By: Bianka Anguiano | June 15th, 2020
I had the pleasure of interviewing the one and only, Emily Paxhia, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Poseidon Asset Management. Poseidon Asset Management, is an investment management company, that invests exclusively in the cannabis industry.
Emily has reviewed thousands of companies in the cannabis industry and has worked with countless founders in many capacities. She had helped to shape founders’ pitch preparations, their go-to-market strategies/ product launches, and advised on day-to-day business operations. Emily has held board seats for multiple portfolio companies and participates as an adviser to multiple teams.
Extremely active in the investment decision making and ongoing investment oversight processes, she works closely with her partners to create meaningful deal structures, ensuring that proper governance is carried out at the company level. Further, Emily has dedicated time and energy to supporting policy groups and has served on the Board of Directors of the Marijuana Policy Project, the number one organization in the U.S. legalizing cannabis. She also currently serves on the Board of Athletes for CARE and The Initiative, accelerator program, business bootcamp and funding resource for female founded cannabis businesses.
Check out the interview below where Emily talks about her entrepreneurial journey as a woman in this male dominated industry, gives really good advice on how to obtain funding and shares useful tips on how to make it in the weed world.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m an investor and a builder. I co-launched one of the longest running investment firms dedicated entirely to the cannabis industry. Each day, I review prospective investment opportunities, work with the founders of our existing portfolio companies, speak with investors and also participate in policy discussions.
What has your personal experience with cannabis been?
Cannabis has been a part of my life in a few ways. Both of our parents died of cancer when we were quite young, so we had been introduced to the notion of cannabis as a palliative care resource by an off-the-cuff comment of a hospice nurse. Furthermore, I navigate stress and how it impacts my stomach. For years, I have taken tests around this, but cannabis, coupled with my mainly vegan diet has been the only thing to help me feel better. I love the idea that cannabis can be a non addictive resource that has multiple benefits. I love that helping to turn on a regulated industry can have provisions to stop the abuse of the people at the hands of our criminal justice system.
What is your company about? What do you guys do?
Our company is about building. We have always believed that investing in businesses with a foundation of integrity and strong fundamentals is essential. If strong companies thrive, we will see the industry flourish and in turn have incredible returns for our investors. We work alongside our founders and try to provide capital, connections and other resources. I don’t know many firms as dedicated to the long view of this industry as we are.
What inspired you to start your company? When did it all begin for you and how did you get started?
I remember a few specific moments that were pivotal in the inception of what is now Poseidon. To begin with, moving to California from NYC, I was blown away to see these shops that looked like cute cafes or boutique retail experiences. Coming from the East Coast where we always had to hide consumption, now it was right there in the open, and in a world of diminishing brick and mortar retail, people were lining up to buy it! I also remember, I was walking down my street to the corner of Haight & Ashbury (as it happens) when I was talking to my brother, who is now my business partner. It was that conversation where we discussed that this industry is the opportunity of our generation and we started to contemplate about how to get involved.
Were your family and friends supportive of your venture?
I would say it was a mixed bag of responses from family and friends. Some people cried, worried that we would be criminals, others were more curious and supportive. I got many very concerned linkedin messages from old colleagues, telling me that if this didn’t work out, they would help me to find a position. The thing is, that when embarking on a mission like this, before it is a popular idea, you have to have a real gut check. I looked at this straight on and asked myself what I would do if it all didn’t work. The answer I kept coming back with is the humiliation, the financial risks we were taking with all of our savings would pale in comparison to NOT giving it a try. What if it was 2020, and I was still in my old career talking about how we once had an idea to invest in cannabis and now someone else was doing it? THAT would kill me. We always quote Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.” Pretty fitting since we are sailors too…
What’s your favorite part about your job as well as least favorite and why?
There are no words for how much I love working with founders. They are the quirkiest, most driven and passionate people I know and I admire them greatly. It takes a lot of grit to build a cannabis business and I love participating on the boards where I get to listen and contribute to business decisions. I also love investing. There is a true craft to diligencing, timing and structuring an investment. I feel that we try to create aligned investments to grow with our companies. I miss diligence and being with our companies so much right now during this pandemic. It has been a true heartache for me. I don’t love zoom. I am grateful it exists, but I can’t wait to get back to the field.
