Privateer Holdings Inc., the cannabis industry’s first private equity firm, today announced the completion of its Series A funding round. The company raised an initial $7 million from high net worth individual investors and family offices, with a strategic plan to invest in companies in the cannabis space and build mainstream brands. The completion of this initial round of funding positions Privateer Holdings as the leader in the nascent cannabis industry. Leafly.com is its flagship acquisition.
“Privateer is focused on elevating the conversation and building trusted, approachable brands in the cannabis space,” said Brendan Kennedy, Privateer CEO. “We are tired of the clichés – pot leaves, Cheech and Chong, and nurses in bikinis! We are moving the cannabis industry out of the shadows and into the light.”
Kennedy founded Privateer Holdings in 2011 with Yale MBA classmate Michael Blue, who serves as chief financial officer, and long-time friend and colleague Christian Groh, who serves as chief operating officer. Privateer’s three founders bring backgrounds in investment banking, private equity and operations. Kennedy previously served as COO of SVB Analytics, a subsidiary of Silicon Valley Bank that evaluated start-ups for venture capital backing; Blue served as principal of a private equity and development firm; and Groh served as the head of sales for SVB Analytics.
“Our investors include ranchers in Texas, farmers in Kansas and finance professionals in New York,” continued Kennedy. “They all are interested in ending the harms caused by prohibition and see the cannabis space as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an industry from the ground up. We are investing in the kinds of cannabis companies that your parents or grandparents would be comfortable doing business with – professional companies with mainstream brands.”
Privateer Holdings’ first acquisition, Leafly.com, is similar to a Yelp for medical cannabis. Leafly.com is the simple, straightforward way to search cannabis strain types by health uses and effects, and find nearby dispensaries that carry them. Privateer acquired Leafly in 2011 and built the site from an online resource earning no revenue into a successful brand generating $100,000 in revenue each month. Leafly had 2.5 million visitors in May, and is projected to earn $1 million in revenue per month within the next 12 months. Privateer is launching two new businesses under the Leafly brand – an online cannabis industry news site and an online store that provides “Office Depot-style” one-stop shopping for supplies needed by dispensaries.
Along with closing its first round of fundraising, Privateer Holdings also named Michael Auerbach as its first board member. Auerbach is a senior director of global strategy firm Albright Stonebridge Group who held previous leadership positions with risk consultancy Control Risks, the Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation. Auerbach is also a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and a national security fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
“Privateer is transforming the cannabis space into a thriving and profitable, legal industry with professionals, infrastructure, regulations and a customer-centric mentality,” said Auerbach. “I invested in Privateer and joined the Board because Privateer’s management has the experience and plan to push forward an end to a prohibition that incarcerates hundreds of thousands of Americans, weakens our national security, wastes billions of tax dollars and law enforcement resources, and keeps vital medical benefits away from millions of patients. The business community is going to drive the changes to American regulations and I am excited to be part of this change.”