My first week at Canopy San Diego, San Diego’s first cannabis accelerator, was an eye opener. I think the best pop culture phrase to sum up the experience is: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no slouch when it comes to acquiring information, useful or otherwise. As a child I was a voracious reader, consuming books on academic subjects from anthropology to zoology, and learning skills from auto repair to writing. I have a B.A. in Communication Arts, and attended the Graduate Producer’s Program at the UCLA school of Theatre, Film, and Television. However, the Canopy folks added a whole new layer of awesome to my already substantial body of knowledge.
In show business, the producer’s main function, above all else, is to get the money to make and release the film, broadcast the TV show, or stage the play. Given that, you’d think that during the time I attended UCLA that they would have taught me the rudimentary skills to actually do that. You’d think.
They taught me how to structure stories, how to budget movies, how to schedule and coordinate a shoot, how to cast a show, how to pitch to development executives, and how to work with screenwriters to develop stories that people would want to watch. They even taught me the various “creative” financing structures that are, if not unique to the movie industry, at least taken to a whole new level to create the house of cards that is independent film financing. What they forgot, however, is the most vital piece of the puzzle: How to actually find and talk to investors.
As the C.E.O., it’s my job to get the money to keep the lights on and get the initial product to market. Finding investors and sparking their interest in my company is the first step in that process. Without it, all the other stuff never happens. These skills are mission critical, and they are not as obvious, organic, or simple as you might think. So what did Canopy San Diego teach me during my first week that UCLA failed to cover over three years?
How to work a room.
To you social animals out there, this sort of thing might come naturally. If you are an introvert like me, however, this sort of training was a godsend. In that first week, I not only practiced my elevator pitch to perfection, I learned how to strategically assess who to talk to, what to say, how to say it, and how to move on to someone else to maximize the connections made in the time allotted. It seems so obvious, so simple, but I assure you, there is both an art and a science to making yourself memorable and like-able. You want to start up a relationship that will lead you, either directly, or through referrals, to those people who will cough up a big enough chunk of change to propel your company along that launch ramp into the Ganjasphere.
Paula Young-Libby is the CEO of MycoCann, Inc. an ag-tech startup with sights on revolutionizing how cannabis is grown. Join us here every week as Paula gives us an exclusive peek into the entrepreneurial experience.
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