Pitching a marijuana investor:
I was fortunate enough to be invited to pitch a marijuana crowd-funding start-up called WeCanna at a 2013 ArcView Investor Conference in Seattle. The event was part of a Fortune Magazine cover story entitled, “Marijuana Inc.” I pitched a business in front of more than 20 men from the cannabis industry. I was the only woman and definitely the only mom. (Go me, right!) To prepare I dug out my MBA brain and created all the materials needed for a successful marijuana investor pitch. To be frank, I killed it. My pitch was labeled the best of the day and even Roger Parloff of Fortune Magazine called it “top-notch.”
Here is some advice from someone who has been there:
1. Make a killer pitch deck and practice over and over and over. Then practice in front of someone. Always use a timer and be ruthless with your timing. You may need to create a business plan and financials, too, but really the pitch is the most important part.
If you haven’t rehearsed, it will show. This is absolutely the number one sign of an amateur presenter. If you sound like you are meandering around with your presentation, you are. This is your opportunity to communicate to a group of people who can fund your business. And, trust me, they are judging you.
When you think you’ve cut your deck down as much as you can, edit it again. Keep doing that until every slide tells a unique part of the story. If you need a template, you can build off mine. After you’ve practiced a dozen times or so, do it in front of a friend, you’ll see it requires you think about your body language. How you move is as important as the content itself. Success from your marijuana pitch comes from the investor’s ability to invest in you. Which takes me to my second point.
2. Don’t wear jeans, not even if you think they are business appropriate jeans. And, remember that you are an industry ambassador now. Make your mama proud.
Jeans at angel investor meetings are reserved for people who have made it. In general you want to dress better (i.e. more formally) than the people you are meeting with. If you like bay area chic, fine, but execute it well. If you are a woman, don’t use your body as a crutch – you are better than that.
Also remember that when you pitch a new marijuana venture, you are representing an entire industry – an industry trying desperately to transition from a movement to a viable business market. Take that responsibility seriously.
3. Have something to hand out to the investors before the presentation.
Some kind of leave-behind is essential. It is the only tangible element of your entire presentation. When you’re gone, that is all they will have left to remember the pitch. Consider a neat folder with your business plan, an executive summary, simple financials, and a “Notes Version” of your PowerPoint. Give thought to what you give out to people – don’t leave that decision until the last minute.
4. Be realistic about your financial projections. Seriously.
In general, people who are investing in businesses now have had some success with investing in the past. These people know numbers and understand how to read your financials. Don’t stand up there and lie. It makes you look like you didn’t do your homework. Even if you want to impress them, be honest because lying will bite you in the ass. Oh, and as a bonus tip, cannabis investors will look at your legal costs closely. Legal costs for cannabis ventures are always higher than average.
5. Prepare for their questions as much as you prepare for your presentation.
This will help set you apart. No joke, at a cannabis business event, I saw two people arguing during the Q&A portion of their presentation – in front of the investors! So yeah, spend a lot of time thinking about what kinds of questions the investors might ask. Practice clean, brief answers. This practice will also help you while you network and will bring clarity to how you explain your business.
Cannabis entrepreneurs tend to be rather niche – some focus on tech, while others on consumables. Don’t be discouraged if you only get a little interest – it could be all the interest you need.