A startup that makes cannabis oil for vaping wants to be America's first $1 billion 'marijuana unicorn'

Facebook/selectstrainsCura Cannabis Solutions is dominating the vaporizer market.
  • Cura Cannabis Solutions, maker of the Select Oil vape cartridges, wants to be the first “unicorn” with a $US1 billion valuation in the US marijuana industry.
  • The company raised at a $US400 million valuation in 2017.
  • While other cannabis brands tout being vertically integrated, Cura is focused on building a singular product: cannabis oil.

Cura Cannabis Solutions, a startup that makes marijuana oil for vape cartridges, wants to be the first US company in the cannabis industry to achieve elusive “unicorn” status with a billion dollar valuation.

“We’ve had a lot of nicknames. ‘Unicorn’ is definitely a new one,” said Cura president and cofounder Cameron Forni.

Cura is currently raising funding at a $US400 million valuation, which represents a 1,300% increase from its valuation in 2016 and puts it ahead of the combined market value of the two biggest publicly traded marijuana companies in the US: Terra Tech and Kush Bottles.

Cura cannabis solutions select oil vaping 4Cura Cannabis SolutionsCameron Forni is cofounder and president of Cura Cannabis Solutions.

The Oregon-based company closed the year with $US40.5 million in sales, and it predicts revenue will rise to $US120 million in 2018 as California’s recreational marijuana market comes online.

Sales of recreational marijuana began in California on January 1, and the state market is expected to haul $US3.7 billion in revenue this year as dispensaries pop up in new cities and counties. Cura, which operated in California’s medical marijuana market, is positioned to piggyback on the market’s success because it already has distribution there.

The vaping market is also exploding. In California, vaporizers account for 32% of sales on Eaze, a marijuana delivery service. In 2017, 72% of millennial Eaze customers bought a vaporizer.

Cura’s colossal growth stems from a decision it made early on to focus exclusively on cannabis oil, a product that’s highly concentrated in the chemical compounds found on the outside of the plant. The company does not grow its own marijuana, but sources it from third-party farmers.

The company’s signature line of vape cartridges, Select Oil, uses a Japanese organic cotton wick that absorbs the oil through its fibres and delivers it to a heating chamber. According to Forni, the system allows users to take quick draws without the burned taste of a standard cotton wick.

Select Oil offers over a dozen formulations with various potencies, flavours, and desired effects. Its biggest seller is a $US60 cartridge called Select Elite, which has the highest concentration of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, of all its vape cartridges.

Cura cannabis solutions select oil vaping 3EazeThe highly potent Select Elite vape cartridge is the company’s best-selling product.

Cura has been able to scale quickly by having a broad supply chain. In 2017, there were 240 licensed marijuana farms in Oregon, and 180 of them sold all of their trim (plant material that’s leftover from trimming the marijuana bud) to Cura for making oil, according to the company.

Some cannabis brands say that being vertically integrated – growing the plant that’s processed for oil or other products – allows for greater quality control. Brands also pocket a bigger profit, because they don’t have to share the revenue with farmers and middlemen distributors.

“What other industry does everything from production to processing to retail?” said Forni, who got into the cannabis industry after working on agriculture technology. “In cannabis, these companies want to be the best at everything. It’s very difficult to be the best at everything.”

Cura sells its products in California, Nevada, Oregon, and is eyeing an expansion to Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio. It also provides oil wholesale to marijuana edibles makers.

Founded in 2015, Cura has grown from a modest 15-person operation to a workforce of 285 employees. Its CEO, Nitin Khanna, has remained at the helm of the company in spite of allegations leveled against him. (In 2014, Khanna settled a civil suit accusing him of sexual battery and rape.)

Cura declined to comment on the matter.

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