Accelerator helps startups prepare for legal marijuana in California

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Accelerator helps startups prepare for legal marijuana in California

Voters in California, the most populous state in the U.S., approved legalizing recreational marijuana by a margin of about 56 to 44 percent.

It’s now the fifth state in the nation to do so. Now, a new startup accelerator in Oakland, California is one of the few in the nation taking the Silicon Valley approach to innovating with cannabis.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

Accelerator helps startups prepare for legal marijuana in California

Accelerator helps startups prepare for legal marijuana in California

Voters in California, the most populous state in the U.S., approved legalizing recreational marijuana by a margin of about 56 to 44 percent. It's now the fifth state in the nation to do so. Now, a new startup accelerator in Oakland, California is one of the few in the nation taking the Silicon Valley approach to innovating with cannabis. CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.
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In the city of Oakland, California, often considered the marijuana capital of the U.S. entrepreneurs are hashing out ideas.

At one desk are plans for Cannabis Coffee brew. At another, hi-end marijuana confections are being perfected for mass production.

The startup accelerator Gateway is seeking to change the image of cannabis as a gateway to more dangerous drugs to that of a gateway to financial success.

Up to 10 startups get office space at Gateway as well as a $30,000 initial investment in exchange for a six percent equity stake.  But just as important is the coaching, the mentoring and the networks of contacts developed here in order to build a business for the long haul.

Startups believe consumers will relate, aspire and pledge loyalty to these news cannabis brands exactly the same way as they relate to Nike and Starbucks. Some pitches are not what you’d expect.

J.P. Martin is a software engineer who’s done work for the National Security Agency and for aerospace company SpaceX.

His startup GrowX builds tech that helps grow cannabis with the least amount of resources.

“Cannabis is a huge opportunity because they can afford the technology. The margins are such that they are looking for every way to squeeze every drop of margin out of their business. It’s a super high value crop, so by going to market via cannabis we can scale our business before entering other crop verticals,” Martin said.

The man who helped start Gateway is civil engineer and startup enthusiast Ben Larson.

“People invest in people, right? They are connecting with you and they are trying to understand why you are going to succeed as a founder,” Larson said.

For Larson, the choice to start Gateway is simple.  Investors are interested and entrepreneurs need guidance to meet a growing demand.


Ben Larson discusses helping cannabis startups

In November, voters in California passed Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Ben Larson, co-Founder & managing partner of Gateway, began his startup accelerator to help cannabis vendors a year before. 

Mark Niu sat down with Larson and began by asking why he chose to embrace an industry full of legal hurdles.