Five Boston University Marijuana Businesses Have Big Highdeas

They're vying for $10,000 in seed money at the 2017 Cannabis Start-Up Challenge.

A wide shot of potted cannabis plants under artificial lights in an indoor, commercial grow facility located in Oregon.

A group of Boston University students and alums with ideas for marijuana-based start-up companies are squaring off this week for a chance at $10,000 in seed money and free services from Denver-based consultants for their big highdeas.

Five teams submitted pitches for the 2017 Cannabis Start-Up Challenge, co-sponsored by BU’s BUzz Lab and Green Lion Partners, a Colorado pot business strategy firm. A panel of judges (Jamie Lewis, vice president of operations for iAnthus, founder and CEO of Mountain Medicine, COO of Mayflower Medicinals; Charley Lax, managing general partner of GrandBanks Capital; Kim Napoli, co-founder of The Hempest Inc.; and Andrew Thut, CIO of 4Front Capital) will pick the winner on Tuesday night from 6-9 p.m. at the school’s Questrom School of Business Auditorium.

Here are their pitches:

Hyasynth Bio

Photo via Kevin Chen/Hyasynth Bio

What it does: Creates THC, the drug’s active component by growing yeast specially engineered to produce the same chemicals instead of growing marijuana.

From Hyasynth Bio‘s Kevin Chen, CEO and co-founder:

We’re engineering yeast to produce the active compounds ofCannabis (ie: THC, CBD, and others) instead of growing plants. So instead of having hundreds of thousands of square feet of Cannabis grow, we can have just a few steel tanks in a much smaller space to make the same amount of product. The process is scalable and makes specific products in high quality, since there are no issues with plant strains, contamination and pesticide use. We’re a seed stage company with a proven technology and on our way to our series A and looking for partners to go to market.

SmartHarvest Labs

photo via

What it does: Called a “Canntainer,” it’s a shipping container transformed into a “modular, stackable, sustainable greenhouse” that is “designed for high output, high quality organic cannabis production,” according to SmartHarvest’s Madison Palms.


What it does: An app that helps people plan and attend marijuana meet-ups.

Via CEO and founder Joshua Hollis:

At Movez, our mission is to innovate the way people attend social gatherings from the perspective of both the host and the attendee by maximizing the efficiency of time, travel, and fun. 

Movez is a platform that hones in on the most critical factors of the social event experiences. For attendees and hosts, Google Maps are integrated to provide a user-friendly layout of the events happening in their respective areas. For hosts, Movez provides seamless software solutions on both the web and mobile application, using technology that optimizes hosting operations while maximizing host revenues. For attendees, Movez provides a mobile application that enables them to connect with their favorite venues, hosts and attendees they encounter at the events they’re attending! Utilizing Social (follow kits, group creation, & messaging), Transportation (Uber & Lyft Ride Sharing Integrations) & Organizational Features (Event organizing segmentation), we make hosting & attending event experiences seamless!

Specifically for the Cannabis Cup and Dope Movez, we plan on utilizing our software infrastructure to curate Hemp experiences. Once we segment and categorize events on the Movez platform (for users to filter through events that cater to their tastes), we will utilize a 420 friendly filter on the platform to enable our users to find and even host their own geo-tagged, cannabis-centric like events (e.g. edible tastings, festivals, concerts, and information sessions). Furthermore, we plan on utilizing our data architecture to add more value to Cannabis businesses by connected them to more consumers in their demographic.

We have launched a Beta-Web and beta-iOS application already. We plan on launching our scalable and full feature product in the coming months.


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What it does: Via founder Francis Zamora: It’s “a cultivation monitoring platform, the star of which is a 360-degree camera mounted to a gyroscopic track capable of 2D and 3D navigation. The software behind the camera allows for complete climate control, irrigation, and monitoring through an online dashboard.”

 Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN)

What it does: Its “Virtual Center of Excellence (CoE) for Cannabis Care and Research” works outside the federal funding system to study marijuana policy and its impact and offers solutions.

From Marion McNabb, founder and CEO:

Cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug at the Federal level and this reality limits researchers, academic institutions and other interested parties from advancing the science and research related to the impact of Medical Cannabis on key health outcomes. This is coupled with a lack of financial resources and large regulatory barriers to get funding to conduct observation and clinical research to advance the use of Cannabis as a medicine. The evidence related to the impact Cannabis can play on the opioid epidemic needs to continue and integration of Cannabis as a therapeutic alternative to opioids can have great health impacts. Massachusetts has nearly the double national overdose death rates. This is one of the core areas C3RN would like to address with Medical Cannabis. As the legal Cannabis industry emerges in the Commonwealth, key topics of social inclusion, equity in the industry, youth prevention, and impaired driving are at the forefront and best practices and models for approaching these topics can be useful moving forward. 

For these reasons, C3RN set out in January 2017 to design a project that would leverage the brilliant minds, academic resources, and local Cannabis and healthcare expertise to form a Virtual Center of Excellence (CoE) for Cannabis Care and Research in Massachusetts. Over the last 9 months, C3RN has written over 130 pages of academic policy reviews related to Medical Cannabis and Adult Use Cannabis in some of cities that have been most affected by the drug war in the Commonwealth. You can find our work on our website: To date, we have over 15 letters of support from academics, Industry leaders, and advocates supporting the initiation of a CoE in the Commonwealth. 

C3RN has also testified over 15 times at the State, Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) and local towns and municipalities in the Commonwealth recommending research and program agenda related to the impact of a regulated medical and adult-use Cannabis industry can have on health, social, and economic outcomes. 

Update, 1/30/20: Since publishing this article, Movez has changed the function of their product. Below is an updated description.

“Movez is a Boston based social event software platform that engages event planning, discovery and engagement on 3 bases: social connectivity, transportation/ride-sharing & organizational flow. Hosts are able to attach categories to their events and market them through Movez’s software tools (Hosts can attach categories to their events e.g. “Cannabis” labelled events which the software refer to as “Cannavents”). Specifically for the Cannabis Cup and Cannavents, we plan on utilizing our software infrastructure to help facilitate Cannabis related events on our platform. While this Cannabis event category is only one of several event categories we have built into our software, it was important for us to incorporate it as a category early on when building our software to cater our services in this early untapped market that is growing in popularity. As shown through recent events, other event planning software platforms like Eventbrite have pulled cannabis-related events from their website, leaving organizers frustrated, and so we saw such events as opportunities to help facilitate academic engagements, student entrepreneurial events  (like the Annual Cannabis Cup Competition we facilitated in 2018) and promote transparency in the Cannabis space through our SAAS product, Movez.”