Andrew Swinand is co-founder of Abundant Venture Partners and is also a co-founder of The Owned Agency. He is currently leading Cardinal Path, a digital analytics agency. Prior to forming Abundant Venture Partners, Andrew was president at Starcom MediaVest Group, the world’s largest media agency, with over $40billion in billings and 110 offices. Andrew began his professional career as an account supervisor at BBDO, then served as a brand manager in Procter & Gamble’s beauty care division, later becoming marketing director for reflect.com, P&G’s first e-commerce company. Andrew proudly served his country as a platoon leader in the U.S. Army after receiving his degree from the Wharton School of Business.
Sramana: Andrew, let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where do you come from? What are the roots of your entrepreneurship?
Andrew Swinand: I was born in Camden, New Jersey. I have two older brothers who are identical twins. Both of my parents were from big Catholic families in the Philadelphia area. We lived in New Jersey until middle school when we moved to Washington D.C., followed by a move to Massachusetts during high school.
When I was 17 I joined the Army. I had good grades and no money. The Army paid for me to go to school. I ended up going to Wharton and the Army paid for it. I stayed in the Army for eight years and moved around the East Coast a lot. I lived in Germany for three years, and I was there when the [Berlin] Wall came down. It was a great learning experience for me in terms of leadership and perspective.
Sramana: What happened after Germany?
Andrew Swinand: My wife, Laura, had come over to live with me in Germany. She was a curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I told her that if she moved to Germany to be with me, the next move would be hers. She got a scholarship to USC to get a doctorate in art history, so we moved to Los Angeles.
My wife grew up in Santa Barbara, but I did not know anybody in the area. My dad worked in business and my mother was an artist, so I figured that advertising would be a great mix of the two genres. I studied marketing at Wharton, so I started networking and looked for a job. I researched agencies in L.A., and I picked the six that I thought were the best. I applied to the alphabetically and I got a job at BBDO.
Sramana: What year was this?
Andrew Swinand: This was in 1994.
Sramana: The Internet boom had not really happened yet.
Andrew Swinand: I think Omincon existed, but the boom had not happened. Working at BBDO was an incredible experience. Steve Hayden was a brilliant mind there. I started at 26, whereas everyone else was 22. I was promoted from assistant account executive to account executive in three months. I was working on new store openings for Pizza Hut, and I had an idea that increased the success rate from 46% to 96% in three months. They hired me to work at their headquarters for six months via the agency, which got me promoted. I worked on their national marketing programs. When I got back Pizza Hut asked that I run the account, so I was promoted to account supervisor after just nine months.