Prepping for my interview with Matt Gray, the Co-Founder, and CEO of Herb, I was planning to discuss with him about start-ups, media, marketing and technology in cannabis. Although we did touch on these topics, the conversation would go much deeper into his thoughts about humanity, finding your life’s purpose and global issues.
Matt possessed one of the common traits I noticed when talking to founders of companies: A vision for the future. He would patiently answer my technical questions about how to grow and improve your start-up. But, I could feel his voice get excited and his interest kick in when he’s talking about life’s work and helping others. What Matt is creating goes further beyond Herb. He wants to influence, help and make some changes to our world.
Herb is now one of the largest cannabis platforms in the market, they boast 85 million video viewers and inspire 41 million engagements each month. Herb is also launching Herb Pickup which gives consumers the ability to order cannabis ahead, and save time.
Please enjoy our interview with Matt Gray about startups, cannabis, marketing, media and what he’s cooking up next with his company Herb:
Hey Matt, Hope you are keeping safe. Can you share a little about who you are?
I can say an intense and passionate person, calm, but intense. I like to move fast. A passionate fast-moving kind of guy. In one sense, it’s positive, it’s great energy, but also to some others it’s too much. I try to get the barometer right for certain situations.
Does that make it hard to stay authentic?
I’m an honest guy, yes. My default is “Lets Fucking Go!”, I’m just being genuine. I like to flex new muscles. If it’s the new way for the next 120 days I’m down with it, I’m down to adapt.
I agree that you shouldn’t change your soul. I adapt to how I show up. I want you to think Matt is a great guy.
Does smoking cannabis play a factor into this?
I think it calms me down, it makes me more present, it makes me more vulnerable. It peels down more levels of the onion.
We see that you moved to Los Angeles from Toronto. We lived up in LA for 6 months, and honestly coming home was a bit hard. The cannabis culture and quality was completely different. How do you adapt?
I think quality is relative to some extent. What I mean by that is quality is different from someone in Toronto as compared to someone in LA, it’s all relative. That’s the same with clothing or any trend. Green juice and yoga culture is on a different level to Toronto because they invented that shit. I don’t think it’s detrimental that LA is a different quality than Toronto. I think it’s inspiring.
What I mean is I get inspiration from the taste of what’s cool, new in LA and what I like. But I also get what’s cool from Toronto, Montreal, New York, Barcelona, Tokyo etc…. It’s not about one-upping each other. It’s about something deeper. It’s about what gets you going. Whatever you enjoy.
What do people talk about? That’s what I want to know. Whether it’s a LA brand, Toronto brand, Barcelona brand, that doesn’t matter where the location is. I want to know who the fuck created this thing. There is some human behind that; who invented that. If enough people fuck with someone’s thought or imagination. I’m intrigued.
Especially in an industry like cannabis, that is so complex, so dynamic, it’s so ever-changing. That if you can create something that feels timeless, that feels talkable, that feels worth sharing to friends. That is what interests me, regardless of location.
So when you first started your journey in cannabis, I read you sent out 2500 e-mails to different people and businesses.
Can you share a bit more about how you chose these businesses that you contacted, was there something more than just potential and a right fit were you looking for?
So here it is, I am looking for nothing.
There is an inherent trait in my geno, that I am curious. I believe that curiosity is the child of imagination, which is the child of creativity. Which is the child of products. And I build products. So the first step of building products is curiosity. So why do I reach out to 2500 people curiously? with no agenda? Cause I’m curious *laughs*
It’s really that simple.
People say wait, “you want to make money”. I tell them, “No, I want to remain curious”. I was curious about what the fuck they did. If you are curious about Santa Claus, you ask “is Santa Claus real”? And if I’m curious about the next cannabis product. I ask them “Hey what are you thinking?” What’s good? What’s going on right now? It may be hard for people to believe, but it’s really that simple.
You eventually settled on a website called “The Stoner’s Cookbook”, how did that curiosity separate from the rest of your opportunities?
Through a friend of a friend I found this company. I found this “hobby” website. Period. This website was a community of people who share user-generated recipes around cannabis. As we can both agree, that is a bit sketchy *laughs* People around the world, sharing their recipes around cannabis, which is a lot about dosage.
It was an interesting thing to get involved in, which I later bought this property. Why did I buy this property? It is for one simple reason. It was a community of passionate cannabis enthusiasts. Period.
I believe people that enjoy cooking at home with cannabis in large quantities are probably very enthusiastic about cannabis. So I figured why not get this community of 100,000 unique visitors, 100,000 people per month on Facebook and build a concept on what I called HERB. Cannabis For You, Near You.
Our vision was always to build like what Uber did for transportation, with no car. A technology company. Airbnb, no properties, technology company. Herb the largest cannabis company in the world, no cannabis. A technology company. That is what I always had envisioned 14 years ago.
You then went to New Zealand to meet them, traveled a bit and started building Herb nomadically. Can you share some insight about how you grew Herb during that stage?
