Sramana: This is an unusual story for that time. All of the brick and mortar companies were trying to get online, but they did not know how to do it. Today it is a no-brainer. Every little company is online with their e-commerce sites. It’s so easy now.
Andrew Swinand: We would sit there and have people tell us what we wanted and needed. We just did not have the perspective to know whom to listen to. In late 2000, Procter and Gamble saw the market crash and various key people left. They ended up pulling the funding for the project. In late 2000, I found myself looking for work in San Francisco, which was a bad time to be looking for work in that city! The population declined by 10% that year.
I sent an email to everyone I knew telling them that I needed a job. I heard about a new company being formed called Starcom [MediaVest]. I got introduced to Rashad [Tobaccowala] and we spent a day together. I had digital experience, so I joined Starcom to help them start th eir digital group. I ended up staying there for almost 12 years. Rashad built that practice to about 70 people. I then moved to Starcom proper and became president of the company. When I joined Starcom, we had $8 billion in billings, and by the time I left we had become the world’s largest agency with 110 offices and had $42 billion in billings. We were the largest digital player in the world.
Sramana: When did you leave Starcom?
Andrew Swinand: In April 2011.
Sramana: I presume that brings us to the Cardinal Path story?
Andrew Swinand: It does. I did not join Cardinal Path at its inception. I started an incubator called Abundant Venture Partners with Eric Langshur. Eric was a president of a division of United Technologies as well as at Bombardier, which is a Canadian aerospace company. In 1998, his son had been born with a heart defect. Eric was overwhelmed with phone calls and emails, and he was sitting in a hospital room wanting to share pictures of his son. He ended up programing a website to post and share pictures to keep everyone else updated on what was going on.
All of the other parents in the waiting room asked if he could do the same thing for them. He ended up programing websites for all of the parents in the waiting room. He then got a call from the hospital saying that they heard he had a business building websites for people so they could share pictures of their loved ones that were in the hospital. Eric made the decision to quit his job. His wife was a pediatrician, and she quit her job. They then started a company called CarePages. Their son has had his 15th birthday, and they exited CarePages about three years ago.
Eric and I were at YPO together and were talking about what we should do next. We were fixated on the idea of abundance and scarcity. At Starcom we were the world’s largest media agency, yet we were in our third year of no raises. To me, Eric’s story exemplified the idea of abundance, of putting good into the world and getting good back. We made the decision to start the incubator to work with early stage entrepreneurs to help them get a start.