As the cannabis industry continues to grow in both size and complexity, UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad has developed the Cannabis Design Challenge to help tackle some of the important questions and issues surrounding this relatively new industry.
Some of the topics being discussed during the challenge, which began July 11 and runs through July 28, include the history and legalization of cannabis in New York State, growing and sustainability, business plans and operating in the industry, ancillary support services, and advocacy and lobbying.
“The three-week event is a great opportunity for students to learn about this emerging industry in New York, and to hear from experts on the latest regulations and industry opportunities and challenges,” says Hadar Borden, director of UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad.
Borden says teams of participants are learning about the industry during TED talk-style discussions and presentations from industry experts and professionals, and then working with mentors and coaches to craft a final presentation for their own product or innovation for the industry. The challenge will culminate with a live, virtual, final round of pitches on July 28. BootSector is helping to provide prizes of up to $3,000 to the winners.
“The design challenges are something we’ve hosted for the past two years on various topics, including financial technology (FinTech), esports, the 10 in 10 Design Challenge and the Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge, but this is the first time we’ve hosted this particular theme,” Borden explains.
LaunchPad is partnering with UB alumna Nhi Kha, co-founder of Sativa Remedy, a hemp dispensary in Western New York. Kha, who took part in LaunchPad activities while a UB student, graduated with dual bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and health and human services.
“Sativa Remedy is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the University at Buffalo and Blackstone LaunchPad for the Cannabis Design Challenge,” says Kha, who’s working as a contributor for the challenge. “We’ve called upon expert entrepreneurs and industry leaders across New York State to educate and guide the next evolution of the regulated cannabis industry, and consider this challenge an important milestone in the New York cannabis industry.”
In addition to Kha, other collaborators and experts providing guidance and expertise to participants include Geoff Brown, a pharmacist with MedMen and founder and publisher of CanaBuff; Jeffrey Lombardo, associate director of the Empire State Patient Safety Assurance Network and research assistant professor in the UB Department of Pharmacy Practice; and Jessica Kruger, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, and director of teaching innovation and excellence, School of Public Health and Health Professions.
“We’re excited that we could use our network of entrepreneurs and cannabis industry professionals to create a one-of-a-kind learning experience for students,” Brown says.
Each student will earn a certificate of participation to feature on their LinkedIn and Handshake profiles, as well as their traditional resumes.
All are welcomed to attend the final round of pitches from 3–5 p.m. July 28 via Zoom.