18 Emerging Cannabis Startups (2021)

by Josh Howarth - July 30, 2021

Legal sales of cannabis hit a record $17.5B in 2020. The year-over-year growth rate in sales from 2019 to today is an impressive 46%, driven largely by emerging markets like Illinois and Arizona.

As touched on in Crunchbase, many of the startups on our list are developing backend infrastructure and support systems as cannabis continues to be legalized in more states.

In fact, investors have dumped over $5B in cannabis startups since 2014, spread across 544 companies..

Read below for our 18 cannabis startups that are building out delivery, e-commerce, and IoT applications for the nascent but rapidly expanding universe of cannabis.

1. Trees Cannabis

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5-year search growth: 66%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2019

Location: Portland, Oregon

Funding: N/A

What they do: Trees is a Pacific Northwest dispensary that does away with the typical waiting room most folks are used to. With an approachable layout and stores designed for customer comfort, Trees has paired online ordering and in-store pickup to create a unique customer experience for cannabis connoisseurs.

2. Confident Cannabis

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5-year search growth: 225%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Palo Alto, California

Funding: $15M (Series A)

What they do: Confident Cannabis claims to have the largest real-time database of legal cannabis statistics in the world. They also offer their software for cannabis testing labs to use. By testing for compounds like THC and CBD, dispensaries can share accurate product information with their customers and build followings for their brands by providing tailored advice based on what the customer is looking for.

3. FlowHub

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5-year search growth: 900%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Denver, Colorado

Funding: $26.8M (Series A)

What they do: Flowhub processes over $1B in cannabis sales annually through their complete point of sale platform. On top of processing sales, Flowhub also allows vendors to track compliance, manage inventory, and analyze business intelligence data from a single place. Their team is currently building out a suite of in-store apps and tools to make the retail buying process as seamless as possible for the customer.

4. Caliva

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5-year search growth: 200%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: San Jose, California

Funding: $75M (Series B)

What they do: Caliva is unique in the fact that they’ve received over $70M in funding despite getting their start as a typical dispensary located in San Jose, California. Caliva has used that funding to become “America’s best dispensary” (as named by Business Insider) and build an online shop that gives customers the option of delivery or in-store pickup. By removing barriers seen in other stores and giving Caliva a contemporary, modern design, the founders provide a sleek experience that raises cannabis to a higher standard than typical dispensaries.

5. Tokyo Smoke

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5-year search growth: 1200%

Search growth status: Exploding

Year founded: 2015

Location: Toronto, Canada

Funding: $7.7M (Series B)

What they do: Tokyo Smoke combines cannabis with fashion, using their motto of “Coffee, Clothing, and Cannabis” to guide the company’s product development. Tokyo Smoke’s online shop generates various recommendations based on user preference so customers can easily select the correct strain or product for their taste. A wide range of apparel and accessories are part of the Tokyo Smoke vision of combining lifestyle and fashion with the world of cannabis.

6. Wurk

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5-year search growth: 46%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Denver, Colorado

Funding: $46.3M (Series A)

What they do: Wurk is an HR SaaS company focused solely on the emerging cannabis market. The founder of Wurk, Keegan Peterson, produced the influential documentary Weed The People that explored how medical marijuana impacts everyday life for families. Wurks’ real value-add is helping cannabis companies navigate the 280E tax law that restricts cannabis banking and accounting in the United States, while still helping out with more straightforward tasks like HR management and payroll.

7. GrowBuddy

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2014

Location: Denver, Colorado

Funding: $1.2M (Venture)

What they do: GrowBuddy is software built for precision agriculture for cannabis. Following the SaaS model, GrowBuddy’s proprietary platform lets growers get in the weeds of what’s happening in their garden. Combining sensors that measure humidity, temperature, and a variety of other climate factors with their comprehensive platform, growers can see a complete 360 picture of their crop in one place. Uncubed lists GrowBuddy as one of their top 10 hottest cannabis startups.

8. Olla

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5-year search growth: 51%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2019

Location: Seattle, Washington

Funding: N/A

What they do: Aiming to be the WordPress of online cannabis stores, Olla provides a fully customizable interface that lets shops build their own bespoke websites without having to share valuable online real estate with another provider’s branding. Designed with a mobile-first mindset and open integrations with cannabis POS and CRM systems like FlowHub and Green Bits, Olla wants to simplify the process of digitally ordering cannabis for everyone. Retailers using Olla report an 88% order completion rate, a 5x increase in order volume, and 92% of customers ordering from their mobile devices.

