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This 31-Year-Old Mapua Grad Founded One of The Country's Top EdTech Startups

From a seed round funding of $1 million, CloudSwyft is now on its way to being a truly global company.
IMAGE CLOUDSWYFT
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Imagine if you can move an institution’s entire physical computer laboratory online. Companies or schools no longer need to spend for things like computer units or office space, and students and trainees no longer need to be actually, physically present at the lab to learn. A system that transforms and fully automate lab facilities and environments onto the cloud would be extremely useful and valuable in the event of, say, a pandemic, when most schools and offices are closed and almost everything is done online. 

What is CloudSwyft

That’s exactly the concept of the Virtual Labs Platform of CloudSwyft, a startup that enables companies (or schools) to create and manage IT training, assessment, and development environments without needing to purchase and manually setup hardware and software tools. Entirely cloud-based, the platform essentially simplifies things like tech recruitment assessments, IT training, software development and the like.

The founder and CEO of Cloudswyft Global Systems Inc. is Dann Angelo De Guzman, who says he got the idea for the company after learnings from his mistakes with his first venture, RocketLabs Software, which he founded in 2012 at the age of 22. De Guzman founded that company, which he incorporated in Hong Kong, thanks to angel investors from former Microsoft and Yahoo executives from the U.S.

Now 31 years old, De Guzman is all in on this new venture. Founded in 2015, CloudSwyft is one of the fastest-growing Education Technology or EdTech startups in the country. The company claims to be cashflow positive and is currently able to sustain itself almost purely from its revenues from its customers. De Guzman is also optimistic it can hit the $10 million (P478 million) revenue milestone without raising any further capital, for now. 

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In 2020, with many businesses suffering setbacks, EdTech thrived, and CloudSwyft is no exception

“It was definitely our most productive year and it felt really good getting to see that we are able to solve the biggest problems in the higher education sector not just in the region,” De Guzman tells Esquire Philippines. “As the world gets smaller, we have had the opportunity to kickstart our global brand (and making an impact) on the education enterprise software industry.” 

Photo by Cloudswyft.

Building lasers

Born in Laguna, De Guzman is the eldest of three siblings and spent most of his growing-up years in Carmona, Cavite, where he and his family lived what he terms as a “simple middle-class life.” His father is an overseas Filipino worker in the Middle East, while his mother is a stay-at-home mom.

Attending Mapua University, De Guzman was chosen as a member of the pioneering batch of students sent on an eight-month engineering internship in Singapore, where he and his classmates worked on building laser systems for Flextronics, one of the world’s largest electronic manufacturing service companies. He graduated with a degree in electronics engineering in 2011.

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Fresh out of college, the young CEO joined Accenture Philippines’ Cloud Computing team, where, as one of the company’s youngest consultants, he designed and implemented virtualization projects for major financial institutions using VMware, Cisco, EMC, and Microsoft technologies.

Two years after setting-up RocketLabs, De Guzman became entrepreneur-in-residence at Future Now Ventures, a Filipino-Australian boutique venture capital firm focused on startups and fast growth companies.

Taking a risk with a B2B company

In April 2015, the founder was able to raise a seed investment of about $1 million (P48 million) from Future Now Ventures, Wordtext Systems Inc. (one of the largest IT distributors in the Philippines) and Kellet Mornings to establish CloudSwyft and build his team from the ground up. He says the company is founded on a vision “to build products that will solve the hardest problems in professional upskilling and higher education sector” and eventually be “a leading future-ready skills and online labs provider.” 

“Starting an enterprise software company in the Philippines is never easy,” De Guzman says. “Not that many entrepreneurs actually start B2B (business-to-business) tech companies in the Philippines. Majority are still B2C (business-to-consumer) platforms solving problems in food delivery, travel, financial inclusion, ecommerce, etc.

“It was not that very easy to raise capital, too,” he adds. “We were just fortunate Future Now Ventures and our other investors believed in our mission to shape educational transformation and they had seen our very ambitious goal to reach our global potential.”

De Guzman says the initial challenge was to ensure the sustainability of the company by generating revenues from its customers. 

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“We knew we needed to be able to have that sheer focus and discipline on commercializing our products as fast and as early as we can in the market,” he says. “We were able to overcome that challenge by building long-term relationships with our customers and partners and by taking advantage of channel and distribution strategies we can establish per country.

“The sales cycle in B2B for the corporate and education sector is also not fast and easy,” he adds. “It requires a lot of work and credibility-building. We have invested a lot in developing our relationships and by really rolling up our sleeves to learn every business culture for each of our customers and partners around the region and globally.”

A big year

In just about six years, Cloudswyft has grown dramatically thanks to its hyper-specialized focus and strategy of developing significant partnerships with industry leaders. 

The company strengthened its partnership with Microsoft in 2018 through promotions and co-sell motions across the latter’s education customers around the Asia Pacific region, particularly in Malaysia. A year later, Cloudswyft gained more attention when it onboarded more customers and partners from Singapore and Indonesia, adding to its client roster from the Philippines and Malaysia.

The year 2020 was a big one for Cloudswyft. The company was able to sign a contract with Bina Nusantara University, one of the largest and prominent universities in Indonesia; it was cited by cited by Microsoft and its regional philanthropy partner for its global skills initiative to upskill over 60,000 learners in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines; and, most significantly, it entered the global market when it became the first and only specialist organization partner from the Philippines and Southeast Asia of the U.K.-based FutureLearn, one of the largest massive open online learning providers in the world, with over 17 million learners.

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CloudSwyft is following up its stellar year with some pretty hardhitting achievements in 2021. The big news is its joint venture with Dennis Uy-led DITO CME Holdingscalled Luna Academy, a platform that would grant to certifications and diploma programs to students from top-tier local universities from companies like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and Alibaba. It has also strengthened its distribution in Indonesia and Malaysia, started client acquisitions in the Middle East, became the virtual labs platform provider for one of the largest EdTech companies in India, and forged a strategic integration partnership with Imperial College of London’s Insendi, giving it access to global business schools like the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Southern Methodist University, École des Hautes Etudes Commerciales du Nord (EDHEC), European School of Management and Technology (ESMT Berlin), Imperial College Business School, IE Business School, and more.

“All these happened with only raising that initial investment funding during the early years, without any fancy ‘Series ABC’ capital raising,” De Guzman says. “We’re just able to focus on establishing highly strategic valuable distribution channels and long-term customer relationship building.

“We attempted to raise capital in 2020, but then we experienced some growth to the point that we were able to come to a conclusion that we would probably not need further funding,” he adds. “We decided as a Team to focus on growing further and executing on our regional expansion goals for that year.” 

The top EdTech company in the country?

De Guzman says the company is “very lean and agile,” with only 25 people spread out across offices in Manila, Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.

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“Our most pressing goals that we are laser-focused on executing on is our regional and global distribution channels that has a reach of over 12,000 education institutions all over the world for our online virtual labs platform products and its future-ready skills platform.

“With what we have achieved, we think we have the right to claim that we are the top EdTech company in the Philippines and the very first enterprise software startup in the Philippines that have ever gone global this way.”

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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