“This bud’s for you” has taken on a whole new meaning for Chris Burggraeve.
The former chief marketing officer for Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the brewer of Budweiser beer, is moving from barley and hops to cannabis as the alcohol industry casts its sights on the burgeoning market for state-sanctioned marijuana.
Burggraeve, 52, has made two investments in the space. Most recently, he joined the advisory board of GreenRush Group. The San Francisco-based startup, which says it aims to be the Amazon of weed, closed its $3.6 million Series A fundraising round last week. Burggraeve, a native of Belgium with a master’s degree in economics, also co-founded Toast, which makes pre-rolled joints.
The former beer executive is one of many entrepreneurs and investors increasingly flocking to the cannabis industry from the traditional business world. Big Beer took its first step last month when the Upstate New York-based Constellation Brands Inc., which sells Corona in the U.S., announced its investment in Canopy Growth Corp., a Canadian seller of medicinal-marijuana products. In Burggraeve’s view, that’s just the beginning.
“This is one of the fastest-growing categories globally,” he said. “Why? Because people want it. When consumers want something, you ignore it at your peril.”
After leaving the corporate marketing world about five years ago, Burggraeve said he’s focused on teaching, consulting and investing in what he considers disruptive categories. Cannabis, he said, could shake up the large beer companies in the same manner that smaller, independent brewers did over the past 20 years.
“The same way that craft beer started and, for the longest time, was ignored and then exploded, there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen in this space,” he said. “There will be part supplementing and part complementing. The jury is out on how and where that will happen.”
GreenRush is a technology platform that connects consumers, dispensaries and delivery people to bring pot to people’s doors. The company, which is live in California and Nevada, plans to expand to other states, including New York and Massachusetts.
The idea is to build up the business before marijuana is one day legal under federal law. Big companies like Amazon shy away from the industry now because of the federal ban.