Jessica Billingsley believes that consumers want to know precisely what’s in their weed and how those materials got there. Yet until relatively recently, it was difficult for cannabis producers and retailers to provide them with real, robust transparency -- simply because of a lack of adequate tracking tools. That changed nine years ago, when a Colorado cannabis firm invited Billingsley, a tech entrepreneur, to invest in them and help them select their business software. Realizing that nothing on the market worked quite right for the unique supply chains and regulatory frameworks of the cannabis industry, she built something new. That project became what is now
MJ Platform, a seed-to-sale monitoring and regulatory compliance system.
Billingsley put this in layman’s terms: “If I had a gummy, I could tell you the farm on which the plants were grown, what was applied to them in the growing process, when they were harvested and where, when the dried plant was transferred to a manufacturing facility, and so on -- not just for a batch of plant, but for that particular gummy.”
The revolutionary transparency and utility Billingsley’s tech provides has made her a key figure in the world of cannabis industry ancillary services -- and one of the nation’s top female entrepreneurs writ large. We recently spoke with Billingsley about her experiences leading the way in a still heavily male-dominated industry, her advice for other women in the space, and the future of her now public company, Akerna.
Maybe I’m just naturally countercultural? [Laughs] No. My parents were very progressive and tried to raise us without gender roles, with the thought that we could pursue anything we were drawn to in life.