App Development Is Very Similar To Writing A Song Or Book. It’s Never Really “Done”, With Paul Kinsella
I had the pleasure to interview Paul Kinsella. Paul has built and successfully operated six multi-million dollar companies that eventually lead to acquisition and has employed over 146 people full-time. His companies have reached over two-hundred and seventy million dollars in retail commerce over the 27 years. In 2017, Paul founded cannabis geo-search and auto-verification mobile app, Buddy.
What is your “backstory”?
In a nutshell, I’m Buddy and Buddy is me after a hit of helium. I’ve always been the hook-up for marijuana among anyone that knew me. Likewise, when I’d tour as a musician, I’d always have to ask who had a Buddy in the area that could hook me up.
Marijuana has been a part of my life from Middle School on. It was a big part of what enabled me to provide for my family while working as a professional musician. My first love has always been music, and the band I’m most known for is Smokestacks. We put out a sort of reggae, drum-n-bass, stoner, vibe using hip-hop beats along with rap-funk and groove tunes. In the early 90’s, I started my pro career as a recording engineer for A&M, Almo Sounds, and Rondor publishing. Being in artist development during the early years of hip-hop on the west coast kept me dialed into the marijuana business and connected to people active in the industry. Between marijuana and engineering, life was good. As my fiancé and I contemplated marriage and starting a family, it was clear that I needed a more reliable source of income. Getting into exotic and collector cars for sale and profit became my passion. Again, life was good. Seriously. We were living the American Dream. Then came the big economic crash of ’07 and it all fell apart. This is when I turned back towards the marijuana industry and attempted to go after it in the most legit and legal way I could. It wasn’t long before I had opened, and was successfully running, three dispensaries, and two massive grows in Woodland Hills and Temecula. These growers supplied my collectives in Ventura, Riverside, and High Grove, CA. By 2008, our brand, Dutch Tree Products, had branded edibles, and cigarette style joint packs that we kept in production through 2010. All the same, dealing with the daily stresses, dishonest employees, theft, & constant fears of robbery and federal or local shutdowns was no way to live. The stress soon outweighed the benefit of the business. At our peak, we had 3 stores, 2 grows, 35 employees, and thousands of legit, documented medical patients, yet it was crystal clear that a federal crackdown was coming soon. We had grown too big and were on their radar. Soon, they brought the hammer down. It was harsh and the only way I avoided full prosecution and deportation to Ireland was to guarantee that I wouldn’t be a provider ever again. We lost everything. Every penny invested, every drop of sweat, all those late nights, all the heart and compassion that went into providing for those who sincerely need the medicine, all the charity work, etc — it was all gone in a flash. I was left with nothing, and the ripple effect of the bust hit my suppliers, employees, and farmers very, very, hard. A lot of people suffered unnecessarily. It was all gone in an instant. I had risked it all, everything, including deportation. Fortunately, we ran a very clean operation that was as by-the-books as it could possibly be. That ended up being my saving grace as I avoided prosecution. I promised myself and my family that I wouldn’t flirt with the gray side of the business again.
Flash forward 10 years, and medical and recreational marijuana is legal here in California. I saw my opportunity. This time around, my focus is on technology and service, rather than a product. As an owner, I had absolutely terrible experience with other advertising platforms and heard a lot of customer complaints about those apps as well. I was determined to build something technology driven that’s fun, fill a need in the market, and brings more robust functionality and humor to the legal marijuana community. Best of all, Buddy is designed in such a way that we can provide top-tier service at a tiny fraction of the cost that our competition charges. Beyond logical and fair pricing, the app also provides search and service options that are totally untapped in the market.
Which person or which company do you most admire and why?
Steve DeAngelo from Harborside, in Oakland, has been a big influence on how I set up my businesses. With their ethos grounded in a kind approach that emphasizes the patient well-being, experience, and top-tier service, it makes perfect sense. In ’06 I spent some time at their facility and felt like I saw the future of the marijuana business there. Turns out, it took a lot of time and money for them to get to that place. For me, to break into the business and get it to that point, while being the best husband and father I could be, just didn’t work out. When this 2nd wave in the MMJ business became apparent to me, I applied the same ethos, kindness, and approach to opening Buddy. We truly are The Kinder Option.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Kindness starts at home. Our staff was hired because they are a reflection of Buddy’s values. We are confident that if we put out the kindest vibe, experience, and service we can, that the business will follow. The marijuana community is a tight one where these qualities are highly valued — much more than almost any other industry I can think of. Buddy brings a smile to everyone’s face, and that’s a gift to anyone around to see it. End users can be confident that they’re using an app that has service and kindness as it’s guiding light, rather than big corporate profits. Beyond making patient and provider lives easier, our goal is to include education, access, and charitable support for our military veterans. It’s an outright crime that something as critical as mental health and PTSD treatment isn’t being adequately researched or provided to our veterans. We want to fill that gap with education and safe, reliable, access. For non-military patients in the most severe circumstances, Buddy will strive to become a support system that can help get critical medicine to patients who need it at little or no cost.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- I’ve found that app development is very similar to writing a song or book. It’s never really “done”. It just becomes due. The app was the same way. There have been hundreds of builds, updates, and (literally) hundreds of millions of movements and functions. At some point, we had to make the business decision to push the app out of the nest as the best version to date. With that in mind, we’ve already completed and scheduled the next several updates. It’s amazing how far ahead of the curve you have to work in the tech world!
- There aren’t a ton of high-end apps out there because they’re so intensely stressful and difficult to create. The whole process is like having to play every instrument in the orchestra and knowing how to read and write the music in 3 languages. Except, as soon as you’re done with your first few songs you have to be ready to record 30 more ASAP to stay ahead of the curve.
- The investor’s mind and the creative’s mind function in totally different ways. One mindset generally doesn’t fully grasp the other, even though there is a common goal in mind. Technology is a tricky area to be in. It’s not too different from dealing with a General Contractor. Whatever they said it would cost, and however long they say it will take — DOUBLE IT.
- Even having been involved in the industry for the past 3 decades, I wasn’t quite ready for how fast the marijuana industry changes these days when it comes to what the Next Big Thing is. It seems like every day there’s something hipper and hotter than yesterday, and by the time your technology catches up to a trend, it’s left you in the past. Basically, it comes down to staying ahead of the curve. I’ve learned that we can’t plan towards what’s hip and cool today. Instead, we are tasked with staying absolutely ahead of the industry curve — keeping things State of the Art and constantly evolving.
- To fall back on the general contractor example — when you build an entire app from scratch, ALL changes are a Big Deal. If we want to move a feature from one area to another, it’s like asking the GC to move an entire bathroom from one side of the building to another after it’s already been built. It’s all totally possible… but the difficulty, cost, and time it takes is Way More than you may expect.