Way back in 2017, I first met Cameron Forni when he took me to dinner at Pican Restaurant in Oakland. He had the number one oil brand in Oregon at the time. It was called Select. He asked me for my advice on busting into the California market, and he wanted to start by getting on the shelves of Harborside — which I owned and operated at the time. I was impressed with his relentless pursuit of an objective, and that he was smart enough to bond with me over a meal before making his ask.
I gave him a few tips and the next thing I know Select is on our shelves and everywhere else, too. The amount of products, innovations, in store displays, and top notch service was impressive to behold from Select. Just a few years later Select went national, and Cameron achieved one of the most robust exits in the history of the cannabis industry.
Now, he is the one giving people advice and guidance. I had an opportunity to catch up with Cameron to learn all about the new investment fund he is launching called Hypescale Ventures that gives a helping hand to forward-thinking founders and technologies in cannabis.
You’ve had a nice exit from your previous companies like Select. Most people would be checking off their bucket list. Why launch something as stressful as a fund instead of enjoying your exit?
I love cannabis, the industry and the people I’ve met. Legalization is just the beginning. There’s still a tremendous opportunity that I want to make happen. My goal for Hypescale is to help facilitate what I am calling “Cannabis 2.0.”
I foresee this being the next generation of operators who are looking to get into the space, or are already in the space and are looking for some guidance. Our fund is not going to be a standard fund where we provide capital, but we will also provide unparalleled strategic relationships.
The fastest way to be successful is through mentorship by someone who has already been successful. By providing mentorship, key capital at seed and early stage startup, Hyperscale is poised to usher in Cannabis 2.0 and the entrepreneurs who will make that happen.
Did success have any impact on your current business decisions and with this fund?
I understand what it takes for an entrepreneur to see success in cannabis. I also understand the challenges and hurdles that entrepreneurs face in this space. This fund is really bringing those two together. It allows me to build the future with extraordinary entrepreneurs providing intelligence and hands-on guidance to prepare their companies to scale.
What is your approach with investors? Can anyone take part or are you being selective and why?
There is still so much opportunity in the cannabis space. Legalization is just beginning, which is going to bring even more investors into this space. We have an extensive vetting process for our investors. Working with the right strategic investors, who share the vision and mindset is what it takes to be a leading brand or business. You need people who are on board with you.
Where do you see the fund in 5 years time?
Working with all of our entrepreneurs to achieve exits in liquidity in the 10 to 20 multiple range.
Is the fund strictly transactional or will there be more to it than just making a fat return for the investors?
This is a major focus of Hypescale. Fifty percent of our partnerships will be with social equity applicants. Nine out of ten businesses typically fail in the first five years. This is especially true when it comes to the cannabis and hemp industry. This is what we call the three pillars of success in cannabis. I’ve noticed three things in my experience in legalization, from the medical to recreational transitions. Almost every entrepreneur out there either has the cannabis know-how, or the business acumen, or they have capital. Typically, I find two out of three, but rarely do we see all three together. Hypescale’s goal is to ensure that our social equity entrepreneurs and their businesses have all three pillars.