How to Impress a Shark: Top 5 Lessons Gleaned from Kevin Harrington

Kevin Harrington, a serial entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” investor celebrity, made his first foray into the cannabis industry on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, at the Marijuana Investor Summit.

Harrington joined a panel of four other investors at the summit’s CannaPitch, where four cannabis-related companies made pitches for early stage seed capital. Harrington wasn’t ready to sign on with any of the businesses—which ranged from biotech home-grow apparatuses to marijuana real estate zoning applications. But he did offer a great deal of wisdom for entrepreneurs within the cannabis space.

Here are the top five lessons for cannabis entrepreneurs gleaned from Harrington’s appearance at the summit:

 

1. Assemble a team of experts. Even if it means giving up a slice of the pie.

“I’d want to have the best team of lawyers and tax guys in this industry,” Harrington said, emphasizing the importance of staying on the right side of the law and abiding by the industry’s ever changing regulations. He gives the same advice to first-time entrepreneurs without his access to capital resources. “If you don’t have the money, give away a piece of your business,” he said. “Maybe you can’t get the best lawyer, but you get the third best lawyer.”

 

2. Make sure you are ready to pitch to investors.

Harrington wasn’t ready to whip out his checkbook for any of the cannabis companies pitched at the summit. “They were all a little too early stage for me to get a minor stake in the company. It’s too much of a leap of faith.” Much of the investor panel was in agreement, recommending that the businesses ramp up revenue and prove the product before seeking outside investment. Few investors are willing to fork over a check for a great idea; they want to see your ability to execute and attract customers.

 

3. Prove your celebrity endorsement.

Harrington has worked with hundreds of celebrities to promote products, but when a company pitched an Ed Rosenthal-inspired cannabis-infused coffee product, it didn’t pass Harrington’s initial sniff test. “If Willie Nelson is a 10, and Marley is a nine, where does Rosenthal fall?” he asked the crowd.

Perhaps the lesson gleaned here is that it is important to match up the right celebrities with the right products. Rosenthal—who is a hero among cannabis activists and cultivators—might be a better-suited spokesman for wholesale products marketed to cultivators, like soil or nutrients, rather than a coffee product which would be marketed to the masses.

 

4. Fail fast and fail cheap.

In his keynote speech, Harrington referenced the infamous Winston Churchill quote: “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” But entrepreneurs are bound to face moments of failure and self-doubt when launching a business, especially when operating in a federally illegal industry with hairy, volatile regulations. When should entrepreneurs know when to give up and when to sit with their failure and keep trying? “I give it one tweak, two tweaks, three tweaks, and then move on,” Harrington said in an interview with MJINews after CannaPitch.

 

5. Act Now.

Harrington titled his business self-help book “Act Now” for a reason. “Don’t wait until the time is right, whenever that might be,” he said. Keeping true to his own mantra, Harrington is ready to break into the cannabis space, and mentioned that he is most passionate about ancillary gadgets without regulatory issues that can sell in all 50 states.

Harrington, who admitted that he had some initial hesitation when first asked to join the Marijuana Investor Summit, is excited about the future of the industry. “This is an entrepreneurial endeavor,” he said. “It’s an industry that’s here to stay, and I want to be on the ground floor.”

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