Debra Borchardt, Co-founder & CEO of Green Market Report
Debra Borchardt is the Co-founder and CEO of the cannabis financial news website Green Market Report. She began her career in the securities industry where she was a Vice President at Bear Stearns holding three securities licenses. She left Wall Street to earn her Masters Degree in Business and Economic Reporting from New York University. She embarked on a career as a financial journalist and spent eight years at TheStreet.com working daily with Jim Cramer.
Debra has covered the cannabis industry since its earliest stages when she recognized that the legalization story was the biggest business news story of the decade. As a senior producer and reporter at TheStreet.com, Debra was awarded an ASPBE.org (American Society of Business Publication Editors) in 2014 for Best Video - News, “Guess Where People Want To Buy Pot.” Debra is also a Co-Founder of the women’s cannabis executives networking group Industry Power Women and serves on the board of the cannabis newswire Axiswire.
[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
[00:00:30] Welcome everyone this is Thinking Outside The Bud, I’m Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and our guest today is Debra Borchardt and she is co-founder and CEO of Green Market Report which is a cannabis financial news website. We're going to learn a little bit more about her background in finance and reporting and hear what she's doing with green market. So with that Debra welcome to the program.
[00:00:51] Well thank you so much for having me Bruce. So yes I have founded the Green Market Report. My background is really from Wall Street. I worked in the securities industry for many years and had series sevens sixty three sixty five licenses so that was really my background and I kind of get a little disillusioned with the Wall Street world. That's about the time right. Yeah pretty much the time we had Eliot Spitzer which says a lot. Just naming that name back when he decided to go after Wall Street. Yeah. And it was at that point I decided to leave and I got my master's degree in Business and Economic Reporting from New York University because I had always liked talking about the market. And so it seemed like reporting about the market was a great combination of my background in the securities industry. But you know learning about journalism how to write and such was was really exciting. Sure. And I got my master's degree I started working at the street dot com with Jim Cramer. I there for about eight years.
[00:01:54] And what was that like. What's it. What's it like to work with Jim.
[00:01:57] He is so amazing right. I have nothing but good things to say about Jim. He is really really smart about so many stocks. He's also very humble in that he will tell people Look I don't I don't know that one. I'll have to look it up. You know he doesn't try to pretend he knows everything about everything. But having said that I don't think I and I've worked with a lot of people in the securities industry I've never met anyone who had such a command of so many different stocks and so much minutia about each one of them really is phenomenal.
[00:02:28] And just watching watching a show as Mark and talk about things that the details he can kind of just bring up and know about and stitch together is pretty amazing. Smart guy.
[00:02:37] It really does. And he's the first to tell you that you know Mad Money is entertainment. And the show and what he does on a regular CNBC is a little bit more straight forward and then you know people always ask me what's he like in the office. And he's just like just kind of quiet nice regular guy in the office same for the camera.
[00:02:59] Pump it up a little. Exactly.
[00:03:01] So you spent eight years there then a year there and then that was really where I started covering cannabis was recognizing that people were getting really interested in it from mainstream businesses and this was go. I'm telling you this is going back really when we first started getting the you know dodgy pot stocks I'll call it when people just put the word cannabis in their stock name and would sell shares and have nothing to do with cannabis. Who's really back then there really wasn't that much going on here. Give us something give us some years.
[00:03:34] What were the.
[00:03:35] This was what this would have been about six or seven years ago.
[00:03:40] Ok. So like eleven eleven something like that. Yeah it's all right time frames in this business first. So it's sort of described here. Yeah exactly.
[00:03:50] And and back then like I said there were a lot of really shady companies and I felt that it was really important for me as a journalist to let investors know that some of these companies were just sketchy and to not invest in them and or to just expose them for who they were.
[00:04:07] And that was kind of when I really got involved in it. And I also had gotten a story at that time that Budweiser was sponsoring a festival in Denver. And I thought wow that's interesting Budweiser. You know that's a big name.
[00:04:23] And that clued me into that this was going to be a really huge story because if the beer companies were already jumping on the bandwagon this was saying a lot. This is again going back at the beginning.
[00:04:35] So I started freelancing. I was just kind of bouncing around and I wasn't really seeing the type of reporting that I wanted to see. I was writing with Forbes and Forbes audiences very general in nature.
[00:04:50] So I couldn't do deep dives when I did the editors would always be like Oh well could you just define CBD could you define flowers to the whole first three paragraphs. CBD cannabidiol and it's this is net in flower is this this and that. And I wouldn't get to the story for you know seventy five words. So I really wanted to do a lot more smart financial reporting and because I couldn't find anything out there. I created my own.
