There are tremendous opportunities to be had in the legal cannabis industry. If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the numbers: $2.7 billion market value in 2015 behind 74% growth in 2014 with an ancillary market that could be three times the size of the market of the plant itself. These enormous positives obviously come with some challenges, and while all investments involve some degree of risk cannabis investment definitely has some unique hurdles. How can a new investor make sense of the variance in state and local regulations (or lack thereof), 280e, and the trials of an emerging market? It’s certainly possible for savvy individuals to navigate this avalanche of information with a lot of time and work. For others, though, an investment vehicle such as a diversified investment fund could be the key to mitigating the risks of cannabis investment.
Benefits of a Fund:
A diverse investment portfolio is important with any kind of investment. With the uncertainties and exploding competition in the cannabis industry, diversification is a necessity. Companies now are generally looking for minimum commitments anywhere between $50,000 to $200,000 so someone looking to invest $200,000, for example, will not be able to participate in enough investments to achieve real diversification. Spreading the risk among 8-12 companies would be ideal, and pooling money together in a larger funding vehicle allows for that without individually having to put up a million dollars or more.
Term Sheet Negotiation
Investors aren’t the only ones that see the opportunity in cannabis. The individual companies see the coming years as more lucrative than anyone else, and they have put in the sweat equity to prove it. Consequently their valuations often reflect a lot of potential value that can be much higher than actual current value. Individual investors – again around that $50,000 to $200,000 point – might not have the negotiating power to secure a better valuation which means their dollars would purchase less equity and/or lower return. Once again, pooling money into a larger fund creates advantages, this time in leverage. A single entity controlling a large investment amount will have more negotiating power than several smaller individuals.
One of the things that makes the cannabis industry so potentially lucrative is that it touches so many other industries: software development, technology, agriculture, retail sales, research, etc etc. It would be very difficult for an individual to amass expertise in all of these fields along with having the financial experience to evaluate the business side of each company. Additionally laws across the nation are constantly shifting. Researching and vetting companies and keeping up with the industry is a full-time commitment, and vehicles whose principal occupation is investing in this sector exist to handle this work.
There are good companies in the cannabis industry, but finding them can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. You often have to sift through hundreds of companies to find ones with the idea, the team, the experience, and the plan to make investment worthwhile. Research, going to conferences, making connections, and being a public enough face that good deals search for you is yet another enormous commitment of time and money.
Considerations of Investing in a Fund:
Expertise, travel, accountant fees, and legal fees are necessary expenses and with investment vehicles these costs are paid by the investors, usually in the form of either a budgeted fee or 2% of committed capital.
Decision Making Authority
In addition to the management fee, the benefits listed above come at the cost of some authority as to which companies will be selected. Individuals obviously have 100% of the decision making power with their dollars, but once money is committed to a fund some of that is ceded to the firm. This may not be a negative, however, as the investor is able to rely on the firm’s industry knowledge and expertise.
Committed funds are not liquid investments. Once the capital is called it is often working – and inaccessible – for a period of three, five, eight or more years. Investors should understand this before putting money into a fund.
As mentioned earlier, individual investment is absolutely possible, and groups like the ArcView Investor Network take care of a lot of the research and deal flow legwork – for a cost. Folks with the time to commit, a large amount of money, and a larger appetite for risk are certainly able to have an impact in funding in the cannabis space. For those with interest and capital but without the time and the expertise there are already several options to help you participate in the industry without sacrificing your piece of mind.