Pubdate: Thu, 12 May 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Cannabuzz
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Josh Jardine


What Last Week's Investor Pitch Forum Was Like

LET'S PRETEND that you're operating or want to start a cannabis 
business. Maybe you want to grow, make edibles or concentrates, start 
or expand a dispensary, or produce ancillary products like rolling 
papers and vaporizers.

Where do you get the funding? You can't get approved for a standard 
bank account if you're involved in the weed industry. So unless you 
own a scary clown mask and starter pistol, or have a wealthy elderly 
relative with a serious heart condition, your options are limited.

Oregon recently lifted the barrier to non-resident investment in our 
marijuana programs, something that many, including myself, were wary 
about. That concern stemmed from a deep-seated fear that Big 
Canna/Pharma/Tobacco would come in and buy up all our mom 'n' pop 
canna businesses. Making the transition from "chairman of the bud" to 
"chairman of the board" is fraught with both psychological and 
financial hurdles, and the exhausting process of chasing money is one 
of the biggest.

So it was a surprising and surreal two days I spent last week in a 
Marriott Hotel ballroom, at an event produced by the ArcView Group 
called the "Investor Pitch Forum" (AKA the Arc Tank).

ArcView is an Oakland-based firm founded in 2010, and its president 
is cannabis industry pioneer Steve DeAngelo, CEO of Harborside 
Dispensary. Its accredited investor network is 500-plus strong, and 
has invested more than $70 million into 100-plus canna-connected 
companies. Two hundred of its members gathered at the Portland 
Marriott early this month to hear investment pitches from 20-some 
companies that had competed and won highly sought-after spots out of 
a field of hundreds of applicants. A handful of these were 
Oregon-based canna businesses. A limited number of members of the 
press were invited, with the explicit understanding that we wouldn't 
divulge the names of the companies pitching, and we would refrain 
from revealing sensitive financial data shared by the presenters.

The setup was based on the oddly popular Shark Tank show you may have 
accidentally watched during that terrible time when you couldn't find 
the remote. At ArcView's event, a rotating panel of three judges sat 
onstage and listened, along with the audience of investors, as each 
canna company made a 15-minute pitch for their services or products. 
At the conclusion, the judges asked acronym-heavy questions regarding 
IP (intellectual property), ROI (return on investment), and DMSR 
(dance music sex romance). (No, not really, but presenters did enter 
the stage to the music of their choosing, and a couple chose Prince 
tracks. And one to "Eye of the Tiger," so....)

How were the pitches? Fascinating. There were requests for funding 
for traditional companies-for dispensaries/grow ops, grow lighting 
systems, and cannabis packaging. But there were some innovative new 
ideas that made you wish the pitches lasted longer. I would have 
listened to an investment seeker, who looked all of 16, expand upon 
his "Bluetooth Bong" idea for another 20 minutes. (Go ahead and roll 
your eyes, but he is onto something.)

Once completed, the investors in the audience were asked to use an 
app to rate the presenters on a scale of one to five, the results of 
which were projected onto the huge screen onstage-real-time data as 
to how well the pitches were received by the people with the 
checkbooks. With scant exception, the feedback I saw was uniformly positive.

I chatted with some of the attendees at the afterparty, and while I 
sympathize with people who are fearful that the Wolves of Weed Street 
are circling, I only met one egotistical mansplainer with a gold 
Rolex and self-esteem issues. All the other people were cannabis fans 
with money to invest-and by that, I mean people who legitimately 
enjoy cannabis. A dispensary run for extracts was made, and numerous 
investors and those seeking their support stood outside, vaping 
between sessions.

Lesson: Not everything can be crowd-funded, and not everyone with 
money to invest is Gordon Gekko. Innovation is starting to drive the 
cannabis industry. And I want my damn Bluetooth Bong now.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom