june, 2019

26jun6:30 pm9:00 pmBuilding a Cannabis Startup


Event Details


2018 was a landmark year for the cannabis industry: California, Vermont, Oklahoma, Canada, and Mexico all deregulated marijuana, making it more widely accessible.

With deregulation, entrepreneurs and investors have made the cannabis space a hotbed of innovation, attracting the attention of press, lawmakers, investors, and consumers. Global funding to cannabis companies reached nearly $2.2B (a new record high for this emerging industry).

On June 26th, 4 of these frontier entrepreneurs will join us to discuss what inspired them, how they determined the right business model and how they’ve grown their business thus far. We’ll also hear about the unique challenges of the space, from legal and regulatory complexities to the residual stigma of cannabis.

We’ll also discuss

  • Designing & prototyping your product
  • Marketing for cannabis products
  • Adhering to rules & regulations
  • Fundraising options for a cannabis startup

About the panelists

  • Ryan Smith is the Co-founder & CEO of LeafLink, the cannabis industry’s standard platform for orders, sales and relationship management. LeafLink has $14 million in venture capital from investors including Lerer Hippeau and Nosara Capital. The platform went live in Colorado in March 2016 and now has more than 2900 retailers placing orders for over 950 brands across 19 territories. In 2016, Ryan was the first CEO of a cannabis-facing company to be listed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. In February 2018, LeafLink was the first company in the cannabis space to make Fast Company’s 2018 list of Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Enterprise. Prior to co-founding LeafLink, Ryan successfully founded and exited two companies, one of which he sold to an NYSE public firm.
  • Benjamin Witte is the Founder & CEO of Recess, a consumer wellness company creating CBD infused functional beverages and nutraceutical products to help people feel balanced in an increasingly stressful world. While working at Life Capital, Witte began to experiment with CBD, as he has always been hyper, wired and overwhelmed with the stresses of everyday life. CBD (oil) helped Witte feel more balanced, creative, happier and productive – but he had a problem with the delivery method…placing the product under the tongue simply wasn’t the most delightful experience. There was an incredible opportunity to bring CBD into new formats, with beverage serving as the largest market that already came with an engrained functional education.
  • Beryl Solomon is the Founder & CEO of Poplar, a platform that offers curated CBD products with expert insights on how they work, what they do, and ultimately, how it will benefit specific health and wellness needs. Prior to founding Poplar, Beryl served as the CEO of STATE bags. Under her leadership, revenue grew more than 100% YoY.
  • Robert Tankson is the Co-founder & COO PrestoDoctor, an online medical cannabis recommendation service. His efforts led PrestoDoctor to a multimillion-dollar assessment and publicly traded company, Cannabis Sativa Inc’s 51% acquisition in August 2017 at a $9M valuation. Prior to co-founding PrestoDoctor, he was a Market Growth Analyst at ClearSlide, where he optimized strategies and tactics to increase ROI for existing and future marketing campaigns. He wants to break molds in traditional medicine and help people live healthier lives by gaining access to medical-grade cannabis. His drive comes from seeing cannabis truly change patient’s lives and also being a minority in the legal cannabis industry that historically has not seen many African American leaders.
  • (Moderator) Melisse Gelula is the Co-Founder of Well+Good, a leading health and wellness digital media company with a community of 12+ million monthly. She is also the Senior Vice President of Brand of Leaf Group’s Fitness & Wellness Division. As a wellness media expert, Melisse has led the editorial, branded content, design, and video teams at Well+Good. She was named one of the 9 Most Creative Entrepreneurs of 2018 by Inc Magazine and one of the 10 Writers and Editors Who Are Changing the National Conversation by Adweek. She has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, in the New York Times, given two keynotes at the Global Wellness Summit, and more. Most recently, Melisse spearheaded the curation of the first-ever Well+Good cookbook, Well+Good: 100 Healthy Recipes + Expert Advice for Better Living (Clarkson Potter), which features the go-to recipes of 100 health, wellness, and culinary luminaries, from Venus Williams to Gabrielle Bernstein to Dr. Mark Hyman. Prior to founding Well+Good, Melisse was the editor-in-chief of SpaFinderLifestyle.com, beauty director at Luxury SpaFinder Magazine, and travel editor at Fodor’s.


6:30 – 6:50: Drinks & Networking
6:50 – 7:50: Panel
7:50 – 8:15: Audience Q&A
8:15 – 9:00: More Drinks & Networking


(Wednesday) 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT


Alley Chelsea

119 West 24th Street, 2nd Floor