On a trip to Africa during his time as an advisor to women- and minority-led software startups, Austin Stevenson saw people growing vegetables inside freight containers in the Kalahari Desert.
“I got curious and started peeling back the layers of the onion and found that it was the cannabis industry that was really accelerating agricultural technology,” Stevenson says.
Today, Stevenson is the chief innovation officer at Vertosa, a California-based cannabis manufacturer that has helped bring brands like Pabst, Lagunitas and Vita Coco into the cannabis arena. Vertosa has attracted big name clients with its innovative products, including fast-acting liquids and powders that can be processed from any type of extract and incorporated into nearly any recipe without altering the taste of the final product.
“In 2018, we flipped the script,” Stevenson says. “We said, ‘We just want to be hyper-focused on making and creating the best, most stable, consistent and scalable ingredient. We want to be the sugar.’”
He leads the company’s sales and tactical marketing activity while also helping guide product innovation.
“It’s really keeping my finger on the pulse of the clients, customers and brands that we work with — and then also their consumers — to ensure that we are delivering and creating new cannabis experiences with our products,” he says.