“Did we just beat Microsoft?” asked Leafly co-founder Christian Groh while accepting Geekwire’s App of the Year award on May 8.
Groh is also the COO of Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm specializing in investment for the emerging legal cannabis industry. Privateer boasted $7 million in its first round of funding and considers Leafly.com its flagship acquisition.
Geekwire.com is a Seattle-based website run by veteran technology journalists that chronicles innovation in the tech industry, specifically in mobile and tablet applications. The Geekwire Awards began in 2012 as a way to recognize popular and innovative applications from the Pacific Northwest.
“Winning this award is a sign of the maturation of the cannabis industry,” Nathan Peterson, Leafly’s director of marketing said in a press release announcing the win. “Our goal with Leafly is to elevate the conversation about cannabis above the stoner stereotypes that have plagued this subject for years. Being able to go toe-to-toe with apps from Microsoft and Paralells is a huge sign of success.”
Leafly was nominated for App of the Year alongside Parallels Access (an app that allows users to access a remote desktop via iPad), Microsoft Office’s iPad app, and Lively, a popular app for live music.
Co-founder Cy Scott noted that Geekwire acknowledged that Leafly had the most votes of any other app in any other category by far.
“They were shocked and really wanted to know how we did it,” says Scott. “It is really just our dedicated audience that really helped push it.”
“It’s the passion of the community,” says Peterson. “Leafly represents more than just being a cannabis information resource.”
Leafly.com was launched in 2010 by Scott and his partners Scott Vickers and Brian Wansolich. All three were Southern California engineers working for KBB.com, the online home of Kelly Blue Book, a long respected guide to car pricing.
Scott says the idea for Leafly came along when Vickers got his first doctor’s recommendation for cannabis in California. Upon going to a few dispensaries, he realized different strains had “wildly different effects” and that there wasn’t a good resource that compared strain information with cannabis retailers.
“We wanted to treat cannabis in a different way, more mainstream, the way real cannabis patients might want to be treated, not the common stereotype,” says Scott. “We put it together on nights and weekends.”
Today, Leafly hosts over 100,000 user-generated reviews of 800 different cannabis strains as well as dispensaries and cannabis-recommending doctors in states where it is legal. As of March 2014, Leafly had 3.5 million average users.
Leafly uses the same business model as Yelp.com, a website and mobile app popular for user-generated ranking and reviews of restaurants and other service-related businesses. Visitors to the site use Leafly.com to search for particular effects of cannabis, which leads them to a list of strains and user reviews. From there, users can determine where the strain is available to them locally and even add their own review after purchasing and using a strain.
Thanks to high user engagement; Leafly.com has also been able to assess trends in the legal industry that have never before been documented with actual statistics, such as regional demand — and some of the results are surprising.
“When we were looking at trends in Colorado during 4/20, we learned that Denver was a higher sativa-buying city than Colorado Springs, which was a more indica-using city,” says Peterson.
“We see a lot of trends even from states just in the U.S. that don’t have medical or recreational,” says Scott. “There is still a lot of demand for the strain information.”
Texas, which has neither legalized medical or adult-use cannabis, ranked No. 2 (after California) in use of Leafly.com, even slightly higher than Washington and Colorado, where Leafly sees the bulk of its traffic.
Also surprising, Leafly users in all states were using Leafly.com not necessarily to find strains which alleviate physical conditions like cancer and chronic pain but primarily to determine which strains to try in order to alleviate the symptoms of mental conditions such as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD and bi-polar disorder.
As more states are set to legalize medical and adult use cannabis, Leafly acknowledges upgrades to the site that reflect new changes in the law could present a logistical nightmare.
“But that is, you know, the kinda nightmare we want to have,” says Scott.
Scott says Leafly plans to incorporate lab testing into the strain data already provided, starting at the dispensary level.
“It has definitely been one of our glaring omissions,” says Scott. “We got a lot of feedback from our visitors that they would really like to see it. We are currently integrating with quite a few testing labs throughout the U.S., all over — some in California, all the way out to Michigan.”
Watch Leafly win App of the Year at Geekwire Awards 2014: