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9 Industry Secrets to Raising Capital in the Cannabis, Hemp, or CBD Niche

investing investors May 30, 2020

$8.1 billion of capital was raised by Cannabis companies in 2019 alone and, as more states move toward full legalization, that amount will only continue to grow. Additionally, industry experts are seeing that these niches appear to be recession-resistant (even “virus-resistant”) with many states experiencing recent record sales, mainly since Cannabis and hemp/CBD markets have been deemed essential during the pandemic. 

However, even recession-resistant companies can experience challenges when finding capital for funding or seeking investors. Many Cannabis companies have been looking to debt and creditor solutions for capital growth, but that’s not the only solution business owners should take into consideration.

Beyond putting a company further in debt just to raise capital, Cannabis CEOs need solid, non-resource-draining solutions to build capital. From startups to founders of established companies, the following nine tips can help you significantly boost capital if you are a CEO or accountant helping businesses in these industries. 

Rock Solid, World-Class Accounting

Many early investors and founders in the Cannabis space ignored securing a niche-specific accountant -- and are now regretting this decision as they find their investments turning sour. Learn from past Cannabis investors’ and CEOs’ errors, especially the ones who failed and didn’t recover. By adding a world-class accountant to a Cannabis operation, investors can rest easy knowing that they have a pulse on the overall health of the business. This is super important, as most investors are not involved with day-to-day operations.. When a highly-trained accountant is hired, the value of a company increases by 10% or more over time and, most importantly, helps prevent downside loss from theft, fraud, and severe bookkeeping error penalties. 

The best way to attract an investor is to provide concrete and visible data that proves that the business you represent is a tight, compliant ship. This proof can only be acquired through complete and correct cost accounting, documented internal controls, accounting policies and procedures, chart of accounts, and other tools tailored to Cannabis.   

In the past, it was difficult to obtain this ultra-specific scope of knowledge, tools, and workpapers, all in one consolidated place. However, now with the DOPE CFO program, these tools are available. DOPE CFO has trained hundreds of accountants and bookkeepers across the United States to properly leverage these tools and create added value for their CEOs, including attracting investors and capital funding.

To find out more about our Cannabis and CBD accounting programs that are packed with find invaluable charts of accounts, whitepapers, and templates to help you raise capital and increase added value for your Cannabis or hemp/CBD clients, book a call with us today. 

The Cannabis and hemp/CBD niches have highly complex accounting requirements (i.e. cost accounting) and span several unrelated verticals: farming, chemical manufacture, product manufacture, delivery, labs, and retail.  

To leverage full 360-degree accounting services and raise capital, you need a dream team in place of community experts that understand these multiple niche-specific layers and regulations. Not only should your team possess the required tools, processes, and knowledge, but it should also consist of a team of executives with a successful track record of supporting successful companies. Amassing attorneys, COOs, subject matter experts, and CFOs helps ensure that all of the higher-level tasks are accounted for and that the business is protected and set up for success.

Develop a Concise, Complete, and Compelling Pitch Deck

A great pitch deck is essential to landing an investor and raising capital. Throw out your 100-page Word doc business plans and ill-prepared pitch decks. Investors don’t have time to comb through a long business plan; they need to be able to quickly review key information.

Improve your chances of landing the attention of an investor on the first try by integrating these vital pitch deck components: 

  • Proven management team: describe your team, who has shown a track record of success (including a qualified accountant and a CEO that is not just a “grower”)
  • A good story: define the company’s background, why it was started, and how you achieved your current success (along with describing the key customer problem your company addresses, and the solution you offer to solve that problem)
  • List of board members and/or advisors: the more robust your team, the better (and be sure to offer some seats to the future investors) 
  • Market analysis: provide an accurate look at TAM (total addressable market) and what your share will be during years three to five
  • Competitive analysis: here you identify your competition and analyze why you are better
  • Potential challenges: define potential challenges you may face, such as whether your competition advantage is sustainable, if there are any barriers to entry, and how the landscape of your business will change if 280E disappears
  • Market plan model: delve into describing your market plan, including distribution and sales (without making the mistake that you assume any product grown can be sold at high prices)
  • Unit economics: include pricing and margins in your business model, as well as revenue drivers and company strategy
  • Financial model summary: outline key assumptions, 5-year revenue outlook, EBITDA, and growth projections 
  • Investor economics: include company valuation, sources/uses of capital raised, ownership size for investment, ROI, and time to payback
  • Amount of owner capital invested: assess and record how much capital from the owner has gone directly into the company 
  • Offer: determine what you are offering the investor, i.e. 20% equity for a $1 Million investment (one of the single most neglected aspects of most deck pitches)
  • Traction: line out what you have accomplished so far, such as acquiring licenses and boosting sales 
  • Legal language: never fire off a deck pitch without having a qualified attorney review the language (phrases like “formal offer” can cause snags where you least expect them) 