9. Ardent Cannabis

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5-year search growth: 2300%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2013

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Funding: N/A

What they do: Making cannabis products at home is often a dream of enthusiasts and frequent consumers of cannabis. Ardent’s singular offering is their decarboxylation machine that turns raw cannabis into an edible or consumable state right at home. They’ve branched out into their new Ardent FX that fuses the decarb process with baking, inside one complete unit. Opening up the edible creation process to at home enthusiasts creates an entirely new segment of cannabis entrepreneurs that don’t need expensive lab space or costly staff to create their own line of edible products.

10. Flow Kana

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5-year search growth: 340%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2015

Location: San Francisco, California

Funding: $125M (Series B)

What they do: Flow Kana partners with independent multi-generational farmers who cultivate small batch, sungrown cannabis. Their network includes hundreds of farmers operating in California’s legacy cannabis territory in the Emerald Triangle. By providing a single source for small batch farmers to sell to, Flow Kana ensures that consumers get high quality flowers and farmers are well supported to continue growing in a sustainable fashion. Flow Kana closed on a $125M Series B round, the largest funding round for a private cannabis company at that time.

11. LeafLink

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5-year search growth: 4100%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: New York, New York

Funding: $339M (Series C)

What they do: LeafLink connects retailers with cannabis brands through their wholesale management platform. Leaflink also matches more than 6,000 retailers with over 2,300 cannabis brands. The vision is to simplify the cannabis supply chain with streamlined communication and messaging features, up to the minute order statuses, and tools to make purchasing easy.

12. Fyllo

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5-year search growth: 133%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2019

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Funding: $58M (Series B)

What they do: The Fyllo Compliance Cloud gives cannabis companies the ability to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to digital advertising, messaging, and location-specific regulatory requirements. With heavy hitter cannabis clientele like Columbia Care, Grassroots, and Apothecanna, Fyllo has established a strong position as the frontrunner for cannabis ad planning and execution.

13. Eaze

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5-year search growth: 27%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2014

Location: San Francisco, California

Funding: $202.5M (Series D)

What they do: Think of Eaze as the Doordash or UberEats of cannabis. Eaze connects local cannabis dispensaries to clientele and then provides a secure, seamless delivery experience designed to benefit both the consumer and the vendor. Eaze was one of the earliest companies advertising cannabis delivery with ads posted on buses, billboards, and buildings around San Francisco.

Eaze has delivered over 7M orders, has 800,000 registered customers and is home to over 100 licensed brands.

14. Green Thumb Industries

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5-year search growth: 1700%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Funding: $1.1M (Venture)

What they do: Becoming vertically integrated is the holy grail for cannabis companies, and Green Thumb has production, processing, and a sales process for distributing cannabis products to accomplish just that. Carrying a unique line of products (like pre-rolled joints) all the way to a diverse number of retail stores (Rise, Essence BluePoint, Affinity), Green Thumb controls the entire supply chain from harvest to sale.

15. GreenBits

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5-year search growth: 833%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: San Jose, California

Funding: $41M (Series B)

What they do: GreenBits is another software company zoomed in purely on the retail market for Cannabis and CBD. They offer retail management and inventory management software for point-of-sale purchases at dispensaries.

Greenbits counts over 1,200 retail locations as customers and processes nearly $4B in sales annually.

16. Strainz

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5-year search growth: 3500%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2013

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Funding: $8M (Series A)

What they do: Strainz has been formulating CBD products since 2013. A LeafLink Award winner in 2019 for their superior CBD offerings, today Strainz’s product line has expanded to include a variety of different flavors and doses.

17. Sunderstorm

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5-year search growth: 2200%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2015

Location: Los Angeles, California

Funding: N/A (Series B)

What they do: Sunderstorm manufactures high quality cannabis gummies using a precise mechanical process that ensures accurate dosing (a major problem in the edibles industry.) Founder Keith Cich honed in on gummies early on and doubled down by investing in a unique candy making machine from Europe that’s responsible for the precision dosing for Sunderstorm gummies. Sunderstorm’s revenue has been doubling and tripling year after year, with estimated earnings of $25M in 2020.

18. New Frontier Data

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Washington D.C.

Funding: N/A

What they do: New Frontier Data is one of the leading providers of cannabis market data and analytics in the nascent cannabis industry. Their core product is Equio, which provides a single source of truth for data dashboards around retail, consumer, and general cannabis market data to arm dispensaries and operators with up-to-the minute information.

Conclusion

Cannabis is undoubtedly one of the hottest industries in the United States.

With potential federal legislation legalizing cannabis, the upside is enormous to budding entrepreneurs and even larger established brands that are dipping their toes in the industry.

The startups on our list cover every inch of the cannabis industry, from software to organic CBD oils and beyond.

As millennials continue to take over a larger share of the economy worldwide, expect the cannabis industry’s growth to accelerate as old norms and laws are shed in favor of a demographic that’s much more open to regular cannabis usage.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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