News Fix: Software Startups Take Over, Florida Moves Closer to Legalizing Smokable Medical Marijuana

Software is back. After more than 20 years of the internet and mobile technology serving as the driving force behind the most lucrative (and disruptive) startups, software is driving the next generation of unicorns (startups worth $1 billion), according to CB Insights – a data and analytics firm that uses its own special sauce of machine learning and intelligence analysts to track startups and venture capital (The New York Times).

So how did we end up back in 1994? CB Insights’ explanation is companies like Uber, Netflix and Airbnb used the internet and smartphones to turn old industries into mobile ones. And now that the sectors ripest for disruption have been modernized, there aren’t any obvious spaces to move into next. So instead the software industry is revisiting sectors that were largely ignored by the digital revolution or building software services for the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world.

CB Insights has identified startups working on farming software, scientific research collaboration and wedding planning as possibly the next generation of unicorns.

The News Fix doesn’t have machine learning or artificial intelligence to help it identify trends. But it does have common sense. And for a while now, the Fix’s common sense has been telling anyone who would listen that modernizing legacy sectors and systems is the next big thing. Our own Adam Sharp is completely on board with this line of thinking as well (Early Investing).

In addition, many of the old guard companies are not making the transition to modern digital technology well. Maybe they’re in too much debt, or maybe their software isn’t good enough. Either can be a death sentence.

This means a large percentage of the incumbents are vulnerable. Software is changing the way every business operates, and startups do software better than big companies. So they have a chance to step in and dominate.

So welcome to the party, CB Insights. What took you so long?

Now to the News Fix!

Cannabis

We might have to start a blog to keep up with all the weed news. There were dozens of stories that caught our eye. Here are the six stories that really stood out to us…

Marijuana sales in Colorado grew 3% last year to around $1.55 billion. And marijuana tax revenue increased by about 8% to more than $266.5 million (CNBC).

Florida is one step closer to legalizing the smoking of medical marijuana. Two committees in the Florida legislature – one in the House and one in the Senate – approved measures that would permit medical marijuana patients to smoke cannabis. Governor Ron DeSantis ran (in part) on making Florida’s medical marijuana market more consumer- and business-friendly. And after his January inauguration, he told the legislature to pass legislation ending the smoking ban or he’d do it through the courts. It looks like the legislature is cooperating (Orlando Sentinel).

Giant mall owner Simon Property Group is partnering with a cannabis company, Green Growth Brands, to open 108 stores selling CBD (cannabidiol) products. CBD is a naturally occurring ingredient in marijuana and hemp. CBD delivers some of the health benefits of marijuana without the “high” normally associated with the plant (CNBC).

Illinois’ industrial real estate market is heating up in advance of the state’s expected move to legalize recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana is already legal there (The Real Deal).

The Fix isn’t sure why Arizona is ground zero for medical marijuana court cases. But we’ve got another one for you. This time, a judge ruled (rightly) that Walmart can’t fire an employee for having marijuana in their system if the employee has a medical marijuana card (The Hill).

For a sign of just how far legalizing marijuana has come as a political issue, look no further than Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris. In 2010, she opposed legislation that would legalize marijuana in California. This week, she came out in favor of legalizing it at the federal level (CNN).

Crypto

JPMorgan Chase just unveiled its own cryptocurrency – the “JPM Coin.” JPMorgan envisions three use cases for its new coin – real-time settlement of international payments for large corporate clients (which can take days using current tech), securities transactions settlements in real time and a way for large businesses to consolidate cash holdings rather than storing them in subsidiaries across the world (CNBC).

Naturally, the crypto community rolled its collective eyes and mocked JPMorgan for its new coin. After all, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been a staunch bitcoin critic (here’s a great timeline of his criticisms).

But the crypto community should slow its roll (just a little bit). The Fix was on the front lines of the internet revolution in the mid-’90s. And we remember when Time Warner (through Pathfinder) and Barnes & Noble tried to crush the competition with their own web products. It didn’t work. But it gave the internet and the web mainstream credibility. And that was really important in terms of driving adoption.

If you want to know how important, just watch the Today show try to explain the internet in 1994.

Believe it or not, crypto is like the internet in 1994. And JPMorgan getting into crypto will help mainstream it – even if it eventually fails because it’s being run by greedy hypocrites.

One other crypto item of note: Initial coin offerings are doing well over in Europe (Bloomberg). Hopefully the SEC will take note and do something about it (the Fix isn’t holding its breath, though).

Startups

If you’re a startup in Florida, you might want to consider asking DeepWork Capital for funding. DeepWork Capital has invested more in Florida startups than any other venture fund, according to CB Insights (Orlando Sentinel).

Cable giant Comcast is trying to plug into the startup world with a new accelerator program. It’s going to pick up to 12 companies to participate in the 13-week program that ends with a giant pitch fest to top investors and business leaders (Light Reading).

And Finally…

HSBC in Hong Kong is getting killed (and deservedly so) for a Valentine’s Day promotion it offered staffers. A multipage advertisement produced by an external company gave HSBC workers a chance to buy discounted products. On the pages labeled “For Him” were laptops, GoPro cameras and headphones. The “For Her” gifts included vacuum cleaners, a blender and a kitchen water tap (Reuters).

Promotions like this generally go through several layers of approval. The external agency already apologized for its role in the debacle. But HSBC is a Hong Kong giant. It needs to take a hard look at itself and figure out how this occurred. It’s a sexist mess that never should have happened.

And that’s your News Fix.