Cannabis Startups and Investing Series


Launching CannaVator Program for startups

10-week program for 15 startups

Innovation series by Bambi Francisco Roizen
July 20, 2016
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Ackrell Capital announced Wednesday that it's launched a 10-week accelerator program in the cannabis space, called the CannaVator.

As part of the program, co-launched with Vator, some 10 to 15 startups will receive an equity investment. The Program includes in-person and online weekly lectures, covering regulations to marketing and branding to product development, from Vator, Ackrell and a cross-section of executives, entrepreneurs and investors in the cannabis and high-tech industries.   

The CannaVator Program will begin the first week of September. Any cannabis-related startups should apply here. The Fall 2016 cohort will be selected and notified by the end of August. 

Why Cannabis? Simply put: It’s a budding business that's growing like a weed and becoming a smokin' hot market (insert metaphor here). In all seriousness, despite the uninformed prejudice against marijuana, it's one that is no less offensive and noxious as alcohol was once perceived circa 1920.

Personally, I don't encourage marijuana for recreational use. And, in my home, I advocate the embargo of drugs, alcohol, as well as coffee, soda and synthetic sugar consumption by minors, including my sons.

But as someone who enjoys a glass of wine every night, and who frequents restaurants/bars to enjoy drinks with friends, colleagues and family, it would be hypocritical to say adults shouldn’t also enjoy cannabis recreationally, with moderation of course – as with alcohol.

My views are, in part, due to the medicinal benefits. Red wine has been known to prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol, because of an antioxidant, called resveratrol, found in red wine.  In like vein, there are therapeutic and medicinal applications for cannabis. One study, conducted by Ackrell Capital, shows 40 medical conditions, including arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain and HIV.

Ackrell estimates the market for legalized recreational and medicinal use to be $4.4 billion in 2015, and growing to $9.5 billion by 2019 and $50 billion in 10 years. 

From a venture standpoint, the industry is gaining traction. Peter Thiel's Founders Fund has invested in Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm focused on cannabis investments. Y Combinator has invested in Meadow, which delivers pot to licensed smokers from five Bay Area dispensaries.

There were 30 cannabis-startups invested in during the fourth quarter 2015, a record, up from two deals in the same quarter in 2014, according to CB Insights. Funding also passed $65 million, the second highest quarter since the Q1, when $94 million was invested, including the $75 million that went into Privateer Holdings


Finally, as I mentioned above, my support of cannabis is partly due to its medicinal benefits, but also in part due to growing evidence that the prohibition and policing of marijuana use has consumed billion of dollars in resources ($20 billion over six years is one estimate) to predominantly monitor minor offenses.

One study showed that a marijuana-related arrest is made every 42 seconds in the U.S. In addition, the war on marijuana is, some say, "racially biased," A report out by the ACLU showed that "Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession."

In this regard, I stand by William F. Buckley, who applies a Benthamite calculus of pain and pleasure to the topic of drugs and concludes it's better to legalize drugs than fight the current war on drugs (circa 1960's - when he wrote this). In like vein, there's a growing sentiment that the current war on marijuana is just as faulty and costly - for little gain. 

Image source: PoliticusUSA


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