6 Ways Women Can Raise Cannabis Capital
Tap into these resources to get an edge on the competition.
Raising capital for your business is never easy, especially if you're a woman. Although the corporate world has yet to achieve true gender equality, one sector is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the country: the cannabis industry.
Marijuana Business Daily reports that women made up approximately 27 percent of executive level roles in the cannabis industry in 2017, compared to the national average of 23 percent. That number rises to 42 percent if you only count ancillary cannabis businesses (such as apps and paraphernalia). Women also hold approximately 35 percent of executive-level positions in cannabis dispensaries.
Traditionally, most startups will raise money through either a venture capital firm or angel investors. There are also businesses incubators, which often provide assistance and advice to startups in exchange for a small fee or equity.
But in the last decade, new methods of raising capital have arisen, such as crowdfunding through websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. With crowdfunding, startups can set a goal for how much money they want to raise and individuals can donate however much they want. Typically, those running crowdfunding campaigns will offer prizes or gifts in exchange for a donation. For businesses raising capital, it is not uncommon to offer small stakes of equity to donors, which is usually based on how much money is given.
But even with new resources, raising capital can still be difficult for female entrepreneurs, says Lori Ferrara, co-founder of Treehouse Global Ventures and founding member of the Illinois Cannabis Industry Association. According to Ferrara, one of the biggest challenges facing women raising capital is not being taken seriously. To overcome this sexist barrier, Ferrara says women need to be confident and prepared.
“You have to have solid history and street substantiation. It is all about successfully working your relationships, networking, utilizing your connections properly and being persistent,” she says. “Conveying confidence and passion about the company is extremely crucial. You will not be taken seriously if you have not done your homework.”
To add to these obstacles, there is also the inherent challenge of raising capital in an unpredictable market such as cannabis. Tahira Rehmatullah, managing director at Hypur Ventures and chief financial officer at MTech Acquisition Corp., has been overseeing investment into cannabis companies for several years. She says one of the many problems that women in cannabis face is “the unpredictable nature and various unknowns,” of the cannabis industry.
“Female entrepreneurs are slightly more handicapped in some regards when it comes to raising capital because there aren't many benchmarks or comparables,” says Rehmatullah. “It's a lot of imagination and ability to iterate quickly, which is often difficult for anyone--man or woman-- to articulate to investors.”
Sometimes these challenges are simply too great for preparedness and confidence to overcome. Fortunately, there are resources out there that can help women raise money specifically for the cannabis industry.
Check Out Female-Friendly Sites
Other websites have even taken to compiling a list of resources so that women can have an easier time finding them. These sites include 37 Angels, Crunchbase, and Startup Funding. But even with these resources, it can still be difficult for women in the cannabis industry to raise capital, primarily because of cannabis' status as a Schedule I drug and because of the highly competitive nature of the industry.
Find a Mentor
One of the best ways to do something you've never done before is to ask someone who has. Raising capital in any industry can be an uphill battle, much less in the cannabis industry, which is why Morgan Paxia, managing director of Poseidon Asset Management, recommends finding a mentor to guide your through through the process.
“I think it is key to get a good mentor/advisor in the process. Seek out women (both inside and out of the industry) who have successfully raised money and work with them on the pitch,” says Paxhia. “Run through demo presentations and have advisers ask tough questions, so the answers are clear and prepared.”
Seek Out Cannabis-Specific Crowdfunding
It should come as no surprise that one of the newest ways to raise capital for your business is also perfectly suited to a burgeoning industry like cannabis. For those looking to give away some equity in exchange for capital, there's the crowdfunding platform Fundanna. The upside: Registration is easy, there's little risk to you if your business fails, and it's simple to connect with investors. The downside: There are some steep fees that come with using the platform.
If you don't want to pay thousands of dollars just to get connected with potential investors, there's also Cannafundr. Cannafundr was designed with investors in mind, so you can't do things like look at other funding projects or follow up with those that look at your campaign, but there are no fees for signing up and using the service.
Plug Into a Cannabis Business Incubator
While there are plenty of business incubators in the United States, choosing a business incubator that tailors specifically to the cannabis industry is your best bet if you want to raise capital. One of the more successful incubators is Canopy Boulder and Canopy San Diego, which offer a 16-week “mentor-driven boot-camp” in exchange for equity in your company. There's also Greenhouse Ventures, which offers a similar 10 week “mentor-driven boot-camp” and accepts companies looking for up to $5 million in seed money. There are also some lesser known cannabis businesses incubators that are great for raising capital; such as Gateway Incubator, The Blinc Group, and Marijuana Accelerator.
Circulate the Cannabis Investor Conference Network
Sometimes you can't wait for the money to come to you, you have to go to where the money will be. A good place to start is the cannabis investor conference network. Every year there are dozens of events where high net worth individuals gather to learn more about the industry and to find that perfect cannabis company to invest in. For example, there's the ArcView Investor Network, which touts a membership of more than 600 accredited investors and routinely holds events and pitch forums. There's also the Institutional Capital & Cannabis Conference (IC3), the California Cannabis Business Conference, as well as the Cannabis Business Summit, to name a few.
Attend Cannabis Pitch Forums/Contests
Another great way for women to raise capital in the cannabis industry is the cannabis pitch forum, where budding entrepreneurs can pitch their cannabis business idea to eager investors. Typically the pitching forum or contest is done in a format similar to Shark Tank, but it's also held in a less competitive showcase-style format. ArcView routinely hosts pitch forums, so does The Seed Series, hosted by Direct Cannabis Network, CNVest, and a whole host of other events that are continuously cropping up all across the United States.
Venture Into Cannabis Venture Capital Firms
Finally, there is always the tried-and-true method of going to a cannabis venture capital firm. Like most VC firms, companies are usually granted capital in exchange for either equity or a financial return. Some of the most famous cannabis venture capital firms are Casa Verde, of which music icon Snoop Dogg is a partner and CanopyBoulder. Aside from those, there are also many cannabis VC firms that are operated by women. One such firm is Hypur Ventures, which features Yale School of Management graduate Tahira Rehmatullah as managing director.
Raising capital for your startup is difficult, doubly so if you are in the cannabis industry, triply so if you're a woman. But despite all the institutional and gender-based barriers, the deck isn't entirely stacked against women. With the advancement of the cannabis industry and demand at an all-time high, more opportunities are becoming available every single day.