Q&A With Leafly’s New CEO Drew Reynolds
Leafly’s New CEO, Drew Reynolds, talks transition, technology and cannabis trends.
This August, the three co-founders of the cannabis website Leafly announced they would be leaving their first start-up to focus on a new one — leaving the company in the hands of new CEO Drew Reynolds. Even though it’s Reynolds’ first job in the cannabis industry, he has been no shrinking violet in expanding into this new frontier and Leafly’s parent company Privateer Holdings is thrilled to have him leading their most successful venture.
Reynolds, who previously worked as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at MyWedding.com, joined us for a call before his Labor Day holiday weekend to speak about his vision for the company, how the cannabis industry isn’t so different from the wedding industry and what it’s been like living in Seattle after Washington legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012.
You took over as Leafly CEO in May. How have these transition months been?
It’s been just a blast for me. I’ve been in the technology business for a few years now and when I was offered this position, I did quite a bit of due diligence to determine whether or not Leafly was a good fit or not. I figured blending technology with the emerging cannabis business market was intriguing to me. And it turns out that I was right and it’s been a great fit.
As the new CEO of Leafly, what is the direction you want to aim the company?
Obviously we have an absolutely wonderful platform. Just last month we had just over 6 million visits and over 30 million page views. It’s remarkable to have that reach. In general, I want to continue to provide the best educational tool and research platform for consumers and patients to find out about cannabis and where to get it. On the business side, I want to retain and continue to help our loyal business customers succeed.
Do you plan on expanding Leafly in any areas?
Certainly. In the coming months, you’ll see our media offerings expand, as we want to become a multimedia channel. We’re working very hard to improve our multimedia content. Also, our technology service offerings allow the thousands of businesses working with us to improve immensely. We’re going to be offering services to help our customers run their businesses, run their businesses more profitably and to attract more customers.
This is your first job in the cannabis industry after you founded and ran MyWedding.Com. What has it been like entering the cannabis industry?
I joined the business because I’m a technology engineer and entrepreneur and a lifelong cannabis lover. Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a tremendous maturity and growth in the industry. Before I started at Leafly, I had this big moment of thinking, “Hey, this cannabis market may be oriented toward an unsophisticated consumer,” but as I’ve gotten involved, I’ve seen that there’s a tremendous number of professionals entering the market because it’s so new and so accepting.
You worked at MyWedding.Com for over three years. How would you compare and contrast the wedding industry with the cannabis industry?
First and foremost, cannabis is way more interesting than weddings for me. At MyWedding.com, we educated couples on how to plan a wedding and then we connected them to local businesses like florists and deejays. We’re doing the exact same thing at Leafly. We’re educating customers and helping them find businesses to buy from. From the business perspective, we’re offering technology services to help them run businesses and run their businesses more profitably — just like we did at MyWedding.com. It’s almost the exact same model.
Leafly is owned by a parent holdings company, Privateer. How has Leafly’s relationship been with Privateer through the transition?
Michael, Brandon and Christian [at Privateer] are great guys to work with. In general, while Privateer may own all of its holding companies, they take a very hands-off approach to running them. When I joined Leafly, they said, “Here’s the company. We’ll be here for the big decisions. Take us from where we are to 10 times what we are as quick as you can.” They’ve been absolutely great to work with. We’re performing very well right now as a company and they’re very happy.
What is it like being based in Seattle?
The cannabis industry is so small here still. Every conference I go to, every networking event, I see the same people and the same faces and I love that. I actually live outside of Seattle on Bainbridge Island, which just got its first dispensary, which I was involved with starting called Paper and Leaf. It’s a really nice facility. I helped get it up and running and helped design some of the interior. Bainbridge is your typical upper middle class island and its inhabitants are lawyers, doctors and other professionals commuting over Seattle. Everyone has 2.8 children — you know, that kind of thing. Everyone was wondering how a dispensary was going to do here. But that store is packed with 35 to 55 individuals all day, every day, open seven days a week. They blew their projections out of the water. How many cannabis lovers would you think would be in a place like Bainbridge? It turns out, cannabis is completely mainstream and there are many cannabis lovers there.
Back to Leafly, are there any smaller projects on the horizon that you’re excited about?
We have four main initiatives that we’re very excited about debuting in the coming month. All I can say right now is… everyone’s going to love them.