A CEO Explains Why the Marijuana Business Is So Hard to Get Into

A worker at a cannabis processing facility, operating on the ground level of the marijuana business

A worker at a cannabis processing facility, operating on the ground level of the marijuana business | Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Though there is plenty of buzz around the legal marijuana industry — and rightfully so — getting in is still no picnic. First and foremost, you have to know that you’re walking a fine line. The industry still operates on the margins of federal law, and often in violation of it. Not only that, but with laws varying wildly from state to state, and most other industries (like the financial sector) still being unwilling to work with marijuana companies, the day to day operations of a business can be difficult.

But still, entrepreneurs are making it happen. There are jobs being created, and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues being generated. For those reasons, it seems pretty clear that the marijuana industry is primed to absolutely explode in coming years.

The main issue? Getting a foot in the door. As mentioned, there are a lot of structural barriers blocking, or at least discouraging many would-be entrepreneurs and investors from dipping their toes into the new markets. One company that is making a push despite those barriers is Baker Technologies, which produces a software platform to help run marijuana retail locations and dispensaries.

Baker’s CEO, Joel Milton, was kind enough to speak with The Cheat Sheet about his company’s troubles attracting investors and operating on the margins of federal law — all while never so much as touching a cannabis plant or derivative. Baker ended up raising $1.6 million in venture capital to fund the company, but it took 200 meetings despite high interest from VC firms. Milton filled us in on why that was, and other reasons starting a business operating in the marijuana industry is so difficult.

Here are some of the highlights from The Cheat Sheet’s conversation with Baker Technologies CEO Joel Milton.