Marijuana startup Lemonhaze leverages Bizspark to jump from AWS to Azure

Kareem Anderson

Here at OnMSFT, we write a lot about cloud computing and the various tangential functions it encompasses such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data storage. We also take the time to crunch the numbers each quarter from some of the top names in the industry to see how each company is doing with trying to obtain or maintain the highly coveted market share crown.

But what does it all mean?

For one marijuana start up, it means ditching cloud computing incumbent Amazon for quickly rising software giant Microsoft’s cloud offerings.

I was recently told an anecdotal story of how Microsoft’s lesser publicized Bizspark program helped marijuana dispensary Lemonhaze shift its entire business off AWS and onto Azure.

While this migration tale is just one of a thousand stories of business switching back and forth between Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud computing solutions, Lemonhaze’s experience highlights Microsoft’s developing concentration on helping small to medium sized businesses access the benefits of the cloud.

As Lemonhaze writes on their blog, “Why did we make the move? Simple. Our AWS charges were eating through our limited capital resources.”

While Lemonhaze has nothing but positive things to say about AWS as a service, it comes down to money as to why the company migrated over to Azure. Lemonhaze recounts a particularly costly encounter with AWS that help motivate the company to switch.

There was this one time an offshore team member inadvertently launched an RDS Instance on AWS that cost us three-thousand bucks. That’s three grand! We would have much preferred spending that money on legal reefers.

Previously, the words Microsoft, start up and money seemed to usually end in another AWS success story, but according to Lemonhaze, Microsoft has a not so secret weapon to help convert those terms in Azure success stories.


Lemonhaze got accepted into the Bizspark program. With open arms. Thanks to Bizspark, Lemonhaze is now fully hosted in the Azure cloud for FREE! For a start-up, this is huge. It frees up capital that we have now allocated to other growth initiatives. Not only was migrating over a cinch, MSFT supplied us with professional service support to facilitate the migration. Seamless.

Worried about a perceptional rejection by Microsoft based on its involvement with marijuana, Lemonhaze cautiously looked into the Bizspark program not expecting much. “As a start-up in the legal marijuana space, we have gotten accustomed to hearing the word “no” and the myriad of rejections we deal with on a regular basis,” recounts the team.

Fortunately, Lemonhaze qualified for Bizspark and managed to save a whopping 100% on their web hosting. Lemonhaze is realistic about its future with Azure as Bizspark is mainly a testing and migration tool that offers ‘credits’ to lure potential customers in. At some point, Lemonhaze will have to eventually shell out its own money to host its services on Azure but based on their positive experience and seamless transition, the team plans on staying with Azure for the foreseeable future.

We dig the BizSpark/Azure approach of assisting start-ups. Most start-ups fail. At Lemonhaze we fail every day. When working with AWS, the only free customer support available was for billing questions. There’s nothing scarier to a start-up than having to part each month with a nice chunk of change, without the ability to assess if we are optimizing our spend. One wrong move on AWS can wreak havoc on the finances/future of a start-up. Note that when we did run into a critical technical issue, we were required to pay an additional fee for support with AWS.

Again, this is just one in a long list tales that Microsoft will use to continue to pitch its Azure service and the company’s new found focus on tailoring its product for the little guys now. We must also keep in mind, Amazon is in no threat of losing its cloud computing cache or its multitude of customers anytime soon, but Lemonhaze’s closing words should put a smile on the Azure teams face while worrying the AWS team a bit.

Most small business owners I know are petrified of getting crushed by Amazon. Ditto with Amazon sellers. And brands. (P.S. This is the main reason why we are relieved to no longer be sharing any info/data with Amazon.)

It may only be a few rumblings here and there, but once a narrative takes hold, it can be hard for a company to overcome its momentum. Fortunately, Microsoft knows a thing or two about trying to overcoming narratives, it remains to be seen how Amazon handles theirs.