The Silicon Valley version of that “green rush” looks a little different. It involves slick apps, software and founders who talk about big data and algorithms. AngelList, a website where micro start-ups can look for angel investors, lists more than 300 marijuana start-ups in the US ”” half were founded this year, and a third of those are in California. (Examples include an Amazon for cannabis, a Kickstarter for cannabis, inventory management software and dozens of delivery companies.) Investments in marijuana-related companies have reached $200m over the past 12 months, quadruple the levels of the previous year, according to CB Insights, a venture capital database.
This rush of funding has attracted software engineers such as Austin Heap, a veteran of some half-dozen start-ups. Heap didn’t initially know much about the marijuana industry, other than being a medical marijuana consumer himself. He and a friend (now co-founder) started batting ideas about last autumn and came up with Potbox, a monthly subscription delivery service for organic, farm-to-table cannabis. They met their other co-founder, a 20-year veteran of the industry, because they had been using his marijuana delivery service.
“It feels like a very normal start-up, it just happens to be cannabis,” Heap told me, the day before their launch on July 8. Later that night, he would put the final touches on their social media accounts and website. “Hopefully at about 2:30 in the morning I will be a) still awake and b) getting Cloudflare in place, which will help us deal with any huge spikes in traffic,” he explained with a geeky enthusiasm. “I’m largely tech focused.” Heap says the huge investor interest in cannabis is “refreshing” after years of doing the venture capital dog-and-pony show. “No start-up I’ve worked on has said no to so many investment requests. I think we have something the cannabis industry has never seen.”