Opportunities present themselves when you’re ready for them. The key is to do your due diligence in getting yourself prepared for that state of readiness.
Vartan is the co-founder of DataOwl, the leading enterprise CRM for the cannabis industry. With experience in both tech and the burgeoning cannabis dispensary industry, Vartan recognized the need for automation tools that could serve the specific needs of dispensary owners and their customers. He and his business partner continue to grow DataOwl with a mission of helping clients streamline operations, market their products and offer a better experience to people all over the country.
Prior to entering cannabis, Vartan began his career working for CLEC in California where he ran a network operations team and advanced to leading software development and innovation. After CLEC, Vartan went on to launch BluRay 2.0 for Disney while keeping SDK compliance with Sony and Toshiba. Also while at Disney, he helped develop innovative RF technology-triggered experiences throughout Disney’s theme parks that included displays of ] dynamically generated imagery.
Along with his work at DataOwl, Vartan continues to run his successful Arizona-based dispensary. He remains ever dedicated to improving the lives of those in need within his community—both through his work and advocacy.
Where did the idea for DataOwl come from?
I am a software development professional by trade with very personal roots in medical marijuana advocacy. Bearing witness to my sister’s battle with cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy, I was inspired to act. Marijuana played a key role in alleviating her pain and allowing her to break the cycle of being too weak to eat, becoming even weaker from not eating and so on.
In 2010, I joined with like-minded individuals to help create the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AZMMA) which proposed specific guidelines for safe access to medical marijuana. The proposition was included on the ballot and passed. My group went on to collaborate with the Director of Arizona Health to put in place processes and regulations to allow critically ill patients and their caregivers to legally purchase marijuana from tightly regulated clinics.
Fully invested in the future of marijuana and its potential to bring relief to many people, I eventually became one of the first dispensary operators in Arizona in 2012. With this first-hand experience as a dispensary operator, I started seeing the challenges facing this new industry. For example, at that point, customer communication platforms for dispensaries were virtually non-existent.
With my software engineering background, I started developing my own solutions to these marketing challenges. Seeing the positive response from my own end customers, I realized that the whole cannabis industry actually has a need for a wide range of communication and automation tools.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually try to be up earlier in the morning, around 7:30, because that gives me “ME” time, that is, I take about an hour in the day in the morning to have my coffee, get my thoughts straight and clear my mind through meditation, and give myself the personal affirmations I need to execute the tasks I have for the day.
After that, my actual day starts. I begin reviewing emails, marking issues that need to have my attention, think about or take action on. This helps me understand and digest what has happened and transpired before I even arrive at my office, especially in our case, where we have multiple offices in the US and internationally, working in different time zones.
In the office, the first thing I try to do is touch base and say hello to everyone because I believe that the value I get as an entrepreneur is due to people – the people you’re surrounded with and the people you get to meet. Real-time person-to-person interaction also makes you tuned in to the present and focus on what our customers need.
You can say that I do all my tasks during business hours BUT my actual work happens after business hours. This is when I truly digest what has happened throughout the day and I think about what the future entails.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think ideas are very important but validating your ideas and their execution is even more critical. Of course, not every idea is a great idea but there is always a right way to tackle them. Any idea that I get, I would like to have conversations with people who are succeeding in the domain that the idea is for.
Being able to bounce off ideas to other people who have high experience in a particular domain and listen to their feedback about their validity is an important step before anything else. After that, I assess the value of the idea and start understanding how the end-user is going to consume it. After this deliberation process finally comes execution.
The main thing is that you can be the best executor in the world but if you don’t approach your ideas the right way via validation and understanding then that all the work you’ve put in execution may all be for naught.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One tech trend that’s really exciting is the rollout of 5G and the increased expansion of high-speed internet. The lifecycle of every company that is internet-based is determined by bandwidth and reach and with the increased speed of 5G becoming the standard, the scope of SaaS products we can put in the market will grow tremendously.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
There’s only one habit that makes me productive and that’s meditation. I believe that if you don’t meditate and your mind is not in the right place, then your output will suffer.
Meditating, doing yoga – being clear in mind, body, and spirit – these habits make me a good entrepreneur. Let’s face it, being an entrepreneur is hard and we face challenges constantly but having a clear and positive mindset is key to understanding and a great spur for productivity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When you’re younger, obviously, you have less life experience but now, I’ve really taken to always reflect on The Four Cardinal Virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice), which I think helps me in being a better overall person.
However, the virtue I would like to point my younger self to is temperance – the practice of self-control, having patience with himself and others and to be mindful of the things around him.
When I was younger, I’ll admit that patience was not part of my core and I wanted to achieve end results quickly. Through the years, I have learned that everything happens when you’re ready for it. If you don’t do your due diligence in getting yourself prepared for that state of readiness for what you want to receive, then that opportunity will not even present itself.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In the early 2000s, when the first legalized marijuana dispensaries were just starting to appear, I built a point of sale system for a client in California and immediately saw the potential for this industry.
At this point, the public still couldn’t grasp the concept of a legal dispensary. Everyone thought it was temporary and it will never take off. However, my belief even back then was that this was the future and it will just get bigger. Fast forward to today, cannabis is now a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s still growing as we speak.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
My number one recommendation is to always have an open door for conversations and feedback. Be receptive to other people’s ideas since a single idea can be the spark to other ideas. Keep an open mind and always listen to what other people are saying.
However, despite having an open mind, one thing that I’ve been constantly working on is to not allow outside negativity from affecting my thought processes. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into another individual’s negative view of the world. We should be the creators of our own destinies and never allow other people’s perceptions from disrupting your own.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One vital strategy for business growth is perseverance. Any problem that falls within your control, you should be able to overcome it. Over and over, perseverance has helped my business grow by leaps and bounds.
In addition, understanding your own weaknesses and surrounding yourself with people with the right skill sets who can fill those deficiencies are key strategies that cannot be overlooked.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Like everyone else, I’ve had my fair share of mistakes but as an entrepreneur, one weakness I’ve worked on tremendously these past years and I’m continuing to work on every day is to be more verbose about how I see things and not worry too much about what other people’s understanding of it is going to be.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have a multi-billion dollar business idea that’s been in my mind forever. I’m a little hesitant to give this away so if someone takes this idea and wants to give a bit of equity and credit, I’ll appreciate it.
Here is an advertising opportunity that I believe no one has tapped into yet. We have tens of thousands of freight trucks constantly moving in and out of cities and they have these big beautiful canvases tied to their backs. I think that’s a huge opportunity for monetization where someone will contract these truckers to supplement their income by turning these truck rear doors into big, moving billboards.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It wasn’t exactly $100, even cheaper, in fact, but I recently went to a float spa. It’s basically a sensory deprivation chamber where you’re floating in a tank of Epsom saltwater that’s heated exactly to your body temperature, with no sound and no lights. It really took away my different senses and it helped me get to that meditation state I wanted to be in.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
It’s all about people and hands down, platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams make me super productive and efficient by streamlining our internal and external communications.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
A book that is one of my main foundations is this popular one from Dale Carnegie, “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”. As an entrepreneur, I build a lot of relationships with people of varying personalities and this book taught me how to be dynamic without being inauthentic.
What is your favorite quote?
“Man’s status in the natural world is determined, therefore, by the quality of his thinking.” – Manly P. Hall
- Any problem that falls within your control, you should be able to overcome it.
- If you don’t meditate and your mind is not in the right place, then your output will suffer.
- Ideas are very important but validating your ideas and their execution is even more critical.
- Always have an open door for conversations and feedback.
- Opportunities present themselves when you’re ready for them. The key is to do your due diligence in getting yourself prepared for that state of readiness.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.