Zynga

From Zynga coder to marijuana CEO

April 3, 2014: 3:35 PM ET

Tom Bollich is the new CEO of Surna Inc., which wants to cash in on the burgeoning commercial cannabis market.

131119151513-gat09-marijuana-620xa

Former Zynga exec wants to help pot growers.

FORTUNE -- Six years ago, Tom Bollich was working out of a small office on Vermont Street in San Francisco, as part of the founding team of a small gaming startup called Zynga. It was a natural progression for the onetime robotics engineer, who had gone on to software development jobs at such companies as AdExchange and Golden Palace Online Casino. He left Zynga (ZNGA) in early 2009 to launch a Toronto-based gaming studio, and also to dabble in the restaurant industry.

Today, however, Bollich is in a very different place: A small hotel ballroom 20 miles north of Boston, explaining his company to a roomful of 150 accredited investors who share little with gamers outside of a common interest in marijuana. This event is the latest pitch session for the ArcView Investor Network, a group of individuals who pay thousands of dollars annually to learn about the hottest companies in the burgeoning cannabis sector.

Bollich is the chief executive of Surna Inc., a Boulder, Colo.-based maker of indoor climate control systems for commercial marijuana growers. The company previously was known as Hydro Innovations, before being acquired earlier this week by OTC-listed Surna (SRNA) in a reverse merger.

"This is the next gold rush," says Bollich, in the midst of glad-handing potential customers. "It's kind of like Internet gaming was when Zynga started, except this isn't a hits-driven business. People get tired of games, but I haven't seen many people who get tired of pot."

RELATED: The big business of Marijuana Inc.

Most commercial cannabis growers use their local HVAC supplier in order to keep indoor temperatures and humidity in line. But Surna argues that existing technologies aren't optimized for marijuana crops, are not comprehensive (i.e., temperature and humidity) and that air-chilling systems are not as energy-efficient as their water-chilling products. The company's products run from $1,200 for a small system to nearly half a million dollars for a very large one (Surna isn't disclosing sales information, except to say that it has sold systems valued in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars"). It also installs each of its own systems with full-time Surna employees (of which there are only about a dozen right now).

"For some reason, most of the companies creating products for growers have focused on lights," Bollich explains. "But that's only part of the equation."

Surna expects to eventually expand into other industries -- including broader agriculture and server farms -- and to move up from its OTC listing to the NYSE Amex. But, for now, it's working to gain traction in one of America's fastest-growing markets.

"The cannabis market is only going to get larger and larger as regulations loosen," said an ArcView Investor Network member, after I finished speaking with Bollich. "A company like Surna only needs to worry about execution, not demand."

Sign up for Dan Primack's daily email newsletter on deals and deal-makers: GetTermSheet.com

  • On eve of IPO, how does King Digital compare to Zynga?

    The Candy Crush maker has much better numbers than its already publicly-traded rival. At least for now.

    FORTUNE -- Expectations are that King Digital, the maker of Candy Crush, will price its IPO as early as tonight, after which it will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker symbol KING.

    This is certainly one of the year's trickiest offerings for investors, given that King is a hits-driven business going public while MORE

    - Mar 25, 2014 1:27 PM ET
    Posted in: , ,
  • No golden parachute for Zynga's Pincus

    Zynga's former CEO is still making just $1.

    FORTUNE -- Mark Pincus will not be receiving any special payout for stepping down as CEO of Zynga Inc. (ZNGA), the social gaming company he founded and ran until yesterday turning over the reins to former Microsoft (MSFT) executive Don Mattrick.

    Pincus' employment contract stipulates that his equity vesting would accelerate if he lost his job due to a change in control (i.e., Zynga being MORE

    - Jul 2, 2013 7:49 PM ET
    Posted in: ,
  • One reason people love to hate Zynga

    Zynga has only its CEO to blame for some of its schadenfreude.

    FORTUNE -- Social gaming company Zynga yesterday announced plans to lay off around 18% of its staff, which works out to around 520 employees. Among those losing their jobs are all New York, Los Angeles and Dallas employees. Also included, it seems is most of the  OMGPOP studio -- creators of Draw Something -- which Zynga acquired last year for around MORE

    - Jun 4, 2013 2:53 PM ET
    Posted in: ,
  • Bottom feeder: Zynga stock

    Despite a sizable plunge from spring highs, it's not yet game over for Zynga.

    By Ryan Derousseau, contributor

    FORTUNE -- Unlike its social media cousin Facebook, social-gaming company Zynga had a successful IPO. Priced at $10 a share in December 2011, Zynga (ZNGA) went public with a market cap of $7 billion. But after a couple of disastrous quarters -- highlighted by a decline in paying players of core games like MORE

    Nov 21, 2012 5:00 AM ET
  • What is going to happen to Zynga?

    A former Zynga exec says not to count the company out.

    By Nabeel Hyatt (nabeelhyatt.com), contributor

    FORTUNE -- If my email inbox is any indication, there's a lot of speculation about Zynga (ZNGA) right now. Is it a good buy? Is it even going to exist in the year?

    I can understand why people are obsessed over this. After all Zynga is one of the benchmark companies of Web 2.0. If the first wave MORE

    Oct 5, 2012 11:28 AM ET
  • Big payday for ex-Zynga Schappert

    Ex-Zynga exec netted $24 million.

    FORTUNE -- Don't feel too bad for John Schappert, who yesterday resigned as Zynga's (ZNGA) chief operating officer after being neutered in a corporate reorganization. Seems he did pretty well for himself, considering that he only was with the company for 15 months.

    Based on SEC filings, it appears that Schappert made $24.16 million during that period. Or, put another way, nearly $57,000 per day. Here's the breakdown:

    Signing bonus: $10 MORE

    - Aug 9, 2012 1:54 PM ET
    Posted in: ,
  • Zynga COO John Schappert quits

    Stripped of responsibilities, senior company official resigns.

    FORTUNE -- John Schappert has resigned as chief operating officer of Zynga (ZNGA), just weeks after losing oversight of game development in a corporate restructuring.

    Schappert had joined the social gaming company in May 2011, after having served as COO of Electronic Arts (EA). It is not believed that a recent EA lawsuit against Zynga played any role in Schappert's resignation.

    "We can confirm that John Schappert has MORE

    - Aug 8, 2012 5:08 PM ET
    Posted in: ,
  • FraudVille? Zynga sued for insider trading

    Social gaming company faces class action lawsuit.

    FORTUNE -- Zynga (ZNGA) and its bankers were hit with a class action lawsuit yesterday, accusing them of improperly allowing certain insiders to dump shares ahead of a disappointing earnings report.

    Defendants include the social networking company, many of its senior executives, its entire board of directors (save for Ellen Simioff, who joined earlier this month) and bankers Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), J.P. MORE

    - Jul 31, 2012 1:38 PM ET
  • Zynga gets physical

    Social gaming giant seeks to expand its brand.

    FORTUNE -- Zynga (ZNGA) has made billions of dollars by digitizing "physical" games like poker and Scrabble. Now it's looking to complete the circle.

    The San Francisco-based company has begun signing offline branding deals with everything from toy-makers to apparel retailers to television studios. It's unclear if the company hopes such efforts will generate significant revenue, but it certainly believes that its brands can have MORE

    - Jun 26, 2012 3:04 PM ET
    Posted in:
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.