[00:05:19] And when did you first when. When did that kind of idea enter your mind of of creating your own platform for this film. Where were you in time.
[00:05:26] So that was 2017 and I have a. Partner her name is Cynthia salaries Ida and Cynthia had said you know what are you doing.
[00:05:35] You. Everybody respects you everybody knows you. You're kind of a little here a little there at nights and you really want to start this Web site. I really can't do it on my own because that's basically a blog and a blog is gonna do nothing for me. And I knew I needed a team. And so we teamed up and got Vince Teddy who is our Web designer and our tech officer and the three of us put together Green Market Report. So we launched in September of 2017 so we are starting our second year in business and we're about a year and a half. Live Online great.
[00:06:12] Now when you started where you were you well kind of steeped in cannabis at that point or was was cannabis just kind of one of the things you covered and this was kind of doubling down on this on this Mark.
[00:06:22] I was I was pretty much full time on that coverage.
[00:06:25] I did a little bit of other types of a little bit of retail coverage for Forbes two because they had one of that but this was really my passion. So that's really what I was best at and knew the most about and had built my brand if you will.
[00:06:40] So you had a personal. You've you had a sort of personal brand or you had a personal connection to the topic coming into it.
[00:06:46] Right. In journalism you see this more and more where people really specialize in certain areas especially in the financial world. You've got tech reporters that are just tech reporters and biotech reporters are really very much focused and specialized in those areas. So so some of these areas in journalism really work well with specialized focus.
[00:07:07] Yeah I'm always curious for folks that you know kind of coming into the industry. How was there any kind of dynamics for you in terms of you know friends family and things like that when when you sort of came out know a canvas covering a reporter.
[00:07:22] I've heard various stories of you know it kind of affects their lives in different ways. What did you find what was your experience.
[00:07:27] You know I've covering so many different things throughout the different beats that I've done. And as I explained it to my son which I think was the best way to approach this because I had a teenage son Alonzo still have a teenage son is younger than when I was a younger teenager in high school.
[00:07:45] And yeah how do you how do you approach that subject with a kid in high school where they're going to dare programs. I basically said listen you know I covered robotics but I didn't go out into the garage and start building a robot. You know I I covered banking. I didn't go and start a bank. So if I'm writing about cannabis that doesn't necessarily mean you know I am going to start rolling in the kitchen polls and vote.
[00:08:14] So you know. And he was pretty cool with it. He was he was fun.
[00:08:18] Yeah I think you know that the interesting aspect of this industry or this market or you know this kind of segment is that it is so multifaceted I mean you know there's financial kind of pure financial analysis there's cultural analysis there's medical analysis there's there's all these different facets of it so I'm I think as this market matures it's just really interesting to see what angles people are taking and what angles people are covering and getting involved in.
[00:08:43] So when you I guess what was the kind of editorial or focused strategy for grey market. I mean how did you want to fit in terms of the world of information around cannabis that's out there in the world. How did you want to. What part of that did you want to own.
[00:08:57] So my idea was to really be as I like to call it the CNBC of cannabis. I wanted to be hyper focused and narrowly focused into the financial side of reporting on cannabis. So there are no other outlets that are out there there are stock traders that are doing a little bit of this. But at the end of the day they're trying to sell you portfolio tips or access to their trading ideas. So they've got a little bit of a bias there. There are other financial outlets that don't do very much of a deep dive in some of these stories. You know 200 300 words they're out or they're just republishing press releases. And to me if you've read a press release now days they're written by the lawyers it's very hard to understand for a lot of people what they're even saying it's so full in your life. You know I read about the dog leaves or a company will report their earnings. And if you look at the press release the press release doesn't even say whether they made money or lost money they lost money it's buried so far down that you don't. And sometimes they believe and say you have to go and find the filing itself. And that's what I felt like was that people needed a Web site that actually did this type of reporting that if a company reported its earnings that we went and looked to find. Did they make money or did they not make money. And if they didn't make money how did they lose that money and how why were their losses so high. Instead of just taking the press release at face value and so we try to really provide that ability to bring those terms into a very accessible way to understand what's happening with these companies.
[00:10:47] And how do you get your information because you know with a lot of these things are not a lot of these companies are not public. You know federal issues have all sorts of challenges in terms of IPO and whatnot. Where where do you tend to get your insight. What. What companies are you kind of focusing on covering. How do you how do you make that work.
[00:11:09] I do mostly cover publicly traded companies just because it is easier to get information.
[00:11:14] Some of the private companies I just have relationships with them your relationships with people who send me information.
