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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.
The incubator has hosted five companies in the past year; Looney expects there to be 10 by year’s end. (Additionally, since opening its doors in spring 2014, the facility has rented co-working space to dozens of non-incubated startups.)
Tapping into Green Labs’ growing network of cannabis professionals has been a boon for The Colorado Experience, a marijuana-friendly vacation rental company that joined the incubator this summer. “Green Labs has really helped us bring in a lot of new leads, facilitate new properties and develop our growth,” says Sebastian Nassau, the startup’s COO.
Further upping the networking ante are Green Labs’ community events, hosted throughout the month (examples: Yoga and Cannabis; and Sushi and Joint Rolling). But during business hours it’s all work and no blaze. “It’s people on their laptops all day,” Looney says. “It’s a very upscale space, and we want to keep it that way.”