The Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago, September 13-14 will celebrate many things as always. This year's attendees have the opportunity to meet a group of young leaders of the industry who got into the emerging market at a young age and now have a lot to teach us all.
Join us in celebrating some of the most skilled and knowledgeable cannabis executives under 40, nominated for a Benzinga Cannabis Award. The winner of this award will be announced on September 12.
Top Cannabis Leaders Under 40
Leo Gontmakher, 4Front Ventures
Gontmakher co-founded Northwest Cannabis Solutions, which under his leadership grew to be one of the largest and most successful producers of cannabis products in Washington state. He also served as COO at Cannex, which merged with 4Front Ventures FFNTF in July 2019. Before entering the cannabis industry, Gontmakher served on the senior management team at North America’s largest processor and distributor of specialized seafood products.
Photo: Courtesy Of Marijuana Venture
Alanna Zavoico, MATTIO Communications
Zavoico grew up in Westport, CT along the Long Island Sound. She moved around from marketing to creative recruiting and even fintech before landing at MATTIO Communications, where everything she was looking for in a job 'finally coalesced.' Currently, Zavoico and the MATTIO team meet to fulfill the client's conference, awards and creative needs with powerful story-telling and a first-class organization.
"I never imagined I would be working in this industry but I’m tremendously grateful my path has brought me here. I’ve always believed in the power of the plant and it’s an extremely exciting time for space," she said in an interview about the industry. Zavoico loves cooking and she said that "reinventing recipes" is her ultimate de-stressor, as well as reading and painting. She enjoys spending time with friends and family.
Cole Gibbs, Dama Distributing
Cole Gibbs, founder & CEO of Dama and an innovative entrepreneur, is pioneering the development of sustainable hemp plastic and compliant packaging solutions for a variety of industries. Due to the plastic waste problem, Gibbs established a practical and sustainable strategy for business and industry using the power of hemp and other green technologies. Dama is powered 100% by renewable wind energy.
Over the last three years alone, Gibbs and his team have made a massive impact on the world today by preventing over 2 million lbs of toxic petroleum plastic from entering our environment.
Come and meet extraordinary cannabis visionaries and let’s network and learn together. Join us in September at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference and stay at the historic Palmer House Hotel. Don't miss out on a chance to hear about future market forecasts and worldly advice on investing and finance from those embedded in the cannabis industry. Ready, set, go!
An active outdoor enthusiast, Gibbs attended Salt Lake Community College and Weber State University where he studied Automotive Technology with an emphasis on alternative fuels, including Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Biodiesel, Hydrogen Fuel, and Hemp Ethanol. He also worked as a high-altitude prototype test driver for Jaguar/Land Rover.
Karson Humiston, Vangst
Karson Humiston is the founder and CEO of cannabis hiring platform Vangst. The platform is dedicated to connecting employers to candidates ranging from entry-level to executive within the emerging cannabis market, helping with information on careers in the industry.
Vangst kicked off 2022 by securing $19 million in financing through a Series B funding round, led by Level One Fund with participation from previous investors. Having a wide range of investors participating has been a "part of our secret sauce," said Humiston, one of the women who has been dominating space for years and who also emphasized how important it is to have a good personal relationship with business partners.
"There no shame" in leaning on investors and advisors for advice, Karson added. "Knowing what you don't know is important" for business founders.
Luke Anderson, Cann
Luke Anderson is one of the co-founders & CEO of Cann Social Tonics, a queer-founded, leading cannabis-infused beverage company, among his good friend and former Bain & Company colleague - Jake Bullock.
While attending Stanford University where he earned a B.S., Luke’s passion for the beverage space started to shine through. After graduating he spent two years teaching math as a part of the Teach For America program. After that, he joined Bain & Company as an Associate Consultant. During those two years, he became obsessed with data, consumer trends and how spot winners in different retail categories. Cann is not just for those exploring cannabis, but for anyone who is looking to moderate or reduce their alcohol consumption.
The cannabis-infused beverage company recently confirmed a $27 million Series A funding round coming from fresh institutional capital.
Photo: Maxwell Poth
Jake Bullock, Cann
Jake Bullock is the other co-founder & CEO of Cann, the cannabis-infused social beverage company based in California, which develops a range of micro-dosed beverages with simple, all-natural ingredients that provide an alternative to alcohol.
Prior to Cann, Bullock was an associate at Bain Capital’s North American Private Equity fund evaluating potential investment opportunities across a variety of industries with a specific focus on the consumer space. He also worked at Bain & Company in San Francisco, focused on strategy and due diligence projects across technology, healthcare, private equity, and hedge funds. Prior to that, Bullock worked as an investment banking analyst at Allen & Company in New York providing M&A advisory services to companies in a variety of industries. He graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a B.S. in Economics and Political Science and received his M.B.A. from Stanford University. Bullock is passionate about the potential for cannabis products to replace the abuse of alcohol and Rx drugs and has made a number of cannabis venture investments.
Bullock said that “beverage is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the cannabis industry."
Fabian Monaco, GAGE Cannabis
Fabian Monaco is the CEO of GAGE Cannabis Co., Michigan's leading and operating high-quality artisan cannabis brand. Monaco has extensive experience in the cannabis industry, as well as an extensive legal and investment banking background with over 10 years of experience in capital markets. Previously he held various positions for XIB Financial Inc., GMP Securities L.P., and Scotiabank.
