B&T’s finance and technology reporter, John Hromin, was one of the lucky few to interview Sean Dollinger, CEO of Namaste Technologies Inc, who arrived in Sydney to be a keynote speaker on “The Future of Cannabis” at last week’s Advertising Week Asia Pacific.
Namaste Technologies is a Canadian-based company that operates the largest global cannabis e-commerce platform with over 30 websites in 20-plus countries under various brands. Namaste’s product offering through its subsidiaries includes vaporizers, glassware, accessories, CBD products (cannabidiol a chemical produced by the cannabis plant), as well as personal growing and extraction equipment.
Dollinger is focused on the expansion of its globally diversified platform of e-commerce websites to reinforce its position as “Your Everything Cannabis Store”. The company will soon be selling medicinal cannabis in the Canadian market, subject to approval by Health Canada. Not surprisingly Namaste has been called the Amazon of all things cannabis.
A serial entrepreneur, Dollinger stumbled upon the venture quite by accident. Eighteen years ago he started his first e-commerce website selling technology online and that led to a passion for technology. Future projects included four very successful e-commerce companies including an online fashion e-commerce webpage, a website development business, and a cell phone reception company- which Sean proudly says is still the number one mobile phone reception company in the world.
Dollinger said that it all began on a trip to Israel about five years ago where a conversation was struck about rolling papers. When Dollinger’s father, a yoga instructor in Laguna Beach California, asked him to check out “these really cool vaporisers” Dollinger decided to apply his e-commerce skills to this area and try to sell them online.
Three to five units a day, became one hundred, then a thousand and now Namaste is the world’s biggest and most comprehensive cannabis-focused e-commerce platform with over 30 websites in 20-plus countries, with 1.5 million consumers around the world. By way of comparison Dollinger says that Canopy Growth the largest licensed producer of cannabis in Canada has only 130,000 consumers.
Like Airbnb which is the largest real estate company in the world but doesn’t own any properties, Namaste is strictly a platform partnering with and giving exposure to other licensed producers bringing the product directly to the consumer so there are very little overhead costs.
Dollinger commented that “if you don’t have traffic at the end of the day then it doesn’t matter how good your product offering is”. A key message from Sean is “once you have these consumers then you must have tools to ensure they stay with you by offering unbelievable customer service”. As a key part of that customer centric mission Dollinger’s focus is to use cutting edge technology and artificial intelligence to leverage its database of 1.5 million consumers on a global scale.
He gives the example of an app called NamasteMD – a virtual clinic. Available for Android or iPhone, the application allows Canadians seeking medical treatment with cannabis to apply for and be assessed for a medical marijuana license right from their smartphone from the convenience of their homes. In a nutshell Canadians will be able to order cannabis as simply as they order delivery from UberEats.
All the Canadian patient and potential consumer must do is create an account, choose from several common ailments treated by cannabis that they may have, and answer questions related to their discomfort and how they believe marijuana could help them. Once that’s done, the user will be able to book a FaceTime appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner who will then assess them and hopefully approve them for a medical cannabis license, while Namaste covers the costs. They can also receive their prescription– utilising same-day and two-day delivery options.
Dollinger is particularly excited about Namaste’s recent applications to the Apple and Google Play stores to launch its latest mobile application, Uppy Cannabis Journal and leading the industry with new initiatives. Uppy Cannabis Journal is the first artificial intelligence (“AI”) driven medical cannabis app, which is designed to collect direct feedback on cannabis strains and over time provide strain and cannabis hardware recommendations. Namaste has implemented its AI technology through the Company’s wholly owned subsidiary Findify and has fed over two-million pieces of unique data to the platform which forms the base on which the algorithm will evolve and adapt itself to better understand the effects of cannabis strains in relation to treatment of many symptoms. Dollinger says there are 200 people in Ireland providing content every day.
He adds: “The data collected over time will allow the algorithm to characterise the way different strains of cannabis benefit different people suffering from different symptoms.”
Dollinger’s key point is, “If for example you suffer from headaches early in the morning, what do you recommend, so basically you have millions of consumers from all around the world giving their real time feedback on strains etc and then Namaste can recommend and turn back to you, and it is completely unbiased. The machine will take it’s learning and every day gets smarter and smarter.”
He adds: “I feel confident Uppy will help better educate patients from across the globe by assisting them in making more informed decisions. We believe our users will find incredible value in this revolutionary educational tool which we will believe is essential in building patient trust and loyalty”.
Sean is very proud of its very strong Australian presence with a warehouse and distribution centre based in Brisbane bought about two years ago by the purchase of Australian Vaporisers. It has done almost $10M in revenue and has 300,000 vaporiser customers. Sean says Namaste controls about 95% of site traffic in Australia, and so that when cannabis goes legal in Australia they will be able to use their technology and their virtual clinic to instantly convert customers into patients and give them the lead in the space.
Dollinger is very excited to become one of the first Canadian cannabis companies (and only the third cannabis company) to pursue a listing on the prestigious NASDAQ stock exchange. He says: “Listing Namaste shares on NASDAQ will support the Company’s anticipated growth as we’re actively expanding our global business and entering into new sales channels. Namaste has certainly come a long way from humble beginnings and we’re very proud of our team and their accomplishments and are very much looking forward to elevating the Company’s profile by listing on NASDAQ.”