The regulated cannabis industry is on a dramatic growth trajectory. Across the United States, regulated cannabis products are expected to generate nearly $25 billion in sales by 2021. The Massachusetts market is expected to approach $1.5 billion. However, barriers to entry are still insurmountably high for most entrepreneurs. Capital formation is difficult, facility design and building costs are high, regulatory compliance requires developed skill and expertise, and access to reliable commercial-grade cannabis substrate is expensive and difficult.
The SIRA ACCELERATOR Program: The Future of Cannabis Innovation for Entrepreneurs in Massachusetts.
The program provides motivated entrepreneurs with workspace, infusible cannabinoid substrate (cannabis oil), and expertise to conduct research and development on their cannabis infused product ideas. The goal is to give cannabis entrepreneurs a platform from which to launch their businesses. Entrepreneurs retain ownership and control of their businesses, granting SIRA a small equity stake in return for participating in the program. Up to five teams will be accepted per cohort and the Program will sustain up to four cohorts per year. In each of the four annual cohorts, at least one space will be reserved for Economic Empowerment Applicants as defined in 935 CMR 500.002.
"We believe that the future of the cannabis industry rests upon the enthusiasm and creativity of motivated, socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs who will recognize, and embrace, both the benefits and the challenges inherent in bringing responsible, professional infused products to market. We are looking for teams that share this vision. The SIRA ACCELERATOR was created to empower them to succeed."
- Mike Dundas, CEO, Sira Naturals
The cannabis industry is expanding at an incredible pace, and the cannabis infused products segment is an area of innovation that is ripe for disruptive products. Sira Naturals, Inc. is animated by our mission to provide premium products, sustainably produced and sold with integrity. We believe in the responsible, professional development of the cannabis industry to help facilitate its transformation from an illicit activity to a safe and well-regulated marketplace.
The nature of cannabis infused products and how they act on the human body necessitates a measured, responsible product design and development methodology. Product quality, homogeneity and dosing are issues that present challenges in infused product development. We are also motivated to create form factors that do not appeal to young people and discourage inappropriate impairment.
The SIRA ACCELERATOR is looking to influence and accelerate responsible infused product development while simultaneously assisting cannabis entrepreneurs in being at the tip of the spear of cannabis innovation.
Want to be a part of the very first SIRA ACCELERATOR class?
For this first class, we're looking for teams of 2-4 highly motivated cannabis product developers, who have formed (or are about to form) a company and apply for a Marijuana Microbusiness license, ideally with a prototype product that has the potential to change the cannabis landscape for the better.
So who do we look for?
In short, you are a multi-disciplinary team with an articulable product idea and prototype willing to immerse yourself in a rigorous, 12-week collaborative experience combining product development, entrepreneurship, and cannabis business creation. You are scrappy entrepreneurs who have already started down the path of developing your product. You have a working prototype, a clear idea of where it fits in the marketplace, and the right team to take it forward. From there, we evaluate groups based on four criteria.
Does your product fit the portfolio?
We are a mission driven organization. The Sira mission revolves around premium products, sustainably produced and sold with integrity. We are looking for products that are aligned with these ideals. Products must also be innovative, shelf stable, and have unique marketable attributes. Products should not be appealing to young people or prone to abuse. We look at form factor, dosing, cannabinoid and terpene profile, method of administration, packaging concepts, marketing story and other product attributes to determine portfolio fit.
Are you a for-profit company?
Not a project, not a non-profit, and not an idea you’re exploring. We choose teams that have the potential to make money. This is because we believe that the way to maximize impact is to build scalable and sustainable businesses that generate returns. Speaking of businesses, you must have formed or be immediately ready to form an official business entity to apply to the SIRA ACCELERATOR.
Is your team the right team, and are you ready?
We love teams that have worked together before because team problems are the leading cause of failure in startups. If you haven’t worked with your co-founders before that’s okay, but we will dig into your team that much more. We look for teams whose founders’ skill sets complement one another. We believe the best teams combine the attributes of technical expertise, business skill, and storytelling.
We want teams that are coachable, who are open to the process of failing fast and applying what they learn so they can succeed sooner. We want teams that are collaborative, who are open to the accelerator process, and are willing to embrace the journey that other entrepreneurs are currently on. We want to make sure you have the right mindset to persevere in the face of ambiguity and failure and support your co-founders as well as the other entrepreneurs on the same journey as you.