Did you ever expect a career in the cannabis space?
It is hard to imagine this career when you’re a kid in the rural suburbs of Buffalo, NY in the 80s and 90s. I always knew I was going to do something interesting and difficult. I love big picture thinking and I love leaning in to learn — that is a big part of being in the cannabis industry.
Why is it so hard for cannabis business owners to obtain funding in this industry?
Stigma, the federal status and ignorance about the industry all constrain funding in cannabis. This is truly an emerging market and it has to go through various stages of growth. We are now in the rebuilding phase on the backend of fast money and poor management from the first main wave of capital. Now the businesses built for the long run are showing their value and running ahead. Time and policy reform will be the only mitigators to attract capital. We need to demonstrate that we are an industry of integrity and business acumen and the policies need to support the operators.
What’s the best way to look for and obtain funding for non-ancillary business?
What can entrepreneurs do to improve their chances of obtaining funding for their venture?
I always recommend that founders find ways to network with other founders who have successfully raised money and also with investors. Raising money is about building relationships and establishing trust and interest in your team and your business. Investors tend to put their money behind teams they find impressive / interesting, so being in front of them and capturing their interest is the first step. The next and very important piece is to come prepared to raise. Have your data room of company information well organized and ready to present. Make it easy for investors to understand your business and your pathway going forward.
Any advice you would like to share in regards to this topic?
Fundraising is extremely hard, and even harder for women. Just have everything ready and then keep going. Raising capital is a numbers game, you have to go through a lot of ‘no’s’ before you get to the good ‘yes’s’ (or at least most people do) and when you find a yes, that will usually lead to more.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
Hard work, focus, determination have been the critical factors to getting to where we are today. We have been extremely true to our mission and have tried not to get distracted by the hype of the industry, or what other people were / are doing. We have remained open and take feedback and try to learn from every situation and that has served us well. I think success is an artificial finish line that continues to mov, but I find that doing what I love and being dedicated to the growth of the industry brings me deep satisfaction.
As a woman, what challenges did you encounter (if any) building your business in a male-dominated industry and how do you plan to create change and inclusiveness for future women joining the industry?
Being a woman has its benefits and drawbacks. I find that implicit biases still exist and I feel that sometimes I start a meeting with new people a pace behind in terms of garnering their respect. For example, I was in a meeting last year with a male colleague and he even noticed that the counterparty across the table would not make eye contact with me and would only address my male colleague. This has happened more than I prefer, but I am tenacious and usually in the end, I can prove the value of my contribution. Actually, that person who would once not look me in the eye is now a productive partner and I really enjoy working with him. I try not to hold a grudge, as I know that implicit bias is not intentional and if I can help to shift that through my work, maybe it makes it better for the next time the person meets a different type of colleague. Bias cuts across gender, color, education, etc., so any work we can do to help open people’s perspectives may help across all forms of acceptance in diversity.
What would be your best piece of advice for fellow women looking to pursue the cannabis industry?
Network early and often with people you admire and respect. I believe that there are very good people in cannabis who aspire to build an industry for the long term. Find the ones that lift you up and be in their atmosphere. Stay focused, come prepared and try not to hold onto the moments where you feel disadvantaged for your gender. We are in control of how much power we let that have over our own psyche and our ambition. Learn from it, shake it off and keep going.
How/do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
I just try to continue to be as generous with my time and attention as possible. I try to provide connections and support where I can for women and I truly enjoy this. I believe that if me and my fellow strong women leaders keep showing up, we will help to normalize diversity and demonstrate the value of having a range of contributions and perspectives in the board rooms.
Name 5 of your favorite women in weed that you’d like to give a shout out too.
Rosie Mattio (and her Team)
Key Takeaways from Emily Paxhia:
- Find ways to network with other founders who have successfully raised money and also with investors.
- A very important piece is to come prepared to raise. Have your data room of company information well organized and ready to present. Make it easy for investors to understand your business and your pathway going forward.
- Stay focused, come prepared and try not to hold onto the moments where you feel disadvantaged for your gender.
Learn from it, shake it off and keep going.
Weed Queens wants to thank Emily Paxhia, for taking the time to inspire us and for sharing her story, advice and knowledge. You can learn more about Emily Paxhia and Poseidon Asset Management here: Poseidon Asset Management.
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