Matt Brown is the co-founder of My 420 Tours, based in Denver, CO. He was directly involved in the movement in Colorado that led to the passage of Amendment 64, which made the state one of the first places in the world to legalize and regulate the production, processing, retailing, and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes.
Matt was recently interviewed by our friend Mitch Shenassa on the record, and over the course of several hours Matt revealed much never-before-publicized information about how Amendment 64 came to pass, along with a wealth of knowledge about his own history and how he got involved in the MMJ industry. This is only the first segment of what turned out to be an awesome interview: stay tuned for more in the near future! Listen using the media player below, or scroll down to read the transcription:
Matt Brown Interview, Part 1:
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Ganjapreneur: So how did you get– I mean, what did you do before you came to cannabis?
Matt Brown: I was… Back in the day–
Ganjapreneur: I feel like you have some professional background beyond just growing pot.
Matt Brown: Yeah. My degree was in finance, and I started off at Bloomberg in New York.
Matt Brown: I did a few different things there, I had launched their Islamic Banking platform, I like invented it, which was awesome.
Ganjapreneur: So what did you have- what role did you have in that? Like what did you–
Matt Brown: I– There was nothing for Islamic-specific investors, which required al– I mean it was basically a sin industry filter, you can’t have anything too much interest.
Matt Brown: Not more than 10% of the company’s interest, obviously–
Ganjapreneur: It’s almost like an ethical investment fund, yeah?
Matt Brown: Yeah, it’s very similar to Catholic investments, and a lot of other, like, you know, socially responsible investment packages.
Ganjapreneur: And there are green investments, and yeah, it’s a socially responsible investment package.
Matt Brown: And so I was there at Bloomberg, and the Bloomberg terminal is, I mean it’s like Google with financial stuff from twenty years ago, still the most relevant pertinent, whatever.
Matt Brown: Every piece of financial data about every equity, debt, you name it in the world. And I was on a team- I was doing all the university recruiting that year. I was supposed to be going to London to get energy and shipping analyst, where they like track every freighter ship in the world, which is awesome.
Ganjapreneur: Right. And they’re like, all this coal is going here, all this steel is going here, this much is gonna be there next month, so, and then you can start speculating commodities off that?
Matt Brown: Yep, you could arbitrage back the light sweep spread between North Atlantic crude and West Texas Intermediate with the number of days it’ll take to ship there, and to cross, and–
Ganjapreneur: I gotcha
Matt Brown: It was crazy shit. But it would have taken a visa, because I didn’t have my Canada citizenship at the time, they changed the law in 2009 and I got it.
So I was there in New York, the woman who was supposed to be transferring me to London waiting for the visa stuff asked me to transfer to university recruiting, so I did all of the class of 2005 Bloomberg University recruiting nation-wide.
Ganjapreneur: That’s pretty cool. So is that like traveling around, meeting prospectives? Or just sitting in the office and looking at applications?
Matt Brown: Both. I mean I had- I think I averaged like 150 interviews a week.
Ganjapreneur: Wow. That’s twenty– Well, thirty a day if you’re not working weekends.
Matt Brown: We’d do these interview events, which helped with some of it, so we do a really– You basically come in and do like a three minute interview with four people–
Matt Brown: You know, sort of group setting, everything’s open, you got a feel for what you wanted, bring in twenty or so callbacks. But I worked with the CEO, you know, nobody took over for Michael Bloomberg when he went to became mayor. And, ah…
Ganjapreneur: Nobody took over for him?
Matt Brown: Well Max Fen– Or, Lex Fenwik was the CEO’s name. When Mike Bloomberg left and became mayor, Lex took over as CEO.
Matt Brown: Nobody in the company there has an office. It’s like a trading floor environment for all–
Ganjapreneur: It’s just an open room type thing? That’s wild, that must be a huge room.
