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It could be Cheech and Chong‘s vision of what the future would look like if grownups ever got hold of marijuana.
Next week, the first co-working space in the U.S. for grass-related technology and startups will open in Denver. But Green Labs Denver is not a funky place to get high and maybe get some work done.
“It was built in 2008, and the owner renovated it,” Green Labs co-founder Dave Pike told VentureBeat, describing the glass-and-polished-wood facility in the RiNo (River North Art District) of Denver. “We’re putting in a glass conference room, and a bar area with seating.”
Tonight is the launch party — ah, the refreshments! — and the opening is next week for the first group of eight startups.
The idea is to house budding companies sprouting up around the cannabis industry — not growers, sellers, or retailers themselves.
“There’s a financial services company,” Pike told us, something pot-sellers need desperately because banks won’t yet take all that grassy cash. Another is a digital marketing consultancy. A customer relationship management (CRM) startup is focusing on developing software for marijuana sellers to relate with their medical and recreational customers.
In other words, we’re not talking about how your father’s pot dealer managed customers or cash.
With about four dozen desks and two private offices in the space, Pike thinks as many as 30 to 35 startups might be able to fit in here. They also expect to host what Pike unpunningly described as “high-end events,” like a cooking-with-cannabis demo.
He and his partner, Michael Looney, are entrepreneurs from outside Colorado. Pike has a company in New York that provides party trollies; Looney started AltSpaceNY.
You can also tell them apart by their own relationships with the bud.
“The first time I smoked pot,” Looney told us, “was in boarding school in Connecticut, and I had troubles with attention deficit.”
He said that grass helped him “enormously to clear my head and focus on things that are essential,” and then he had “to learn to manage [smoking] and not become a stoner.”
On the other hand, Pike — whom Looney met when they were both students at the University of Michigan — doesn’t smoke.
Their intention, Looney said, is to help the industry “through organic growth,” doing something positive before “Phillip Morris and Marlboro and those guys come in and popularize it their way.”
Can workers in a co-working space for marijuana startups light up whenever they want?
“We’ll probably allow vaping,” he said. “It’s not as intrusive as smoking, and it’s not something people would be doing constantly throughout a day.”
But what about a joint?
“Smoke is smoke,” Looney told us, “and I don’t want the place filled with smoke.”
But, he added, “maybe we’ll have a smoking room.”