So, are you a team of highly motivated cannabis product developers, with a company that seeks to be a marijuana product manufacturer microbusiness, with a prototype product or product line that is ready to be taken to the next level? Great. Then we can’t wait to hear from you. Whether or not you’re one of the five groups we accept, we’ve designed the process so that you can learn something about your venture at each step.
Good luck, and we can’t wait to create something incredible together.
What investments does the SIRA ACCELERATOR make in its Accelerator portfolio companies?
We provide SIRA ACCELERATOR Microbusinesses (Portfolio Companies) with access to technical, human and intellectual capital to fuel the success of their business. Upon acceptance to the SIRA ACCELERATOR program, every Portfolio Company will attend an intensive orientation to the program. Topics include: general cannabis infusion concepts; product development methodology; Massachusetts regulatory compliance; and the basics of starting a cannabis business. From there Portfolio Companies will gain access to the Sira Naturals state-of-the-art infusions workspace in Milford MA, and to Sira’s high quality refined cannabinoid substrate to develop their product(s) in a real-world environment. The SIRA ACCELERATOR staff will be available to advise Portfolio Companies on an as-needed basis.
The SIRA ACCELERATOR does not make direct financial investments into our portfolio companies, but we can be very helpful in finding people who might.
How much does it cost?
If admitted, portfolio companies will be responsible for paying all program costs, including but not limited to: (1) background check and registration costs ($750 per person); (2) product testing costs which can be up to $500 per sample tested. SIRA ACCELERATOR portfolio companies are required to test their samples at least twice during the program (up to $1,000). It is reasonable to expect that some portfolio companies may want to test their product as many as six times or more prior to completing the program. There may be other costs associated with the SIRA ACCELERATOR program, however, the program does not charge for use of the Sira Naturals workspace or the cannabis substrate (oil). Any additional costs will be purely administrative in nature and will be passed along to applicants at cost. The SIRA ACCELERATOR is not looking to profit from the program itself. The SIRA ACCELERATOR is looking to profit from the success of the portfolio companies. Your success is our success!
What kind of groups do you accept?
For the first cohort, the SIRA ACCELERATOR will accept teams working to produce a cannabis infused product. This could include edibles, topicals or other infused form factors. The initial workspace is an infusions kitchen, not a cultivation room and not an extractions laboratory. We hope to broaden the program to include additional cannabis products in the future. We prefer to accept groups of 2-4 people because groups are more often successful at navigating the challenges of the cannabis startup space. We will however make rare exceptions for individuals if warranted by the feasibility, desirability, and viability of the proposed product(s).
What if my group has not formed a company yet?
We prefer to accept applications from groups that have already formed a company, but we will make rare exceptions. While we may make exceptions for those wishing to apply, all applicants that are selected as Portfolio Companies must have formed a company by the end of the application process in order to qualify.
Do you accept groups that are competitive with each other?
We do our best to avoid accepting competitive groups into the same program cohort. However, with the growing number of infused product companies and as the program matures, it is possible that there may be competitive groups in the SIRA ACCELERATOR network. In the event there is a group in the SIRA ACCELERATOR portfolio that’s competitive, we work tirelessly to ensure there is no exchange of sensitive data.
Why does the SIRA ACCELERATOR want stock in my new company?
Like you, we’re entrepreneurs. We think that the learning, networking, and mentoring provided by the program is of tremendous value. The SIRA ACCELERATOR program will provide you with an incredible head start and greatly improve your chances for success and sustainability. Once we invest our time and effort, we’re motivated to help you succeed by introducing you to people who can help, assisting you with strategy, finding more investors, and generally helping you win all along your entrepreneurial journey. That’s a good deal for both of us.
Is my company “too far along” to apply to the SIRA ACCELERATOR?
Probably not. We accept companies that have fully developed products and help make them better. We can also help with the business model, introductions, financing and more. It depends on a number of factors including the product, the market, and the business strategy. On the other end of the spectrum, there is such a thing as too early. We only accept companies that have a clear idea of what they would like to produce. This almost always means they have a prototype product, a deep understanding of their target market, and a well-defined business plan.
Can I stop by your office to say hello?
While we appreciate persistence, we advise you not to stop by our offices without an appointment. This is not a good example of persistence on your part and it will negatively influence your application. We are happy to consider taking an appointment, so please contact us instead at email@example.com.
Do I have to be in the SIRA ACCELERATOR location for the entire 3-month period?
