Local tech titan leads $2 million funding round in Tampa cannabis company
Tampa tech titan Steve MacDonald has led a $2 million funding round for a tech company in the cannabis space.
MacDonald, who launched his venture firm MacDonald Ventures at the end of 2020, has made roughly 10 investments since then, but his latest with Kush.com is the first investment he’s made publicly through the firm.
“It’s an industry I’m interested in; it’s still in its very, very early stages,” MacDonald said in an interview with Tampa Bay Inno. “The analogy I use is what made Rome so powerful was the road system and the highways. Those roads — which, in the cannabis industry, are distribution channels — once they’re built, they’re hard to disrupt.”
Steve MacDonald, founder of MacDonald Ventures
He met the founders at a pitch event and then led the company’s Series A. When a co-founder of Kush left the company during the Covid-19 pandemic, MacDonald took over their shares. He states he owns the largest amount of shares in the company but remains a minority owner.
“I got on the board and helped them create the proper controls, financial infrastructure and helped them become a scalable business,” said MacDonald, a longtime entrepreneur.
He also served as the catalyst for Kush.com’s acquisition of fellow cannabis marketplace company TradeCraft Origin, led by Tampa-based founder John Lynch. TradeCraft was acquired in June, with Lynch moving into the CEO spot for Kush.com.
“My business was moving along, Kush was developing and Steve reached out, thinking the two of us should get together,” Lynch said. “Two similar companies had momentum [so] bring them and their resources together.”
Lynch is a former Coca-Cola executive who moved to Tampa in 2013. He and MacDonald met through Oxford Exchange co-founder Blake Casper, and MacDonald has been a mentor to Lynch since.
He now serves in the investor role to Lynch, who closed the $2 million series seed-plus round on Tuesday. It will be used to expand its cannabis-related products to grocers, convenience stores and retailers in a more B2B fashion through a platform he plans to launch this weekend at “KushCon” in the Tampa Convention Center.
The company is an online retailer for producers, processors and retailers of CBD and cannabis products, touting more than 50,000 brands and companies on its site. MacDonald said he uses the same diligence of vetting, testing and standardizing the products he took while working in the pharmaceutical industry.
Lynch acknowledged the cannabis industry still has a stigma surrounding it, adding four years ago, he and his wife “used to whisper” sometimes when asked what they do. However, he said Florida — and more broadly, the Southeast region — is ripe for disruption in the space.
“Our plan is to grow a thoughtful business on an accelerated path and learn from others in the industry,” he said. “Our model sets us up to be dynamic and versatile at the same time. As we build out our distribution network in the Southeast, this would be a natural place to have some resources; and I’m excited to do this in the market where I live.”
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