“Give your team credit and recognition for everything, because they deserve it. I see a lot of CEO’s out there with huge egos, who don’t give their team credit for anything. The reality is that any entrepreneur or CEO is only as great as the team they have behind them, so making sure you’re constantly giving your team credit for all of the work they are doing is really important.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Karson Humiston, the Founder & CEO of Vangst, the cannabis industry’s leading recruiting platform. Since launching in 2016, Vangst has connected more than 10,000 people with jobs at over 650 leading cannabis businesses around the US. Karson was featured on the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list. Prior to founding Vangst, Karson founded On Track Adventures, a student travel organization based out of St. Lawrence University. Vangst is the cannabis industry’s leading hiring platform. Since launching in 2016, through Direct Hire & Vangst GIGS, Vangst has connected over 10,000 people with jobs at over 650 leading cannabis businesses around the US & Canada. Vangst has raised $12.5M from leading tech and cannabis investors, including Lerer Hippeau and Casa Verde Capital.
During my Senior year at St. Lawrence University, I sent an email to people in my network asking them which industries they were most interested in. Over 70% responded saying they were interested in jobs in the cannabis industry. After researching the industry, I discovered employers were hiring thousands of people and reported hiring as their number one pain point. I decided to start a business to connect cannabis employers and talent.
Oh, gosh! So many interesting things have happened to us since starting Vangst. One of the most interesting, in my opinion, has been seeing the companies who operate compliantly thrive, and the companies who operate illegally go under. In 2016, our second-ever hire, Amanda Guerrero and I, were in Los Angeles meeting with our first potential California client. We prepared for the meeting for at least a week, and showed up to the meeting very dressed up ready to present on how we could help them with their hiring. When we arrived to their “office” we were shocked to find the two owners in sweatpants and no shoes, there pitbulls and other dogs running all over the office, and there were piles of cannabis and cash everywhere. For some reason we thought it was a good idea to proceed with the presentation, and throughout the meeting the owners smoked at least 4 joints each! They are no longer in business because they clearly did not meet the compliant California regulation requirements that are now being heavily enforced! We have hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories like this from the early days of starting our business — it was crazy! Fortunately, our platform now confirms businesses licenses, and we only work with cannabis businesses who are operating compliantly, with licenses, to avoid situations like we experienced in 2016.
One time we had a client pay a large invoice in all two dollar bills. Apparently the bank was alarmed by us depositing thousands of dollars in two dollar bills and must have flagged our account and a few days later our account was shut down because we were associated with the federally illegal cannabis industry. We had to scramble to quickly find another bank. The mistake we made was not having backups; being in the cannabis industry, many vendors many unexpectedly drop you. We now have back ups for the backups with every vendor, from CRM, to bank accounts, to payroll providers.
Yes, always! Right now I am spending a lot of time with our product team. We recently hired a new Director of Product Management, David London, and his team is doing a fantastic job working through new features, which we know will help our clients hire more effectively. In addition to strengthening our platform, we are hiring like crazy. We currently have over 25 open roles internally, so I am spending a lot of time working with our leadership team to ensure we are bringing on the best people. Check out our jobs at Vangst.com if you’re interested!
A lot of awesome people have played a huge part in the Vangst journey so far. One group who has been extremely helpful and who we continue to feel so lucky to work with is our first investor, Lerer Hippeau. In addition to great advice, consulting, and support from their entire team, they have connected us with many other early-stage companies in their portfolio, who have always been very helpful to us.
We refer to everyone we place into a job as a “Vangster”, and we throw tons of events for our Vangsters. This has been a very powerful and inexpensive marketing strategy for us as Vangsters refer other future Vangsters to us.
Give your team credit and recognition for everything (because they deserve it). I see a lot of CEO’s out there with huge egos, who don’t give their team credit for anything. The reality is that any entrepreneur or CEO is only as great as the team they have behind them, so making sure you’re constantly giving your team credit for all of the work they are doing is really important.
Wow, tough question. In an effort to not answer like everyone else I am going to go out on a limb and say I would start a movement to help everyone in the world exercise at least 5 days per week. I by no means think I lead the “healthiest” lifestyle; I travel more than two weeks per month, rarely get the right amount of sleep, and I’m addicted to sugar, but finding time to exercise daily has made a massive difference in my life. Days I do not exercise, I am far less energetic, far less focused, and just not on my A Game. In addition to the health benefits, there are so many mental benefits to exercising, and if everyone prioritized it, I think the world would be a better place with healthier and happier people!
@vangsttalent (twitter & instagram)