Part incubator and part back-end business services provider, Common Bond Collaborative is a company based out of Tampa, Florida, aimed at helping entrepreneurs with great ideas build their businesses and connect with the right investors.
The idea for Common Bond Collaborative came about when founders Tom Quigley and Peter Sessa recognized a need in the industry. In early 2014 Quigley founded the Florida Cannabis Coalition, an organization dedicated to educating people about cannabis and the business of cannabis. To best serve their clients, the duo traveled the country learning as much as they could about the cannabis industry.
“We went all over the country; California, Colorado, Washington, New York,” Sessa said. “What we learned is that there a lot of companies with great ideas and there were a lot of investors with a lot money, but they weren’t meeting in the middle because those companies aren’t ready to get funding.”
They quickly realized that the industry had a much bigger need than simple education and consultation; and so Quigley and Sessa started the Common Bond Collaborative. The way Common Bond works is simple: a company can come in, apply to be in the program, and the Common Bond team will analyze the company and use its own team to fill in the gaps. You do not have to live in Florida to use Common Bond’s services; most consultations can be done virtually.
Common Bond has a wide swath of experts and can help with business plans, pitch decks, graphic arts, video production, marketing, sales, branding and much more. Once businesses are polished and ready for the big show, Common Bond puts them in contact with investors so they can pitch their companies.
If you are wondering how Common Bond can operate in the state of Florida, that is because the company mostly deals with ancillary businesses in the cannabis industry. For the few companies that do deal directly with marijuana, those are located in states where marijuana is legal.
Also, since Common Bond only deals with the back-end of the business, no one from Common Bond directly works with marijuana.
Oddly enough, the biggest problem that Common Bond faces is not legality but something entirely different. “One of the more difficult challenges facing our business is not finding the right ideas or investors, but rather finding the right people,” Sessa said.
The way that Common Bond finds the right people is by judging prospective clients on 10 criteria: integrity, passion, experience, knowledge, skill, leadership, commitment, vision, realism and coachability.
What makes Common Bond unique among other business incubators, besides the clientele, is its different types compensation structures. “A company can come in and they could pay for our services the traditional way,” Sessa said. “Then there are equity agreements where we would take an ownership stake in the company depending on what they need, usually 25-35 percent.”
Once clients get the funding they need, they would buy back most of the shares held by Common Bond, typically leaving about a 10 percent stake for the company.
Common Bond is also a collaborative center for entrepreneurs. For a small fee, interested companies can also become a “drop-in” member and gain access to a workspace and physical mailing address on an impermanent basis; and for a slightly larger fee, they can become permanent members with 24 hours access. Common Bond is already the Florida home of Central Florida NORML, Marijuana LLC, Tuyo Payments, Florida Funders, Ecofy and CrowdFund Connect.
Another way in which Common Bond is unique is that the company does not just take on cannabis companies. Guided by the mantra that “cannabis is the catalyst to compassionate capitalism,” Common Bond also accepts companies that feature green technologies and environmentally-friendly practices.
In an industry where cannabis cultivation takes up a lot of energy and resources, environmentally conscious practices are not just a plus, they are slowly becoming a necessity. “The nature of the [cannabis] business itself will lend itself into a compassionate model,” Sessa said. “We can marry that into a capitalist structure.”
By placing a focus on environmentally conscious practices, Common Bond can not only get ahead of the curve, but also lay the groundwork for a more sustainable cannabis industry. Such a move has the potential for great rewards, both ethically and financially.
What will be interesting to see is the businesses that Common Bond takes on when medical or recreational marijuana becomes legal in Florida. With a pending ballot measure and several bills in the legislature, Sessa said that he feels optimistic about marijuana reform passing in 2015.
“They are expanding on a low THC bill, which is pretty good,” Sessa said. “There’s also three other bills in the legislature, two of them are for medical, one of them is for recreational … . We feel there is a really strong chance that something’s going to pass in 2015.”
Having an idea for a business is easy, but putting it into action is difficult. You need a good team, industry know-how, and most importantly, capital to put that idea into action. Common Bond Collaborative can help deliver all three; in an industry where the learning curve can be steep for the uninitiated, these are vital resources to have.