Southeast Alum Excels as Entrepreneur, Co-Founds Silicon Valley Company

Anders Tjernlund, a successful entrepreneur and Silicon Valley venture-funded company co-founder who began his journey in marketing courses at Southeast Missouri State University, will return to campus to share his career experiences Nov. 15 as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

His presentation, hosted by the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is scheduled for noon to 1:15 p.m. in Glenn Auditorium of Dempster Hall. He will discuss the development of SwiftStack as well as his experiences with companies in Silicon Valley and abroad.

“It has been over 10 years since I visited the campus last, and I really look forward to coming back,” Tjernlund said. “I especially look forward to meeting students, hearing their ideas and thoughts on entrepreneurship and sharing my experiences.”

Tjernlund, a 1990 Southeast alumnus with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, is a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at SwiftStack, Inc., a cloud storage software company based in San Francisco, California. Leading media, life sciences, technology and web companies use SwiftStack to store and manage their most critical data. SwiftStack customers include Ancestry.com, Cisco Systems, DreamWorks Animation, eBay, PayPal and more.

He says the journey is key in an entrepreneur’s business experiences.

“The journey – versus the destination – is what makes a career as an entrepreneur fun and rewarding, and progress on that journey is done in many small steps, not giant leaps,” he said.

Tjernlund describes his life as the COO and co-founder of a Silicon Valley venture-funded company as a roller coaster ride.

“On some days, you are on the top of world. On other days, you feel like you just need to slug through the day,” he said. “What makes the difference between success and failure, however, is the team you work with, and I have the great fortune to work with some of the smartest and most experienced people in my industry.”

Tjernlund and his fellow co-founders started SwiftStack to help companies take advantage of cloud storage in their data-centers, enabling their transition to the cloud. The transition to cloud storage and computing is a transformational change for companies. He explained that what makes the transition difficult for companies is how to manage and store their data. For many companies, the data is their most critical asset.

In October, industry analyst Gartner Group positioned SwiftStack as an industry “Visionary” in their annual research report. SwiftStack was the only privately-held company to increase in both execution and vision since Gartner’s 2016 report, which was a huge accomplishment.

“It’s a reflection of the impact we are having with our customers,” Tjernlund said. “My goal is to grow SwiftStack into a large company that will have an even greater impact in our industry. We have just gotten started on that journey and have most of the road in front of us.”

When Tjernlund came to Southeast, he planned to pursue a computer science degree.  After taking a class on marketing, he switched to a business administration major, finding the classes related to the marketing option fascinating.

“What I realized along the way is that I liked the business of technology even more, especially the process – and puzzle – of building successful teams and new businesses,” he said. “In my career, I have always gravitated to building new businesses. But building something useful begins with understanding customers, their needs and wants and how they consume new products and technology.”

Tjernlund credits the knowledge he gained from experiences outside of the classroom and the support from Dr. Charles Wiles, professor emeritus of marketing, that motivated him to pursue a career in marketing and business.

“If I would point to the one thing at Southeast that made the biggest difference in my career, it was the mentorship and collaboration with Dr. Charles Wiles, who I worked with closely, both during and after Southeast. By working with Dr. Wiles, my learning extended beyond the textbooks to acquiring insights not known before. Our work was published in several advertising and marketing journals.”

He encourages students to be engaged in class and take advantage of additional learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

“Collaborate with professors on projects, research or independent studies that apply the classroom learning to ‘real life’ situations,” he advised. “Professors may reward students who participate and engage with recommendations, references and encouragement. That made a big impact for me and got me started on my career.”

Tjernlund grew up in Sweden in a town similar in size to Cape Girardeau. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, he attended Southeast. He intended to stay for only a year, but enjoyed his classes and friendships so much that he decided to stay. After graduating from Southeast, he started his career at the European offices of Hewlett-Packard. In 2000, he earned an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. He was an entrepreneur-in-residence at a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley and held executive positions at several publicly traded and venture-backed companies in the United States, Europe and Asia.

He currently lives in Menlo Park, California, with his family. They are active with animal rescue organizations and foster dogs in preparation for adoption. They enjoy hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area and supporting their children’s involvement in sports.