An interview with David Feldman, Partner at Hiller PC and CEO of Skip Intro Advisors.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
It has been a difficult time for sure, my fiancé and I are used to extensive business travel, speaking at conferences, and business development focused on in person meetings. It has required a rethink of the marketing approach, much more online and on the phone, as we wait for the return to whatever the new normal will ultimately be. That said, it’s been great to have the time together. My son is a Broadway star and luckily finished his one year run a few weeks before the shows shut down, but again a stressful time for us all.
Tell us about you, your career, how you first found work in the cannabis industry.
How much time do you have? Lol… Seriously, I’m a Wharton grad, former chair of the school’s worldwide alumni association, went to law school at Penn as well. I spent 7 years at giant law firms then had my own firms for almost 20 years, and we were the #1 firm in the country in the world of “private investments in public equity” (or PIPEs) for seven of those years. I ultimately merged my firm, where I took on my first cannabis clients around 2013 as the initial batch of companies went public and needed SEC counsel. I then later joined an 800-lawyer global firm where I was a lead of their 60-lawyer cannabis group, helping build it from zero to millions in business. I’m now happily back in a boutique environment with one of the top law firms representing cannabis companies.
Can you speak, without attribution, to some of the biggest challenges your clients have faced in the cannabis space?
In the third season of the old tv show Star Trek, in an episode called “Wink of an Eye,” Spock is able to speed himself up dramatically to make repairs that would have taken years on the ship. We feel sometimes that the cannabis industry is moving at a similar super-frenzied pace. That means nearly vertical learning curves, challenges in ensuring that financings and acquisitions are completed carefully and thoroughly, and the stock market for these companies remains volatile. Fundraising has been more of a challenge in the last year or so, and some scammers are starting to be outed and sued.
How is the coronavirus affecting your business or the business of your clients and how are you coping?
Luckily cannabis is essential, but that doesn’t mean all is great during COVID. Supply chains are more challenging, fundraising is difficult, and business development has been hurt by the lack of travel and in person meetings.
What new ventures are you working on?
I started a cannabis business consulting firm, Skip Intro Advisors, in January with an incredible A-list team of advisors, to complement my law practice.
What inspired you to start these new ventures?
So many clients would come to me seeking much more than pure legal advice. Help me figure out my strategy, or the best way to raise money, or a better approach to branding, or improvements to technology. I didn’t see other players offering a comparable suite of services, so we started it ourselves.
Do you have any ideas on how social justice can be achieved in this industry?
I am as much a strong advocate for social justice as one can be. That said, politics requires, at times, a little patience and compromise. So I guess the answer is that social justice can be achieved, just not all at once.
Look out 10 years. Want to make any predictions about the state of the industry at that time?
I see a rapidly growing legal global import-export market with the US as a leading producer and exporter (with California likely leading the way) but low-cost competition from Mexico, the Caribbean and China. In this country it will be big alcohol, big pharma and big tobacco leading the way with smaller “craft” brands finding unique niches much as in the alcohol business.
About David Feldman:
David Feldman is a lawyer, advisor and entrepreneur still deciding what to do when he grows up. He has been a leading out-of-the-box guide to hundreds of growing businesses in his over 30 years of experience. He’s the author of four books on finance and entrepreneurship, and is known as one of the leading cannabis finance attorneys in the U.S., having served most recently as Co-Lead of the 60-lawyer Cannabis Practice Group for an AmLaw 100 law firm. In April 2019 the global guide Chambers & Partners ranked David as a leading US attorney in cannabis law and one of only seven US lawyers in “band 1” for corporate and transactional work in the industry. In addition, in October 2018 the National Law Journal named him a “Cannabis Law Trailblazer” and in January 2019 Business Insider named him as a top lawyer in the cannabis industry. Recent win: he conceived financing innovations such as the SEC’s Regulation A+, a simplified and streamlined approach for going public in the US and Canada.
A Wharton graduate and former Chair of the school’s worldwide alumni, David is not just a lawyer – he’s a community builder. He’s run, built, bought, invested in, and sold businesses. He feels his clients’ pain but provides the objective outsider’s point of view that founders need. He’s our “Velvet Hammer”: a calm, clear, and firm guide and mentor, who is both practical and honest. His ‘no jerks’ policy in accepting clients, partners, and employees keeps morale, energy, and results ‘high on the list’ in Skip Intro Advisors company culture.
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