BOULDER, Colo. – Venture funds and business accelerators are nothing new, but in Boulder, there’s a company that’s investing millions of dollars specifically to help startups in the legal marijuana industry.
Canopy started in 2014 and since then, the company has invested about $5 million in more than five dozen startups. Those young companies have since gone on to raise millions more thanks to Canopy’s accelerator program.
Managing Director Micah Tapman said Canopy works kind of like a “mini MBA” program. Companies selected for the accelerator class get up to $80,000 in capital for their business and spend four months with Canopy’s advisors and mentors, who provide advice and assistance in building out the business and securing funding.
Tapman worked in the tech field for about 15 years before he saw an opportunity and got involved with Canopy.
“For entrepreneurs, [marijuana] is a really interesting sector to get into,” Tapman said. “There’s this sense of opportunity here and a real ‘green field’ approach that can be taken in the cannabis sector, which you just don’t see [in other industries].”
Though most people likely think of growers and dispensaries when they think of the pot industry, Canopy is more tech-minded and the companies it invests in focus on products and services related to the industry, not the cannabis plant itself.
Startups that have gone through the program include BDS Analytics, which provides cannabis market data; Wurk, a human resources platform; and PenSimple, an electronic herb grinder and dispenser.
Canopy’s current class of 10 startups is about halfway through the program. The companies will pitch their businesses to investors and the public at Canopy’s Demo Day event on May 15.
Though business has been good for Canopy and other companies in the legal marijuana sector, Tapman said he does have some concerns about the future of the industry under the current presidential administration. White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said the Justice Department would step up enforcement of federal marijuana laws under President Donald Trump, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said states can “pass the laws they choose.”
“I’m concerned about the Trump administration and their take on cannabis in general,” Tapman said. “Sessions doesn’t know very much about cannabis and has his personal feelings.”
Tapman added that Sessions has shown a willingness to keep his personal opinions separate from policy, which Tapman respects.
It would be a “huge setback for the industry” if the federal government were to crack down on legal marijuana businesses, Tapman said, but it’s clear that the public is increasingly in favor of legalizing pot.
A recent survey from Colorado Mesa University found that more than half of Coloradans think the legalization of marijuana has had a positive effect on the state.
“I think the time has passed for fear, uncertainty and doubt” regarding marijuana, Tapman said.