Entrepreneurship Mar 07, 2016

How Green Lion is Making a Business of Cannabis Thought Leadership

It all started in a GChat conversation.  Mike Bologna and Jeffrey Zucker, two friends who had met at Boston University, were chatting about their interest in the newly formed legal cannabis industry when “something clicked.”   At the time, Bologna was working as a consultant in supply chain software.  Zucker, on the other hand, was an experienced entrepreneur, with startups in the real estate and media production industries.  They both realized that they had been tracking the cannabis industry independently, hoping it would turn into their next venture.  “We both agreed it was the right time for driven entrepreneurs to start paying attention and taking advantage of the coming industry boom,” they told us.

GreenLion

Founders of Green Lion Partners, Jeffrey M. Zucker (left) and Mike Bologna (right).

So, in early 2015, the pair started Green Lion Partners, which became an investment vehicle for five cannabis-based companies.  After helping them get off the ground, Bologna and Zucker, as Green Lion Partners, founded two companies of their own: LeafList and Natural Order Supply.  

The first, LeafList, aims to tackle the stigma of unprofessionalism in the cannabis industry by providing professionals with an online network of highly vetted cannabis businesspeople. “We felt that the industry needed a place with objective metrics to help evaluate potential business partners as it continued to expand. The value of reputation here is paramount based on the risk and potentially damaging impact to image with unethical business dealings.”

How do they determine who’s allowed in?  First, professionals must be invited by another LeafList member.  Each member has a “Leaf Rating” with one to five stars, an objective measurement of how reputable the professional is in the industry.  The rating’s algorithm is a secret formula that includes factors such as the strength of the professional’s network, length of experience, and recommendations from others.  Just like someone might check how many stars a restaurant has on Yelp before dining, a professional could check a LeafList member’s Leaf Rating before doing business with them.

In the case of Natural Order Supply, Green Lion Partners joined forces with 3C Consulting, a commercial cannabis consulting firm, to create an e-commerce store for cannabis cultivators, stocked with affordable, energy efficient products for their grows.  “We’ve grown through marketing,” Bologna said, “but more importantly, word of mouth based on excellent customer service.”

We both agreed it was the right time for driven entrepreneurs to start paying attention and taking advantage of the coming industry boom.

With five investments under their belt and two self-funded startups underway, Green Lion Partners are looking to consult other entrepreneurs who are looking to build a business in the space. In a few months, Bologna and Zucker plan to move to Denver and ramp up their consulting practice.  They’ll help early stage cannabis companies develop pitches, raise capital, create business plans, and help them make the connections they need to grow.

Though Bologna and Zucker frequently travel to Denver for Green Lion projects, they know that setting up shop in the same state as their clients will be essential to their new consulting practice.  Even though they’re uprooting their lives – Zucker is moving from Chicago and Bologna, from Boston – both are much more excited than nervous about the relocation thanks to the inviting and warm culture they’ve found in Colorado. They have been impressed by “how willing everyone in the industry has been to offer advice, partnerships, and introductions,” noting that it’s “different from the many other industries we’ve been involved with.”