Real estate speculators stake out territories for what’s to come, infrastructure builders and lawyers queue up for business, investors jostle to get in on the ground floor, and tech startups seek ways to make a new industry run more efficiently.

This could be any nascent industry, but in this case it’s marijuana.

After graduating from Yale, Steve Berke played professional tennis. Then, after a career-ending injury, he became a medical marijuana patient. That led him to be a marijuana activist, and he ran for mayor of Miami Beach twice on a marijuana-legalization platform. After the second election loss in 2013, marijuana companies had seen his social media campaign and were reaching out to him to plug them into videos. “That’s when I realized there was no way for these companies to connect with consumers,” said Berke, and he turned to entrepreneurship to find a solution.

When one of his activist YouTube videos did not truly go viral despite pickups on Buzzfeed, Upworthy, NBC and other sites, the YouTube enthusiast learned that Facebook’s algorithms suppressed it. He thought the cannabis industry needed a different way of marketing. “I’ve been on a very organic journey to a leadership role in the cannabis business community.”

Today, Berke, 35, is CEO of Bang Holdings of North Miami Beach, which has a subsidiary that provides brand management, cannabis-related digital content and social influencer-based marketing for the cannabis industry. While major media providers restrict online marijuana advertising, Bang’s marketing networks allow cannabis companies to directly reach consumers. Today, Bang runs one of the top two or three cannabis-related Facebook pages as well as sites on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

From growers, dispensaries and product makers to software developers and “the Tinder for the tokers,” entrepreneurs like Berke are taming the wild, wild west of pot.


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