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Tim Conder: Self-Made Entrepreneur To Cannabis C-Suite In 5 Questions – Forbes


I was introduced to Tim Conder by the magic of the inter-webs and found his story to be quite enlightening. This man has gone through more than most. He was homeless for a time in San Francisco, just surviving that is a call for ambition. That is my way of finding out about others, by digging a bit deeper into their lives, if they allow me that chance. Cannabis logistics in the age of COVID-19 is a life/death compromise. Patients need their medicine and cannot compromise their health by traveling. But companies that specialize in logistics didn’t just pop up overnight to satiate current demand. Blackbird is Nevada’s number one delivery service and for good reason. They are deeply concerned with providing business solutions to the industry of cannabis. Whereas most c-suite leaders at publicly traded cannabis companies come from privileged, private equity backgrounds, Tim dropped out of high school in 9th grade and overcame homelessness to found his first cannabis company — ultimately becoming president of TILT Holdings, a top ten public cannabis company by revenue (according to New Cannabis Ventures). Tim’s underdog story starts in Bay Area, where he was raised in the “family business” cultivating and distributing cannabis on the illicit market and learning deep respect for the plant. A fortuitous job as a bike messenger changed the course of his career and his life.

Tim started his first bike messenger delivery business, Bootleg Courier Co, in Reno, NV with just two bikes and went on to combine that business idea with his knowledge and connections in cannabis to launch cannabis delivery company Blackbird (he says the bike messenger culture and cannabis culture are very closely aligned). Today he oversees a fleet of 100+ trucks as the leading delivery provider in Nevada and a top ten service in California. Blackbird was purchased by TILT Holdings in late 2018 for $50MM, and Tim as named president of TILT where he’s now charged with building what he believes can be the “Amazon of cannabis” – a new and different model for delivering cannabis at scale. Thank you Tim for being so authentic. WB

Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself. Why Cannabis? What was your inspiration for the plant?

Tim Conder=TC: My name is Tim Conder, and I’m President and Chief Operating Officer at TILT Holdings and the co-founder and CEO of Blackbird, a publicly traded business solutions company and a supply chain software and operations company, respectively. I was raised in the Central Valley in California but moved around the country several times in my late teens and twenties, ultimately settling in the San Francisco Bay Area. My relationship with cannabis and respect for the plant started in adolescence, well before state legalization. My extended family and close friends operated gray market farms in Northern California – growing cannabis to make a living and to be closer to nature, living off the grid in the rural Mendocino wilderness. 

In my early twenties I scraped together $200 for equipment to start a bike messenger business with a friend, which eventually became Bootleg Courier Company based in Reno, Nevada. As our fleet grew, I discovered a lot of overlap between bike messenger culture and cannabis culture. That sparked an idea for cannabis delivery, and Blackbird was born. What started with two bikes is today a fleet of 100 trucks. Blackbird is Nevada’s number one cannabis delivery business, with over a quarter billion wholesale deliveries in the state over the past twelve months. Last year Blackbird was acquired by TILT, and after an initial role of COO I stepped into the job of President. 

WB: Please tell me about your company. What are your six and twelve month goals? 

TC: TILT Holdings is a top ten publicly traded cannabis company by revenue, and unique from the large MSOs in our class. Simply put, TILT, provides business solutions to cannabis operators through its diversified holdings. Jupiter, the largest company in the TILT portfolio, designs and distributes vape hardware to cannabis and CBD manufacturers at a global scale. Blackbird, the company I co-founded and oversee as CEO, supports retailers with a full suite of software and outsourced delivery and distribution services. Much like an Amazon for cannabis, we move medical and recreational cannabis products downstream through the supply chain and ultimately into the hands of end consumers through our consumer marketplace, BlackbirdGo.com. TILT also owns and operates plant touching assets in Pennsylvania with Standard Farms, and in Massachusetts with Commonwealth Alternative Care. Operating these businesses helps us better understand the needs of our clients and customers through first-hand experience. 

In a year like 2020, we know we need to be prepared for anything. We are fortunate that we’ve not only been able to weather the effects of COVID, but are continuing to post revenue and hire new talent. Our company has come through a transitional year, and over the next six months we are focused on stability and profitability. A strong foundation for growth requires investing in talent and creating processes that scale rapidly and efficiently. Over the next 12 months TILT, led by Jupiter and Blackbird, will expand to capitalize on the opportunities available in the cannabis market globally. We fully intend to be best in class in each of our market segments and to meet the needs of all of our clients and customers. 

 

WB: What about stigmas? How do you explain to a potential client what you do?

TC: When I began my career in cannabis, I was taken aback by the stigmas that still existed around the sale and use of cannabis, even for registered medical patients. The plant had long been normalized for me through my direct experience with it and all its benefits. However, things have changed drastically in the five years since I started Blackbird. Instead of seeming taboo, a career in cannabis is now viewed as exciting and entrepreneurial by outsiders looking in.

For me, very little has changed. I still work with the same group of friends that I started my bicycle messenger business with more than a decade ago. I still use cannabis openly, and many of my friends and family have transitioned to the regulated cannabis market from previously unregulated enterprises. 

Both TILT and Blackbird can be a little hard to explain to people outside cannabis. TILT has revised its focus around its business solution assets, Blackbird and Jupiter. Previously, it could have been looked at as a competitor to large multi-state cannabis operators (MSOs). But TILT actually facilitates cannabis operators’ businesses rather than competing with them, by solving complex supply chain problems related to hardware, software, and delivery and distribution. Blackbird can be even more difficult to explain, because there’s nothing quite like it in the industry. It is more than a software solution or a delivery fleet. Blackbird offers an enterprise solution from a software and services perspective, and has the potential to become the largest B2B and B2C distributor of cannabis in North America — maybe even the world.

WB: What is your favorite food memory from childhood? What is your favorite kind of food now? From where? 

TC: I love Mexican food. My maternal grandfather is Mexican, and I grew up with my mother replicating his family’s enchilada recipe (among others). While I still love Mexican food, I also have an insatiable sweet tooth. Tres Leches cake is my absolute favorite. My favorite Tres Leche cake is made by Marketón in Reno, Nevada where I live.  

WB: What is your passion? 

TC: I am passionate about building things and about people. Building a company as unique as Blackbird has been an exciting (and often scary) challenge. Doing it alongside my closest friends and extended family has been a real blessing. We are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to build a regulated cannabis industry, but the sacrifices of so many that came before us cannot be forgotten. We can honor their efforts by maintaining the culture of cannabis, understanding that it is an industry unlike any other, and working to make it as inclusive and diverse as possible. Ultimately, my career in cannabis is one born from a love for the plant and both its medical and recreational effects and the community that passion created.

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