Last weekend, a small group of successful cannabis entrepreneurs, interested investors, and journalists gathered in Denver for a first-of-its-kind event-- the Marijuana Tech Startup Competition. The event was a pitch fest for about a dozen startups trying to get their cannabis related businesses off the ground. Those pitching ran the gamut--from inexperienced college kids armed with little more than enthusiasm, to middle aged app developers from some the world's top tech firms, spending their weekend on pet projects they hope will make them into millionaires. Everyone was there because they believed in a common vision. They can see it—the future, that is—and the future is green. Very green.
They aren't alone. Denver is experiencing an explosion of growth, with over 1,000 new residents relocating to the city per month, many to get involved in the cannabis industry.
The event was hosted by MassRoots, a new social network catering to cannabis aficionados, and supported by a handful of other successful cannabis startups. It attracted a fair amount of media attention, including NBC Nightly News, which featured the event in their Saturday evening broadcast. Emily of Poseidon was glad to provide insight on the evolving industry—and was featured in the piece.
Along with Emily, a handful of other successful cannabis and tech professionals made up the judging panel: Ashton Jones, Exec VP of Business Development at Dutchess Capital; Tom Bollich, CEO of Surna (and co-founder of Zynga); Joe Hodas, CMO at Dixie Elixirs, Stephen Spinosa, VP of Retail Operations at Good Chemistry; Ean Seeb, Co-owner & Manager at Denver Relief Consulting.
The event signals a positive shift in the industry. Attention is finally beginning to move away from the legality issues, stoner stereotypes, and cliched stigmas surrounding cannabis, and toward the innovation and potential that this brand new American industry is bringing to Colorado--and soon, hopefully, the entire country.
The pitches began on Friday night, each of the initial 13 companies having two minutes to share their overall idea in order to set a baseline for the judges. Developers and coders were then matched with the entrepreneurs to work as a team over the weekend.
By Sunday, many individuals had working prototypes—a testament to the power of Red Bull, pizza, and hard work. Some of the ideas has obviously evolved from their beginnings--others came off still half baked. From aggregators of cannabis news content, to apps that help you find your favorite strain of marijuana at a local dispensary, the ideas were far flung and passionately pitched. THC University aimed at establishing an online certification program for bud tenders, growers, and dispensary owners. Cannabis Data Group tried to close the gap between doctors and patients by providing digital reference materials according to strains of cannabis and ailments they address.
The judges listened, offered guidance, and asked thoughtful questions. A few ideas consistently rose to the top for the panel – mostly for their innovation and potential to resolve issues that currently exist for the cannabis industry.
When the votes were in, top honors went to CannaRegs, an intelligent resource, reference tool and library for licensees, attorneys, compliance officers, consultants, and investors that are either active or seeking entry into the cannabis industry. Their website comprehensively aggregates and monitors all federal, state, county and municipal laws and ordinances related to cannabis (medical and adult use), as well as hemp, and organizes them into an intuitive, web accessible database. The brainchild of Amanda Ostrowitz, the idea was deemed invaluable by the judges, who found the convenience of being able to keep on top of a confusing regulatory landscape in one place attractive.
Second place went to Crafted Here, a Yelp-like app that served up recommendations for craft coffee shops, bars, restaurants and, of course, cannabis dispensaries. While the cannabis component seems more like an add-on to an existing app, the smooth design, layout, and utility of the app won the judges over.
MassRoots team did an excellent job of putting together a professional and fun event, while keeping the cannabis culture intact. We have to thank them for being trailblazers in putting this event together and believing in the innovation that is possible in this sector. The media attention is surely a reflection of the quality of the event and we look forward to supporting future competitions of this kind.