The Bedford native behind Snoop’s cannabis firm
When Karan Wadhera first told people in 2016 he was investing in cannabis-focused startups, he got chuckles, skeptical stares and a lot of no’s from investors.
Why it matters: Wadhera got the last laugh. The Bedford native turned a budding venture capital firm backed by Snoop Dogg into a leader in the multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry.
The intrigue: Wadhera wasn't a VC insider when he joined Snoop's firm Casa Verde. A Babson College graduate, he met the rap artist while running his first company, Elevator Holdings, from his dorm room. He helped record labels promote John Legend, Snoop and other musicians.
- After graduation, he spent a decade working for financial services companies Goldman Sachs and Nomura, but his interest in music and pop culture never waned.
Wadhera quit finance in 2015 and, after a year of research, joined Casa Verde.
Yes, but: He initially struggled to get buy in. He was a first-time portfolio manager asking investors to bankroll a new VC firm with little more than Snoop’s name recognition in an industry hinging on a federally banned substance.
Zoom in: Casa Verde overcame those odds by making two decisions early on: The team focused on relatively "boring" startups — compliance- and e-commerce-focused platforms — and they started investing in the startups mid-fundraise so they could show skeptical investors the niche the teams were carving for themselves.
What they’re saying: "When I would tell people I'm in the cannabis industry or investing in the cannabis companies, your mind goes to certain things right away — like, 'Oh what, does your company make joints or whatever?'" Wadhera told Axios.
- "And we're like, 'no, we invest in the ancillary businesses.'" Wadhera says. "And they're like, 'oh, bongs and pipes?'"
Compliance became one of Casa Verde's biggest investment areas. It wasn't sexy, he added, "but it was really relevant, really critical to the growth of the industry and helped tell our story a lot more intelligently when we were speaking to advisors."
State of play: Casa Verde's funding is behind dozens of major cannabis tech companies, from dutchie, the popular e-commerce platform, to Metrc, the compliance software company used by the Massachusetts regulators.
- The firm is branching out to fund brands and other cannabis startups, as well as cannabis-focused companies in Germany.
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