Proper’s rated products for Relief
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Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself. Why cannabis products? Tell me about your business?
Mike France=MF: Timing, opportunity, and a new lifestyle. I was frustrated by private equity and venture capital in different ways and thinking more and more about taking a shot at something myself – but I didn’t have any good ideas. Turns out a friend of mine started running a cannabis company and he called me up and told me I had to see what was happening in the industry – this was 2014, before most of the legalization. What I saw was really exciting.
I enjoy ambiguous situations where it’s really not clear what will work or win. Constant problem solving is needed for those, and it’s really creative. Cannabis was a blank canvas with no clear roadmap for success, and yet it was clear how much the world wanted it. So for me, cannabis presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to the single greatest growth market of my generation. I was lucky to come together with a few like-minded old and new friends and we put together a founding team and initial investor group with great skill and experience in business and technology, and actually years of experience in cannabis already through a combination of early consulting and investing. We’ve also had the benefit of being – or becoming – and bringing on true believers at every point of building the business. You kind of have to be one at Proper – caring about cannabis and its products is literally our thing. The mainstream potential for cannabis products was pretty clear to me and my co-founders, and the industry was at a sea-change moment transitioning from a generic single product-category to an exploding branded consumer products market. More than 50,000 products and thousands of brands hit the shelves across the western United States within a few years, and no one knew anything about them! Ultimately, cannabis products will be able to replace or substitute for everything from coffee to beer to painkillers and antidepressants – many cannabis products are good at these things already. We very intentionally went right to the heart of the matter when we started Proper: what should consumers buy? Which products are quality, effective, and enjoyable? Which are the best products for my needs and lifestyle?
Proper’s rated products for the desired effect -Focus
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The big vision was – and still is – to help cannabis achieve its full potential through information and feedback to create the best products possible for consumers. We didn’t have the expertise or relationships to make the products, but we were confident the information about them – information that could only come from consumers and direct experience in a measured way – would have value across the ecosystem.
So Proper was founded and is being built to be a trusted authority for consumers and our industry colleagues alike. That could be seen as audacious – and it is – but we don’t think it’s impudent if you’re committed to doing it the right way, for the right reasons, and to good end. People are increasingly searching for information and recommendations about specific cannabis products and brands. They want knowledge and convenience. At the heart of our business is a panel – just like in market research – of cannabis consumers that we call the Proper Cannabis Committee, who rate cannabis products across the industry through a process that amounts to short-form, lightweight, really scalable consumer trials. Proper is basically digitizing the cannabis retail shelves; putting all of these products to the test through a diverse group of people; and then publishing that information in our industry leading online catalog. We think this way of doing things – inclusively and transparently but also unapologetically – will build trust and hopefully forward momentum for the industry.
Canndescent Pre-Roll rated by Proper
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Ultimately we’re working to make Proper the easiest way for anyone to buy the best cannabis products for them – whether you’re a lifetime consumer or just considering cannabis for the first time. We’ve built a solution that not only helps consumers decide what to buy, but then facilitates the purchase through the best licensed retailers nearby. Across California we’re hooked in to retailer’s systems in different ways to know which products are in stock and where, so a consumer can order delivery or pickup and conveniently get exactly what they want. Kind of like Google for cannabis – and that’s exactly how we make money: retailers pay us when we send them nearby customers looking to buy the products they’re selling.
WB: Did you go to B school? Where did you accumulate your business acumen?
MF: Thanks to a decade in private equity and venture capital, I’ve lived many business lives: I worked with the leading dumpster manufacturer in the world to make their dumpsters cost less, standardizing them, and making them more efficient; I worked with the largest porta potty company in the world, optimizing their service operations across the country; a Vegas hotel casino on gaming and marketing; dental consumer products; a luxury eyewear retailer; and so on. I was an operating professional and operating partner, so I was typically with these companies 80% of my time for a year or more – absolutely invaluable experience learning from people all over the country in all kinds of roles and positions within these companies, while at the same time working for and with the investors and deal teams. In this way, I got the best education possible working in very diverse situations, numerous industries, across every stage of company, and across every major functional area from finance to sales to marketing to operations.
01-Pre-Roll Products rated by Proper
WB: What are your six and twelve month goals? What obstacles stand in your way? How do you anticipate removing them?
MF: We face very unique challenges in cannabis – and doing anything in this space is truly 100 times harder than in most other industries, but Proper is otherwise a pretty classic venture play. Unfortunately there’s not yet a supportive venture ecosystem around cannabis. Raising capital has been an unbelievable and never-ending challenge, and right now is worse than ever. I wish I had better advice here – including for myself – but survive and advance is most of it. And without true believers – starting with my partner and our Chairman, Harry DeMott – Proper would never have gotten off the ground, and certainly would not be alive today. Proper is now in position to control our own destiny financially for at least 2020. So now we can focus on the hard part. Our goal for the year is to become profitable by getting enough retailers paying Proper for potential customers and orders every month. Similar to Google, every click from Proper to a cannabis retailer’s website is a consumer who wants to buy a specific product. Through Proper, dispensaries and delivery services are essentially buying ads to tell nearby consumers they have the product that person wants now.
This core product for the industry – which we call Proper ShopAds – is really working. When consumers are searching for cannabis products, they’re increasingly coming to Proper, clicking through to the retailers we promote, and purchasing at really high rates. This is a testament to the quality and relevance of the information we’re producing about all of these products – consumers are finding what they’re looking for on Proper. Now we just need more of them. We grew 10x last year and need to do that again this year to be close to turning a profit. And that, we increasingly think, is simply a matter of rating thousands more products the way only Proper does it, and continuing to build consumer trust one person and one purchase at a time. To date we’ve rated more than 2,000 cannabis products through about 50,000 hours of consumer trials by our Proper Cannabis Committee. Another two or three thousand could just do the trick – that and a lot of luck.
WB: Do you cook? What is your favorite food? Restaurant? Where? What kind of food?
MF: I can’t wait to cook again – I enjoy it particularly with a Manhattan, a joint, and a great album or podcast. I have a couple cats and they love it as well – one of them will sit atop the range and bask in the heat and scents. These days though I’m relying on Postmates to keep me alive. I’m a sucker for Indian food and classic LA spots, even if filled with tourists. Right now Badmaash and El Coyote (the buffalo tacos!) are casual favorites. And I try to have In-N-Out once a week as a splurge meal: two double-doubles animal style, animal fries, a strawberry shake, and peppers.
WB: What is your passion?
MF: Right now, it’s Proper. I love what we’re building.