[00:11:22] That's just part of journalism is building these relationships and having them to call people to be able to call people you know sometimes you're having to reach out to them and get copies of legal documents from lawsuits and things of that nature and that's really where you find a lot of juicy material is is in the lawsuit documents Discovery.
[00:11:43] Discovery is a fascinating process.
[00:11:46] Oh yeah I mean it. But it takes time and that's you know of course the issue with journalism today is that it does take time to do these types of things and there's no there's no shortcut. It just takes time.
[00:11:58] Yeah. And you know with the with the you know kind of the growth. No no pun intended.
[00:12:02] But the growth of the industry you know and just kind of you know the dynamics of everything that's going on how I guess how how do you keep up.
[00:12:10] I mean are your other areas of focus that you that you've kind of double down on and things you haven't worried about or how do you kind of maintain your pulse and process all the static as you write it. It's a huge amount of data that's out there in terms of you know these companies and what's going on in the industry. How have you. What's your strategy.
[00:12:27] It's that's a really great question because it has really I feel like exploded in the last six to eight months. And I've got three e-mail addresses at this point because my one inbox got so overwhelmed that I couldn't even keep up with it. You know I'll get maybe 30 pitches a day and that's just the pitches.
[00:12:49] I'll have one email that I get at least one hundred and fifty miles a day a day.
[00:12:54] I can't even read them all because I got so many and these are these are mostly people that are helping covering these companies that want to get information out through your head that they're all.
[00:13:03] Yeah. And you know one of the problems with these companies is that they sneeze and they send out a press release. And it's just that I'm always trying to tell the PR people you know email me when you get the license not that you applied for it. Email me when you put the product on the shelf not that you are creating a product. It's just they send me Mao's word all day long that they're going to launch something or they're about to start a study or they're going to apply going to apply like they haven't even applied. They're going to apply or then they send out the e-mail they have applied no it's no not until you have something real to happen but the problem is is that you're right. That takes a lot of time to sift through all that. Yeah. And that's you know and then Gosh at this point there's probably over 400 publicly traded cannabis companies. So it does become a management issue of who to cover and what it's considered important to cover and what what is your business model is mainly advertising or how advertising and events like most media companies advertising is a little tough.
[00:14:15] You would have thought with cannabis companies not having anywhere to advertise that if they had somewhere to advertise they would be all for it. But I find that the cannabis companies are maybe a little less mature when it comes to these types of decisions. They'll spend I don't know fifty thousand dollars hiring Snoop Dogg to deejay for an hour at a party but then not think that they should spend money on advertising to get their brand name out. It's just very odd where you see some of the money getting spent.
[00:14:43] Well let's let's talk about that a little bit because I think that's a you know I've heard this more than once that and I'm not sure exactly why it is you know maybe because it's the federal legal issue and a lot of more mature stable companies or you know historical companies not getting involved because of it right now that you end up having you know not as you know experience or not is professionally run companies and that leads to all sorts of kind of drama in the industry. I mean you do you think that's the case do you think there is there's just a different experience different levels of experience right now in the cannabis face that are that are driving some of these things or is this just the nature of you know a dynamic high growth industry.
[00:15:20] It is I feel it's definitely a cannabis industry issue. You've got a lot of people that went public and looked at. As if it was their own personal piggy bank and did not quite understand what being a publicly traded company means. They didn't understand that no you can't just keep tapping money out of this. You know you can't just keep issuing shares eventually it's going to hurt you. And they would just issue another million shares and now or even another 50 million shares and keep issuing shares that just keep getting money in or do things that were violations of securities laws that most publicly traded companies would know. Yeah that's really stupid. Don't do that but they would just do it and not think twice about it and assume they wouldn't get caught. And if you've been in the securities industry for a long time the S.E.C. is very good at what they do. They have. It is really easy for them to catch people at wrongdoing and they do that. And that's what they do. And so it's very naive of a lot of these CEOs to think that they're not going to get caught doing what they're doing. And then they get caught and then it's a big problem for the company because you have CEOs that then have to get booted out and often they're the founders.
[00:16:40] So it's definitely an issue. The other part the other side of that coin though is that you end up then with cannabis companies with all their C Suite. People from outside the industry and then they're not really as negative to the to the product.
[00:16:57] And the the rationale or that or the reason for that is well what what is what is your theory or what's what's your kind of explanation for why this is happening.
[00:17:07] So part of it is it's the the new the new thing. So you've got a lot of executives that get excited. What's the new thing I want to be in on the new saying. It's the hot new thing. And so yes I have a completely totally retail background Hey it's retail. It's just a different product. It's just cannabis instead of bras.
[00:17:29] So there is some of that.
