Fall is just around the corner in Colorado and, with that, the graduation of our summer accelerator class. As the teams start wrapping up their CanopyBoulder curriculum, we’ve been reflecting on what the accelerator truly adds to these businesses. How is it that teams can come into the accelerator in May with an idea and leave in August with a fully formed business model, business plan and, in many cases, follow-on investment.
To begin, it’s important to note that, yes, CanopyBoulder does provide initial seed-stage investment to our teams. Each team that enters receives $20k in funding in exchange for equity, with the option for additional follow-on funding from CanopyBoulder, depending on progress. And while this investment is a contributor to their success, it really is just the tip of the iceberg.
Instead, we find that the biggest contributing factor to our startups’ success is actually the CanopyBoulder ecosystem. While investment is critical to young companies, access to connections and a supportive network is especially crucial in a startup industry like cannabis. These connections can consist of potential mentors, customers, or industry partners. Without the right introduction, a company’s growth can be stunted; but when connected to the right people from day one, founders are able to spend less time and energy finding answers to questions and more time testing products, refining business models and raising capital.
Our program is mentorship-based and we’re lucky to have such a wide network of industry pros who want to support these young companies. In fact, these mentor relationships are built directly into the CanopyBoulder curriculum, which includes weekly mentor presentations that supply knowledge and networks to our founders. Our most recent cohort participated in more than 50 mentor presentations from cannabis industry giants, lawyers, bankers, investors, marketers and more, covering topics that included, “How to engage with investors,” “How to pitch your company,” “How to build a pro forma,” “How to secure company data,” “Best practices for hiring,” and “The ways in which to engage attorneys and accountants.” The mentor interaction with our teams also gives them a chance to develop relationships, helping understand their industry or niche better, find customers, engage partners and attract investors.
While our mentor network offers founders a perspective on different topics throughout the industry, our alumni network also supports our teams through providing guidance based on their own experiences. Just take one look at the CanopyBoulder Slack Channel and you’ll understand. Do you need a sample pro forma or advice on a specific investor? Or maybe you’re looking for the best events to attend. Regardless, the access that teams in the cohort have to the alumni strengthens them, offering a community of people who have been where they are and who can share resources, mistakes and lessons learned.
There is also a more invisible force in our ecosystem. Our office is always full of alumni and current teams with their heads down, working. This is because being an entrepreneur is hard. Some days even feel impossible. But being surrounded by others in the same position - people who inspire simply through their own persistence - can be the extra push an entrepreneur needs on a hard day. The atmosphere also allows for conversation and exploration with others who may be working in a similar area, creating synergies and cooperation.
Growing a business takes a lot of time and hard work. A true entrepreneur knows that their lives will likely be consumed by their business – at least for a time. And ultimately, our goal is to help develop the cannabis industry through supporting the development of enterprise in the space. We did not necessarily set out to create such an ecosystem and yet, it has grown somewhat on its own. CanopyBoulder has become the place where the cannabis industry can come together, share ideas and collaborate to build the next trillion-dollar industry. Why wouldn’t anyone want to be a part of that?