Marijuana hackathon attracts national attention & crowns first-ever winner

by Garrett Reim
October 2, 2014
The first ever Marijuana Startup Competition crowned a winner this past weekend. Hosted by MassRoots, a marijuana focused social network, and CannaBuild, a bud tending app, the competition took place in Denver, and was billed as a kick-off event for Colorado’s digital cannabis economy. 
Attended by 150 participants and 12 different venture capital firms, the 48 hour hackathon was a proving ground for a digital industry that is just beginning to bud in Colorado. Winner of the competition was CannaRegs, a regulation reference website that tracks changes to cannabis laws. Amanda Ostrovitz, the creator of CannRegs took home $2,500 for first prize. Second place went to CraftedHere, an online map of cannabis-friendly bars, clubs and dispensaries and third place went to CannaBrokers, a website that facilitates wholesale transactions between licensed growers, edibles producers and extract companies with dispensaries.
"This event helped develop the next generation of marijuana-tech startups that not only solve real-world problems, but hopefully help to shape the development of the marijuana industry as a whole. Having a legal-tech startup like CannaRegs win a marijuana-related hackathon goes to show the level of professionalism and talent that is entering the cannabis industry," said MassRoots CEO Isaac Dietrich in a statement.
Given the industry’s fragile and ever-changing regulatory standing CannaRegs' library of cannabis laws could prove useful. At the very least the site is a reminder that marijuana is a tricky industry to build a business within. Only legal for recreational use in Washington State and Oregon, many larger venture capital firms cannot invest in cannabis startups because their policies forbid investing in a business that is illegal under federal law. As such many smaller venture capital firms attended the marijuana hackathon to take advantage of their larger competitors' apprehension.
"As the lead investor in MassRoots, the brainchild behind this event, it was especially exciting for us to attend and be on the judging panel," said Ashton Jones, vice president of business development at Dutchess Capital. "Dutchess is looking to put our money behind groups that can accelerate their ideas into viable products or services, and Amanda's concept with CannaRegs ticked all the boxes for us."
Perhaps also related to the lack of big venture capital investment in marijuana, MassRoots, one of the event organizers, recently filed for an IPO on a lesser known, small stock exchange called the OTCBB (Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board). MassRoots has only been around since mid-2013 and to date the company has raised $625,000 in seed funding. A public stock sale for a company less than two years old is unusual. 
Whatever the digital cannabis industry lacks in funding, it makes up for in media coverage. Reporters from several major news outlets, including NBC Nightly News and the BBC, attended the Marijuana Startup Competition. The social experiment going on in Washington State and Colorado certainly has the nation’s attention.

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