Matt Norris oversees mobile product development at Weedmaps in Irvine, California. (Ed Crisostomo, Orange County Register)

Working with weed: Meet a technology developer who gives consumers a voice

SANTA ANA, Calif. — In many ways, Matt Norris’ work developing mobile sites and apps feels like any other startup gig.

His team moves quickly, testing new products and sometimes failing. His co-workers are young, passionate and often wearing headsets.

But the Irvine office often has a distinct smell. And it happens to be part of a profitable, international company – which, Norris points out, is pretty rare in the world of startups.

That company is Weedmaps, which allows consumers to find and rate marijuana dispensaries.

As a vice president, Norris’ job is to create mobile products that work for everyone from elderly medical marijuana patients to strain-savvy millennials.

“I love a really good challenge,” the Santa Ana resident said.

Norris, 27, studied psychology in college and became interested in what made people engage with certain products. Soon, he developed a knack for creating enticing mobile technology.

He spent four years in London at a company that lets users gamble on whether particular stocks will go up or down. But the Southern California weather beckoned him back, so in 2013 he took a job at Grindr, a social networking site for gay men. Then a co-worker told him about an opportunity at Weedmaps.

Norris had little exposure to the world of marijuana beyond smoking occasionally. But he saw how marijuana helped a friend with cancer. He also “fell in love” with the Weedmaps team. Plus, he liked the idea of learning an entirely new world while getting in on the ground floor of the fast-growing industry.

“There is so much opportunity, so much room for improvement here in the cannabis space,” he said. “I think it’s a good place to be now and for a long time in the future.”

Two burning questions for Matt Norris

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: The people I’m working alongside are extremely talented and exceptional at what they do in every realm. They are incredibly passionate about making people’s lives better. … You can’t force that.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of what you do?

A: The hardest thing, honestly, was just learning all the different terminology, what kind of customers we serve, what needs they have and how to take care of those needs. … Learning about this industry and keeping up with the constantly evolving nature of the community has been super challenging for me.

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