SEATTLE — The elegant Washington Athletic Club hosted some unlikely guests this week: pioneering marijuana entrepreneurs pitching their products to an angel-investor network, the ArcView Group, based in San Francisco.
Josh Gordon, 26, came from New York to seek up to $500,000 for his packaging company, Rodawg. Aiming for more-discriminating consumers, Gordon’s containers for joints shun old symbols such as pot leaves; they’re more like accouterments for fine cigars. His investor presentation projects at least 35 percent yearly growth and annual revenue of $3.7 million in five years.
Chris Walker, 40, pitched for a Swedish company that makes lights for cultivating plants. Walker says Heliospectra’s biofeedback technology leads to healthier, higher-yielding cannabis plants, while conserving energy. He’s looking for $2 million from investors.
“The world changed 10 weeks ago," said ArcView chief executive Troy Dayton, referring to when Colorado and Washington voters approved legal marijuana for adults. Merchants who dealt in the underground are meeting on Main Street. Investors who had sunk money in software are now considering marijuana-related ventures and what might be the start of a multibillion-dollar industry.
“Seattle along with Denver has become ground zero for an emerging industry," Dayton said. “So it’s only fitting we hold our quarterly investors’ meeting at ground zero."
But the federal government’s ban on all marijuana remains in place, and the threat of a crackdown has kept investors out of the business until the clash between state and federal laws is resolved in a way that inspires more confidence.
Until then, ArcView is investing only in ancillary products and services. Besides the risk of a federal crackdown, Dayton sees compelling reasons for investing in ancillary products and services, and not touching the weed itself.
The cultivation business is already well-capitalized by friends and family of producers, he said. And, there’s a better chance an ancillary business will be acquired one day by a bigger company, which is where a really big payout might come for investors.
Dayton, who worked in Silicon Valley, hopes to foster what he sees as a natural connection between technology investors and the marijuana business.
“Some of the best ideas come up through the counterculture," he said. “If you look at the beginning of the personal-computing revolution, and renewable energy and organic foods, they all look similar."