This Former WeWork, Time Warner And AOL CFO Is Now Helping A Cannabis Tech Co. Prepare For Its Next Phase Of Growth

In this article series, dubbed “The Cannabis Migration Saga,” we focus on big executives coming from mainstream industries into the cannabis space.

LeafLink, a wholesale management platform that connects cannabis brands and retailers, recently appointed Artie Minson as its president and chief operating officer. Minson is the latest in a long list of high-level corporate executives migrating from mainstream industries to the cannabis space: prior to joining LeafLink, Minson served as co-CEO, president, COO and CFO of WeWork WE, CFO of Time Warner Cable, and COO and CFO of AOL.

Minson brings deep leadership experience in scaling technology-enabled and subscription-based businesses in regulated industries, as well as taking them public. In fact, in recent years, he has been sought out to advise countless technology companies on how they can efficiently grow and scale their operations while keeping a close eye on their bottom line and smartly managing their resources.

While he is not the first tech professional to make the transition into cannabis, it is fair to ask why did Artie Minson decide to take the leap from traditional corporate America to the marijuana space?

As Minson explains, it’s not about “disruption,” although he is no stranger to that – he’s been both an operator and investor in disruptive companies in a variety of industries, from education (Flatiron School), and childcare (TwoBirds) to accounting (Trullion), to name a few. For Minson, this is all about the opportunity to use technology to help build the cannabis industry “from the ground up.”

Tangible Benefits

Minson, who was not looking to run into the cannabis industry, understands now that the space can deliver tangible social, economic and medicinal benefits. He is convinced that, in the future, both states and cannabis operators will require “excellent technology providers” to make sure “the market runs safely and efficiently.”

“I thought LeafLink was sort of uniquely able to do that,” Minson says.

But there’s more to this industry, he adds. “There's definitely a greater good in legalization and there is a greater good in the role that LeafLink was going to be able to play in that.”

Efficiency And Competitiveness

Minson has extensive experience in conducting corporate due diligence and is convinced that, in this new capacity, he will be able to contribute to raising the efficiency and competitiveness of the industry. Like many professionals migrating from tech to cannabis, Minson brings years of expertise in highly regulated industries and tried-and-true, market-tested methods.

In an industry like cannabis, built out through trial and error, fresh perspectives from former technology executives can result in new outlooks and repeatable ideas.

Rather than building everything from the ground up, the cannabis industry can learn from these executives’ experiences in other industries that have already been through countless ups and downs. From how to approach different customer segments, to how to price and market various offerings, to how to leverage technology to scale the business, the industry at large can benefit from deep expertise outside of cannabis.

“There's going to be some real benefits that come out of this. And I think I can be, just given my background and how I've worked in technology industries and regulated industries, a helpful person making sure that [with] a bunch of others, this gets set up correctly,” Minson notes.

But, why choose LeafLink out of so many cannabis-related businesses out there? After all, Minson’s CV could land him a job virtually anywhere in this industry.

For him, it’s about how tech can enable progress – something that has been a theme throughout his career.

“I've seen it in other industries where, over time, as the industry matures and people, management teams, focus on the things they are really good at, they look to partner out on others. So, you're going to see people who want to build amazing retail experiences, people who are amazing in brand development and cultivation… and people who are going to be amazing technology providers to brands, retailers, etc.,” he explains, clearly referencing LeafLink’s role in the game.

“Technology is a game of scale, and luckily, LeafLink has scaled to a significant market share. This allows you to invest and make sure that there's no reason to not use their product… The better you know, the more penetration you have, and the more you can invest in your product. And I think that's what we're seeing with LeafLlink. What started as a marketplace business has now added a financial services component to it; it's added a logistics component to it; it has a meaningful data component to it. And I think we can just continue to deliver value and let brands and retailers do what they do best.”

Segmentation And ‘Pain Points:’ Steps In Building A Global Cannabis Brand

There are only a few brands in the cannabis world that are really global, mostly due to regulatory issues. There’s RAW and OCB; Cookies; High Times, Weedmaps and Leafly; and only a handful of others.

However, due to its networked nature, LeafLink can become a global platform, Minson assures. In fact, he plans to leverage his experience in SAAS business and regulated markets (including the cable industry, where regulations vary on a state-by-state basis, just like cannabis) to create the best customer experience and deepen the relationship with consumers while thriving in a highly competitive market.

“If you think about the cable industry in the United States, it's a very regulated industry at the federal level and at the state level – obviously not to the extreme that cannabis is, but I've had to navigate those regulated environments in the past, as well as that the competitive dynamics [which] are really on a state-by-state level, not necessarily at a federal level,” Minson says in reference to his past experience.

“What works for you in one state may not work in another state when you think about the competitive environment,” he adds.

In his view, the importance of adopting a holistic perspective of the industry and cannabis value chain, as well as understanding “pain points” and providing a unique, tailored retail experience are key.

“When I look at the opportunity at LeafLink, I start with the customer and ask, ‘what are the pain points for the customer that we can solve?’ I think we solve those when we segment our customers from the individual who owns one retail store to the largest MSOs, to make sure we have product and service offerings that match all of their needs,” the executive voices. “That's what you're going to sort of see us doing, having a breadth and depth of B2B relationships, basically selling more of our products and services.”

M&A And Organic Growth

Minson is one of many C-suite executives landing in the cannabis industry to provide key expertise in steering businesses through highly regulated, fragmented markets. He envisions more consolidation in the future across the industry, an opportunity for the growth of LeafLink’s organic business.

“I think that. There will be consolidation in the space. It seems like every day there's a different type of deal. I expect that to happen over the next several years across the industry. Yes, we'll look at M&A opportunities, but we have such an opportunity in our organic business. Deepening our customer relationships is the most important thing we can do. If there's an M&A opportunity that helps us do that better. Yes, we'll certainly look at it. But, you know, the major opportunity is on the organic side,” Minson concludes.

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This article was originally published on Forbes and appears here with permission.

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