The young entrepreneurs behind iRollie used a common crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo, to raise funds through pre-sale for their new OG2 Roll and Stash Phone Case. Indiegogo abruptly removed their campaign a few days after the platform pre-approved their launch and iRollie had begun collecting funds. Their campaign is now live on their own website and they’re unable to rely on other platforms to approve their campaign. They built out a crowdfunding portal hosted on their site to ensure there was no chance of being removed.
Indiegogo has previously allowed smoking products, such as Myster’s Stashtray to collect over $50,000 in funds through their platform. More recently, Stashlogix, a Colorado-based cannabis company that creates child-proof cannabis storage solutions, had more than $10,000 of their product seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
The decision to shut down the iRollie campaign was due to presumed risk—not actual violation of terms.
So what does this mean for ancillary product companies?
This particular event brings to light the challenges cannabis and ancillary companies still face regarding public funding. Even though the OG2 is marketed for tobacco use only and federally compliant, Indiegogo claimed collecting funds would be “too risky,” though within Indiegogo guidelines. The campaign was shut down without notice, proving that the continued battle between local and federal governments leaves businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs in an uncertain position.
Entrepreneurs Joe Khoury, 22, and Luke Shepter, 22, have been working on iRollie for three years now. They create and curate products for the underserved and underrepresented active cannabis smokers. Joe and Luke have been good friends since they were seven-years-old, growing up in the same suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Luke just received his Bachelor’s degree in business analytics from Boston College, and Joe received a Bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and digital marketing from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
At 18 years old, while surfing and snowboarding, Joe and Luke noticed friends rolling joints on the back of their phones—and losing lots of cannabis in the process.
“There has to be an easier way” said Joe. While an intern at MassChallenge, Joe taught himself CADD programming from YouTube that enabled him to design and 3D print the first rolling tray phone case. They gave these to friends, and soon, friends of friends were asking where to purchase the case.
Thus, iRollie was born.
iRollie was founded in December 2015. Joe and Luke began selling the original iRollie phone cases they manufactured using the total of their savings. As sophomores/juniors in college, they hustled selling these products door to door and receiving early customer feedback.
Soon, the products were on both of their college campuses, and their digital presence began to grow. Following this growth, they partnered with Def Jam Records to create custom cases. Just as cash was running low, they were accepted into the Valley Venture Mentors Startup Accelerator program, where iRollie placed 9th (out of over 200 companies spanning all industries) and was awarded $10,000 in grants.
They were able to purchase the inventory to grow the business, and partnered with Afroman, creating custom Afroman cases and touring with him during their senior year finals’ week.