Warren Bobrow: Where are you from? Did you go to business school? Who is your mentor? Why cannabis? What is your passion?
Rick Batenburg III, Cannabis Venture Capitalist // Credit: Clear Cannabis, Inc.
Credit: Clear Cannabis, Inc.
Rick Batenburg III=RB: I am from Loveland, Colorado. The short answer on B-school is, yes, I graduated second in my class at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts. However, my business education began decades earlier while going to the office with my father and learning negotiation and investment prowess through osmosis. I have two mentors: First and foremost, my father, Rich Batenburg Jr., and professionally I am mentored by Jim Jungjohann, a hedge fund manager.
Cannabis provided an opportunity to use my skill set and position to fund the industry with a unique strategy. Cannabis has so many positive uses, I was overwhelmed by the obvious answer—put the people, ideas, money and resources together to literally sell euphoria! By pure happenstance, I was working in the finance industry in Colorado during the cannabis legalization movement, and I have a high-risk tolerance for emerging markets. To top it all off, my social network is comprised of compassionate, intelligent individuals who agreed with growing the legal cannabis industry.
My passion is hockey, always has been. After college I went to Merrill Lynch instead of aiming toward a professional hockey career. That choice led me down the path I am on now but created an emptiness in my soul. I played recreationally for a couple years while developing my career at Merrill but soon found the itch was not scratched, so I bought ice and began recruiting my old teammates to form a semi-pro Mountain West Hockey League (MWHL) team, the Breckenridge Vipers. There is an intrinsic need to compete and test ourselves; managing and playing for the team brings out my best, and allows me to continually grow as a person. There is something honest about two teams doing everything they can to beat one another. As the owner and a player, I have been able to lead the team to two divisional championships and am proud to say we sell out our games in front of impassioned fans in Breckenridge.
WB: Tell me about your career? What was your inspiration? (Or who was your inspiration?) What is your six-month plan? One year?
RB: I started my career at Merrill Lynch, where I actively managed $170 million, executed the syndicate “buys” for IPOs and secondary issues, and developed a specialty in bringing private equity alternatives to my portfolio. My preference for venture capital came from working on private deals and in 2015, I left Merrill Lynch and with my father formed Cliintel Capital Management Group (CCMG), a venture firm focused on emerging markets and more specifically cannabis.
CCMG became the first Qualified Institutional Investment capital firm in Colorado to own THC-licensed facilities through a venture fund and returned investments over 7x within the first 18 months. The crown jewel of our ventures being Clear Cannabis Inc., a company we launched by consolidating some of our non-plant touching portfolio companies into a branding machine that licenses the intellectual property of our flagship brand The Clear™ to partners across the U.S. Our branded line of The Clear concentrate products is now in seven states and hundreds of dispensaries, and our structure allows us to continue growing as more markets open up to cannabis. We have acquired, built and grown cannabis companies across the supply chain preparing for ubiquitous legalization globally, starting here in Colorado—the epicenter of the cannabis universe.
Forbes 30 under 30 Summit, Detroit // Credit: Clear Cannabis, Inc.
Photo Credit: Clear Cannabis, Inc.
Our team is compact but powerful. Our deal flow increased so much it was necessary to grow our team last year, adding Monica Pina to increase our effectiveness and execution of strategy. Excellent teammates create a positive work atmosphere and healthy life balance. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to put a deal together in a unique manner and helping a person or a company achieve their full potential. Boosting compassionate people to develop and see things in a new light inspires me, every day, to take each meeting and be the best person possible. As John F. Kennedy said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
All my energy currently is focused on getting our IPO done to be the first cannabis company to go directly onto the NASDAQ. Over the next year, I will be creating a hedge fund with a very flexible and global allocation with the intention of giving polymathic people access to a network of ideas, money and resources to improve human existence. Polymaths can shape the world by manifesting solutions to problems by utilizing information from multiple industries and across many platforms. Complexity theory is the ability to understand what information intrinsically is more important by leveraging diverse and extensive knowledge. This can only be achieved by pivoting asymmetrical data through humans that have that desire to do something about it. By positioning that mechanism as a hedge fund, more can be created faster.
WB: What obstacles stand in your way? How do you approach these obstacles or any challenges in general?
RB: Regulatory risk is always at the top of the list. Economic downturn would create a capital restrictive market that would make my plans more challenging.
Problems are of two breeds for me. You have problems that are tangible and exist in the reality of a situation where we must react. The second is theoretical problems based off of limited information and rely on our ability to pivot data and create or edit a plan to adjust for future conditions.
For the first, the advice comes from my father: Change what you can, accept what you can’t and be as patient for as long as you can stand. For the second: Fail as quickly as possible. We make plans so we know how to adjust and adapt when something changes. I follow these steps: Idea > Recruit Help > Make a Plan > Execute > Review > Repeat. Understanding that it takes humility to grow but conviction to execute is something my mentors have taught me to surf the balance of those.
Clear Forbes 30 under 30
Credit: Clear Cannabis, Inc.
WB: Do you cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to prepare? What’s your favorite restaurant?
RB: I do not cook anything, my meals are typically eaten at my desk or over a meeting. The ceremony of dining together was romanticized to me and is about human interaction, not the preparation of the food. The vulnerability of eating with people is in your ability to connect with them. Vulnerability builds trust, trust builds relationships and relationships build empires.
My favorite restaurant for great conversation and equally great meals is The WaterShed Grill in Squamish, British Columbia.
WB: If you could be anywhere in the world, right now—where would that be? Doing what? With whom?
RB: Winning and celebrating an MWHL championship with my father and my Breckenridge Viper teammates.