By Eric Vengroff, Financial Analyst, Cannabis Daily
Writing this column is the best part of my job description. And why wouldn’t it be? I get to spend a few minutes with some of the leaders, movers and shakers in the cannabis industry. Their insights and observations about the business are instructive for the rest of us behind on our learning in this fast-moving space. Such was the case in my discussion with Matei Olaru, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lift & Co. A corporate lawyer and consultant by trade, Matei has overseen Lift’s equity raises since 2016. Under his leadership, Lift has raised $4-million in private funding, tripled to more than 40 employees, and launched several key products, all in one year’s time.
I recently visited and covered the Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo that ran in Toronto from May 25-27th and reported on how different this show was than previous ‘lifestyle’ events that I’ve attended (https://cannabisdaily.today/lift-co-cannabis-expo-illustrates-the-changing-nature-of-the-business/, May 24, 2018). CD asked Mr. Olaru these questions and here are is answers:
CD: As cannabis legalization rolls out, what are your views for the general outlook for the industry?
MO: At a very base level, cannabis will be legalized it seems, and that in itself will be a huge achievement. The intricacies of distribution, advertising and regulation those are minor details. There’s a brand new industry that’s being created where there will be winners in all sorts of verticals that will come to light, so I think this is a very exciting time and there’s growth all around to be had.
CD: And how does Lift & Co. fit into this industry?
MO: Consumers think of us as the tripadvisor for legal cannabis, so we have the largest review platform for federally legal cannabis products in the world and we help consumers differentiate products based on the effects they’re looking for, or the producer, or perhaps understand brands. Our business is based on empowering through information because the regulations around cannabis marketing and distribution have made It very difficult to understand specific products or specific brand offerings. We help empower the consumer through the reviews and the industry through the information that we collect from those reviews, letting them know the consumer trends, the product trends, what works and what doesn’t.
We are a platform of assets that work together to inform an industry; for consumers it’s through education or product information and tools unavailable anywhere else. For the industry, it’s about providing them with consumers or insight into the market with the data sets that we have. And that’s really where we stand apart from a Leafly or a Weedmaps. Not only are we a platform, but from a user’s perspective, not only is our data intrinsically more valid and useful for helping people make better and more informed decisions, and with a bird’s eye view of the industry, we can with more certainty know the trends in the market and help guide consumers and industry alike.
CD: Considering how many other enterprises are developing industry and trade shows, what is Lift’s competitive advantage?
MO: We are half a content and media business, so that is where our events come into play and that is a very visible, public way for us to build our brand and bring in a lot of consumers at once and introduce them to the Lift brand, the tripadvisor of legal cannabis.
CD: tripadvisor, initially was just that – an advisor, but at some point they transitioned to booking. Do you forsesee ultimately extending the brand into the online dispensary space?
MO: Regulations permitting, we would be ideally positioned to do something like that. In the interim we help monetize other parts of the transaction, so for example our loyalty program, which simply allows people to earn points by reviewing on Lift, that today they would redeem for a discount. We monetize that in various ways from the industry side. By virtue of being the defacto source for comparing and choosing a product we would be excited and positioned to facilitate transactions as well.
Like this publication Mr. Olaru places a high value on impartial information and believes that ongoing education for consumers, producers and investors is key. That is why historically they have turned down investment offers from licensed producers, which Mr. Olaru believes could potentially jeopardize Lift’s reputation as an ‘altruistic’ source of unbiased information.
CD: We are interested to learn about the upcoming RTO round and financing. What do you intend to do with the money?
MO: In terms of the use of proceeds, it’s such an arms race in the legal cannabis industry, and we are excited to take our platform internationally, to markets very similar to Canada where we can help empower and inform industry just like we do here, and we look forward to welcoming some complementary companies under our Lift & Co. family, as a public company.
The information and opinions presented here are that of the analyst and do not represent the thoughts and opinions of this website. The analyst does not own or represent any of the companies listed in this article and receives no compensation from any party mentioned in this article. Readers are urged to do their own research and due diligence and should seek advice from an independent financial advisor before making any financial investment.