Meet the new pot entrepreneurs

Washington State's budding marijuana industry has drawn entrepreneurs from all careers and backgrounds.

The professional investors

marijuana industry brendan kennedy and michael blue
  • Entrepreneur: Brendan Kennedy and Michael Blue
  • Background: Finance, bank executive
  • Weed-related job: Private equity

To those in Washington, these two are known as the slick guys in suits from Yale. They represent big money, and that brings hope to those entering the for-profit marijuana industry.

Brendan Kennedy and Michael Blue run Privateer Holdings, a private equity group. They find wealthy individuals and get them to pour cash into cannabis startups. Investors include cattle ranchers in Texas, New York financiers, Florida physicians and a corn farmer in Iowa.

Their biggest challenge right now is overcoming investors' fears about uncertainty. Washington already allows for medical marijuana, and state rules will soon be in place to spawn a profitable industry of growers and sellers. But federal authorities could shut down anyone at any time.

Another difficulty they face is dealing with entrepreneurs who come from the world of illicit drugs. Kennedy and Blue concluded weed culture just doesn't translate well into the business world.

"Dispensary owners didn't meet our expectations," Kennedy said. "They were really good people... but that doesn't necessarily make them great business operators."

Privateer has bought one company, Leafly, a WebMD of weed. And they're looking for others. In the meantime, they're trying to give the cannabis industry a more professional look.

"Part of what we're trying to do is elevate the conversation, to bring the whole industry out of the shadows and into the light," Kennedy said. "We don't have pot leafs on here. We don't have nurses in bikinis. We don't have Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson."

  @Jose_Pagliery - Last updated May 06 2013 08:31 AM ET

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