Hip-Hop Mogul Jay-Z Invests in Cannabis Retail Platform Flowhub

Cannabis point-of-sale platform Flowhub announced on Tuesday the closing of a $19 million round of strategic funding, including significant participation from venture capital firms Headline and Poseiden as well as a personal investment from entrepreneur and hip-hop billionaire Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. 

The new round of funding for Flowhub brings the total amount of capital raised for the company to $50 million with a valuation of $200 million, according to a statement from the cannabis dispensary payment transactions processor.

“We are thrilled to announce this capital raise,” said Kyle Sherman, founder and CEO of Flowhub. “Headline is an incredible, Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Poseidon is a pioneer investor in the cannabis industry, and Jay-Z is a cultural and creative global force no matter the industry he is involved in.”

“I couldn’t think of a better group to be working with as we take this company to the next stage,” Sherman added. “This funding not only underscores the significant value that Flowhub provides to our customers, but also the maturation of the cannabis industry at large. We remain committed to developing innovative products that help our retail customers run better businesses.”

Flowhub processes in excess of $3 billion in cannabis transactions annually, providing more than 1,000 marijuana dispensaries a retail sales platform to serve their customers while maintaining compliance with strict regulations. The company will use the new round of funding to accelerate its expansion into emerging cannabis markets while developing new products for its expanding line of services.

Supporting Cannabis Social Equity

The company also plans to use the new funding to support and grow its social equity program, which was launched by Flowhub in June to invest in communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. 

Through the program, eligible social equity cannabis business owners can receive Flowhub’s POS retail management and compliance software for only $4.20 per year, which represents a reduction of 99.97 percent over regular pricing. The discount is available for up to three years at the social equity owner’s first cannabis dispensary business location.

The Flowhub social equity program also provides participating cannabis retailers with the company’s Stash inventory management and Greet customer check-in mobile apps, as well as the View mobile analytics app and free implementation of the technology. 

To date, Flowhub has awarded more than $1 million worth of software products to eligible cannabis entrepreneurs participating in the program. More information about the Flowhub cannabis social equity program is available online.

Software Allows Debit Transactions at Cannabis Dispensaries

Because of the continued illegality of cannabis at the federal level, most banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions do not offer traditional banking services to cannabis businesses, even those operating legally under state law. As a result, most dispensaries are forced to conduct transactions with their customers and suppliers via cash.

“We’re still a cash industry, and it’s 2021,” Sherman told Forbes. “It’s hard to believe when we barely have cards in our pocket anymore with Apple Pay.”

Flowhub’s POS software addresses the cash issue by allowing customers to use their debit cards to make sales transactions at cannabis dispensaries. But instead of being processed as a debit card sale, the transaction is technically an ATM withdrawal.

“It’s not really debit, but it feels like it,” Sherman said.

Jay-Z and Cannabis

Jay-Z’s stake in Flowhub isn’t his first foray into the cannabis industry. In 2019, he became the brand strategist for Caliva, where he developed his signature high-end cannabis brand Monogram. The following year, Caliva, Monogram and Left Coast Ventures were acquired through a SPAC deal that produced the Parent Company, where Jay-Z heads the social equity venture fund.

“When Jay says, ‘I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,’ it’s true,” said Sherman, recalling a sample of Jay-Z’s well-known lyrics. “He’s got incredible business acumen—he really knows how to surround himself with brilliant people and build great companies.”

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Pot Power Couple: Beyoncé Builds Hemp Farm as Jay-Z’s Company Appoints CEO

In what Business Insider called “the world’s top power couple,” Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Beyoncé branched out beyond the fashion, movie and music industries to invest in cannabis—both with a heavy focus on social equity and reparations for the impact of the War on Drugs. 

Last year, Beyoncé’s BeyGood organization partnered with the NAACP to provide new small business grants for Black-owned businesses. A $10,000 grant was given to The Gift—a  Maryland-based cannabis company founded in 2018.

But recently the diva is getting involved with hemp herself. During an interview with Harper’s Bazaar published on August 10, Beyoncé explained how she discovered the powers of CBD, notably for soothing her muscles and for helping her fall asleep.

Touring constantly can add up for the 39-year-old. “I discovered CBD on my last tour, and I’ve experienced its benefits for soreness and inflammation. It helped with my restless nights and the agitation that comes from not being able to fall asleep,” she said.

Beyoncé explained that she also believes in the healing properties of honey—which is what eventually led her to decide to build a hemp and honey farm. “I’m building hemp and a honey farm. I’ve even got hives on my roof!” she added. Unfortunately, there aren’t more details about the farm, such as whether or not she plans to go commercial with hemp, such as actor Jim Belushi.

Raw honey itself is packed with nutrients and provides medicinal qualities, and CBD-infused honey is already a thing, with dozens of companies catching onto the craze. While Jay-Z’s MONOGRAM offers THC-rich flower products, people are already speculating about a hemp/CBD line with Beyoncé’s name attached to it.

The Parent Company and Jay-Z Appoint CEO

Meanwhile, Jay-Z continues to stay busy with his numerous pot investments. On August 16, The Parent Company announced that it appointed Troy Datcher as CEO. The Parent Company is behind Jay-Z’s MONOGRAM line of cannabis products.

Effective September 8, Datcher’s historic appointment represents the “first time a Black CEO will lead a major public U.S. cannabis organization,” the press release reads. 

