Exclusive Interview with Leaf Trade Founder and CEO James Yi and President and Chief Revenue Officer Michael Piermont
Leaf Trade has created a B2B e-commerce marketplace for the cannabis industry, connecting sellers and retail dispensaries. The platform works for businesses of all sizes, but Leaf Trade differentiates itself as an enterprise solution for larger companies in the industry, according to founder and CEO James Yi. Yi and Leaf Trade President and Chief Revenue Officer Michael Piermont last spoke with New Cannabis Ventures in June 2021. They checked in nearly a year ago to talk about the growing footprint of the company, a national agreement with Curaleaf and a possible merger and acquisition.
Listen to the full interview or read the summary below:
A scalable platform
Leaf Trade was launched to streamline workflows around B2B transactions, and the platform continues to evolve and bring more automation to its customers. Recently, the company launched its Leaf Pay solution, which helps customers automate AR and AP processes. This can help customers with multiple dispensary locations scale their ordering processes, according to Yi.
Increase market reach
The company started in Illinois, quickly spreading its roots to other highly regulated emerging markets such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Since the team last registered with New Cannabis Ventures, they have made progress in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada, according to Piermont. Today, the Leaf Trade team looks east and west for growth opportunities. On the East Coast, markets like New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Florida are exciting for the company.
Leaf Trade is also focused on expanding west. States like Colorado and California are lighting up, according to Piermont. As some of the company’s largest MSO customers move west, Leaf Trade will follow to bring its platform to customers across their footprints.
Working with large MSOs
Curaleaf is one of the company’s large MSO customers, and earlier this year the two companies signed a national agreement. The relationship between the two companies dates back to the early days of the Illinois market, according to Piermont. Now, Leaf Trade will help Curaleaf streamline processes across its entire footprint. For example, MSO will use Leaf Pay to automate its payments.
Curaleaf isn’t the company’s only big MSO client. Leaf Trade also works with players like GTI, Holistic Industries, Verano, Ayr Wellness and Jushi.
In its five years in business, Leaf Trade has never lost a customer, according to Piermont. Other tech companies operate in the B2B cannabis space, but these companies have not taken market share from Leaf Trade.
This spring, Leaf Trade welcomed Brian Ward as Chief Financial Officer. Ward was previously Verano’s chief financial officer. He led the company through its IPO and helped execute a number of transactions. The Leaf Trade team is excited to leverage its operational expertise and M&A strength.
As Leaf Trade considers mergers and acquisitions, it will prioritize opportunities that help improve the customer experience on both the buyer and seller side. The company is not necessarily looking for a great M&A history. Instead, it will look for smaller parts that will help accelerate growth and streamline the supply chain.
Series B and Investors
In April, Leaf Trade closed a $12.5 million Series B funding round led by Artemis Growth Partners. Artemis led the company’s later tours, according to Yi. The company has a solid history of its investors, dating back to Chicago VC Hyde Park Angels investing in multiple rounds, according to Piermont. So far, Leaf Trade has raised nearly $23 million. Going forward, the Leaf Trade team wants to work with proven investors who understand the complexity of cannabis and B2B operations.
A look into the future of the leaf trade
Leaf Trade takes a technology-driven approach to capital allocation. The company will invest in its product and in its technical team. The company currently has 45 people on its team and plans to increase that number to 70 by the end of the year, according to Yi. Leaf Trade will also invest in West Coast sales and marketing efforts.
The company has strong user adoption and doesn’t have to struggle with churn, according to Piermont. This allows Leaf Trade to focus on expanding its product without losing customers. As it adds more offerings to its platform, such as AR and AP functions under Leaf Pay, it will be able to deliver more value to its customers.
This year, Leaf Trade is on track to hit $4 billion in annualized GMV, according to Piermont. The majority of this amount is generated by cannabis sales, with a small amount driven by ancillary hemp transactions. In the first quarter, the company exceeded 10,000 orders per month.
Leaf Trade does not launch immediately in all open markets. On the contrary, a targeted approach to expansion is required. The team aims to build corporate relationships in strong key markets and bring operational efficiencies to some of the traditional markets.
To learn more, visit the Leaf Trade website. Listen to the full interview: