From The Bronx To A 9-Figure Exit

André Swanston
Exited Co-Founder of Tru Optik
1hr 9min
November 30, 2023
About the Show

"We knew we weren't going to be as well capitalized and connected as our competition, So we said to ourselves, "How do we skate where the puck is going and get there first and lock it up?"

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Andre Swanston is the former CEO and Co-Founder of Tru Optik, a data and analytics company focused on connected TV (CTV) and streaming media. Tru Optik was acquired by TransUnion for over $100 million when Andre was under 40 years old.

Andre has an incredible backstory, growing up in the Bronx as the son of immigrants from St. Kitts and Nevis. He attended a prestigious boarding school on scholarship, which opened up opportunities but also required tremendous personal sacrifice and perseverance. After dabbling in restaurants, nightlife promotion and financial services, Andre had the vision to create TruOptik when he saw streaming media was going to transform the industry.

Despite the many systemic obstacles facing Black founders in fundraising and scaling startups, Andre managed to bootstrap early operations and eventually raise VC funding for Tru Optik. He built an exceptionally diverse leadership team that out-hustled the competition. Tru Optik focused on dominating the nascent connected TV space years before it became the center of digital media. Their technology and exclusive partnerships enabled them to accelerate rapidly when streaming demand exploded during the pandemic.

Now Andre has set his ambitious sights on bringing an MLS soccer team to Connecticut by 2026. He sees huge untapped potential in making it one of the most valuable soccer clubs globally, with the state's dense population, high income, passion for sports, and strategic location in the Northeast market. His bold goals, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and commitment to his team make Andre a standout founder story.

Episode Links

Andre’s LinkedIn ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreswanston/)

Andre’s Website (https://www.swanston.org/)

Andre’s Twitter (https://twitter.com/AndreSwanston)

Tru Optik, Acquired by TransUnion) (https://www.transunion.com/)

Key Moments

Andre Swanston is the former CEO and Co-Founder of Tru Optik, a streaming data and analytics platform that was acquired by TransUnion for over $100 million when Andre was still under 40. Andre grew up as an immigrant kid in the Bronx and would go on to achieve massive success as an entrepreneur against considerable odds.

Pete Sena and David Salinas recently had the privilege of interviewing Andre on the Forward Obsessed podcast. He shared incredible stories and advice that all entrepreneurs can learn from. Here are only 5 of Andre's most important traits that startup founders should cultivating while building a business: 

1. Ambition: Why Immigrants Beat The Odds By Focusing On Education

Andre credits his immigrant background for instilling the value of education and ambition in him from a young age. "Education is the only thing that matters, right? Those families come here for opportunity." Even as a kid, Andre worked tirelessly to get a scholarship to attend a prestigious NYC prep school. He saw education as his ticket to success, and wasn't afraid to make major personal sacrifices like commuting over an hour each way to Manhattan every day as a 12 year old. 

Immigrants often beat the odds because they laser focus on achievement from childhood. Even if you come from a privileged background, approach building your startup with an immigrant's relentless hunger - as long as you find a way to cultivate that ambition, you will be capable of anything. 

2. Commitment: If You Aren't Terrified, You Aren't Worth Investing In As An Entrepreneur

Andre believes the best founders are those willing to risk it all. As an investor now, he says "If you're all in, if it ain't going to hurt, if you're not absolutely terrified of what you're doing, then you're not hungry enough.” He argues that entrepreneurs in their 30s or 40s with responsibilities like mortgages and families are more driven to succeed because they have so much at stake. The sheer terror of failure keeps you hungry and hustling. If you aren't placing big bets as a founder, you'll never produce outsized returns.

Andre Swanston On Forward Obsessed

3. Vision: Our Wifi Password Was The Amount We Sold Our Company For 10 Years Later

Andre is a big believer in explicitly stating your visions and goals. When he founded Tru Optik, Andre told his team that he planned to sell the company for over $100 million. In fact, their office WiFi password was set to that exact number for all the years they worked together as a way of manifesting that future. Through a combination of strategic focus, persistence and great timing, Andre's vision ultimately became reality when Tru Optik sold 10 years later.

There is power in defining ambitious endpoints. Use mission statements, vision boards and bold pronouncements to make the future you want feel inevitable. Share your biggest dreams with stakeholders to hold yourself accountable.

Andre Swanston On Forward Obsessed

4. Endurance: Pushing Beyond All Limits To Start A Successful Company

For all his success, Andre is very transparent that the journey included immense struggle. He admits "It was brutal. Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, in every possible way that you could imagine." Twice Andre even ended up hospitalized from total exhaustion.

The lesson here is all about endurance; building a startup that grows to a 9-figure exit is not for the faint of heart. It requires more stamina, sacrifice and resilience than you could imagine. Overnight success takes years in the making; pace yourself for the marathon, not a spring. With support and self-care, you can endure even the darkest days.

 Andre Swanston On Forward Obsessed

5. Versatility: Predicting Where The Market Is Going And Getting There Before Your Competition

A key to Andre's success was foreseeing the rise of streaming video years before the world caught on. He positioned Tru Optik early as "the only company built for OTT" and "the best at Connected TV." Though it meant overlooking popular platforms initially, his long-game orientation gave Tru Optik an unassailable lead when streaming demand exploded.

The best entrepreneurs have a sixth sense for where industries are evolving. They orient around future needs rather than present trends. Study your space so you can anticipate and address emerging shifts before competitors. Claim entirely new categories that will be mainstream in time.

Andre Swanston's journey offers so many profound lessons for founders. Watch our full conversation to learn more about his remarkable immigrant hustle and success mindset. May his advice give you the inspiration and edge to defy the odds with your own startup dreams.

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