Investors are pouring money into the red-hot cannabis sector.
Venture firms invested $881 million into cannabis startups in 2018, over the double amount raised a year prior, according to the data provider PitchBook. And cannabis tech, or startups that provide hardware and software support to the industry, is becoming an increasingly large part of this pie.
It’s still too early to get specific growth numbers on cannabis tech, but the area is attractive to investors since the companies don’t actually sell or distribute THC, and therefore, aren’t breaking any US federal laws. Like the picks-and-shovels salesman who struck it rich during the Gold Rush, these startups provide data analytics, software support, cultivation technology, and consumer products like vaporizers.
And because they don’t touch the plant, bigger investors — think the Sand Hill Road set or mainstream private equity firms — are mostly free to invest. On top of that, software companies provide the rapid growth rates and higher margins that venture capital loves, without the risk of investing in an industry that’s federally illegal.
These cannabis tech startups are sitting on fertile ground. Some Wall Street analysts say cannabis could be a $194 billion global industry by 2030 — and all those companies are going to need hardware and software to support their growth.
Some of these startups, like Pax, are geared towards consumers and have raised astronomical amounts of money at huge valuations. Others, like Cellibre, have laid a bit lower, by using cutting-edge tech from the agriculture sector to biosynthesize the active components of the cannabis plant.
And last, like any other established industry, access to quality data is an edge every company is looking for. Startups like Headset, a data analytics company, are looking to provide that for clients that range from cannabis cultivators and major consumer packaged goods companies, to investment banks and consulting firms figuring out ways to make money off the cannabis boom.
Business Insider surveyed a dozen of the top cannabis investors about which cannabis tech startups they think will blow up or raise fresh rounds this year.
Here are their picks: