Building a Business on the Back of Government Contracts: Q&A With BioTrackTHC’s Patrick Vo

By John Schroyer

BioTrackTHC has traveled an interesting path on its way to becoming one of the most prominent software firms serving the cannabis industry.

The Florida-based company works directly with roughly 1,300 cannabis businesses, but the key to its recent success has been its ability to win state contracts for custom seed-to-sale tracking systems.

BioTrack first won Washington State’s contract over 21 other companies in 2013, netting $750,000 for the base deal and even more as part of a two-year maintenance agreement.

So far in 2015, the company has won similar contracts from New York, Illinois and New Mexico, which could bring in more than $1 million in additional revenue. The company has so far won four out of six state contracts awarded to software companies for seed-to-sale tracking systems.

But revenue is only one benefit: Landing government contracts has also helped BioTrack build credibility in the cannabis industry quickly, which in turn has helped the company land more retail customers.

Marijuana Business Daily spoke to Patrick Vo, BioTrack’s CEO, about government contracts and the ins and outs of cannabis tracking software. Following are his comments, edited for length and clarity.

What’s BioTrack’s approach to bidding on state contracts? What do you attribute the company’s success to in that arena?

When a (Request for Proposal) comes out, we tear it apart. We study it.

First thing we look at is making sure we’re not disqualified administratively – do we adhere to all of the rules of the RFP? We don’t want to embark on this process and put a lot of man hours into it only to find that the entire thing was thrown out because we forgot to sign a particular document.

From there, we just pour our hearts and souls into it. We put it all on paper, and we submit a proposal that answers the questions specifically asked. It’s really about understanding the underlying concern for a particular requirement.

The other thing is thorough review. Even in a 250-page proposal, all it takes are a few typos or grammatical errors for an evaluator to think less of the proposal. So the grammar and punctuation and spelling is all critical. You can throw hundreds of man hours into a proposal and it can all be undone because you overlooked one thing.

We never go into an RFP assuming that we’ve got it. We always put in 110% effort. We work nights and weekends to make sure the proposal is something we are proud of and is going to get first place. Good enough is not an option. You either win it or you go home.

Did BioTrack’s success in Washington State set up the company for success in the other three states?

I would say yes. No state wants to be the last state without a state traceability system. States have now seen that they can have tools to oversee the industry, and law enforcement can utilize meaningful data to ensure industry compliance.

That being said, I would imagine that no one wants to be the guinea pig for someone else’s unproven system. So our experience and our success in Washington, I feel, is an asset to our company and to our proposals.

Will the newer systems be fundamentally similar or different in terms of their design? How would the Illinois system differ from any of the other three systems?

At the end of the day, what I can say will be similar across the board is state personnel are going to be able to aggregate seed-to-sale data across their industry.

Some states put heavier emphasis on laboratory results and the timing of those tests and how they affect the production life cycle. Other states perhaps put more emphasis on transportation and transportation manifests. So each of them will be tailored to state-specific regulations, but they’ll all have full end-to-end data to oversee the industry.

Has bidding on government contracts gotten easier or more competitive over the past couple of years?

Once the RFP process is concluded and the contract is awarded, the proposal is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

We work under the assumption that all of our competitors have requested copies of our winning proposals, and we’re working under the assumption that they’re studying them and closing the gap between looking at what we’ve done well.

So that, of course, inspires us to continue to improve our own proposals. The fact that our winning proposals are out there for everybody to review is definitely making the competition for government contracts more competitive.

Are government contracts going to become a bigger part of the industry?

It’s a critical component of our long-term strategy. And obviously, it’s one thing to bid on them and win, and it’s another to execute. That’s where our attention is now now that we’ve got these contracts.

Regardless of its impact on our financial position, what it continues to do is build our brand and establish BioTrack as a leader in the seed-to-sale space. I see that as a huge asset. We plan on bidding on every single seed to sale RFP that we’re aware of. That’s going to be true from here on out.

Some business owners in Washington have reported that BioTrackTHC’s system is buggy and somewhat unreliable. Have there been problems?

We aren’t seeing any meaningful level of complaints with the Washington system. The entire database is public and released on a monthly basis and such problems are not apparent in the underlying data that anyone can analyze.

Our most recent conversation with the (Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board) indicates no such issue. That said, we are always working with the state and users of the system to maximize its efficiency and effectiveness.

John Schroyer can be reached at