Meet Marvina, the Birchbox of Pot
If you give Silicon Valley marijuana, it’s going to want an impressive startup to go with it.
Enter Marvina, a high-end weed subscription service with the ability to deliver a glossy black box of curated pot to anyone in San Francisco with a medical marijuana card and a wallet. Partnered with experienced budtenders at a local dispensary, Marvina combines the ease of delivery with the luxury of an expert calling the shots.
It’s fine wine-of-the-month club meets pizza deliveryman—and it might just work.
Existing marijuana delivery services in the area, such as Eaze, have eliminated the need to travel to a dispensary. Marvina takes it a step further, eliminating an increasingly vexing (and abundantly first-world) problem: too many choices. Should I buy an eighth of Fuzzy Sugaree or OG Vazcarra? Do I want two Gupta Kush’s or one?
By uniting with a dispensary that can not only knowledgeably pick the marijuana, but verify medical marijuana cards and legally deliver it, the company even seems to have successfully figured out how to do it legally.
As ganjapreneuers in Colorado and Washington scramble to capitalize on pot, nerdy coders in San Francisco could be beating them at their own game.
Dane Pieri, the 26-year-old CEO and co-founder of Marvina, sounds older and wiser on the phone than his age suggests. “Unless you’re an expert looking at the menu [at a dispensary], you have no idea what you’re doing,” he tells me. “So for people who are not experts—and don’t want to spend the time becoming one—we can take that off your shoulders. It’s one less thing you need to worry about.”
Officially launched in November, the startup is just now gaining steam in the Bay Area, with more than 100 members and growing. But for Pieri and his business partner Derek Dahmer, it was eight months in the making. Born and raised in a suburb of Boston (where Dahmer is from as well), Pieri grew up dreaming of one day being architecture—or maybe an engineer. “I had always been interested in business, I guess from listening to my parents talk about it all the time,” he says. “But I definitely didn’t think I’d do something in the cannabis industry.”
At Carnegie Mellon, where he graduated in 2011, Pieri’s focus began to shift. A double major in Industrial Design and Humanities, he became an expert in coding and programming, eventually landing a job as the Head of Product at Yardsellr/YellowDog Media. But after just a few months at the job, watching cannabis become a real market, Pieri knew it was time to do something different.
Paired up with Dahmer, who was also interested in joining the marijuana industry, he brainstormed possible needs in the market. “We were exploring a couple different angles in the industry, thinking about maybe a software service for growers to keep track of their plants, or for dispensaries to track.” It was the ubiquity of inexperienced users—combined with the vast array of options at dispensaries—that eventually sparked the idea.
But the model, while new to the marijuana industry, isn’t necessarily undiscovered. As others have noted, Marvina operates much like Birchbox, a beauty supplies subscription service that brings must-have lipstick, mascara, and moisturizer to subscribers each month.
But unlike Birchbox, that subtly aims to sway users into buying more of a specific product, Marvina works with just one dispensary and just one product. In other words, it makes no difference to them whether you like the Bobbi Brown lipstick or the Kate Spade perfume (more realistically, the Gupta Kush or the Fuzzy Sugaree)—the money is all going to the same place.
Taking a page out of the book of community supported agriculture programs, a popular way to order groceries farm to table in San Francisco, the startup bills itself as more of a middleman than a salesman. “While you interact with Marvina through our website, the marijuana you receive each month is grown and delivered by the dispensary that you signed up to.”
Named for the singer behind the Weeds theme song (Marvina Reynolds), Pieri says Marvina’s goal isn’t to create stoners, just cater to them. “We started Marvina because we were frustrated by the current ways to legally buy marijuana,” he writes on the sleek website that he and Dahmer designed and built. “Retail dispensaries are great but they are often hard to get to and crowded.”
An example box on Marvina’s website shows the contents of a Sativa-heavy package (marijuana that’s more likely to induce feelings of excitement than lethargy) and an Indica one (more likely to cause drowsiness.) In the Sativa package is “1 heavy eight of jack herer, 1 gram Sour Diesel, 1 gram Blue Dream, and 1 gram SFV OG.” All told, less than $100—and most importantly, legal.
It’s this fact that Marvina’s creators are quick to clarify on their website, making an important distinction amid California’s strict rules on marijuana sales. “Marvina operates in full compliance with all applicable state and local laws, as do Marvina's partner dispensaries. Marvina is not a dispensary and does not sell marijuana,” the disclaimer reads. “Marvina is a service that connects qualified patients with local dispensaries.”
Pieri and Dahmer hope to make the “intimidating” process of selecting strains easier and, well, more sophisticated. “A big part of our goal is to make this more professional and more normal,” says Pieri. “So if we can help make cannabis like any other consumer product, than we’re happy.”