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An Oakland-based distribution company has developed software that enables it to fulfill orders from cannabis retailers within 36 hours of receiving them.

Nabis handles fulfillment for more than 100 different brands. The company, which has a team of more than 115 people, ships about $250 million in products a year to more than 750 cannabis retailers across the state. Since its inception in 2017, Nabis has grown to become California’s largest cannabis distributor, serving 99 percent of retailers in the state.

Vince Ning of Nabis
Vince Ning

“Imagine us as the FedEx of the cannabis industry,” said Vince Ning, co-founder and CEO of Nabis. 

The Nabis warehouses in northern and southern California have a combined total of 50,000 square feet of space to store customers’ products before the distributor’s fleet of 50 trucks zip around the state delivering the cannabis to retailers.

Brand managers can see how much of their product is in stock at the Nabis warehouse through the company’s website and replenish the inventory as needed. Retailers can see what’s in stock and place their orders, which are delivered within 36 hours. Nabis handles all the compliance, paperwork, track-and-trace requirements, and testing before sending the products out for delivery. 

“It’s like an Amazon Prime-level experience for retailers,” Ning said. “We take an Amazon approach to make sure the customers are delighted — brands and retailers both. As a distributor, we’re here to provide choice and access.”

Nabis helps with payment collection and processing after the products have been delivered. The service also includes paying taxes to the state, which has a cannabis industry valued at an estimated $5.6 billion. Payment processing is one of the main challenges because all transactions must be in cash, which increases the company’s cost of security.

A warehouse opening in Oakland

“Nabis has paid over five percent of all the state’s cannabis cultivation and excise taxes,” Ning said.

To comply with state regulations, all Nabis trucks are equipped with secure caging across the beds, GPA locators, and security cameras. Deposit-only safes are bolted to the floors. Drivers don’t know codes to get into the safes, and the codes are changed weekly.

Nabis recently expanded its service to include collecting data about product trends and sales, as well as the creditworthiness of dispensaries. It uses the data to build new services and brands. It also has created a financing solution for cannabis businesses that are having difficulty getting loans from traditional lenders.

Ning said he’d like to expand Nabis to other states where cannabis is legal.

Because of the safety precautions it’s taken, Nabis has had few issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Only one employee has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 12 months. Warehouse employees must stay six feet apart and wear personal protective equipment, and the company has adjusted shifts so that the same people work together.

Well-known technology executives including DoorDash Inc. co-founder Stanley Tang, Gmail creator Paul Buchheit, and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan have invested $10 million in the company at a valuation of $180 million.

After starting their careers in the software industry, Ning and his best friend from childhood Jun Lee launched the company in 2017.

“Cannabis has a personal place in my heart,” Ning said. “Growing up on the East Coast, this was always part of our culture and generation. We always wanted to build a business together, and we thought it was perfect to mix our experience in software development in this new industry that we were super passionate about.”