Philadelphia University Launches ‘Shark Tank’-Style Competition for Weed Start-Ups

The contest, sponsored by Thomas Jefferson University, is open to anyone with or without a university-affiliation.
Philadelphia University Launches 'Shark Tank'-Style Competition for Weed Start-Ups
Roman Samborskyi/ Shutterstock

The Jefferson Accelerator Zone, a “command central’ for entrepreneurial innovation at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, is sponsoring a “Shark Tank”-style competition for weed and hemp start-ups. The contest, the first ever of its kind to be sponsored by a university, will award substantial prizes and legal services to one winner and two runners-up. Applications are open to members of the Jefferson community as well as non-affiliated parties.

Thomas Jefferson University Is Offering Prizes for CannaVation

Thomas Jefferson University started its JAZ Tank competition in 2015. JAZ Tank aims to foster entrepreneurship and innovation within the healthcare field specifically. The program encourages innovators to create start-ups that turn business ideas into products that can benefit the medical field.

In the past, winners have developed web platforms for students, reduced the toxicity of chemotherapy and even revolutionized at-home artificial insemination procedures.

But this year’s JAZ Tank contest is a little different. It will focus specifically on innovative business ideas related to cannabis. Hence, “CannaVation”.

Contest Seeks Start-Ups Focusing on Industrial Hemp and Patient Outcomes

“We want to see creative and different approaches to the industry, especially in ancillary businesses,” said Zoe Selzer McKinley. McKinley is a director at the university’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp.

McKinley said this year’s JAZ Tank competition was especially looking for innovations in cultivation. Improvements to grow systems, greenhouse lighting and logistics are all top on the judges’ list of priorities.

And whether it’s CannaVations that will improve outcomes for medical cannabis patients or improve the quality of CBD from industrial hemp, judges will reward ideas that are ready to hit the ground running. “We want businesses that have some development already in place,” said McKinley.

Winners will receive substantial support to execute their business model. One grand prize winner will receive $10,000 cash and free legal assistance, including a free patent application and consulting services. Two runners-up will get half the cash and the same legal help.

The contest does limit start-ups that apply to $100,000 of external funding. This ensures that winning the contest will be a significant boost to the start-up.

Philly On Its Way To Becoming a Higher Ed Mecca for Cannabis

The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp is one of the country’s leading medical marijuana cannabis research centers. And as it builds more partnerships with university-affiliated departments and organizations, Thomas Jefferson University is transforming Philadelphia into a center for cutting edge research and innovation in the fields of cannabis and hemp.

Online applications for the 2018 JAZ Tank: CannaVation competition are due August 13. Applications will undergo a first round of review with industry experts. Finalists will have their proposals judged by members of the Lamber Center’s international steering committee. On October 3, the committee will announce the three winners.

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