Written by David Silverberg
With Canada poised to legalize marijuana in the summer of 2018, Matt Gray is well positioned to reap the benefits of nation-wide acceptance of the plant. In fact, he already has been enjoying high times.
Herb.co, known as a news outlet and community for all things marijuana, is one of the largest platforms in the market, with 9 million Fans on its Facebook Page and 170 million video views monthly.
Gray says marijuana is “opening the eyes of Bay Street and lots of innovation is coming from Canadian marijuana companies.”
Based in Toronto, HERB features news and essays on marijuana, reviews of various strains, comedic videos and merchandise. Its commitment to reporting on the many trends coursing through the marijuana market attracted $4.1 million in seed funding in August, led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures with participation from Slow Ventures, Michael Lazerow, Bullpen Capital, ShivaRajarama and many more.
In a press release, Eric Hippeau said about HERB: “Because the market is so new, brands wanted to establish themselves and reach consumers, and consumers wanted to know more about sellers, products, legislation, and all other content related to the cannabis business. Herb has been that go-to place for consumers, brands, and anyone who’s looking for information about the industry.”
Gray’s journey to the sticky-icky came by way of Bitmaker Labs, a Toronto-based web development bootcamp he founded in 2012 and subsequently acquired by General Assembly. That experience taught him “how to manage staff, how to scale, and creating a work culture attractive to employees.”
He was even making his own fate at grade 8 when he started his own mini babysitting business, then later progressed to starting a landscape company in his hometown of Newmarket.
Now Gray is practically obsessed with “the fastest growing industry in the world,” as he dubs marijuana. He rattles off stats about the many Americans imprisoned for simple marijuana possession charges, and explains the social justice ire burning in him when he first delved deeper into marijuana’s history. “The war on drugs is a joke,” he says emphatically.
Marijuana also touched him personally.
“A friend who suffers from PTSD was on a bunch of drugs, like lithium, and they didn’t help him but when he tried marijuana, it was like his old self came back,” Gray remembers.
In the coming months, HERB plans to launch a platform to allow deeper engagement in this community of pot lovers, perhaps not too different than a social media network. They are also working more with brands that want to have a voice in HERB’s popular videos, often through product placement.
Although flourishing marijuana communities have bloomed in cities such as New York and California’s Bay Area, Gray is keeping HERB in Toronto due to his familiarity with building startups in the city. Plus, as he says, “the business culture here is conducive to scaling high-performance companies.”
Gray only sees a busier 2018 ahead, thanks to estimates of Canada’s legal marijuana market being worth close to $5 billion. “The medicine, the lifestyle, the culture, it’s all intersecting at a very rapid pace in Canada and beyond. To be here running HERB, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Photo by David Silverberg