SEATTLE, WA – What to do with so much green? In the largest funding round to date for a marijuana start-up, Privateer Holding officially closed on its $75 million round this week. Investments in the cannabis industry jumped 942% in 2014, as a flurry of activity saw big players staking out positions in an industry about to ignite. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund is among the top tier investors who jumped on board with Privateer.
“We’re in this really interesting stage at the end of prohibition,” said Privateer CEO and co-founder Brendan Kennedy in an interview with TechCrunch. “Our focus is on creating brands that fuel change, that change perceptions of the product and user — brands that inspire trust, and brands that create legitimacy.”
Privateer employs more than 200 people, and plans to grow to at least 500 by the end of 2015. The private equity firm owns the review site Leafly, the Canadian medical marijuana producer Tilray, and has partnered with the late, great Bob Marley’s family to create the cannabis brand Marley Naturals around the reggae legend ’s favorite strains.
Privateer plans to build its portfolio of marijuana offerings through acquisitions and geographic expansion, making the company the equivalent of a General Mills for cannabis products. “Our thesis was that this will be a mainstream consumer product used by mainstream Americans, and they will be looking for mainstream professional brands that don’t insult or offend them,” Kennedy states.