“I’m truly honored to be at the forefront of shaping the future of the cannabis industry with The Parent Company,” Datcher stated. “This is a tremendously strong company that is poised for continued growth and we have a unique opportunity to disrupt a sector that has disproportionately impacted communities of color—including my own—for far too long.

Troy Datcher, Incoming Chief Executive Officer of The Parent Company (CNW Group/TPCO Holding Corp.)

“This is a chance to partner with cultural powerhouses like JAY-Z and Desiree Perez to rectify the wrongs of prohibition, eradicate antiquated laws and create a new cannabis infrastructure rooted in diversity, equity and justice for our communities. Together, we can shape a legal cannabis industry that is reflective of our entire culture in California and beyond,” said Datcher.

Datcher formerly worked for The Clorox Company, where he most recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. While there, Datcher deployed global sales plans for over $6.7 billion in annual revenue across The Clorox Company’s list of brands.

MONOGRAM, a part of The Parent Company, launched a series of campaigns to bring awareness to social equity issues, as people remain in jail for doing essentially the same thing as corporate cannabis businesses do, minus the licenses. Long-term data shows that Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people despite nearly equal usage. Furthermore, people with cannabis arrests have trouble participating in the legal industry.

“Troy’s business acumen, strategic thinking and leadership skills are invaluable qualities that will be critical to our organization’s growth,” said The Parent Company Chief Social Equity Officer and Board Member Desiree Perez. “He understands and embraces the unique responsibility we have to redefine the cannabis industry and establish a new precedent for cannabis entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. I look forward to watching him grow into this position and taking The Parent Company to new heights.”

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JAY-Z debuts new weed brand, MONOGRAM

Monogram, Jay-Z’s much-hyped weed brand, finally makes its debut after a buzzy introduction back in October. 

Back in October, not much was known about the brand, other than it was the brainchild of Jay-Z and Caliva, one of the largest cannabis brands in California, and that it had a mysterious, vibey website with Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and OutKast snippets playing as “Sounds from the Grow Room.” 

Today, Caliva announced that after 18 months selecting and cultivating strains, “MONOGRAM is finally ready to introduce its core collection of products to the world,” according to a press release. 

Monogram’s products are placed in three categories: Light, medium, and heavy. And rather than the traditional strain names we’re all used to (Blue Dream, OG Kush, Pineapple Express, etc etc), Monogram’s newly introduced strains are numbered: No. 88, No. 96, No. 70 and No. 01. 

Monogram is also launching with three product types: 

  • THE OG HANDROLL: A premium cigar (read: blunt) rolled with flower to burn slowly and evenly for multiple sessions. 
  • LOOSIES PREROLL PACK: A pack of four prerolls with .4 grams of top-shelf flower. 
  • FLOWER: Small batch grown flower, available in 2 gram and 4 gram jars. 

“Cannabis has been around for thousands of years, yet it is still an industry whose legacy of skilled craftmanship is often overlooked,” JAY-Z said in the press release. “I created MONOGRAM to give cannabis the respect it deserves by showcasing the tremendous hard work, time and care that go into crafting a superior smoke. MONOGRAM products are next level when it comes to quality and consistency and we’re just getting started.”

JAY-Z has been a longtime proponent of ending the War on Drugs, culminating with a collaboration with the Drug Policy Alliance for a New York Times opinion piece in 2016

Images courtesy of Nike Communications

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JAY-Z launches new weed brand

It looks like JAY-Z is fully throwing in on the cannabis scene with the debut of a new weed brand, Monogram

Not much is known about the new brand. This morning an Instagram appeared with minimal graphics, sparse captions, and vibey Instagram stories of people lovingly smelling cannabis plants. The website has snippets of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and OutKast playing under a headline that reads “Sounds from the Grow Room.” With no shortage of hype-inspiring moods and lack of specific details regarding product names or launch dates, JAY-Z fans and potential consumers have little to hang onto other than pure speculation. 

But that’s part of the fun, you know? It’s like guessing when Frank Ocean’s next album is going to drop, but make it weed.   

This isn’t JAY-Z’s first foray into the cannabis world. He’s been the Chief Brand Strategist at Caliva, one of California’s largest cannabis companies, since July 2019. While JAY-Z has been involved with other brand lines such as Bad Apple, Fun Uncle, and Deli, Monogram is the first brand to come from Caliva with JAY-Z’s name behind it. 

“With its careful strain selection, meticulous cultivation practices and uncompromising quality, MONOGRAM seeks to redefine what cannabis means to consumers today,” reads Caliva’s press release for the brand. “In an effort to provide a more tailored customer experience, the brand will also launch through a best in class e-commerce platform dedicated exclusively to its singular product line.” 

JAY-Z’s weed history goes much further. He’s been a longtime proponent of ending the War on Drugs, culminating with a collaboration with the Drug Policy Alliance for a New York Times opinion piece in 2016

“Together, we hope to shape the conversation surrounding cannabis, foster equality, and fairness in the development of the industry, promote awareness for the many uses and benefits of cannabis, and empower consumers to feel free to use cannabis how, when, and where they want,” Caliva said in a statement to Highsnobiety

And before the weed brand collaborations and social justice, JAY-Z was our preeminent weed-lyricist. I texted contributor Dante Jordan what his favorite weed-focused lyric of JAY-Z’s is and he said the 2002 Pharrell assisted “Excuse Me Miss” with the lyric You can’t roll a blunt to this one / You gotta, you gotta well, ya gotta light a J / You gotta puff a J on this one.” 

Photos courtesy of Nike Communications.

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