These guys wanted to build a hobby site and travel the world. So I just gave them the ability to do that, I was here to build something far greater.
I really believe people in your ‘Why’ and not your ‘What’. Why do you do, what you do. Not, What you do. Simon Sinek stuff. I always lived like that. What gets me out of bed is not how much I’m going to make, or what I do. It’s the impact I may have on the human race. Period.
So what is your Why?
The mission of herb is to get anyone in the world cannabis in less than 15 minutes.
Our case is to free every non-violent cannabis prisoner worldwide. How do you build a mission like that? And how do people not want to get behind that?
That mission is not an easy feat. But for the right person, they can’t not think about it 24/7, cause if you believe in the future world and the future of humanity where you can get cannabis medicine in under 15 minutes, and get non-violent cannabis prisoners freed. That is a world I want to associate with myself and the people I associate with to live in. And for those who don’t… Watch us do it.
Following up with my previous question, can you expand a bit more about how you were able to grow one of the largest online cannabis followings?
Great question. It’s empathy and community.
By empathy I mean listening. To expand on that, when you listen to people that get cannabis, you understand their real needs.
For community I mean being a literal member of the community. There are too many brands right now that are built in the boardrooms of “agencies”. Real brands get built from stories, from time, from tribulations and standing for something fucking real.
I will die on the hill like a fucking soldier for these 40,000 non-violent cannabis prisoners. And I mean that. And I think that passion fires people up and that passion infuses the Herb brand. I’m not saying every brand news to believe in this, but believe in something.
Online policies have lightened up just a bit, but when you first started on building Herb, a cannabis brand, especially on Facebook in 2014, you must have been flagged quite a bit? How were you able to get past that?
Great Question, we are always big on being 100% legal. And it’s not just the laws and jurisdiction that we operate. But also meaning, by being legal on the platforms we are on.
We really pride ourselves on operating completely legally. Wherever we are and whoever we are dealing with. And to be honest, although this might sound simplistic to your average Joe, “Oh, be legal that makes sense”, cannabis doesn’t really go like that exactly right?
So that also means working with only legal brands at that time?
7 years ago, being legal was like, “Dude are you being stupid? Look at all the money to be made in the illicit market”. I told them, listen “I’m thinking 40-50 years about this.”
I’m not thinking about the next 5 years about cannabis. I was thinking longer term than my peers. And many of them have gone into the business we employ. We’re all about legal, we’re very bullish of the legal market. And we’re also very long term about it.
Reality is. We don’t see the legal industry as our biggest competitor, we view the black market as our biggest competitor. And I think they view us as such as well. But also, we’re very appreciative of the black market and those who have built it.
So what do you think small businesses in Cannabis are overlooking, or could use the most help with right now? And where can they look to get that help?
I’m offering this to you personally, and all the small business owners or whoever is reading this. The times right now are tough, and we’re all about small business owners here at Herb. They are the backbone of our nation. Whether you are cannabis, tech or anything. For us it’s about supporting them. It’s also why we’re offering our Herb Pickup service to small businesses right now for free. And my offer to anyone reading this is that I’m here to offer free advice to cannabis entrepreneurs. That’s #1
Number 2, What I think they could be doing. I think it goes back to Fundamentals. What does your brand stand for? At Herb we have been very big of giving back right now, we believe in getting back 40,000 non-violent cannabis prisoners out of prison. In the April period, and we are running a campaign called “LET THEM OUT” that is what we stand for. I encourage everyone to stand for something.
There is an Italian Restaurant in Toronto, called Famiglia Balassarre, they closed down the shop, but all of their inventory, all of the man-hours they have dedicated to front line workers and health care. They shut down operations, and have all this pasta. They are still working and gave it to front line workers. And are you telling me if you live within a 5km radius of this restaurant in Toronto and don’t support them one time in 2021?
I believe these people are the shining stars and the hometown heroes that we should be highlighting in times that are tough. Those who rise above the chaos, rise above the anxiety and the panic. All this other BS we are dealing with humans, they decide to give back. It’s not because it’s good for their business, it’s not good for their cash flow, but because at night, your soul can sleep. Those are the Brands that will succeed in my opinion.
I believe right now in Covoid19 – There is a fabric and frequency in humanity, and I believe the brands of the future will be adaptive, will be flexible, and be straight up GOOD. If you do good not for business sake, but for humanity sake, I believe contrarily, to what most people think generally actually what is best for your bottom line.
There is an abundance of quality cannabis content pumped out so frequently, even down to specific niches. How can those starting off in cannabis stand out?
Well I think that all content needs to be adapted to an audience. There has to be an emotion and to the given environment which it is being distributed. I know everyone can agree with that.
So I think you have to be careful about appearing tone-deaf in the environment we live in right now. If you use the same marketing message you planned in 3 months ago (pre-Covoid19) you will fail. Now, if you use the marketing message that you dreamed of right now (April 2020); watching the news and realizing what is happening now in the world, you learn to adapt.
