Jeffrey Stewart founded his vape hardware start-up Ovandi in 2017 and, like many cannabis entrepreneurs, struggled to find investors. In his own words below, lightly edited for length and clarity, he explains why ‘no’ was in some ways a better response than ‘yes’.
I asked a lot of investors around Toronto, but it is hard to get money when you’re pre-revenue and it is hardware which has a huge fixed-cost life cycle. Everyone said no.
My mentor, the one who had given me $5,000 to get started, I slept on her couch [in Long Beach] for a week and used an app called Shapers where I swiped through every angel investor and I set up 51 meetings over the span of 8 days.
“Every time I was told no I just refined, refined, refined.”
I got up to meeting number 41 or 42 but then there was this lawyer who liked it immediately. She wrote a cheque for $40,000.
I heard no dozens of times before that. I spoke to every investor in Toronto. I even went to Quebec. Everybody said no because in Canada you have to have sales to prove the concept otherwise it is a very hard sell.
Everyone gets discouraged, but I always asked why after getting a no. Everyone I went to, I always asked them why after they had said no. Some of them refused to answer but others would go into detail, telling me I was missing this and should have mentioned that and included this.
Some of the people who said no really sat me down afterwards and gave me the details of why and that really added to my success more than anything. It was the first time I could look back and teach my team, since we were all learning about this process together.
Every time I was told no I just refined, refined, refined.
Every time we would get a no I would go back to my team and say this is what they said and this is why they said it and we would make changes. Whether it was changes in how we talked to our consumers or how we presented the product or the design, all those opinions were really good feedback towards our iteration process. We had four major iterations to get to where we are now.
I started to learn more and more about what cannabis investors are looking for. It was a big learning curve for me and that basically gave me a masters degree in how to close a deal by all of the people who said no to me. In that sense I almost appreciate the noes more than the yeses because while the yeses make you feel good, not everything that feels good is good for you.
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