Annapolis based CIAO launches to nurture innovation in cannabis industry

| January 17, 2018
Rams Head
Last week the Cannabis Innovation Alliance for Opportunity (CIAO) officially launched in the United States. CIAO™ is the first organization focused on nurturing innovation and opportunity in the cannabis industry in an effort to cultivate and accelerate both individual entrepreneurs and ventures.
“CIAO strives to convene stakeholders in the cannabis industry to look at the sector as fertile ground for sharing best-practices that encourage ingenuity, inclusivity and imagination,” stated Bradly A. Talbert, CIAO co-founder. “No matter whether the interests gravitate toward medicinal or recreational applications, CIAO endeavors to be a starting point for new entrants as well as a touchstone organization for more established participants in the cannabis industry,” added Talbert.
As one of the newest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the United States and other countries cannabis represents:
  • More natural/organic medicinal therapies
  • New innovative pathways to meaningful and measurable health outcomes
  • Considerable tax revenue that is sustainable
  • Significant well-paying workforce potential
CIAO innovation categories include access to capital/banking, workforce development, medicinal outcomes, governance/risk/compliance (GRC), lean/agile, best-practices, venture development, branding/marketing, data/analytics, sustainability and others per member interest.
“The first area of emphasis for CIAO has been banking the industry,” added Michael Binko, CIAO co-founder. “In most legal cannabis states access to financial institutions that are willing to bank the sector has been minimal or non-existent. In others lack of competition leaves cannabis businesses with limited options and exorbitant fees. This was a critical need at which we took dead aim working jointly with stalwart financial institutions that were uncertain about the sector yet willing to take a closer look,” added Binko.
The first financial institution to offer its services via CIAO is Bulldog Federal Credit Union. Bulldog was organized in 1968 by a group of Mack Truck Union Local 171 employees to provide their coworkers with an economical alternative to local finance companies that charged high interest rates and imposed stiff penalties for late payments.  In 2001, Bulldog achieved Community Charter status by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and now serves more than 20,000 members.
“When CIAO First approached Bulldog about being an innovator and early adopter to banking the Maryland cannabis industry the wheels were put in motion for, what we believe, will be an excellent collaboration and a competitive advantage for cannabis ventures who are looking for additional solutions. Our mission at Bulldog is to be a source of attainable and stable financial support for entrepreneurs and emerging businesses,” stated David Barrett, Bulldog president.
“We believe cannabis license-holders and other operators deserve options that offer financial security and legitimacy. With active support from CIAO, the NCUA and others in the cannabis community, we spent the better part of 2017 determining how we could best assist the sector. In partnership with CIAO we look forward to meeting and serving cannabis entrepreneurs and innovators,” added Barrett.
A sampling of Goals and Activities associated with CIAO follow:
  • Develop policies, methodologies, programs, events, and activities to advance the cannabis industry and serve as a clearinghouse for information and pathways to resources that encourage innovation and opportunity (i.e. entrepreneurship, economic development, intellectual property, others) related to the industry.
  • Foster the exchange of ideas and experiences that offer persons engaged in developing cannabis innovations and entrepreneurial ventures an opportunity for intellectual stimulation, fellowship and commerce with their colleagues.
  • Provide policy, economic development education and advocacy via data and primary research for federal, state, provincial and local government officials.
  • Share proven techniques/methodologies for stimulating innovation and opportunity. Collaborate with other organizations with kindred goals.
  • Encourage and guide academia (primarily research universities) in developing specialized courses and programs on the study of the cannabis industry.
  • Develop accurate facts and statistical data showing that distressed locations are as good as non-distressed locations for many types of cannabis-related business and industry activities, and that those living in distressed locations can serve as qualified employees for the industry.
  • Establish data-driven perspectives on the potential for the cannabis industry; its growth and its relationship to metropolitan, county, regional, state, provincial, national and international economic development.
CIAO is the first and only trade alliance supporting innovation and inclusive opportunities for the cannabis industry.  CIAO strives to engage individuals and ventures with awareness, education, advocacy and services that primarily support entrepreneurs and their teams with infusing the cannabis industry with innovations that fuel high-growth.
CIAO Membership offers representation and awareness to subject-matter expertise, cutting edge methodologies, break-through technologies and advocacy toward a future filled with opportunities for an inclusive community to prosper from cultivating the cannabis industry in a lean/agile and responsible manner. CIAO membership also offers brand affinity; avenues to contribute knowledge and perspective into a global dialog; access to curated content; discounted or free admission to networking and educational events; as well as sponsor discounts and a socially-engaging community of cannabis peers.
Rams Head

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