Tech Competition Unfriends Cannabis Startup

DENVER, CO. 13 May, 2015. Imagine if America voted for its favorite candidate on NBC’s “The Voice” but the judges decided they knew better and sent the winning singer home. Heads would explode all over the social media.

This is exactly what happened last week at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, where social networking app MassRoots (OTCQB: MSRT) waved the flag for the cannabis industry. The company won the popular vote at Tuesday’s election in Startup Alley, where entrepreneurs present their tech business concepts. MassRoots easily beat out 50 other startups from around the world at this phase of the competition, a big win that should have secured MassRoots a finalist spot in Startup Battlefield, where it would have been the first cannabis-tech company to battle for the $50,000 grand prize and the Disrupt Cup (an award coveted by new technology companies)- at least that’s what the top vote-getter can normally expect.

This year, however, TechCrunch opted to overrule the vote, effectively sending MassRoots “home” like a losing entrant. No Battlefield place for you, upstart pot company! Consider yourself unfriended.

TechCrunch – which runs a popular technology website – has not explained its decision, one which raises questions about the point of having a voting process if the results are meaningless. TechCrunch did not indicate reservations about MassRoots eligibility when the company applied for Startup Alley; the editors accepted MassRoots’ application and $2000 entry fee and said the company qualified, according to comments made by MassRoots CEO Isaac Dietrich in press releases and interviews. Buyer’s remorse seemed to set in after MassRoots won.

In a PRNewswire press release, Dietrich commented, “By disenfranchising thousands of voters to cherry-pick the winner, TechCrunch’s editors not only insulted the cannabis community, but every other company in Startup Alley that thought the votes they got actually mattered.” Dietrich says his company received about 5,000 votes; the competing company chosen by the editors as their Battlefield finalist received about 750 votes. Cannabis enthusiasts using #ReleasetheVote, are demanding that TechCrunch release the final vote tally.

“As a press organization, TechCrunch should pride itself in transparency and fair reporting of the facts,” Dietrich said. “In America, when you have an election, you release the results.”

TechCrunch Disrupt events are held worldwide and described in company materials as “one of the most anticipated technology conferences of the year, and Startup Battlefield is the very heart of the event. Some 30 companies, chosen from hundreds of applicants, launch their products on the Disrupt stage before a live and online audience in front of a panel of expert judges.” Last week’s New York event was won by water-purification filter company Liquidity. Former finalists include well-known names like Dropbox and Mint.

Technology industry investors have poured millions into the cannabis industry over the past year, and deep-pockets lobbying dollars is likely to help or 2016 ballot measures in states teetering on the brink of legalization – much of the PAC activity will be funded by the technology sector. However, the cannabis industry continues to face uncertainty and concerns over legality and viability. If tweets about the MassRoots disappointment are any indication, many cannabis enthusiasts also believe there is a bias against cannabis sector businesses.

About Mark Hudson

Mark Hudson is a writer and app. developer who returned to Colorado in 2013 after fifteen years working overseas.

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