Long gone are the scary days of Reefer Madness and an insurmountable societal fear of cannabis. CNN's Sanjay Gupta recently blew up a 70-year myth about the enigmatic herb, confirming its medicinal properties. This, while some states are legalizing the herb's recreational use, and even more states already permit medical marijuana and its derivatives.
It's this momentum that is driving some entrepreneurs to dream of huge returns from the business of cannabis. Industry thought leaders spoke to thousands of aspiring cannapreneurs at the recent Cannabis World Congress, and the standing-room-only keynote crowd was more diverse and less eccentric than one might expect.
Dreadlocks meet Dolce & Gabbana in the new cannabis economy, and that's because the business of cannabis isn't just the business of seeds, soil and water. Today's harvest requires a whole lot of innovation, paired with an influx of outside talent.
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New technologies like 3-D printing are being introduced. Specialized child-resistant, odorless packaging has been developed. Cannabis seed-to-sale cycles are now run with sophisticated inventory systems, business decisions are data-driven, and the industry has the same types of specialized professional services commonplace in traditional business.
Startups to Watch
This collection of notable cannabis startups spans manufacturing, distribution, retail and a few things in between. They're a representation of the industry developments that exist and a mere glimpse of those to come.
Printabowl. These innovative Washington entrepreneurs made two wise decisions. First, the founders decided that there is a market of sophisticated users who want a designer-sculpted marijuana-smoking bowl in the tradition of vintage collector pipes and cigarette lighters. Second, they believed they could craft the unique bowls with 3-D printers. You don’t need a legal market to make that saleable.
WeedTraQR identified a unique regulatory compliance opportunity -- the whereabouts of legal cannabis needs to be known at all times, and existing systems didn't provide for that. So the company built a modern, simplified SaaS solution enabling any mobile device to report traceability data simply and quickly, turning it from a burden to a business competitive advantage.
Gateway promotes itself as a “full immersion business accelerator” and seed investment program, and it may lead the market as a very flexible and aggressive approach to funding startups. Gateway invests $30,000 (in each company) in up to 10 different cannabis startups two times a year.
AcroVape offers a battery-powered vaporizer it claims provides the best tasting and smoothest hitting dab. The AcroVape does away with butane and torches. The device is portable and requires no plugging in.
FunkSac addresses the problem of product packaging. Made of recyclable materials, these bags are child-resistant and odorless. Bags can be printed with directions, business names or product details.
PreciseCannabis is carving itself out as a thought leadership and PR agency for cannabis brands. The startup helps executives and brands gain exposure in top-tier mainstream media and industry publications.
GrowBuddy is “built for growers by growers.” This app is a essentially portable farming manager. It keeps growers up to date on growth stages. You can make notes, monitor production and keep a journal. And, it includes a marketplace for shopping supplies.
New Frontier. A “recovering” former investment banker looked into the future and saw that every other industry had data, analytics and market research, but not the growing cannabis sector. That's when New Frontier was born. The company guides trailblazers in emerging markets to make critical decisions based on data.
PotBot claims to make the use of medical marijuana smarter with technology that blends cannabis research with robotics, artificial intelligence and DNA analysis. The products recommend cannabinoid levels and custom strains. How? Desktop and mobile apps advise patients on the suggested strains and administration methods for their specific health problems.
LeafLine built a 42,000-square-foot-indoor farm in Minnesota committed to harvesting cannabis for the medical marijuana market. The company is focused on cultivation, extraction and packaging medical marijuana for Minnesota patients.