Meet ILGM's New CEO

ILGM HQ is abuzz with change! Creativity and high spirits flow, thanks to our new CEO, Ernst Rustenhoven. I caught up with Ernst over coffee and a smoke to discuss the excitement and innovation he's sparking.

Meet ILGM's New CEO

Here at ILGM HQ, change is in the air! There’s a palpable burst of energy buzzing around the office. Creative juices are flowing, and spirits are high. 😉 (pun intended) 

Much of this newfound drive to shake things up and innovate comes from one man: Our new CEO, Ernst Rustenhoven. 

To get the scoop on why everyone’s buzzing about his arrival and what Ernst is bringing to the ILGM party, I sat down with him for a conversation over coffee and a smoke.

Herb: Ernst, you’ve been with us for about a month, and we couldn’t be more excited to have you on the team. Could you share a little about yourself with our readers? 

Ernst: Yes! Thank you all for the compliment and the warm welcome. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with you all and look forward to what's ahead. 

I'm 36 and living in Amsterdam with my partner. 

My love for adventure really defines a lot of who I am. Whether it’s snowboarding through fresh powder, catching the wind while kite surfing, soaring with paragliding, or just pushing myself in the gym, I’m happiest when I’m active. 

I’m the youngest of four brothers. You could say that taught me a lot about navigating life with a sense of adventure and resilience, hah! 

When it’s time to recharge, there’s nothing quite like South Africa for me. The place has a way of offering both adventure and tranquility, which is just what I need to refocus and get inspired.

I also have a deep love for electronic music and the vibrant energy of festivals, and I treasure sharing those moments with friends. Back home in Amsterdam, you can often find me relaxing with friends on my boat, cruising along the canals. It’s these moments of connection and relaxation that balance out the thrill of adventure.

I'm a firm believer in personal freedom, especially concerning natural products like cannabis. ILGM's ethos of empowering individuals to cultivate their own high-quality cannabis freely aligns with my own values. It's about giving people the choice and the means to shape their lives as they see fit, and I'm excited to contribute to that mission.

Herb: Alright, that gives us a glimpse of Ernst as a person. Let’s switch gears. Can you dive into your professional journey a bit? 

Ernst: Absolutely. I earned my MSc in Business Economics from the University of Amsterdam and kicked off my career in investment banking about 15 years ago. My early days were all about advising companies on their growth strategies, in particular through mergers and acquisitions. This experience was foundational, but my passion really lies in the e-commerce sector, especially with consumer brands.

My next chapter was as the Head of Business Development at a global e-commerce scale-up. It was an exciting time, being at the forefront of helping e-commerce businesses grow and navigate their challenges. Afterward, I transitioned into the venture capital scene with Slingshot Ventures, where I invested in various high-growth online consumer brands and served on the boards of multiple companies, contributing to their strategic direction and growth.

Currently, I'm also involved with Asif Ventures as an Advisory Board Member. It’s a pre-seed venture capital fund driven by students and supported by a university, which I find incredibly energizing for fostering early-stage innovation, and working with young, ambitious people. Additionally, I am a non-executive director at Wasteless, a Tel Aviv-based retail tech company focused on minimizing food waste in the retail sector.

Each role has offered me valuable perspectives on the tech and e-commerce landscapes, and I’m excited to bring these insights to our work here.

Herb: Jumping into a new industry can be quite an adventure. What were your initial thoughts about the cannabis world?

Ernst: You know, during my teenage years, I had my fair share of experiences with cannabis. But as life got busier, especially around my university days, it became an occasional thing—maybe a few times a year. So, I wouldn't say I'm an expert on the industry by any means, but I'm definitely not a stranger to the product either.

Recently, I had the chance to dive a bit deeper into this world with some of our team members at Spannabis. It was an eye-opener, to say the least. It's hard to describe, but imagine a blend of a professional trade fair with the spirited atmosphere of a cannabis festival. 

It was fascinating to see the sheer number of people and companies so deeply invested and passionate about what they do. It’s an exciting industry, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know it and the community around it much better.

Herb: What was it that made you decide to join ILGM as CEO?

Ernst: Moving into the CEO role after 6.5 years as an early-stage investor felt like a natural next step for me. I've been itching for a new challenge, and while I haven't led a company before, I believe I'm ready for it now. Over the years, I've crafted a vision of leadership and company growth that I'm eager to implement. The timing with ILGM couldn't have been better.

The mission of ILGM really struck a chord with me. I'm a firm believer in personal freedom, especially concerning natural products like cannabis. ILGM's ethos of empowering individuals to cultivate their own high-quality cannabis freely aligns with my own values. It's about giving people the choice and the means to shape their lives as they see fit, and I'm excited to contribute to that mission.

Herb: What’s your take on ILGM's current standing as a company and its brand identity?

Ernst: ILGM has an impressive legacy, a solid track record that speaks volumes. Although I have to say, I do see the potential for us to become even more central within the marijuana home-growing community.

The passion within our team is infectious. It’s clear there’s a deep love for what we do and a vast pool of knowledge about cannabis cultivation that we’re all tapping into. It’s a solid base that makes me optimistic about our future. I’m really looking forward to exploring these opportunities together with the team.

Ernst kite surfing

Herb: Looking ahead, what’s your big dream for ILGM?

Ernst: My vision? I see ILGM becoming the ultimate hub for anyone and everyone in the marijuana home-growing scene. A place where quality meets expert knowledge meets fun. With that, I mean a place where we'll offer the best products and solid advice through engaging content, surrounded by a passionate and welcoming community. It’s about being a resource for both newcomers and experts alike. In my opinion, our main priority, and our “raison d’etre,” is to make our customers happy. A company that is unable to do that will eventually be out of business. 

I'm looking forward to bringing in new growers with fresh ideas while respecting the legacy of those who've been at this for years. ILGM has been a significant part of the industry for over a decade, and I see us continuing to respect that legacy as we move forward.

Herb: With all the changes happening, how do you see the future of the cannabis industry, the community, and the way people consume cannabis evolving?

Ernst: It’s an interesting time for cannabis, really. With legalization gaining ground and the conversation around it changing, it’s starting to find a more regular spot in people’s lives for health or just the sheer enjoyment of it.

What’s coming? More innovation, definitely. The way we grow the cannabis plant is getting smarter every day, with a big nod to applying the latest science in a sustainable way. 

And with everything more out in the open, I’m seeing the conversation around cannabis progress to a higher level as well. The way the community is changing its vocabulary and wants to learn more about the details and finer points of cannabis cultivation.  

Growers are also recognizing that quality truly matters. They’re getting wiser while the industry has more to offer than ever before. I feel we need to follow that trend.