Build Out a Bullet-Proof, 5-Year Financial Model

Your financial model must be complete, accurate, and align with the numbers in the pitch deck. Often a model will get updated, but the numbers remain the same in the pitch deck, which can quickly scare off an investor. A good model will be simple and free from massive Excel files. Look to include the following: 

  • All financial statements: include a balance sheet, P&L, and statement of cash flows  (each section should show years one to five, and you can add a tab to show the P&L for Year 1 only broken down by month)
  • Key assumption tab: make sure to have all key assumptions, including production (i.e. plant yield) and reasonable pricing (i.e. per pound) 
  • Summary tab: record key metrics and assumptions, as well as financial ratios (investor capital, internal rate of return at Year 5 exit under different valuations, and overall ROI to investor)
  • Best and worst case scenarios: depict these extremes to give investors an idea of what happens if your predictions are off by 50% or more (so they can prepare and know what to expect with sales fluctuations)

Comprehensive Capital and Entity Structure 

You also need to analyze entity structure prior to capital raise. Is the company a flow-thru entity or a C-corp? Are there many entities or just one?  Most smart investors will insist on a C-corp structure for a Cannabis startup because the risk and tax rates are lower (assuming there were no dividends prior to exit, which is the plan for most cannabis startups).

Flow-thru entities can create sizable tax liability to a minority investor and, assuming no dividends, this is not a good situation for an investor to be in.  Also, a business creating many entities to “avoid” 280E is a red flag to investors.

Furthermore, consider the type of equity the investor will obtain (convertible, SAFE, or direct equity). You also want to look at which component of capital will be funded through debt, and if there are stock option plans for employees or other options to take into consideration that an investor may inquire about.

Define Realistic Company Valuation

Realistic company valuation will be part of your business model and deck, and is an extremely important aspect of raising capital. For example, if you are giving up 20% of the company for $1 million dollars, that means the company is worth $4 million prior to the capital raise (and will be worth $5 million once the investor adds $1 million). Ask yourself these questions: Is this realistic? Is the company pre-revenue? Does it have any real assets other than an idea and a Cannabis license? Company valuations that are based on nothing other than a “made up” financial model will often receive little interest from investors.

Determine Your UVP and USP

UVP stands for Unique Value Proposition and explains clearly why your product or company is unique, valuable, sustainable, and desired by the market. USP (Unique Selling Proposition) explains why your customers will buy from you and not someone else. These aspects are important to know and discuss in-depth with investors.

Accumulate Traction

Sit back and analyze the steps you have taken to raise capital. If you have an idea, deck, and model, what’s next?

The next step is to secure a license, conduct a test market with customers, and then work towards accumulating revenue. Look at the milestones you have hit,  or the milestones your client has achieved, and determine next steps to take. The more traction you have on the path towards preparing for raising capital, the higher your valuation can be, meaning the less of your company you need to sacrifice in exchange for the capital you are raising.

Access to Investors

Finally, without access to a pool of investors, a great plan, product, and team will go nowhere. Do you plan to use Angel Investors? Friends and family? Cannabis Investor Funds, or other ideas? Develop a strategy surrounding the who, how, and when of getting in front of ideal investors, and then jump in with this new toolkit on your belt. 

Many companies are competing for capital in the Cannabis and hemp/CBD space. While many investors have been burned by Cannabis investment deals run amok, you can convince even the most skeptical of investors if you approach them with prepared and compliant records, models, pitch decks, and a competent team of experts.

For accountants and CEOs alike, DOPE CFO provides the tools, community of experts, and proven system for training accounting professionals to help your clients get access to the capital that they need. For more information about our program, or to ask us questions about this ever-changing industry, we encourage accounting professionals to schedule a time to speak with us to learn more about how you can provide support to startup Cannabis companies.


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