Local startups focused on growing cannabis industry

Posted at 6:41 PM, Feb 07, 2017

Legal cannabis is becoming the fastest growing industry in the United States.

In San Diego, one company is investing big in people with innovative ideas.

"I’m reading on Forbes, I'm reading on Entrepreneur magazine that there are amazing opportunities,” said former TV executive Whitney Beatty. 

Beatty quit being a Senior Vice President in the entertainment industry where she helped develop reality shows to jump on the cannabis bandwagon. 

"I got introduced to cannabis from a suggestion from my doctor because I was dealing with anxiety issues,” said Beatty.

She was disturbed by all the shame she felt.  

"I realized that a lot of it was because there weren't items targeted to professionals and executives and women and mothers,” said Beatty.  “And that there’s still this persona that everyone in this space is a bad 15 year old hiding behind the gym.  And that’s not who I am.”

So, Beatty designed a product for the high-end cannabis user.       

"This is my Apothecarry case.  It is our premium product.  It is a sleek and sexy storage solution for the cannabis connoisseur,” said Beatty. 

Daniel quit his day job as an investment banker to help create LooseLeaf Tech.  The app helps patients find the right medicinal marijuana for their health issues.

"In the rush to serve the recreational consumer, patients are sort of getting left behind,” said Looseleaf Tech CEO and Co-founder Daniel Hopson.

Jeremy O’Keefe left his software engineer role in the retail industry to start Yobi to simplify the business of selling Cannabis.

"I saw the need in this market and a year ago, quit my job on the spot and started building a prototype, got two guys to join me and here we are now,” said Yobi CEO Jeremy O'Keefe.

It was competitive.  These entrepreneurs presented their ideas in a shark tank of sorts.  Investors with Canopy San Diego picked eight of them, gave each $20,000 and then put them through a 16 week intensive mentor-driven "crash course" that teaches them how to build their business and market it. 

"We don't work with any companies that are touching the plant.  So no dispensaries, no distributors, no cultivators, no marijuana infused product brands,” said Canopy’s managing director Jack Scatizzi.

For Whitney, she's blazing a trail as an African American and female CEO in an industry that sees little diversity.

"Because it's building, we have a real opportunity to take a place in this industry and help build it up,” said Beatty.

This is the first graduating class from Canopy San Diego. The company is actively recruiting eight more companies to launch at the end of March.