Matt Brown: Oh, it was. And we were on the same floors as the sales, and Bloomberg TV. So like I shared, I mean, kitchens, huge kitchens with like free food, all over any of the Bloomberg offices. Anyway. So like, there’s an afternoon CNN anchor now, who started out at Bloomberg TV – I actually trained her for a day in one of the departments. But you would just like hang out, and like Dave Chappelle came in because the Charlie Rose show was filmed there.
Ganjapreneur: Right, so then you’d just be in the office, and you’d just see everyone.
Matt Brown: Just come through, ’cause he was like, coming into do the Charlie Rose show. Which is awesome.
Ganjapreneur: It was totally open, so yeah.
Matt Brown: So I worked with and I sat facing the CEO. We were like 10 feet apart and there was nobody in between us. ‘Cause I worked with Laurie who reported directly to him, I just had this crazy direct reporting relationship. So I got the idea, I realized there was just a bunch of fund screeners and stuff we needed. I Photoshopped it all up, and I figured out like what the fund screeners would be to get the programmers. I pitched it at like six o’clock on a Tuesday night, or whatever, and…
Ganjapreneur: So you just walked up the CEO of the company from your mid-level position?
Matt Brown: I was friends– Oh, I was as low as it comes at this point. But I was friends with the- his assistant, her name was Sumi. So I talked to Sumi, I was like, can I get five minutes with Lex? I’ve got an idea I wanna pitch. It was pretty fun.
Matt Brown: And so I came up and pitched it–
Ganjapreneur: Was that not terrifying to do?
Matt Brown: No, not at all.
Ganjapreneur: Okay, you were ready, you knew it was a good idea?
Matt Brown: I love, yeah. Just something– I’m a debater. I like slipped into that debate zone of like game time and treated him like anybody else that I was telling my idea to. Three minutes in, he green lit it– I couldn’t get more than five minutes standing next to him just showing the stuff, he said it’s fucking brilliant – his exact words. The head of Asia Pacific called, sales called, this guy named Alex Bruce, and he was like, Alex, as soon as I hang up with you gotta call this kid Matt Brown back, he’s here in the New York office. Like, they were a really connected office, he was based in Tokyo. Sure enough, ten minutes later he’s calling, the next morning I’m talking to head of London media sales. We had a prototype live in like two days, and that has sold over half a billion dollars’ worth of terminal revenue, just that feature, since–
Ganjapreneur: I can see that immediately. How long ago was it?
Matt Brown: 2005. Four or five.
Ganjapreneur: Almost ten years. About ten years.
Matt Brown: We sold a– These terminals cost – assuming you need more than one – sixteen hundred and fifty dollars a month on a two year minimum contract. Most banks would pick up like a hundred or more. So I kinda got my start there, it was a cool flat company item, I went to Accenture. ‘Cause I didn’t get transferred to London, I found out my boss was lying to me, and had never put in my visa application. So I went to Accenture, spent two and a half, three years there as a corporate strategy consultant. Cardinal Health was one of my big clients, they were the Fortune 19 company that supplied– You could literally pick up a phone and say, hi I’m building a hospital. They’ll go, oh great, we’ll send a person. And they will put an employee there and will deliver every single thing in there from the biggest x-ray machine to the q-tips.
Ganjapreneur: You just need a building, pretty much, and they’ll turn it into a hospital?
Matt Brown: Yeah. They supply everything to every type of medical provider in the world. I got to reorganize there. This is actually where a lot of my early dispensary consulting came from, was– I reorganized the sales team for independent pharmacy sales. I created a spreadsheet that took industry metrics– So these sales reps, who aren’t particularly business people, will go talk to mom and pop pharmacies, who are also not particularly business people, get a couple really simple metrics, and immediately tell that pharmacy how they compare to their peers, and it was a big way to start selling a lot of the automated systems and ordering through backend. But I got a really good feel for how these– You know, not Walgreens, but like real, small businesses work.
Ganjapreneur: And that’s I think, really, at that level, pretty analogous to at least the old school dispensary, if not the modern rec one.
