The cannabis industry has matured significantly over the last several years and a top-quality presentation is now a requirement when pitching investors. Similar to tech entrepreneurs, cannabis business hopefuls need to nail a few vital components in their sales pitch or risk swiftly losing the attention of their audience.
Here are some common mishaps that should be avoided at all costs:
1. Don’t Pitch Cold
Before you can even take the first step forward, you must convince an investor to look at your deck. Active investors--the type you want to meet--will likely receive several pitch decks a week. Tom Ahlborg, Managing Director and Principal of Ahlborg Acquisitions, warns that emailing a deck without a warm introduction of some sort is a big mistake.
Ahlborg says that one of his biggest peeves is when “somebody sends me a pitch deck cold. I usually never read these pitch decks. If a serious entrepreneur can’t reach out and network to obtain an introduction to me from a friend, business associate, contact, network, or company that I mentor or invest and get a warm lead before sending his/her deck, I probably will not read it. I like to rely on my network to bring me leads, therefore, I really expect entrepreneurs to get someone to introduce them to me.”
LinkedIn can be your greatest asset in getting to that warm introduction. Look through the list of connections you have in common with an investor and ask one of them to send an intro on your behalf. This can be a sentence or two about your business and how you have partnered together in the past, (if applicable).
If you don’t have any common connections on Linkedin you can still send a message highlighting some shared connections, even if you vaguely know them. A suggested subject line may read: "Smith, Jones, Lee, Parker - all connections we share."
Not exactly a warm intro, but at least it's not frozen.
2. Don’t Be Ambiguous
Think: What is the problem in the industry that your company is actively working to solve?
If you cannot answer that question in a very clear and concise manner, your pitch deck is missing the mark.
Piers Cooper, General Partner of Fresh VC shared, “Whether your pitch desk is for the cannabis industry or any other industry, it needs to tell a compelling story and have a logical flow. I like to see the problem solved and to clearly see the market opportunity up front. Only when I understand why this company needs to exist, do I want to hear about the great product and strong team that can execute the plan.”
The need for your company must be explained very distinctly.
3. Don't Dumb It Down
Just as you would never perform stand-up comedy at a funeral, so you should never pitch the wrong deck to investors. For example, if you're pitching an active investor in the cannabis industry, there is very little point in showing them slides on the size of the market or growth potential. They're already investing in cannabis and are intimately familiar.
“The pitch deck needs to cater to new folks trying to learn, but also remain sensitive to advanced investors who want to get a real look under the hood and not have to run through a long deck telling them how much upside the cannabis industry has,” said Matthew Nordgren, Founder and CEO of Arcadian Fund. “They already know.”
It doesn’t hurt to have slides with industry data, but you might consider placing them in an appendix or at the very least skip over them when pitching to cannabis veterans.
4. Don’t Rely On Your Deck
Jim Parco, Ph.D., Founder of Mesa Organics and Purplebee’s Extracts and Professor, Economics & Business at Colorado College, offers some sage advice.“The pitch deck isn’t, and should never be the focus. It simply helps structure the narrative to communicate to potential investors the clarity and efficacy of the idea. The best ideas have a story, and the best entrepreneurs are often the best story-tellers. Use your deck to tell the story to make people feel the power of your idea.”
Before you walk into a meeting, you should know your pitch deck so well that you can do your entire presentation without it. You should be able to tell your ‘story’ without visuals. As a rule of thumb: If you need a slide to tell your story, chances are the story's too complicated.
5. Don't Go Long
“One of the biggest mistakes I see often in pitch decks is the length of the deck," said Marion Mariathasan, CEO and co-founder of Simplifya. “Most investors typically don’t have the time or attention span to spend on a pitch. The entrepreneur should be mindful of this and therefore try to keep the deck under 15 slides, 9 ideally, and clearly highlight the main points that he or she is trying to convey.”
Mariathasan adds,“Hit all the main points in each slide without crowding the slide. Remember that the idea with a pitch deck is to get the reader excited about the concept. Leave all the granular details for a follow-up conversation.”
6. Don’t Go In Blind. Assume Your Model Will Be Replicated
Every business can be copied--eventually. So how can you protect your company’s market position?
Start by asking, “What’s your moat? Is there unique IP that keeps a competitor from creating an identical product? Is there some other idea, traction or technique that will prevent others from duplicating your success?" says Chris Cunningham, founder of C2Ventures and creator of C2V Studios. “Entrepreneurs often poorly address this in their pitch decks and it will lead investors to question your vulnerability.”