André Swanston ’99 is a tech entrepreneur and innovator who directs much of his philanthropy to help empower underserved people. He has become known as “Mr. Exit” for his ability to forecast industry shifts, identify opportunities, and take calculated risks.
Swanston, along with Alex Geis ’00, co-founded the successful data marketplace platform Tru Optik in 2013. As the major stockholder, Swanston sold the company in 2020 to TransUnion, making it one of the top 10 largest acquisitions for any Black American CEO and founder.
He recently formed the Swanston Organization, which comprises three divisions to advance its mission of innovation and inclusion: Swanston Labs builds new companies in-house and acquires promising startups; Swanston Family Ventures actively seeks out and invests in underrepresented entrepreneurs; and Swanston Philanthropy is an initiative established by Swanston and his wife, Michelle, to support organizations financially, creating a lasting and positive impact on society.
“The Swanston Organization is driven by three core beliefs: There is a better way to create and scale companies, there is tremendous return to be made by investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs, and it is both a privilege and responsibility to help unlock opportunity for others,” Swanston stated.
The Prep for Prep program introduced him to private schools, and he attended the Allen Stevenson School in Manhattan. There, he listened to a presentation by Pat Redd Johnson, former associate director of admissions and head of multicultural affairs at Hotchkiss. “The idea of Hotchkiss intimidated me at first, but I decided to visit. After meeting students, sitting in classes, and seeing the athletic facilities, my competitive nature kicked in, and I felt like I belonged.”
Swanston enjoyed Hotchkiss philosophy class and athletics, but his favorite activity was staying up late in Van Santvoord dorm debating random topics “with really smart kids from all over the world. We talked about religion, our social lives, sports, music, video games, and everything in between.”
Profoundly affected by two mentors in his life, Swanston notes that both are associated with Hotchkiss. “I received the School’s Zuckerberg Family Scholarship, making my attendance possible. After graduation, Lloyd Zuckerberg ’80 took me to lunch to talk about my life goals. I remember saying that one day I would pass forward the opportunity their family gave me.”
True to his word, Swanston funded the Pat Redd Johnson Scholarship to support students receiving financial assistance at Hotchkiss. He also keeps in touch with Zuckerberg, who remains a mentor.
Swanston believes that a good mentor tells you not only what you want to hear, but also what you need to hear. “Ms. Johnson supported me at Hotchkiss, but correspondingly told me when I was underachieving. She shared stories about her father and his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, speaking with pride about him and other Alphas like Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, and David Dinkins (whom she would later bring to Hotchkiss to speak). I pledged Alpha while at UConn.”
After receiving a B.A. in economics from UConn, Swanston opened a nightclub before moving to private wealth management at JP Morgan Chase & Co., becoming one of the youngest vice presidents of investments in the company’s history. At age 31, he invested his own money to launch Tru Optik.
Swanston regularly contributes to publications such as Bloomberg, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal and has received awards for his business innovation. He was appointed by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to the Board of Connecticut Innovations, which is responsible for the states’ venture fund to promote economic development and innovation.
Proud to call Connecticut home, he notes, “I love this state. Almost every amazing thing that has happened in my life has happened here—lifelong friends from Hotchkiss, meeting my wife at UConn, pledging Alpha Phi Alpha, starting my first business, and buying my first home.” Swanston actively advocates for community and minority empowerment, investment in minority and women-owned businesses, and support for both education and community-based initiatives.
In his latest endeavor, Swanston—a former Division 1 collegiate track athlete—was awarded an MLS NEXT Pro expansion soccer team. Connecticut United Football Club is set to join the league in 2025, and the team plans to play in a new waterfront stadium in Bridgeport, CT. Swanston is the first Black principal owner ever in the league and one of only a few Black owners in U.S. sports history. His ultimate goal is to be the owner of multiple sports teams.
His relationship with Hotchkiss remains an important component in all of his work. He notes that though there are many great secondary schools, few can boast the network of Hotchkiss. “For example, my cofounder in my tech startup was my dormmate in Van Santvoord, and our first angel investor was a Hotchkiss parent. Over the past 10 years, I have traveled to almost every major city in the world, and I almost always hang out with Hotchkiss alumni.”
He credits Hotchkiss for celebrating its students for whatever makes them unique. “We were encouraged to be confident in our talents whether they were academic, athletic, artistic, or otherwise. At Hotchkiss, I became comfortable in my confidence.”
For Swanston, it comes down to this: “I am more afraid of regretting not trying than I am of failing. If some people don’t doubt you, you’re not being ambitious enough.”