SMG Exec Departs to Start Venture Partnership Firm

Andrew Swinand Steps Down as President-Global Operations

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Without a doubt, ad land can't resist the lure of venture investment.

This month, yet another Madison Avenue exec will leave the agency world to launch a venture project: Starcom MediaVest Group exec Andrew Swinand has resigned his post as president-global operations to start a venture partnerships firm.

Andrew Swinand
Andrew Swinand

Mr. Swinand, with three friends, are building a yet-to-be-named firm to make angel investments and provide oversight and direction to startups that tackle social ills. Mr. Swinand is the only marketing guy in the group; he'll provide the know-how after 11 years with the Publicis Groupe media network and a stint in brand management for Procter & Gamble Co.

The firm has already made investments in two startups: Education Funding Partners, which acts as agents for public schools; and Cellucomp, a materials company producing carbon fiber alternatives from root vegetables.

"This is an opportunity to take some of the learnings I've had here to help solve social issues," Mr. Swinand said. Before marketing, he was an officer in the U.S. Army. "We're looking to fund our own ideas or to invest in entrepreneurs that bring us opportunities. We're looking to be partners and roll up our sleeves and help."

Another longtime adman, Michael Duda, left Deutsch last fall as partner-chief corporate strategy officer to start the marketing consultancy and investment fund Consigliere with NBA All-Star Steve Nash. Meanwhile, a number of agencies have also begun to launch their own venture arms.

"I see a lot of venture people -- everyone's looking for the next Google," Mr. Swinand said. "What we're looking for is the friction or gaps where we can help."

Mr. Swinand, who will finish out the month at SMG, reported directly to CEO Laura Desmond. He said Ms. Desmond and Publicis Groupe Media Chairman Jack Klues were fully aware of and continue to support this new endeavor. SMG has not yet named a replacement for Mr. Swinand. In the meantime, Iain Jacob, SMG president of global innovation and Europe, Middle East and Africa executive director, and Thierry Jadot, CEO of SMG France, will split global operations duties.

However, this marks the third departure from Starcom Mediavest Group's executive board in the last six months. Sean Finnegan, former SMG president-chief digital officer, decamped late last year in what was deemed a "mutual decision" and reemerged as CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Geomentum. Jill Kelly, former global director of corporate communications for SMG, recently took on a new position at Publicis Groupe sibling Digitas.

Mr. Swinand said his family and the post's demanding travel schedule influenced his decision to leave SMG. He will continue to be based in Chicago. His venture partnership firm's remaining partners include Eric Langshur, former CEO and co-founder of health-care social network CarePages; John Sinclair, former director of research for Fidelity Management and Research; and Brad Greenwald, CEO of DLF Capital in Denver.

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