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Seed CEO Matt Cutone Says Cannabis Tech Company Is Building A Platform That Improves Lives

March 15, 2019 2:06 pm
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If you’ve been to a cannabis dispensary recently, you’ll likely have noticed many of them look pretty slick, with cool, clean designs and in-store touchscreens for people to get educated and place orders. The increasing demand for sophistication in dispensaries has given birth to many companies focused on filling the void.

One such company is Seed Technology, which provides dispensaries with an educational kiosk that helps inform customers, driving them to bigger purchases.

“We believe that, by applying proven traditional retail strategies to the delivery of credible cannabis information, the dispensary shopping experience can be an enlightening one for both novice and experienced users alike,” Matthew Cutone, founder and CEO of Seed Technology, told Benzinga.

Cutone's Entrance Into Cannabis 

Prior to Seed, Cutone was running Horizon Display, which has been providing immersive retail experiences for well-known brands for more than a decade.

For instance, Cutone and his team built an application that was similar to Seed for Drybar, a hair salon with more than 100 locations.

“The application was responsible for a 52-percent increase in product sales in Drybar stores,” he said. “With reports like that, we knew that we had built something unique that could completely transform the customer experience."

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Dispensaries have much to gain from interactive education, as they're seeking ways to simultaneously "normalize" their retail experience and break away from their predecessors and competition, the CEO said. 

The Seed team put its energy and experience to work to develop a cannabis-specific product. They chose to act on their belief that cannabis is medicine, and this meant they could put their backgrounds to good use “by building a platform that helps to improve people’s lives," Cutone said. 

Although Cutone has owned several technology companies over the years, he said technology itself is not what gets him out of bed every morning.

“In reality, I’m a business nerd and find great joy in enhancing business processes, specifically the customer buying process. It just so happens that I’ve been able to make the biggest impact through technology." 

The cannabis industry is "uniquely challenged" by a lack of accurate and consistent information combined with a largely novice customer base with sensitive concerns, the CEO said. 

This creates an opportunity to provide an opportunity that helps both dispensaries and their customers, he said. 

"Finding a way to make the customer feel comfortable and confident while delivering accurate and consistent messaging void of personal opinion helps dispensaries solve a major problem through a digital application.”

Understanding Seed

Benzinga: How is Seed different from other in-store tech solutions for dispensaries?

Cutone: Over the years, we have learned a great deal about improving the retail experience through interactivity — and how, through technological advancements, we could best keep up with today’s consumers high expectations.

Our drive has always been to improve antiquated processes and help retail store owners enable customers to explore the type of education that turns them from skeptics into satisfied and informed consumers.

It just so happens that the confusion around cannabis products means that a kiosk like Seed has the potential to be even more important than guiding someone toward the right car or hairspray to buy.

Benzinga: How would federal legalization change your business?

Cutone: Federal legalization would change the business in significant ways. For starters, it would alleviate our customers, the dispensaries, of unique business challenges that other industries do not have to deal with.

Banking is a perfect example. Just try to envision running a successful business without being able to bank your cash for payroll. This is huge, and it’s just one scenario.

Eliminating these impediments would allow dispensaries to focus on more important things, like the customer experience and cannabis education. Unfortunately, these initiatives often take a back seat today. The way the laws read at the federal level inhibits dispensaries from solely focusing on safe access, customer experience and running a successful enterprise.

In regards to Seed, we would no longer have to approach every state as if it was an entirely different market.

Benzinga: What are the main challenges that your company and the industry it operates in are facing?

Cutone: Again, clearly one of the biggest challenges is the lack of federal legalization. It truly handicaps what this industry can do as a whole. Not to mention that it creates so much unnecessary headache for all of us who have to play by a completely unfair set of rules.

Why should product be different from state to state? How come my ailment qualifies for a recommendation here but not there? Do I have to purchase product with a pharmacist present? The list goes on.

The lack of quality research that has been done definitely impacts Seed and of course the industry. It took our team thousands of hours to put together the educational content in our kiosk; there are so many opinions floating around about cannabis, but decidedly less factual information.

As you’ve probably heard before, we need cannabis to be descheduled so that institutions have a chance to study the plant more in-depth. The longer that takes, the further the U.S. will fall behind in our understanding and acceptance of cannabis’ benefits.

A Look Ahead

Benzinga: Do you have plans for geographic expansion? 

Cutone: Absolutely. Each state can benefit from cannabis education and added efficiency. Although it’s not a breeze to bring our software to market in every single state, it’s of course on our roadmap. Seed can help consumers better understand the medical and recreational benefits of cannabis, while simultaneously assisting dispensaries in staying competitive.

With the current landscape of the industry, we do prioritize markets based on where they are at in their legalization journey; however, our hope is that that all changes soon with federal legalization.

Our international strategy will be executed via strategic partnerships with nationally established entities.  

Since Seed also benefits recommending physicians, as well as the entirety of the health and wellness market, we are able to provide value to those markets. These two end up forming our secondary and tertiary revenue strategies.

Benzinga: What is your take on cannabis industry consolidation? Do you have any M&A plans that you could elaborate on? Would you be interested in an opportunity to combine with another company or be absorbed by a larger business?

Cutone: When talking about dispensaries and retailers, consolidation is as important as it is inevitable. This is the best way for certain operations to appropriately scale and achieve long-term profitability. Furthermore, customers expect consistency in their shopping experience. Without consolidation, this doesn’t just happen organically.

There aren’t currently any companies on our radar for acquisition; however, I do believe that we could potentially help a few other technology companies further unlock their value if they were to acquire [or] absorb us. I have the same attitude when it comes to a potential merger, in that it could produce a unique offering to the industry.

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