Friday, June 24, 2011

The Next Bagel

I was in bagels when bagels turned hot.  We founded Boston Bagel in 1990, and we were there when Lenders launched a $40 million ad campaign to tell the world about their strange boiled rolls.  That sparked a brand new segment in the baking industry, and our sales went from middling to over a million in under 18 months.  It was a wild ride, especially in the mid-90s when investors and large bakeries swooped into the space to make deals and snap up the best and brightest teams.  Alas, we were not one of them.  Young and unfocused, by the time we figured out what color to paint our tent, the party was over.

Cannabis is the next bagel, except that this enterprise frontier involves countless new venture possibilities across lots of industries; textiles, food, medicine, patient care, education, retail, consumer products and more.

Most people in the Northeast are still completely unaware of this economic powerhouse on the horizon.  In New England, where weed is nearly as popular as ice cream, the negative social stigma of being associated with this naughty little prep-school vice is a strong motivator to look away and keep quiet.  Entrepreneurship professors at certain Eastern business schools, like the old Yankee caterers who scoffed at the idea that a dense and chewy Jewish bread could ever go mainstream, are not seeing the possibilities either.  VCs down on Milk Street (the ones for whom fine bud is like fine wine only more so) are cheering from the sidelines but their institutional clients would freak at the idea of investing in the cannabis trades.

The good news is that for early entrants the fruit is ripe and hanging low; choice names, domains, product concepts, rising demand, and lots of business models begging for someone to come in and build something special.  To those of you who cringe at the idea of enterprise and making money, keep in mind that wherever successful cannabis ventures grow, the truth spreads right along with the good fortune.

If you are out of work and looking, give some thought to what it is you enjoy doing, and how you might utilize those skills to transition into (or begin to investigate) your own legal corner of this vast emerging frontier.

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