Investors are seeing green when it comes to the future of the marijuana industry.
Seattle-based marijuana investment firm Privateer Holdings today announced an additional $60 million investment, pushing total funding to date to $200 million.
The eight-year-old firm operates four disclosed portfolio companies, including marijuana strain resource site Leafly — which recently had layoffs — and medical cannabis producer Tilray. It will use the new money to grow its current companies; make more acquisitions; and launch its own new ventures globally.
Privateer, which doubled its revenue year-over-year in 2017, isn’t disclosing specific investors, but said it is backed by high-net worth individuals, family offices, and institutional investors.
Brendan Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Privateer, told GeekWire that roughly 40 percent of the fresh cash came from existing investors, with the rest from new ones.
Privateer previously raised $58 million this past August. In April 2015 it raised a $75 million Series B round from top investors like Founder’s Fund, the venture capital firm started by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, an early investor in companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, SpaceX, and others.
Clearly, many see big potential returns from cannabis-related products and services as more governments legalize the use of marijuana. Vermont just became the ninth U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use, and the first to do so legislatively. More and more Americans are in support of legalization.
Kennedy said Privateer is focused on opportunities outside America, though it is selling its Marley Natural and Goodship cannabis products in the U.S., where Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently nixed an Obama-era law that limited federal interference with state marijuana programs. Kennedy said there is less risk and more certainty in countries around the globe.
“The U.S. is a great source of investors in this industry — it’s just not the best place to deploy capital at this time,” he said.
Kennedy expects there to be 40 countries with legalized medical cannabis by the end of 2018, up from 30 today.
“It’s still very early on in a rapidly-growing industry,” he said. “For investors who believe that the end of prohibition is inevitable, it is still a perfect time to make that investment.”
Kennedy, a Yale MBA grad who was previously COO at SVB Analytics, added: “I would argue it’s the hottest industry in world that has a real product you can hold in your hands.”
Privateer, which employs 50 people in Seattle, also announced today that its founders will donate “equity equivalent to $5 million at the firm’s current valuation to help communities harmed by cannabis prohibition.” Kennedy said this means helping expunge records of non-violent drug offenders, for example.