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University of Washington students Josiah Tullis and Megh Vakharia said their parents were not exactly excited about their business plan, but they were impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit.
"My mom called me and went, 'Wait, what are you up to?' I said, 'We're starting this business!' " Vakharia said. “(My mother’s) main guideline is, ‘Go ahead and pursue this business; just don't partake in what you're delivering,’ and I was like, ‘OK, OK, Mom!’”
The two 19-year-old students are preparing to launch the phone app Canary in Seattle sometime late next month.
But what is it?
"The easiest way we say it, is that it's Uber for marijuana,” Tullis said.
"Canary is an on-demand service that allows you to get cannabis delivered right to your doorstep,” Vakharia said.
The app will allow medical-marijuana cardholders to order different strains of pot in different amounts from their favorite dispensaries. The deliveries are then made by a driver.
Dispensaries will partner with the app, and drivers will be employed by Canary.
“We check. We do some double verification that is required of medical-marijuana patients. They have to take a picture of the card and also present it upon arrival,” Vakharia said.
The pair said they already have drivers from apps like Uber and Lyft who are interested in jumping over and are interviewing. They said drivers will have to be medical-marijuana cardholders and also undergo background checks.
Tullis and Vakharia are also cognizant of the legal ramifications.
"The uncertainties are not in the technology; the technology has already been done before. The uncertainties are in the legality on the business side,” Tullis said.
Ultimately, the goal is to be able to deliver recreational marijuana, but Washington law currently prohibits it.
The pair said they stumbled upon the idea when they outlined two current needs: on-demand services and the growing marijuana legalization in Washington.
They pitched the idea at a startup conference last week sponsored by TechCrunch.
“We had to have a 60-second pitch, and we were pitching around 800 or so people. And we ended up winning audience choice!” Tullis said.
But because of their age, they realize there was that hurdle, as well.
“We like to tell people that Mark Cuban started a bar when he was 20,” Tullis said.
They weren’t even allowed on the floor of the 21-plus venue to present their idea until it was their turn.
“We had to sit downstairs the entire time until we could go up and pitch,” Vakharia said.
But their confidence, app and entrepreneurship won the crowds over.
"We said, 'We're delivering green to make green’ at the end of the pitch and they all seemed to like that,” Tullis said.
The pair said the app already has begun to attract investors, and they have plans to expand to Denver and eventually California.