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Marion Mariathasan, CEO and Co-Founder of Simplifya – Interview Series

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“Since complying with stringent regulations is imperative and yet can be incredibly onerous to do on your own, more entities are turning to RegTech solutions we’ve created to dramatically simplify compliance efforts – which has led to our business’ record-breaking growth.”

Marion  Mariathasan

While several states have legalized cannabis, it remains prohibited at the federal level. Consequently, states have put in place rules to regulate cannabis from seed to sale. These regulations not only vary from state to state but they also keep changing as new laws are created and others improved upon. This makes navigating the regulatory framework in the cannabis industry both challenging and frustrating even for the savviest of entrepreneurs. Businesses that operate across states find that they have to keep adjusting their operations to comply with the rules and regulations in each state where they operate. As Marion Mariathasan puts it, without regulatory technology (Regtech), it would be almost impossible to stay on top of cannabis regulations. The industry is becoming increasingly fragmented and things are bound to get even more complex with federal reforms being on the horizon.

Simplifya is a software company that creates Regtech solutions for the cannabis industry. In this brief interview, the CEO and co-founder of Simlifya narrates how he found himself pioneering tech solutions for the cannabis industry and what he has learned along the way.

Meet Marion.

How did your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?
For the last two decades, I have been a serial entrepreneur with a passion for building tech companies that address gaps in the marketplace.

In 2015, I had just wrapped up my last venture and was living in Colorado, which had just legalized cannabis for adults. At the time, there was a lot of buzz around cannabis. It was obvious to me that the cannabis industry was not only going to be very fragmented, but also face a myriad of regulatory challenges, and there weren’t companies addressing these pressing issues back then.

After talking with my friends over at Vicente Sederberg, one of the leading cannabis law firms, we both agreed that simple, easy and cost-effective RegTech solutions were needed to help those doing business in the sector remain compliant. After a lot of conversations and late nights, Simplifya was born.

Today, as more markets come online and more operators, banks and financial institutions, insurance companies, and law firms and other ancillary businesses enter the space, they’re discovering RegTech solutions are no longer just a ‘nice to have, but a ‘must have’. Since complying with stringent regulations is imperative and yet can be incredibly onerous to do on your own, more entities are turning to RegTech solutions we’ve created to dramatically simplify compliance efforts – which has led to our business’ record-breaking growth.

What’s the inspiration behind Simplifya?

Without RegTech, it would be nearly impossible to stay on top of cannabis regulations. As operators and ancillary businesses expand their footprints into new states, it is becoming more fragmented and complex by the day – and will likely remain that way until we see comprehensive federal reforms. And once that happens, things will only become more complex.

The excitement and inspiration behind Simplifya were being able to develop solutions and services that make doing work in the sector substantially easier and more cost-effective. Just to give an example of the cost-saving measures, on average a marijuana-related business spends over $20,000 to produce a new SOP package when using an attorney and nearly $8,000 when updating an SOP package with an attorney. In contrast, when using Simplifya’s SOP platform, on average it costs a marijuana-related business less than $1,600 to produce an SOP package and less than $650 to update an SOP package, representing a 92% savings in comparison to using an attorney.

Through our services, we’re helping clients operate compliantly, safely, and efficiently so they can not only be successful as individual businesses but also make a positive impact on this industry and ultimately society at large.

At its core, Simplifya helps operators streamline compliance efforts to protect their business. Using our proprietary technology, we’ve created powerful tools that track regulations and provide updates in real-time, taking the guesswork out of the confusing and constantly changing regulations while mitigating risks. Whether you’re new to the industry, entering a new market, or simply wanting to reduce the time you have to spend wading through confusing, evolving regulations, our products and services simplify compliance efforts to help businesses open their doors and keep them open.

Last year Simplifya achieved 100% YoY growth. Given the difficulties that most businesses encountered last year (pandemic period), what are some factors that you can attribute to this success?

As more states legalize and migrate to adult use; new banks, insurers, law firms, and other ancillary businesses enter the space; businesses expand the number of markets they operate in; additional regulations are enacted and updated, and the federal legalization dialogue continues – keeping track of all the stringent compliance requirements is only becoming more and more complex. In 2021, we saw an astounding number of cannabis operators and ancillary businesses realize RegTech compliance solutions are essential – leading to our business’ record-breaking growth.

