Can you take marijuana enthusiasm, add social media, and get a successful app? (Tweet This)
Well, there's now Duby, a combination of Instagram-style photo-sharing, Tinder's interface, and Reddit's brand of up-or-down voting. Plus, of course, a growing population of people that enjoy recreational marijuana use, and who want to connect with other enthusiasts.
Duby launched just over a week ago, and aims to help marijuana consumers around the globe partake in one of the culture's time-honored traditions: showing off buds, pipes, and all manner of paraphernalia. Users upload pieces of content called Dubys—images, video and text—and vote on other users' content by swiping right to "pass the Duby" or left to "put it out."
If it's not yet clear, a "doobie" is one of many nicknames for a joint—or as Merriam-Webster dryly puts it, "a marijuana cigarette."
"Cannabis is just very different from anything else. It's a lifestyle. It's every day," said 25-year-old co-founder Alec Rochford. He added that with recreational marijuana having been legalized in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, "people are out and proud about it."
Already, the app had been downloaded more than 1,500 times through Thursday without any advertising. Duby estimates that 50 percent of users are "sparking up" daily.
A consummate smoker himself, Rochford moved to Denver, Colorado to take part in the growing commercial cannabis scene. He created the app with his cousin's husband Russell Thomas, a cybersecurity consultant.
The app is taking advantage of a boom in the market for legal marijuana sales, which grew to $2.7 billion in 2014 from $1.5 billion the previous year, according to an annual study conducted by ArcView Market Research. The firm sees revenues hitting $3.4 billion this year, creating opportunities in ancillary industries, including tech that caters to pot smokers.
A number of start-ups already play in the digital networking space, including the 250,000-smoker strong social network MassRoots and High There, a dating service for hemp heads.
The Denver-based team behind Duby developed multiple ganja-oriented apps last year. In October, Rochford and Thomas put out a call online to smokers, inviting them to play with the prototypes. The app that eventually became Duby was the clear winner.
"The viral social idea we have in the app really took off. Nine out of 10 users were obsessed with it," Rochford said.
New users start with an influence level of three. Each Duby they light up travels to three other users in their geographic area. If people pass the Duby, the user's numerical score goes up, and each new Duby reaches that many more members—creating additional opportunities to become more influential. If too many people put out the Duby, the user's score may decline.
The model embraces the culture of marrying content with game theory pioneered by point-scoring apps like Foursquare. Still, it is more than a way of hooking users by introducing an element of competition.
Rochford and Thomas wanted their app to be more democratic than the typical social media platform, where a user's influence is largely dictated by the number of followers he or she amasses. That model typically favors celebrities, and concentrates influence among a privileged few with large followings.
On Duby, if the community thinks the quality of your content is going downhill, your influence will tank. Meanwhile, passionate bud-heads with killer contributions are rewarded.
"You can be a celebrity in Hollywood or a bud tender," Rochford said. "Everyone's on the same playing field."
Building a social network that revolves around reefer is not without its risks. Earlier this year, Apple booted MassRoots from its App Store, saying its product didn't comply with the tech giant's values. However, Apple reinstated MassRoots after the app-maker limited downloads to Americans in the 23 U.S. states where medical marijuana is legal.
For the time-being, Duby is abiding by the same guidelines. The app is also available in Washington D.C., Canada, the Netherlands, Jamaica, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
Other aspects of Duby acknowledge the legal gray area that weed culture still occupies. Thomas engineered the program to conceal the location of users, and profiles default to anonymity. It's up to users to decide whether they'll disclose their name or post a profile picture.
In the future, the developers may seek to monetize the service. One revenue stream Rochford foresees is connecting pot businesses with Duby users who demonstrate a penchant for their particular product. For instance: A Colorado smoker who posts Dubys of concentrated THC products that are popular among mature marijuana users might receive a targeted post from a Denver dispensary, with a new brand of potent cannabis oil.
Already, marijuana content purveyor Stoner Days and dispensary location service WeedMaps have opened Duby accounts. Some dispensaries are also posting pictures of product.
At least for now, Duby is all about growing its circle. As more people join and more Dubys get passed, the algorithm that powers the app will dole out higher influence scores. Just over a week in, Rochford boasts a 20—toward the high end of the curve at the moment.
The maximum score possible? That would be 420—of course.