How A ‘Buttoned Up’ Exec Found The Marijuana Industry And Got Microsoft To Join In

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David Dinenberg’s a pretty adventurous guy. A few years back, he dropped out of the established real estate development game and moved cross-country to tap into an industry in its infancy.

Now, the founder of Los Angeles-based Kind Financial is embarking on a new adventure in the legal marijuana industry by adding software to his company’s initial line of providing financial services to cash-burdened cannabis businesses. He’s had early indications of success, becoming the first business focused on the marijuana industry to land a partnership with a tech giant, Microsoft.

The spirit of adventure has also landed Dinenberg on the Upstart 100 as an inventor who’s helping to create a rational legal business out of what has historically been a chaotic black market.

“We’ve always strived to be the most legitimate company in this industry. If you look at our website, you don’t see marijuana leaves,” Dinenberg tells me. “If you look at the people around this company, from investors to our legal team to, just all of our consultants, we are as buttoned-up and professional as they come in this space and that’s something that I’ve always strived for.”

Dinenberg, 44, has taken a long road to becoming a “buttoned up” cannabis entrepreneur. He started off in real estate, as chief operating officer for Grasso Holdings in Philadelphia. But big financial hits in the 2008 recession had him looking for something else, and one night, watching a “60 Minutes” story about the budding marijuana industry, he found it.

He would, he decided, start a company to help marijuana dispensaries with such financial services as deposits and ATMs, something traditional banks shy away from because marijuana sales and possession are illegal under federal law. He and his wife, Jen, picked up and moved west, drawn by California’s booming medical marijuana scene.

In 2014, he launched Kind Financial with the goal of providing those financial services. But in the past year, he has shifted again, to focus on software that can help governments keep track of the industry, and help businesses comply with government regulations on legal marijuana.

Why the new thrust? Because, Dinenberg says, there’s a huge opportunity here.

“The more I got involved in the industry and the more educated I became and quite frankly the more people that I spoke to, what I came to realize is that any heavily regulated industry, at the core or at the foundation of those industries lies a compliance component. If you look at tobacco, alcohol, gaming, and pharmaceuticals, all of those industries rely upon a strict compliance backbone,” he says. “It’s going to remain for a very long time a heavily regulated industry.”

So Dinenberg decided to shift his company’s focus. Kind Financial began developing software that allows regulators to track where and how much marijuana is being grown and sold (in states or countries where sales are legal and regulated).

“We want to be able to offer a service to everybody,” he said. “Because fundamentally the only way this industry gets taken seriously and grows and matures into the industry it deserves to be is through states adopting programs as well as the industry being transparent and compliant and we hope to be the crux, we hope to be the backbone and not just in the United States anymore.”

To that end and after nine months of negotiation, Dinenberg was able to cut a deal this summer with Microsoft making the software giant the first major tech player to try the marijuana industry. Microsoft agreed make Kind Financial’s software, Agrisoft, available on its Azure Government cloud platform.

The Microsoft deal gives Kind instant credibility with the type of folks who buy compliance software, Dinenberg says, not just in the United States but around the world.

“It’s really delivering the product that everyone needs to use and to deliver it to the market in a fashion that hasn’t been delivered yet,” he says. “So, you know I think we check a lot of those boxes where we’re going to deliver, are delivering, a superior product for the industry now and it’s only going to get better with our relationship with Microsoft.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: How A ‘Buttoned Up’ Exec Found The Marijuana Industry And Got Microsoft To Join In
Author: Kent Bernhard Jr
Contact: Puget Sound Business Journal
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Website: Puget Sound Business Journal