, but if you can figure out a solution to those challenges you will be rewarded.

Where do your great ideas come from?

Trial and error. Most of my ideas are not great at first. However, as I move forward I make adjustments as needed until I figure it out.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader in this space?

We have a really dynamic team. HerbFront is jam packed with professionals, all of whom are very gifted in their fields of work and strive to make the company a leader in the industry.

If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?

It’s hard to tell – but isn’t that what makes this so much fun?

The cannabis industry comes with a lot of challenges, but if you can figure out a solution to those challenges you will be rewarded.

What scares you most about this industry?

Not much.

If you could tell a skeptic one thing about this industry to make them change their mind, what would it be?

This industry is primarily comprised of professionals with advanced degrees. Many investors come from Wall Street. The research and development often comes from big pharmaceutical companies and many of the operators have some sort of pharmacy background.

Tell us something that you wish you had known before becoming a cannabis entrepreneur.

One of the hardest parts of this industry is keeping up with the constant evolution of regulations, especially on a real time basis. I’ve worked hard to put those systems in place at HerbFront so that we can provide real value for our clients. That’s what I would tell a future entrepreneur; make sure you are doing everything possible to keep par with regulations. It will help you stay ahead of the game!

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Our predictive mapping and zoning technology, which we first developed for the cannabis industry, can be applied to countless areas outside the industry as well. In fact, we are getting ready to release the first phase of our software that will serve other real estate industry verticals; such as retail, residential and healthcare. These are exciting times here at HerbFront.

What is the number one thing you would say to a cannabis industry skeptic to try and change their mind? Join the conversation and comment below!

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