Build something that is adaptive, that is compassionate, and empathetic. So your brand needs to be intentional about how it communicates to this audience. Which currently during this pandemic, is very much in a state of panic and anxiety.
In one interview you mentioned, you can guarantee view counts when working with Brands. However, for start-ups, who deliver lots of value to their clients, create a quality product/service, but can not guarantee customer views/traffic to their clients yet, what would you suggest?
I take about 16 calls a day. I speak with small business owners, to multi-billion dollar companies all in the same day. What I would genuinely recommend, that if you genuinely have a product that people genuinely need to know about… reach out. My email is matt at herb.co, hit me up. I could probably help you, and if I can’t help you, I probably know someone that can. If you genuinely have a product that people need right now, let’s talk. I guarantee I can find a way to help you.
To people who are being genuine. What specifically that means is, Herb is dedicated to partnering and helping any brand that needs help right now. That is giving back to humanity. And we’re so willing to help these entrepreneurs, even down to the smallest guy, no budget, we’re willing to help you for free. And I mean that. I back that up every day I do my work. Our team backs it up. I will leave that with you but that is my genuine advice.
I think a lot of people think of Herb as a media outlet, but it’s also a tech platform. We noticed on your website that there is a focus on Herb Pickup, can you tell us what that’s all about?
Herb as a brand stands for ‘Cannabis For You, Near You’. Herb Pickup allows you to order ahead and be able to pick up your cannabis in 15 minutes, just grab and go.
We have the largest online cannabis community in the world. 80+ million monthly client interactions and we have 100% penetration for stores for Herb PIckup. The Herb Pickup updates every 2 minutes and integrates with all major POS systems. Herb will help a cannabis business, to a store revenue’s bottom line, which we know right now many of them are struggling.
So for us we are here to help, and that’s why we are offering it free of charge. We can make money off this service, but we said “No No No!”
I personally said to my brother Nick Gray, who runs Herb Pickup, who is the real star of this by the way. He built it, he sells it, it’s a whole business he could have built himself, but he chose to build it with Herb. He is the Brains behind this, and I’m the Pinky. If any store wants to give it a shot, you can cancel anytime you want. You can call me anytime you want. If you ever need help I got your back. Free for the first 60 days.
Herb Pickup gives the ability for business owners to get more transactions per day while building their brand.
What was the appeal of starting this type of service?
Very candidly, cannabis is a difficult space. It is a very, very dynamic changing industry. Most people that get into business and start a company, fail. And we all know the percentages, it’s like 99%. The majority of people that get into cannabis is 99.9% will fail, and that’s prior to COVID-19.
More cannabis entrepreneurs are bound to fail in the crisis we are in right now as human beings, than any other business I encounter. Times are crazy. Now If you as an entrepreneur are deciding, knowing all the risks I just mentioned. You might as well do what you fucking would die for.
If you are going to start something right now, and people are dying. While it’s the cannabis cash crunch, all I have to say is build something you generally believe in.
After doing your research and after the people made a business or brand for.
If they tell you when they take your product off your hands, “I need that,” if they can say that for you. I am down to help you for FREE. That is my vibe. We need to as a species right now, put money aside, put economics aside, the frequency is being re-written right now. We need to stand up for human kind. What that looks like for your brother or sister beside, regardless of your bank account.
What else can we expect from Herb in this crazy year of 2020?
At Herb we see ourselves as a creativity company. Not a cannabis company, while we deeply respect the plant. Period.
For us at Herb we stay up day and night, and think:
How can we serve cannabis consumers better than anyone else in the world?
How can we serve cannabis brands better than anyone else in the world?
How we can serve cannabis stores better than anyone in the world.
Our Goal, hopefully, I pray and pray, that during these hard times, I provide some light, just some, in these dark dark times. I realize how CRAZY a time it is right now on a human level, fuck business, fuck cannabis. Your Grandma or Great Uncle might be suffering from COVID19, or whatever.
I am here for you on a Matt Gray basis. My contact is here and I’m here to help. I’m not trying to make money right now, I’m not trying to benefit right now. I’m just a regular guy that smokes weed, enjoys a bit of champagne, loves the finer things in life, but aside from these things I love, as a human of planet earth I am here to serve the planet. And right now I believe the planet and humans need our help and I am whatever needs my help.
We would like to thank Matt Gray for his time. He’s a super busy guy, but he spent the time off-the-record after the interview to see how I was doing as a person, how my family is doing and what projects I was working on and how he could help.
So I’d like to thank him again for that.
You can find more about Herb.co in the links below:
Herb Pickup: https://herb.co/news/industry/herb-pickup/
You can also learn more about his Passion Project that aims to help 40,000 non-violent cannabis prisoners free. Please support by checking out
Last Prisoner Project: http://www.LastPrisonerProject.org