Highlights from the 4th Annual Cannabis Private Investment Summit West
On Wednesday, May 1st, cannabis investors, industry experts, entrepreneurs and government officials convened at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills for our fourth annual private investment summit. The goal of the day was to educate investors on the critical risks and opportunities to consider when investing in the cannabis space and provide an exclusive venue for networking with the best and brightest in the industry. As with all of our events, we aim to curate the highest quality content and information from speakers with credibility and integrity. A few overarching themes emerged from all of the discussions including the overwhelming need to invest in research and the importance of authenticity when evaluating an investment and building a brand.
After opening remarks from J.J. McKay, founder and publisher of The Fresh Toast, the day kicked off with a panel about the legal state of the industry. The discussion between Sean McAllister (Partner, McAllister Garfield, P.C.), Michael L. Weiner (Partner, Dorsey & Whitney), Alex Freedman (Deputy City Attorney, Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation) and Adam Spiker (Executive Director, Southern California Coalition), was moderated by Matt Karnes (Founder and Managing Partner, GreenWave Advisors LLC) and focused on the U.S. regulatory environment and the progress made towards national legalization. Given the local expertise on the panel, there was a lot of insight provided around California and what might happen after legalization at the Federal level. Spiker assured the audience that while California may seem like the “wild, wild west today, there will continue to be plenty of opportunity once cannabis is legal at a Federally.” Additionally, the panel brought up CBD and reminded us that even though the Farm Bill passed last year, that doesn’t change the power of the FDA when it comes to current and future regulation.
During the Specialty Finance and Debt Alternatives panel discussion, David Kivitz (Co-Founder & Partner, Archytas Ventures) and Rob Sechrist (President, Pelorus Equity Group, Inc.) discussed with Douglas J. Hannah (Partner, Silverleaf Venture Partners) the challenges entrepreneurs and brands are up against to raise capital in the cannabis industry. From insights and recommendations in financing, the curriculum then shifted focus to how medical marijuana is transforming traditional healthcare.
Roger Abramson (Abramson Accelerator), Calum Hughes (CEO, Allied Corp.) and Jeff Chen (M.D./M.B.A., Director, UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative) were joined by a special guest panelist, Adam Smith a U.S. veteran and Allied Corp. spokesperson to talk about new models in medicine. The panel agreed that more investments need to be made in studying the plant. From clinical trials to understanding the everyday cannabis user, no one is investing in or lobbying for research on behalf of regular people. Until cannabis is de-scheduled in this country, we are unable to really study and document it’s effects like Israel has started doing. Putting the patient at the center of the conversation was exactly what Adam Smith did when he talked about how cannabis and a holistic medical model can save the lives of veterans with PTSD. In terms of the effectiveness of cannabis, Smith said “the proof is in the patient.”
Next we heard from Gene Simmons, international rock legend and serial entrepreneur, who partnered with Invictus, a cannabis brand out of Canada, to help with their public awareness and marketing. In line with key themes from the day, Simmons, known to be outspoken on his anti-drug stance, encouraged the audience to do their own research to determine if cannabis is harmful or helpful.
Also espousing the importance of doing due diligence prior to investing were Matt Hawkins (Founder, Cresco Capital Partners) and Steph Sherer (Co-Founder & Board Chair, Dioscorides Global Holdings, LLC) on the Emergence of Private Equity and Cannabis Funds panel. In this discussion, both Hawkins and Sherer shared with moderator, Murray Huneke (Managing Director, North Point Advisors) how important it is to watch out for red flags and make sure the management teams you are investing in are solid, possessing both credibility and authenticity. Sherer added that when making an investment decision, “you need to know the current climate and what it will look like ten years from now.” She says to ask, “is the infrastructure in place for a company to truly succeed?” The panel agreed that a lot of investment in R&D is needed to have a clear picture.
After several selfies with the Kiss co-founder and a lively networking lunch, the group gathered again after the break to hear from experts on the Manufacturing & Extraction panel. Joel Sherlock (Co-Founder & Chairman, Vitalis Extraction Technology), Harry Nelson (Author, The United States of Opioids) and Dr. John McKay (CTO, New Bridge Ventures) went in-depth about new technologies and the impact of future regulations. The panel predicted that we’re less than five years away from a single FDA approach meaning that anything that will be ingested will need to pass stringent tests which may lead to a consolidation of products and companies if the tests are too hard to pass.
The strict regulatory environment we’re in today is also a challenge for brand building in the cannabis space. On The War of Brands and Cannabis panel, we heard from Drake Sutton-Shearer (CEO, PROHBTD), Amanda Byrd (CMO, Philter Labs Inc.) and Cameron Smith (COO, Project Cannabis) about their experience building a brand in this industry. They said that there are no great brands in the industry yet, but there are lots of emerging brands. A key takeaway for us, and sage advice for investors who are evaluating brands, was something Amanda Byrd said about what makes a great brand: “it’s having a compelling brand promise and consistently deliver on it.” This is not the first time we heard that authenticity and integrity is important criteria when looking to invest in cannabis.
Alex Fang (CEO, Sublime) walked us through his presentation “A Financial Planner’s Guide to Becoming a Drug Lord: Looking at Cannabis as an Asset Class.” And while he joked about the length of the title of his presentation, we learned a lot about tends in the industry and the journey Alex has been on with Sublime. We then turned to technology.
Evan Eneman (Founder, Sands Lane Capital) moderated a discussion with Ken Tapp (CEP, CTO and Chairman, Social Life Network, Inc.) and Ilya Krakovich (President, Verde Capital) to talk about the future in cannabis cultivation and social networking for the cannabis movement. Although the panelists came from different backgrounds and were focused on different aspects of the industry, they both agreed on the importance of data, AI and machine learning to better understand consumers and to further the sophistication of the industry.
As the industry matures, we have more and more experiences to learn from. On the next panel, Cannabis Investing 101 for Family Offices, we heard from Kevin McGovern (McGovern Capital), Kai Nygard (Nygard Family Office) and Patrick Horsman (Managing Partner, Horsman Holdings LLC) who talked about their experience and lessons learned from their best and worst investments. They also discussed how to make your money go further in this space and some of the major risks and opportunities. McGovern and Nygard agreed that you need to look at what other people are doing to learn more about yourself and what you should do. One way to do that is to look at what’s happening globally in cannabis and learn from it.
As the day was drawing to a close, we shifted gears and entered into the much anticipated Live Pitch Session. This contest featured six companies who pitched a panel of accredited investors for seven minutes followed by comments and questions from our judges: Natalia Sokolova (Managing Partner, SGG World LLC), Daniel Schatzman (Director of Research at Wolfson Group, a NY based SFO) and Jim Fitzpatrick (VP, Oasis Capital). The 420 Experience, Allied Corp., leaf.trade, Nectar, Phylos and Irwin Naturals competed against each other. We were pleased to announce that Phylos won this year’s competition and will be featured in The Fresh Toast Highway.
Congratulations Mowgli Holmes from Phylos for winning the pitch contest two years in a row! And congratulations to all of the speakers and attendees for helping us make this event such a huge success! Thank you.
The Cannabis Private Investment Summit showcases the best and brightest cannabis entrepreneurs in the industry and is the premiere summit for institutional investors, family offices, and ultra high net worth investors. Sign up now for our upcoming summits in Toronto, New York City, and San Francisco.