Yes. We do require that you be primarily based in the metro-Boston area during the program. This benefits you because you can take advantage of the learning opportunities, networking and coaching that will be provided. The amount of serendipity and camaraderie that is developed during the program may surprise you. The SIRA ACCELERATOR is a major commitment, and we expect you to be around most of the time. However, it’s your company, you call the shots, so traveling as necessary for business or family requirements is okay by us.
What else does the SIRA ACCELERATOR provide? Office space, internet, legal, hosting, etc.?
We provide our sophisticated infusions kitchen tricked out with a number of technical goodies. We provide access to our infusions experts to advise and collaborate on taking your idea from prototype to marketable product. We provide our refined commercial-grade cannabinoid substrate (high quality cannabis oil) as a raw ingredient for your product development. We also provide introductions to our network of experienced cannabis entrepreneurs and investors to help you develop your business model and perhaps even find funding. We do not provide office space.
Can I take my infused product with me when I finish the program?
No. The program operates pursuant to the medical (soon to be adult-use) marijuana regulations. Any prototype product that you create can be tested for quality, consistency, purity and dosing, but it cannot be removed from the Sira facility.
What sort of control am I giving up by granting equity to the SIRA ACCELERATOR?
None. The SIRA ACCELERATOR wants to help you launch and participate in your success. In a nutshell, we aren’t looking for any special or controlling interests in your company. We won’t ask for a board seat or for any uncommon investor rights. You will run the show.
How can we get funded after the SIRA ACCELERATOR ends?
Near the end of the three-month program, we’ll organize an Investor Demo Day where potential investors will check out your product(s) and listen to your pitch. We’ll coach you so you’re as effective as possible and do everything we can do help get you funding.
I’m a single founder. Can I get accepted into the SIRA ACCELERATOR, or do you only look for teams?
While we don’t screen out applications just because they have a single founder, it does make things more difficult. We look for great, balanced teams who have a full range of skills. We strongly advise you to seek co-founders who balance your skillset. For example, if you’re a strong product developer, you might consider adding someone with business and/or marketing experience. If you’re a great business evangelist with no product developer, it’s very unlikely we’ll accept you into the program, so go find a rock star product developer to join you.
How does the SIRA ACCELERATOR choose which companies to accept into the program?
We are a mission driven organization. The SIRA ACCELERATOR mission revolves around premium products, sustainably produced and sold with integrity. We will choose great founders who are proposing products that create value in harmony with this mission. Products must also be innovative, shelf stable, and have unique marketable attributes. Products should not be appealing to young people or prone to abuse. We look at form factor, dosing, cannabinoid and terpene profile, method of administration, packaging concepts, marketing story and other product attributes to determine portfolio fit.
We love teams that have worked together before because team problems are the leading cause of failure in startups. If you haven’t worked with your co-founders before that’s okay, but we will dig into your team that much more. We look for teams whose founders’ skill sets complement each other. We believe the best teams combine the attributes of technical expertise, design thinking, business skill, and storytelling.
For us, it’s about the team. Because of this reason, we’re less likely to accept single founder companies. The best things you can do to strengthen your application are:
Is my age a factor in your selection process?
Every member of your team must be at least 21 years old. Other than that, no.
When will I hear back about my application?
We try our best to notify applicants at least 1 month before the program starts.
What time specifically do applications close?
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and it’s never too early to apply. If you don’t make it into one cohort, you may make it into the next one. It’s always better to be on the list early.
Do I need to send in a business plan?
A business plan is not required, but it is highly advisable. Remember, we will be evaluating your potential to succeed in the highly competitive cannabis marketplace. If you have not yet prepared a business plan, you are likely not ready for the SIRA ACCELERATOR.
I’m concerned that if I apply, you won’t protect my intellectual property. Should I be worried about this?
We’re certainly not in the business of stealing ideas, and we treat application data as confidential information. Each year we will see hundreds of applications and many of them include similar ideas. For this and other practical reasons, please don’t ask us to sign an NDA. Our application does not ask for your “secret sauce” and there is no reason you have to disclose this to us if you’re not comfortable doing so. We hope that our reputation speaks for itself on this topic.
Do you ever offer internships to people interested in the SIRA ACCELERATOR?
Yes, apply to be an Associate.
Are there any restrictions or grounds for dismissal relating to the SIRA ACCELERATOR program?
Remember, we operate in a highly regulated industry. Compliance is ALWAYS our number one priority. With this in mind, there are circumstances that could result in immediate dismissal from the program. But the rules are simple, just adhere to the regulations and all should be well.
Other questions, comments, or concerns?
Didn’t find the answer you were looking for? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you ASAP!