Interview with Lift CEO Tyler Sookochoff
In three short years, Lift Cannabis has transformed from an online resource for medical patients to a company with tentacles spanning multiple mediums. At the Lift Expo in Toronto May 28, we met up with the company’s founder and CEO, Tyler Sookochoff, to discuss the importance of education and engagement in the current cannabis space. Held the same week as the crackdown on unlicensed pot shops in Toronto, the expo brought together all sides of this new industry on a weekend Sookochoff said couldn’t have been better timed.
Given the current climate on the cannabis scene in this city, were there concerns you wouldn’t be able to put the event on?
If anything, I think it bolstered the exposure it got and the need for the event. It made it all the more important and well-timed. Having a conversation about what happened, about what the future holds for the different participants, is absolutely needed. There’s a lot of entrenched positions and not a lot of communication.
From inception, Lift’s mandate has been characterized by cannabis education. How does the expo help you further that goal?
The event itself furthers that education through all of our exhibitors. The way the system is set up there’s not a lot of room [for LPs] to interact with their customers. That’s one aspect of this event that I was really looking forward to – enabling Licensed Producers to set up and have their staff communicate with patients face to face. We wanted to provide a platform for people to be able to learn themselves, and that’s what we’re doing here.
Lift has done a good job objectively sharing the different sides of the cannabis conversation. What’s the secret to playing that balancing act?
It’s about patient focus, increasing access, public education and information. We’re not political, we don’t take stances on different things and we want to broaden access across the board. We think of things in the long-term. The industry in Canada is evolving and it’s going to take time for things to unfold. Our goal from the beginning has been about providing information. We work towards solutions and I think that allows us to have a dialogue with different groups.
How important is an open line of communication between competing forces in the cannabis space?
There’s a long history of cannabis activism in Canada, especially in Vancouver where I come from. I think now, more than ever, continuing to have an informed and open dialogue – one that allows both sides to listen to each other – is important.
Your company was started a few years back as an online platform for medical marijuana patients and has quickly grown tentacles that span mediums: trade shows, print magazine and resource centres. To whom or what do you credit Lift’s success?
I credit it to our team. I started the company in late 2013 and was able to partner with some great people who are incredibly passionate about this. We’ve all worked very hard to grow our little company into something a little bit bigger and be able to try some new things, like a print magazine and resource centres. Just as well, we’re fortunate with the timing and we’ve been able to capitalize on that as a provider of information and education. There’s a lot of people looking for a reliable source for that information, and we do our best to be informative and accurate.
Lift’s launching Elevator, the world’s first cannabis chat bot. What’s the idea behind the personal concierge service?
We’re going to have a little demo here and we’ll officially launch the app in a month or so. It’s sort of in line with our mission of education and information – we’re always looking for different ways we can reach out to patients and consumers. The idea of chat bots have been around for quite some time, but there’s been a lot of advancement in AI technology recently and so we thought it would be an interesting, personalized way for patients to ask questions and get responses related to their circumstances.
Interest forced the addition of a second expo in Vancouver in the fall. Have plans been finalized for that show?
The show is at the Vancouver Convention Centre on September 17-18 and it will be the first cannabis event at that venue. As we wrap this event, the Lift team will on Monday morning be starting to plan for that one as well. We’re hoping that it will be as big and as successful as this one.
Here’s to Future Growth!
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