[00:17:31] You also have some of the companies that are trying to get credibility by saying oh we hired this guy from IBM or Oh we hired this guy from Apple and now all the sudden your credibility is risen because you're not just hiring. You know Joe from North California is your grower. You've now got this guy from Apple. He's designing your store layout. So there's a little bit of that where they try to embellish their team by hiring you know making these big hires and how I'm kind of curious how you cover this.
[00:18:07] I mean you mentioned this a while in retail it's just like because. I mean you know on one hand you know it has this retail aspect another hand it has this kind of almost pharmaceutical aspect other hand it's an agricultural. Like how do you actually cover the space or when you look for you know kind of models or comparables or ways of doing analysis and things like that. What are the markets or the industries that you lean on or try to to to do that.
[00:18:31] So covering the company is in some ways you would compare the companies within the industry. So you're right. You would normally have an AG company you would compared to another AG company. But what we're seeing here with cannabis is that with these vertical operation it doesn't make for an easy apples to apples comparison. So it's really for me with green marker report. We try to stay out of advocacy reporting. We try to stay out of legislative reporting. There are other people that do that very well. So we don't go in that lane. We just try to stay in the business side of it. So I often tell people when they say oh I have a medical company I want to talk to you about their efficacy of their product. That's OK. Call me back though if that medical company has now done X amount and sales or there's a business angle to it then yes let's talk. But if it's just talking about the efficacy of their product I'm going to pass. If it's a legislative issue again I'll normally pass unless it has some kind of banking aspect to it or it's going to move the needle within the cannabis industry.
[00:19:42] Got it. So. You want it you want to see how it's going to impact the financial performance either of particular companies or of the industry as a whole. That's newsworthy for you but just a pure electoral process. Yeah. And you slice up the market in any particular ways in terms of I mean I know I know a lot of these companies are now going kind of vertically integrated but to the extent that you've got you know cultivators and processors and dispensaries and multi-state operated I mean do you categorize these things to some extent or how do you how do you kind of feel a bit.
[00:20:13] I do definitely lump the MSA those together which are the multi-state operators. So that category is definitely sprung up in the last year it wasn't such a big deal before because you couldn't really have operations in multiple states. And what we started to see was companies figuring out how to do that so they would have whether they would have five different subsidiaries or five different headquarters whatever you want to call it.
[00:20:42] As those early companies started to figure out how to solve for that problem. That's when we started to see that growth really go crazy there. So there's the multi states a lot of the ancillaries I break out into their own category and you know ag tech a little bit although I haven't been seeing as much with the ag tech and cultivation honestly. Again it just starts to really get wrapped into the MSO. And then you have brands and then you have some that are just brands that that license brands produce brands. They're all about the brands really is. Those are the main categories.
[00:21:19] And so what. What are the interesting topics for you right now. What are the trends you're seeing. What are the topics that are most touching from a business reporting standpoint. What's going on. Of note in the cannabis industry over the last three six months or no time period that is worth mentioning.
[00:21:34] We're definitely seeing a lot of consolidation that's just continuing to happen. The companies that have gone public end up having a lot of money that they've raised that they are able to go out and make acquisitions to make their company even bigger. So we're seeing a lot of consolidation with acquisitions happening.
[00:21:51] A lot of divorces or happenings that have been very interesting. Cannabis is known for their quickie marriages and then shot down the horses. So right now a lot of companies think Hey yeah let's do this thing together.
[00:22:06] Is a great maybe don't vet the people that they're hopping into bed with. Very well. I've seen that a lot. I've had people go I just don't know that. So and so it was you know had this this pass.
[00:22:19] It's like how did you do it. Due diligence is not a strong word in this industry.
[00:22:25] Yes I do. Three clicks and I figure out this person has a background. And you you know whatever. So yeah there's.
[00:22:32] We've seen a lot of that just recently a lot of you know shotgun divorces and they've been fairly messy which has been interesting also in the cannabis industry is because it's not a mature industry. People are not so careful with what they say. And so we get a lot of really dramatic details and some of these scandalous things and it's it's great reading and entertainment for the rest of the people in the industry.
[00:23:02] But you certainly would not see this type of stuff if you worked for Coca Cola or Procter Gamble you would never see this type of stuff hit the public realm but in cannabis it seems to be that's what we see week in and week out. It's very interesting.
[00:23:19] I mean you think that's going to continue or is that just sort of the nature of where we are with the industry and then as the industry matures and grows like it will become more like some of these other established industries or do you think there's just always going to be a certain drama and edginess to to the kind of sweet corn we're going to continue to see that for the next couple of years anyway.
