Valuable Lessons Three Startups Learned From Investors

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Valuable Lessons Three Startups Learned From Investors by Ebby Stone

Each day, hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs reach out for investors, advice, and partnerships. There is fierce competition for investment dollars and the pandemic only fueled the fight for funding.

That’s why Cannabis & Tech Today, in partnership with the Emerge Virtual Cannabis Conference, launched the Cannabis Investor Pitch Contest.

During the summer 2021 event, three companies were selected as winners. Third place was awarded to Green Parcel Service; second place went to Forests Medicinals; and first place was awarded to Surge Automated.

Cannabis & Tech Today followed up with the winners to discover what they learned and how far they’ve come since meeting with investors to strengthen their business models.

Green Parcel Service Transportation

Cannabis & Tech Today: What do people find most surprising about your services?

CEO and Founder Patrick Duddy: Being a transportation company in a state split by a giant mountain range can be tricky, and our customers are surprised by our consistent ability to get their products delivered safely to many dispensaries throughout the mountains and the Western Slope of Colorado. 

C&T Today: How did the pitch contest help you refine your business strategy?

The pitch contest helped us realign our objectives and allowed us to focus on the most important deliverables for 2022.

Over the past year, we designed, developed, and implemented an order management system that has streamlined the order placement process for our customers, and has added significant efficiencies to our operation.

In 2022, we hope to continue the momentum from the roll out and build on our platform. This will allow our customers the ability to easily manage their deliveries as well as analyze their supply chain.  

C&T Today: How is your company helping the cannabis industry evolve?

We are trying to develop ways to reduce paper waste. Currently, we are required by the state to use an excessive amount of paper when making deliveries. In 2021 alone, we used over 250,000 physical pieces of paper while making deliveries.

Our goal in 2022 is to reduce paper waste by digitizing required paperwork for deliveries. We are currently working with industry regulators to see what is acceptable from a compliance standpoint, and how we can be a leader in the process.    

Forests Medicinals

C&T Today: What’s unique about what your company is offering?

Founder, CEO, and Chief Creative Officer Sasha Forests: We are creating never before seen products in the cannabis space fueled by scientific and medical research, centering justice and restoration of the communities most impacted by the war on drugs, and utilizing the most human-body friendly extraction and delivery methods available on the market. 

C&T Today: How did the pitch contest help you refine your business strategy?

Emerge showed us how unique we are as a company and reaffirmed our strategy. Having conversations with the judges helped us to refine how to speak to investors. Emerge is a privilege to pitch for because investors and judges know exactly what this market entails.

However, that is not always the case. Investors need training on cannabis and Emerge showed us where we could buffer up some of our information to make more sense in translation to those folks looking for great investments like Forests Medicinals.

C&T Today: How is your company helping the cannabis industry evolve?

Many ways! First, our people. We have an incredible group of folks who are already marginalized in cannabis, including myself, working towards a beautiful and abundantly diverse cohort of managers and future employees. 

Second, our products will defy the norm of cannabis today. Too often, there is an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” attitude in cannabis. Our products push the bounds of what cannabis is and how it can be experienced. We are going to be tough to beat. 

Third, our manufacturing philosophy is tech forward and inclusive. Meaning, we want to bring new entrepreneurs into the fold, find ways to offer them royalties, and offer them the most technologically-advanced extractions to work with. 

Fourth, our culture. We are centered around justice for folks incarcerated. There are a ton of great companies and initiatives, but my question is always, “Are people out of jail yet?” Until all incarcerated folks are released and their lives repaired, our work is not and will not be done. 

Surge Automated

C&T Today: What is unique about Surge Automated?

Co-Founder and President Joseph C. Long: Surge is a technology company that goes beyond automating age and ID verification.  We protect cannabis operators from regulatory violations and consumers from putting their personal data at risk of exposure. 

No more turning over your IDs to anyone, including websites. It’s vital to understand the risks that ecommerce brings to the industry, as it goes well beyond marijuna-specific regulation.

Add delivery on top of the regulation equation and the risks multiply. The regulators are aware of the volume of likely age violations and are gearing up to increase scrutiny and enforcement — it’s already happening in the Canadian market.

C&T Today: How is your company helping the cannabis industry evolve?

The industry has to take underage access and exposure more seriously, or face increasing resistance from communities and advocacy groups, not to mention daily violation of most state regulations around age verification.

By taking on the compliance and infrastructure overhead, Surge is making it easy and affordable for the industry as a whole to demonstrate their commitment to community safety by protecting against youth access and fraud, while increasing transparency and accountability. 

C&T Today: What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis space?

It is still a bit of the wild west … essentially a business that was done in the “dark” is now in full sunlight. There are a wide range of players with an equally wide range of experience. Be careful, be patient … and plan for the long game.

This article was first published in the winter 2021 issue of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here for free.

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