Former WeWork Co-CEO Joins Cannabis Tech Firm, Says It Has ‘Similar Attributes’ To Coworking Giant
Minson took a job as president and chief operating officer of LeafLink, a technology platform for the cannabis industry that processed $5B in orders last year, the company announced Thursday.
In an interview with Bisnow Thursday morning, Minson said the company has some of the same characteristics that drew him to his former firm.
“It has similar attributes to WeWork in that while WeWork basically said to companies, ‘Look, outsource your real estate needs to us,'" Minson said. "What LeafLink does is basically go to companies, to brands and retailers, and say, ‘Look, you specialize in what you’re good at, leave technology back end to us.'"
He joined WeWork as president and COO in 2015 and later served as co-CEO before leaving the company in April 2020. Prior to WeWork, he served as chief financial officer of Time Warner Cable and CFO of AOL.
While WeWork's downfall — its valuation was slashed from $47B to less than $3B at one point after its failed IPO in 2019 — and the departure of founder Adam Neumann has been the subject of books, documentaries and television shows, Minson said it still succeeded in building a strong coworking brand.
Under new leadership, WeWork went public in October through a special-purpose acquisition company merger, and for 2021 it reported $2.5B in revenue and a net loss of more than $4.4B. Its market capitalization stood at roughly $5B Thursday morning.
"For all the stories about Adam, the company did build an incredible brand and product that the customers love," Minson said. "I’ve been an outsider there for about 18 months now, but it seems that they are incredibly well-positioned as people come back to the office, and I’m certainly rooting for them."
In the nearly two years since leaving WeWork, Minson has focused on venture capital investing as managing partner of 715 Capital Ventures. He said he will maintain that position while at LeafLink and will continue to work with startups he has invested in, but he "probably" won't make any new investments.
Minson said he hasn't spent the last two years looking for another C-suite job, but the opportunity at LeafLink arose through his high school alumni network — he and LeafLink co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith both attended New York's Regis High School, and he said the opportunity to join the emerging cannabis industry appealed to him.
"This is an industry that’s going to go through pretty unparalleled growth over the next decade," Minson said. "You’re not even a disrupter in this industry, you're defining the industry. LeafLink is a large startup, and everyone in the industry is frankly a startup. So having the ability to join a company that was shaping the industry is really appealing to me."
LeafLink's platform provides technology services to cannabis businesses to help them manage their shipping networks, payment systems, advertising strategies and other operations. The company says its $5B in orders processed last year gave it a 40% share of that market.
Minson said the technology-focused company doesn't touch the product itself. He said its business will continue to grow as more states legalize recreational cannabis, creating opportunities to work with startups in those states and the states themselves.
"The states are key partners for us as they think about issuing licenses and how the overall ecosystem will work," Minson said. "Like any industry, it needs technology to be more efficient, and we're having conversations with states about how we can be partners with them on that."