Matt Brown: Yeah. I mean for the, you know, the 2009– So, I had that, I left Accenture to be—I had a tech startup. We failed to get our second round of funding in August 2008 and everything fell apart. And I did this small business consulting wherever I could to at least stay afloat for a year. And then—2009—
Ganjapreneur: Hey, where’d you go to school before all this, I didn’t ask before?
Matt Brown: Boston University.
Ganjapreneur: Boston U, okay.
Matt Brown: Magna cum Laude, school of finance class of 2004. So I was here- I’ve been a patient since 2007, I have Crohn’s disease.
Ganjapreneur: When did you move out here?
Matt Brown: August 2006.
Ganjapreneur: Okay, so shortly after you got out here, pretty much, you became a patient.
Matt Brown: Within the first year, and I didn’t know we had a medical marijuana law when I moved here.
Ganjapreneur: And back then there wasn’t much about it, no.
Matt Brown: No, it was, you know, when I got– It was Doctor Glazier, I don’t know if you know her. She was the only doctor in the state that was taking patients. I was– I’ve got my card actually, it’s out in the RV. My first one, card number like 5228, I think. Back when they used to be just sequentially ordered.
Ganjapreneur: Right, right, right.
Matt Brown: And I had a stack of paperwork this thick, and it was 250 bucks for the doctor visit. But I got it, I started growing them for myself, for the first two years I grew by myself at home. I loved giving tours of my grow room to my friends and stuff who’d come out, and my roommates would have friends come visit. ‘Cause I had all the signs up, I had the law on the wall, and it really became the foundation for My420 tours, before I’d take them in the room, I’d point at it and I’d start chuckling, say, I have Crohn’s, you know that. I– Colorado’s a cool place, it’s a lot better than Massachusetts where most of them work from. They let me grow pot as long as I follow the rules. These are the rules, they’re pretty simple. It’s not really that bad when you think about it. And that everything you get to see in this room, I get to do legally, and I don’t have to worry that I might go to jail, and even more, if you try to steal from me, I can call the cops, and they will arrest you and give me my weed back. We’d all chuckle, and I’d take them in the room.
It was a tiny little room–one light. I did breeding. I had like, eventually, half my basement for my own breeding stuff.
Ganjapreneur: And this was what, 2006? 2007?
Matt Brown: Seven? Eight? Nine? Spring 2009 I started doing a little bit of consulting, I just had a bunch of friends who were growing.
Ganjapreneur: So before that it was strictly, like, personal, you weren’t in the industry, per se, you were a grower?
Matt Brown: Yeah. I sold weed one time as a grower, and it was when I was all done and shutting down my room to like one of the Russian dispensaries, it was like February 2009.
Ganjapreneur: When you could still backpack it in?
Matt Brown: Yeah, exactly, and they’d buy whatever shit I’d come in with. But I grew for myself, I had like, eight different strains for myself.
Ganjapreneur: And your friends were growing? Out here?
Matt Brown: A lot of friends were growing. And they wanted me to tell them- teach them what the law was, how to get the card, who to talk to, just that basics. And then what they quickly realized was, they needed to be a business. And, I mean, I incorporated my first business when I was sixteen.
Matt Brown: I helped my buddy when I was eighteen do a hostile takeover of his dad’s construction company and put all the equity in his name a year before his dad ended up dying, like I know business, it’s the geeky thing I do. And so there was a ton of these growers, who wanted somebody to teach them the basics. Even for a while I would book appointments at Warren’s office.
Ganjapreneur: That’s funny.
Matt Brown: Like I’d book a four hour block, and then just take client after client, and have them each take an hour, and they would pay, and I would just sit there and listen. That’s how we met. And then he moved in with me when I started consulting, and we shared an office.
Ganjapreneur: Who’s that? Oh, Warren Edson.
Matt Brown: Warren Edson, yeah.