Cannabis Entrepreneurs Bring Star Power to Accelerator Boot Camp
More than 115 early-stage startups applied for one of 10 spots within CanopyBoulder’s spring business accelerator program for the legal cannabis industry. And while applicants hailed from around the world, those companies recently selected for the Boulder, Colo.-based inaugural boot camp all have one thing in common: star power.
“It is all about the founder,” said CanopyBoulder Co-Founder Patrick Rea of what made certain applicants stand out from the rest. “People who have the quality we are looking for are inquisitive, hard working, focused and take direction well.”
CanopyBoulder raised $1.2 million to invest in 20 early-stage startups providing ancillary products and services to the legal cannabis industry with help from The ArcView Group; $400,000 of the proceeds will go toward the $20,000 seed investment each accelerator team receives. Applications are currently being accepted for the second, 13-week intensive business accelerator program to begin Sept. 1.
The 10 selected portfolio companies offer myriad innovations. Cannagrow, from Israel, is launching a smartphone-controlled desktop grow for consumers. Superior, Colo.-based Highest Reward is an outsourced human resources services firm. Denver’s ColoradoPotGuide.com offers a definitive online guide to cannabis in the Mile High State, and beyond.
Notably, ColoradoPotGuide.com recently amassed more than 390,000 views in one month and is “growing rapidly,” Rea said.
Also in CanopyBoulder’s freshman class are: Adistry, an online advertising network for cannabis-related businesses, products and services; Glasshous, a high-end e-commerce head shop; Healthy Headie Lifestyle, network marketing for cannabis-related consumer products; BDDS, retail point of sale data and analysis firm for the cannabis industry; Shivanysa, a lifestyle brand for women interested in the cannabis industry; Stashlogix, a stash bag brand focused on enhancing safety and security for the cannabis consumer; and Tradiv, a tech platform redefining the B2B ecosystem for licensed cannabis businesses.
A New Breed Of Entrepreneur
The selection process for CanopyBoulder’s business accelerator program goes beyond the company concept and puts the entrepreneur under the magnifying glass to ensure the best opportunity for success.
These startups will close out their three months of intensive company building by going on an investor roadshow together in June. They will present to the ArcView Investor Network, Rockies Venture Club, and then at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Cannabis Business Summit.
“How does the company present itself to the world?” said Jeff Donaldson, president and co-founder of Atomic20, a marketing and advertising agency in Boulder. “Does the founder have what it takes to be a CEO—the pressure and the pitfalls?” Donaldson has already begun work as a mentor with the CanopyBoulder accelerator cohort, recently leading a workshop on how to best communicate participants’ brands.
What sets cannabis entrepreneurs apart from other startup business leaders is less aversion to risk, Donaldson said. “They are getting into an industry that is new and figuring it out along the way. It is a tougher road to go down than the normal entrepreneur.”
Those who are able to articulate past failures and show how they recovered are especially tough candidates, he said. “They have confidence. How they tell their story is really important—can they get other people excited and on board?”
The Mentor Advantage
As the $2.7 billion legal marijuana industry continues to grow, so too does the need for qualified mentors to work with today’s brightest young talent. And it’s not just startups who benefit—mentors not only have an ability to “give back,” but they also get front row access to the latest innovations in the market, Donaldson said.
“Being a mentor allows you the ability to help entrepreneurs overcome or avoid some of the hurdles you have faced at past companies,” he said. “Mentors also get to see ideas and innovations before other people do. And with as fast as the cannabis industry is moving, being involved [as a mentor] is a great way to stay plugged in.”
Beyond the classroom, the mentor may even evolve into an investor for the right company and team. “If a project or opportunity came up that I wanted to invest my money in, I get the opportunity to do that right from the start,” he said.
Whether a company is in the idea stage or more developed, there are a growing number of opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs to get in front of investors and take their startup to the next level. But the competition is fierce, and only those with a home run concept and pioneer-spirit are likely to thrive.
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