During the height of Covid, the Simplifya Self Audit platform saw a 40% year-over-year uptick in the number of client users, as more owners and operators looked to protect their licenses and businesses from operational and regulatory compliance risks. We expanded our core suite of services of Simplifya Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Simplifya Smart Cabinet, and Simplifya Self Audit from 19 to 24 states – we’ve since expanded to 28 states.

The Company also recently launched Simplifya Market Guide, a new platform arming cannabis and cannabis-related businesses with comprehensive, user-friendly regulatory summaries for all 50 states, covering regulatory requirement overviews across governing law, governing authority, local opt-out, policy movement, banking guidance, tax structures, and rates, along with 20+ other regulatory categories.

Cannabis compliance is a headache for most cannabis businesses, especially with the fluidity of cannabis laws and regulations. How is Simplifya making compliance easier?

More entities are turning to Simplifya’s RegTech solutions to help them efficiently navigate the sector’s complex landscape, and for good reason. According to a recent study completed by Fyllo in partnership with The Harris Poll, two-thirds of leaders operating in highly regulated industries such as cannabis stated that compliance was the biggest barrier to achieving their business goals; compliance ranked higher than having the right strategy or even having the capital to fuel growth.

Through our suite of RegTech solutions, we are not only helping our clients understand and stay on top of cannabis’ ever-evolving compliance landscape, but we are also helping them operate in a compliant way, demonstrate a history of compliance, hold employees accountable, remediate any potential issues and mitigate the high risks associated with non-compliance. We look forward to assisting more entrepreneurs, governing and regulatory bodies, insurers, banks, and financial institutions to save time and money, create new opportunities, and remain compliant under state, county, local, and FinCEN Cannabis Banking Guidance.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have encountered since Simplifya’s inception?

For me, managing people has been the hardest part of running any company, and this goes back long before I founded Simplifya. I am easily swayed by sad stories and am quick to trust. Early on in my entrepreneurial career, I had people steal from me and the company I founded, and I was too naive to believe they were doing it until I had irrefutable evidence that it was happening. Even then, it was still very hard for me to fire these people. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazing, trustworthy people at Simplifya and haven’t encountered anything like that here, and all in all, my past experiences have made me more vigilant.

Building and leading a RegTech company is a perpetual challenge – there’s no doubt about that. It’s already tough enough to build a functional SaaS tech company to solve problems, but when you add the complexities of compliance and a regulatory framework that varies between states and local municipalities within a highly regulated industry that is constantly evolving, the dynamics of the problem-solving jumps exponentially. And then managing a team so we can produce our best work on top of that adds its own host of challenges. Now that we’ve been in the game for a while and solidified all of our operations, it feels great and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience, but those first years were certainly challenging.

You have worked with big brands such as Curaleaf, Cresco Labs, and Mammoth. Which aspects of your job gives you the greatest fulfillment?

Today, I feel like I live in a dream. I have the absolute honor of captaining the leading regulatory and operational compliance company in the cannabis space. Knowing that my company helps bring validity to the cannabis industry is a wonderful feeling. Working with companies of all sizes, including Curaleaf, one of the biggest MSOs, truly shows how strong and adaptable our technology is. By helping operators run compliantly and protecting consumers, we are helping shed antiquated stigmas against cannabis and moving the needle forward in the industry. And by drastically simplifying compliance efforts for our clients, we’re empowering them to focus on what they do best, which helps the industry become stronger.

Also, from the personal success I’ve experienced running Simplifya, I’ve been able to not only provide for my family and help my parents retire – we actually bought them a house literally next door to mine  – but also fulfill my philanthropic desires to work behind the scenes helping children and animals. But of course, for me working at Simplifya is way more than a means to an end; our tools are helping an industry survive and thrive that I genuinely feel has a positive impact on society.

Use of tech in the cannabis industry: where are we now and where are we headed?

We make it easy to use our technology so clients are able to easily protect their business and learn about policies and regulations that they need to follow. Before our technology was created, it was very difficult for an operator to enter a new market in a new state, as companies did not have the necessary information easily at their disposal to protect their business and find success. At Simplifya, our regulatory experts and analysts are constantly updating information in real-time, ensuring that the nitty-gritty work is taken care of for our clients and is done correctly.

The future of tech in cannabis is headed on a similar track but at an accelerated pace. Regulations aren’t going away; even after federal legalization finally is enacted, local and state regulations will still be confusing and still vary considerably. The technology we create will continue to be necessary for this industry, simplifying compliance efforts and helping companies not just survive but thrive.

It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Marion, CEO and co-founder of Simplifya. Readers who wish to keep up with the company are more than welcome to visit their website.

 

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Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.

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