Gage Cannabis Co., owned by Terrascend Corp (OTC: TRSSF), is Michigan's premier cannabis brand. Gage's operating affiliates set the standard for quality cannabis products and experience. Gage locations grow plants in small batches using 100% hydroponic cultivation methods for sustainable and responsible operations.
Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr. (a.k.a. Berner), Cookies
Berner, a rapper and entrepreneur who signed to Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang Entertainment, has released over 40 albums, several of which have charted on Billboard's "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums" chart. As an entrepreneur, Berner is credited with the creation of multiple companies including Cookies and is heavily active in the California-based cannabis trade market.
Berner started his cannabis career as an ID checker at a Bay Area dispensary when he was 18. He later ended up building one of the most well-known cannabis lifestyle brands in the country.
Nick Kovacevich, Greenlane Holdings
Nick Kovacevich is the CEO of Greenlane Holdings, Inc. GNLN, a leading provider of ancillary cannabis products and accessories. Kovacevich was recently the CEO and chairman of KushCo Holdings, another industry pioneer, which merged into Greenlane in September 2021.
Kovacevich graduated from Southwest Baptist University, where he was also the captain of the men’s NCAA II basketball team. After college, Kovacevich began his entrepreneurial career by building and selling Pack My Dorm. He continued on to found several other successful businesses including BigRentz, a leading online equipment rental company, and Alpha West, a diversified holding company whose portfolio businesses generate a combined $200M+ in annual sales.
Kovacevich was appointed as chairman of the Board of Directors for Unrivaled Brands UNRV in December 2020 and serves as a director at Greenlane. In April 2020, he was appointed to California’s 32nd DAA Orange County Fair Board by Governor Newsom. As a cannabis industry expert, Kovacevich regularly appears in media outlets and on TV. He also writes about the business of cannabis in his Forbes column.
Kovacevich will speak at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference among other executives and investors about the present and future of the industry.
Cy Scott, Headset Inc
Cy Scott, co-founder and CEO of Headset Inc., an analytics company for the cannabis industry designed to help operators make informed decisions based on data. He defines himself as an entrepreneur at heart, having experience starting companies, working for startups and doing time at large organizations. Before Headset, he began his career accelerating the adoption of legal cannabis as the cofounder of Leafly LFLY.
Prior to Leafly, he worked on KBB.com's redesign first as an engineer, then as part of the product team, and was responsible for getting Kelley Blue Book's first-ever patent. He also worked as Sr. Product at Source Interlink (now TEN: The Enthusiast Network), a large publishing company with properties like Motor Trend and Automobile, and is now working on its transition from traditional print to digital strategy.
Juanjo Feijoo, Weedmaps
Juanjo Feijoo, born and raised in Argentina, worked in Google, Instacart, and Creative Cloud Adobe as Senior Director, Customer Engagement, Creative CloudSenior Director & Customer Engagement. Currently, Feijoo is COO and CMO of Weedmaps MAPS, a community connecting cannabis consumers, patients, retailers, doctors and brands. He recently announced the launching of Weedmaps For Business a complete SaaS Platform.
Feijoo is an Operations & Marketing leader with 15+ years of experience across large tech companies and hypergrowth startups. He focuses expertise on scaling, driving profitability & international expansion.
Based in California, Feijoo earned a BA in International Business & Management at Oxford Brookes University.
Aras Azadian, Avicanna
Aras Azadian, an executive with experience in a range of industries and specializing in Biotechnology, is currently the CEO of Avicanna Inc. AVCNF AVCN, a multinational, innovation-focused cannabis company based out of Toronto.
Azadian has also been involved in several successful start-ups and several other projects as a management consultant over the past few years. He is also a co-founder and board member of the Purple Elephant, which is a national not-for-profit organization focusing on increasing awareness and understanding of Alzheimer’s disease among the younger generations.
Azadian has a bachelor’s degree in economics from York University in Toronto and an MBA from EADA Business School in Barcelona.
Ankur Rungta, C3 Industries
Ankur Rungta, co-founder and CEO of C3 Industries, brings years of experience as a corporate attorney and investment banker to the company, with a specific focus on corporate finance, real estate, media, and cannabis. Together with his co-founders, Vishal Rungta and Joel Ruggiero, Rungta's entrepreneurial spirit and passion for producing high-end, quality cannabis products have led C3 Industries to be one of the leading cannabis brands in Michigan and Oregon.
Prior to founding C3 Industries, Rungta worked as an investment banker and corporate attorney in New York. In both roles, Rungta advised clients on a variety of mergers and acquisitions and capital markets transactions across a range of industries.
Rungta holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Michigan Law School and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
Meet us at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference on Sep. 13-14 in Chicago where cannabis advocates, entrepreneurs and these extraordinary young cannabis executives will gather. Stay with us at the historic Palmer House Hotel to discuss the future of cannabis legalization.
Photo by Cova Software on Unsplash
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Meet the biggest cannabis industry players and make deals that will push the industry forward.
Featuring live company presentations, insider panels, and unmatched access to networking, the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is where cannabis executives and entrepreneurs meet.
Join us April 11-12, 2023 at Fontainebleau Miami Beach in sunny Florida.