For his latest venture, serial entrepreneur Mark Hadfield decided to use his background in video technology to launch a telemedicine service. Hadfield noticed that more people wanted to interact with their doctors remotely. But soon after launching HelloMD, the telemedicine space grew crowded with competing services, and Hadfield decided to specialize. In March 2015, HelloMD became exclusively focused on helping patients apply for, receive and follow-up on medical cannabis prescriptions. HelloMD now operates only in California, but Hadfield is in talks to branch out into 23 other states and internationally.
What made you think HelloMD could be exclusively cannabis-focused?
I look at my wife as the model patient for our service. She is in her 40s, she suffers from migraines and she started looking at medical cannabis as an alternative to Vicodin. Her experience going to a sketchy clinic in downtown San Rafael really clued us in on the need of these patients to access cannabis-educated doctors in a comfortable environment.
What is the main problem you think HelloMD is solving?
Cannabis moved from the shadows into mainstream, but there is still a long way to go as far as access and education. Many doctors, especially primary care physicians, are just not comfortable, knowledgeable or ready to start prescribing cannabis. We are providing people access to doctors who are very comfortable and knowledgeable about this medicine.
What happens if California fully legalizes marijuana?
It will legalize and frankly it only helps our business. That would bring marijuana more into the mainstream than before. In Colorado, they legalized more than a year ago and 40 percent of the market is still medical. Recreational users access different products and pay different prices.
What surprised you getting into this business?
One of the interesting surprises is that many of our patients are accessing our video consultations while in their car. Also I get dizzy with how many products there are and the innovation in the cannabis industry.
How big is the demand in this space?
Analysts are all projecting that the cannabis industry will become bigger than the wine industry, so north of $60 billion. That is six times bigger than the coffee industry. That is looking at cannabis users today and tracking them, as they become legal users. No one is sure how big it could ultimately get.
How do you stay relevant as legislation on cannabis is in flux?
We stay relevant because we are focused on the medical applications of marijuana and aren’t getting into the recreational portion of it. Medical needs and applications of cannabis are not going away.
Cannabis regulation is rapidly changing state to state as well as federally and even city ordinances. There are also still huge issues with banking and online advertising. We are constantly making contingency plans.
We have an app coming that will help streamline our platform. We also are looking at how soon we can scale to all the states offering medical cannabis use. We are also in the process of raising money.
I had two first jobs at the same time: Door-to-door jewelry sales and selling roses in restaurants. For the jewelry sales I would get into an apartment building and risk being thrown out but it was worth it because one good resident would open up opportunities to the whole building. It was quite lucrative.
The Hadfield File
HQ: San Rafael
What it does: Provide live video access to doctors to see if medical cannabis should be prescribed. The consultation fee is $49
Founded: 2012, but pivoted exclusively to marijuana in March of 2015
2015 estimated revenue:$1.2 million
Growth: Seeing 30 percent growth in users month over month
Funding: Largely bootstrapped with some friends and family investment
Background: Serial entrepreneur since the mid-90s, starting with a document-comparing software company called Workshare. Followed by a disaster recovery company called AccountMaven. Was the chief revenue officer of a video API service that was acquired by Snapchat in 2013
Source: Upstart Business Journal
Photo: Mark Hadfield, CEO & founder of HelloMD Todd Johnson (San Francisco Business Times)