Exclusive Interview with Caliva Chairman Carol Bartz
Over the past year, California cannabis company Caliva has achieved 350 percent growth while the state’s cannabis market decreased by 17 percent. Longtime tech leader and Chairman of the Board since earlier this year, Carol Bartz, spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about the vertically integrated company’s presence in the state and its plans for expansion. The audio of the entire conversation is available at the end of this written summary.
Bartz, a former CEO of Yahoo and Cisco board member and CEO of Autodesk, spent most of her career in the tech industry–she programmed her first computer in 1968. After undergoing two total knee replacements, she found herself looking for alternative pain relief options. She visited several dispensaries before finding Caliva. After going on a tour, something clicked. She saw the opportunity to bring her background in building strong management teams and partnerships to a high-growth company with a quality team.
During her career, Bartz has been a part of many management teams, and in her experience, Caliva has the highest quality team for a company its size. Everyone from executive leadership, including CEO Dennis O’Malley, to the technical team involved in testing and growing, creates a strong team, according to Bartz.
Caliva in California
Caliva has two sites in the Bay Area of California and a team of more than 600 employees. Of that team, 150 employees are drivers dedicated to the company’s distribution model. The company focuses on making its products as accessible as possible, through physical retail locations, delivery, and online. The company is aiming to take that model to other parts of California as well.
The regulatory shift in California has challenged the state’s cannabis business to pivot and navigate a stricter environment. Caliva has assembled the right team to handle this new landscape and win licenses, according to Bartz.
While the company is focused on continuing its major growth, it also integrates community support into its model. For example, Caliva teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s to support the Clear My Record Program.
Caliva has a broad product portfolio covering dried flower, vape, oils, edibles, and more. The company’s primary focus is on health and wellness, and Bartz sees a significant opportunity to offer consumers an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals.
Caliva is working toward new products, and they’ll have help thanks to a new relationship with Jay-Z. The rapper and entrepreneur sought out Caliva to form a partnership, and he will serve as a brand strategist. “The very fact that he did his homework and came to Caliva is, to me, the biggest stamp of quality that we can imagine,” says Bartz.
The CBD Opportunity
While Caliva is growing in its home state of California, the company will likely be looking to the rest of the United States for expansion opportunities, particularly in the CBD market.
At the beginning of the year, Caliva raised $75 million, and the company is well-capitalized for the moment. But, there is always more expansion on the horizon. The company is aiming to grow its distribution; add more dispensaries and education centers; and expand its product offerings to include options like beverages. More capital will likely be needed to explore the multitude of opportunities in the high-growth industry. As far as pursing the public markets, it could be a consideration at some point, but Bartz declined to offer a timeline.
Bartz foresees the challenges of navigating the regulatory process lessening over time, but for now, the company is focused on staying ahead of the curve and managing the complexities of operating in the current environment. For Bartz, the challenge is more than worth it. She feels the decision to enter the cannabis space was one of the most rewarding moves in her whole career.
To learn more, visit the Caliva website. Listen to the entire interview: