NEW YORK (MainStreet) Tom Bollich co-founded social gaming company Zynga with Marc Pincus and six other investors seven years ago. Zynga subsequently turned into a $10 billion IPO. But if gamification was big then, marijuana may be his new frontier.
"When we got into Zynga, social gaming was a burgeoning industry," Bollich told MainStreet. "Apps like Candy Crush had just started to appear on Facebook in 2007."
Launched in June 2009, Zynga's best known game is FarmVille which reached 10 million daily active users on Facebook within six weeks of its inception.
But Bollich sold his shares in Zynga for an undisclosed amount of money three years later. Now the 41-year-old software developer has officially entered the cannabis industry with an investment of more than $100,000 in a climate cooling system called Surna.
"I see a lot of parallels in social gaming and cannabis," Bollich said. "When we launched Zynga, social gaming wasn't even an industry yet. Everyone was trying everything but there was nothing specific. The cannabis industry has the same feel to it. Everyone is trying to figure what they are going to do."
The only difference this time is that Bollich knows exactly what to do next. He personally purchased SRG two weeks ago and it merged with Surna on Thursday, which acquired the seven-year-old company Hydro Innovations on Friday.
"We specialize in climate systems for cannabis growers that are based in Colorado," said Bollich. "Surna develops cooling systems that are sold to green houses and growing facilities."
For now, Surna's only competitors are local mom and pop heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) companies in legal states who may or may not know anything about marijuana.
"Having full control of the greenhouse environment from cooling, heating, lighting and humidity is the most important when growing lettuce, herbs or cannabis," said Terra Tech CEO Derek Peterson who co-owns greenhouses in New Jersey and a dispensary in Oakland.
HVAC is an important consideration in the design of buildings that are regulated with respect to temperature and humidity, using fresh air from outdoors.
Peterson currently uses a computer-controlled environmental system.
"We use a combination of shade curtain, fans, and roof window venting," Peterson told MainStreet. "If we need to cool even more we would use wet wall cooling and commercial air conditioning designed for greenhouses but the best practices is a combination of all."
SRG is an intellectual property holding company for 14 cannabis products.
"We have a background in cannabis and know how to provide growers with what they need," said Bollich who relocated from New York to Boulder. "The market will be worth $11 billion in the U.S. alone in the next 4 to 5 years and we are looking to be the leaders in this space."
Bollich's Surna paid $15,000 to sponsor an event at the Arc View Group Investor Network in Boston, where he hopes to sell the Surna climate cooling system, which was created after the acquisition of Hydro Innovations by SRG.
"Everyone here is real," Bollich said. "This is where the serious players in the cannabis industry are along with people who have money and that's who we want to do business with."
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet