When it comes to running a startup, professional help and guidance is priceless. Business accelerators for tech companies and apps seem to be plentiful now, with some in every major city. In fact, But where does an entrepreneur turn if they've started a cannabis company?
With the U.S. cannabis industry alone expected to reach $50 billion in the next decade, it's no surprise that there's finally business incubators for weed startups.
What is a business incubator?
Business incubators/accelerators are institutions focused on accelerating the growth phase of a startup's life-cycle. By offering guidance (and oftentimes capital) to startups in their infancy, incubators/accelerators can act as a major launchpad for success. With bright minds at the helm, and corporate partnerships on lock, they can even be a viable path towards bigger investors, venture capital funds, private equity funds, and even acquisition.
Every incubator is different, so it's important that entrepreneurs determine their priorities before submitting applications. For instance, some incubators offer office space and a physical location to collaborate and grow. Others are more virtual, with guidance and advice just a Skype call away.
With more and more cannabis business accelerators popping up as the industry takes off, here's our list of five leaders (in no particular order):
The Gateway Incubator, unlike some of its competitors, is very straightforward with its value proposition. Two times per year, up to 10 cannabis startups are awarded "an upfront investment of $50,000 for 5% equity." That's a $1,000,000 valuation!
Beyond the capital, Gateway works with companies for a 6 month intensive program, driving incubees to the next round of funding or major benchmark. Beyond guidance and capital, Gateway offers its companies access to a long list of discounts and perks from its partners including Amazon Web Services for hosting and more, Morgan Lewis for top-notch legal services, and Hubspot for relationship management.
The Blinc Group
The Blinc Group is a specialized incubator in that they focus on "brands that are changing the landscape of vapor and cannabis consumption technologies." Offerings include custom-tailored branding, marketing, sales and "engagement programs rooted in data and proprietary research."
By positioning its brands as leaders in their chosen industry segment, Blinc is able to leverage existing distribution channels in the American, European, and Asian markets for maximum sales growth.
Companies lucky enough to land a spot at Blinc can expect access to scientific advisors, brand managers, digital strategists and more - making it a top choice for serious entrepreneurs in the vaporization or consumption technologies sector.
Canopy Boulder & Canopy San Diego
By far one of the broadest cannabis incubators in terms of scope, Canopy Boulder and Canopy San Diego are the strategic accelerator partners of the Arcview Group. Welcoming seed-stage cannabis companies focusing on everything from software and data to grow nutrients and lighting, Canopy offers startups access to a highly diversified network of leaders in the industry.
While Canopy offers startups much-needed seed capital, money isn't the only thing entrepreneurs can expect. Over the "16-week mentor-driven bootcamp," mentees have access to a massive network of industry leaders, as well as "critical knowledge of the industry" in return for an equity stake of up to 9.5%.
9.5% is a large chunk of equity to give up. With that said, access to mentors like Amy Poinsett, Co-Founder and CEO of MJ Freeway, mean the trade could definitely be worth it.
Greenhouse Ventures is "the first cannabis and hemp innovation accelerator in the world." With its parent company, CoFund360, Greenhouse Ventures targets ancillary and medical focused startups within the cannabis and industrial hemp industries.
Every February and September, Greenhouse Ventures accepts up to 20 cannabis companies into its ten-week curriculum and mentor-based boot camp where business owners learn best practices related to capital formation and business development.
Where as some of these incubators offer only small amounts of seed capital, Greenhouse Ventures accepts qualified cannabis and industrial hemp businesses seeking up to $5,000,000.
While this is one lesser known than the rest of the group, we included it because of the fact that it's owned by a public company. You might be asking - why does that matter? Public companies often have a easier access to capital than private companies, giving more flexibility to the potential deal size.
Initially MarijuanaIncubator.net, Marijuana Accelerator is now the cannabis-focused accelerator division of Player's Network. Stating that "people, ideas, passion, and principles are more important... than fundamentals and the bottom line," it's worth reaching out to them if your industry-disruptive idea was ignored for profitability sake.