[00:23:38] I think that like I said with all this consolidation movement and acquisitions that we've been seeing I think that we've seen a lot of companies merge and come together and acquire people very quickly. And I think that we'll start to see some of those situations dissolve. And like I said it's in cannabis. They dissolve usually in a very messy way and until the industry matures which I think is easily you know two three to five years away we'll continue to see this.
[00:24:12] Yeah interesting. So tell me a little bit more about some of the events and things you're doing so you've got the Web site as being kind of your main channel. What are some of the other things you're doing around the community and building the business.
[00:24:23] Yeah. So we've got our flagship which is green marker report. We have our next event in Chicago on May 7th which we're really excited about. We had our first summit this past September at one World Trade Center which was really and was very exciting order an amazing place. Looking down on me on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza it's it's it's a beautiful beautiful building. And you know a little bittersweet but we are having our next event in Chicago. There are so many MSO that are basing out of Illinois right now that we really felt like Chicago had been skipped over as far as places like Iraq where these types of events. So we're we've got that plan. We are looking at doing a women's conference in New York and another you know once again a 2019 conference in New York probably back in September. Like you know just make that an annual thing and then we have been asked to do one in L.A. I just haven't been able to figure out when to put that on the calendar so we you know we we really again it's a bit of a financial focus.
[00:25:27] We try to. Keep it at about one hundred and one hundred and fifty people. We like to foster networking at these types of events at the really big conferences you really don't have such a chance to sit down.
[00:25:40] Talk is crazy. A gamble I think at the last Benjamin's company was overwhelming. So was a little overwhelming.
[00:25:49] I found that I would only be able to to make like a couple of meetings at a time because it just was too too difficult to get anything done. So I'm like you. Was I found a little frustrating because of the size I mean it's great for them because that's how you need it. The big change is how they're paying for their news organization is having this this this event. So I think that there's something to be said for that. That's just not what we want to do. We're want to keep it a little more intimate and foster the networking amongst the cannabis companies and their investors and an outside of the business outside the Green Market Report.
[00:26:31] I know you're involved in a couple of different organizations. Tell me about how what else you're involved in and why you've gotten involved in these other areas in the cannabis space.
[00:26:39] So I co-founded a group called industry power women and it's a networking group for women executives in the cannabis industry in the cannabis industry it started out being really open towards women in the executive level mostly because again it was as we said at the top of this podcast is that you know I always had a bit of a stigma still attached to it and so women were really willing to take that risk if they could be named a CEO or CFO of a company. They're like Well I'm not getting this over it. Procter and Gamble but I can get it over at this Cannabis Company. And so now I'm gonna have that on my CV.
[00:27:16] And we found that that the women in cannabis at that level you know really kind of everybody felt like they were on their own that nobody understood what they were doing or could reach out to and so we started doing this networking group. It doesn't cost women anything any of our events are completely sponsored so that they don't have to pay for tickets so that they can meet other women that are also at that level at that executive level and talk and network and work with each other so that's something I'm real proud of. Having co-founded and I'm also on the board at Access wire which is a newswire that's devoted to cannabis press releases and I'm on the advisory board to an infused wine company called House of SOCA and they're out of Napa Valley and do enthused wines right now the first one is a Rosie and it will be launched in March and it is delicious.
[00:28:10] It has the alcohol. Hall is removed from this wine. It is. Oh yeah. It's got a bottle of wine has 10 milligrams of THC in it and it's the ideas that you can have a glass of wine and have the social aspect of drinking but not the physical aspect of the alcohol and how it makes you feel and it you know if you taste some of these CBD in the CBD or THC infused beverages that really skanky weed tasting and that's something that's been a difficult thing to solve for the woman that heads up this wine company.
[00:28:49] She has salt for that so it's absolutely amazing. So yeah yeah it's kind of got a few things and we've got another website we're gonna be launching along with green mark report hopefully in the next couple of months that we've been building. It's going to be really cool.
[00:29:07] It's taking a lot of software that always takes twice as long and cost twice as much as he originally planned.
[00:29:14] But yeah it's gonna be really really neat. And there's nobody else is doing this type of thing.
[00:29:21] So I look forward to hearing that and I can do it we can do another episode on that one. We're going to hit time here. Debra this has been great. You know impressive impressive business impressive what you're doing in the industry you know it was I've learned a lot and I appreciate the time and being part of the program.
[00:29:38] Well thank you for having me. And everybody can go to www.GreenMarketReport.com if they want to see what we're talking about.
[00:29:45] Excellent. And I was I will make sure that those are on the euro is in the show notes here so people can click through again. Debra thanks for the time and I appreciate contributing. Thank you Bruce.
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