Exclusive Interview with Lift & Co. CEO Matei Olaru
Cannabis media and technology company Lift & Co. recently made its public debut on the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV: LIFT). CEO Matei Olaru sees Lift as a part of the next wave of cannabis companies, ancillary businesses providing services to the industry. He spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about the company’s offerings, rapid growth, and the opportunity for new markets.
With a background as a corporate lawyer and consultant, Olaru saw a significant opportunity to fill the regulatory knowledge gaps between the three main stakeholders in the cannabis industry: producers, retailers, and consumers. In 2014, Lift started out as a blog, but rapidly evolved to become an information platform that offers data-driven products and hosts live industry events.
The company aggregates user reviews, hosts other consumer-facing content, and uses data to empower consumer decision making. For example, the company recently launched Cannabis Concierge, a tablet-based tool that retailers can use to discuss products with consumers. As time goes on, Olaru foresees developing more products like that. The company is soon set to launch a “Netflix-like” recommendation engine that will use artificial intelligence to offer consumers product suggestions on its website.
Lift’s psycho-graphic data can also be used to help cannabis companies better understand the product marketplace. Producers and retailers can see how their products perform across different demographics and geographies. They can also use product bench-marking to see how they compare to the competition. Going forward, the company plans to add financial data to its offerings. Licensed producers and retailers will be able to see what types of product categories a demographic group (age and gender) prefers and how much money they are spending on specific products within that category. With that data in hand, cannabis companies can make informed stocking and marketing decisions.
A core element of Lift’s business model is building a trusted brand. The company does that by building relationships, like the one it has with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada. Through that partnership, Lift and MADD Canada will train provincial government and private cannabis retailers across the country. The company also gains visibility as a trusted authority by hosting large live events, like the Canadian Cannabis Awards, that bring together major players in the industry.
Just 20 months ago, Lift had a team of six people, and now, there are more than 50 people working at the company. The $10 million in funding raised since the start of this year has enabled the company to add top talent from places like Amazon, Salesforce, and Johnson & Johnson to the team. By the end of the company’s fiscal year in March, Olaru expects the number of team members to be closer to 100.
That $10 million in funding has also helped the company pursue domestic opportunities, like the Canadian recreational market, and consider international expansion. Olaru sees an opportunity for the Lift platform to thrive in European markets, where the company could help fill the knowledge gap between consumers and operators as it does in Canada. Additionally, a number of Lift’s LP customers are already first movers in that space.
Lift’s expansion is further fueled by its public listing on the TSX Venture Exchange. Olaru sees the public listing as a growth engine that will open the door to more capital access, the possibility of accretive transactions, and domestic and international expansion.
As the company continues to scale in the rapidly growing industry, Olaru anticipates Lift will be focused on the retail segment of the market for the next few quarters, particularly with the launch of private retail in Canada.
To learn more, visit the Lift & Co. website. Listen to the entire interview: