This Incubator Is Helping Cannabis Businesses Blaze A Trail Forward In A Budding Industry

COLORADO: Startups in the legal marijuana business have unique concerns—initially, finding a welcoming bank, credit card provider and landlord. Even those who don’t grow, sell or process the plant face obstacles most entrepreneurs don’t have to deal with. It’s no surprise, then, that incubators serving pot startups have cropped up nationwide to help.

One of the newest is Green Labs Denver, a 35-desk incubator and co-working space for ancillary cannabis businesses, such as apps, vending machines and tourism.

“We’re all facing the same legislative hurdles,” says Green Labs co-founder Mike Looney. The way he sees it, startups in this volatile industry stand a better chance at success by banding together and pooling their resources.

Green Labs’ incubation arm makes equity investments of $30,000 to $250,000 in high-growth-potential startups, Looney says. Besides providing free desk space and business services, the Green Labs team coaches startups on revenue models, sales strategy and investor pitches. Also included: introductions to private investors and free legal advice from attorneys in Green Labs’ extended network.

Pitching Marijuana Startups Brings New Meaning To High Tech

CALIFORNIA: Investing in a social network closely tied to a booming industry sounds great, until Apple kicks the thing you invested in out of the App Store because the platform is all about marijuana.

It’s one of the many things that can happen when two of the fastest growing industries in America come together, as is taking place this week in San Francisco, where several dozen entrepreneurs are pitching 200 or so investors, Shark Tank style.

Organizers of the investor-pitch forum cite as legitimacy the recent multimillion dollar investment by Silicon Valley titan Peter Thiel‘s Founders Fund in a holding company of several marijuana-related firms. The entrepreneurs at the Fairmont Hotel are pitching startups selling marijuana-growing equipment, apps that help with medicinal marijuana delivery, and even a spray that an entrepreneur says was developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that coats marijuana with grower information, acting as a kind of DNA bar code.

“It’s more suited to what cannabis would be in the future,” says DNA Trek founder Anthony Zografos.

Since Colorado and Washington first voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in late 2012, the legal cannabis market has grown from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion last year, according to industry estimates. That kind of velocity gets the attention of investors, many of whom focus on tech.

Pot Startup Rolls Out Accessories

CALIFORNIA: Time for the marijuana industry to get a makeover, says Josh Gordon, founder and CEO of e-commerce start-up The Bureau.

He’s weeding out tie-dye and leaf graphics for chic new designs. The 27-year-old said he has high hopes to “raise the standards for the [marijuana] industry,” and nix the black-market feel.

“Whether we’re talking about a grandmother dealing with [the] side effects of chemotherapy, or a modern professional that consumes recreationally, they deserve to be treated like the high-value consumer they are,” said Gordon.

Watch this entrepreneur pitch his pot packaging to a panel with Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView Group, a firm that connects investors to pot start-ups, David Dinenberg, founder and CEO of KindBanking, and Wendy Robbins, producer and director of “The Marijuana Show.” Will the panel be in or nip his start-up in the bud?

Lighting up

Growing up, Gordon spent winters at his family home in Colorado, where the cannabis industry has gone more mainstream.