Dann Angelo De Guzman
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
CloudSwyft Global Systems, Inc.
“I believe that we are not going back to face-to-face classes, and this is where TechEd and connectivity comes in.”
When Dann Angelo De Guzman was in third year high school at the La Consolacion College in Laguna province, he joined the Aerospace Cadets of the Philippines, a student program that inculcates discipline through aviation education, leadership, citizenship and military training. He excelled in the program, reaching the rank of Captain in his squadron, and recalls enjoying the extra-curricular activities that taught him valuable leadership lessons, along with an interest in figuring out how things work, such as the ability of aircraft engines propel something into the sky.
Years later, after graduating from an electronics engineering course at the Mapua Institute of Technology that included an eighth-month engineering internship in Singapore, the former space cadet launched something of his own into the “Cloud.”
Ready for takeoff
At the age of 22, simultaneous with working as the youngest consultant set to become part of Accenture Philippines’ Cloud Computing Team, he started his very first tech startup, RocketLabs Software. He recalls: “When I was in Singapore in 2011, I attended several seminars where they talked about Cloud computing a lot, and this got me fascinated about the fact that you could run and build applications on the Cloud. So, instead of my initial plan to go into the semiconductor field, I realized that I wanted to be in the Cloud computing industry. This was something that was fresh (at the time), and something that was going to be really big.”
It was his work at the BPO company that inspired his first enterprise. Dann says: “One of my tasks was to build and customize Cloud computing and VMware (an IT solution that allows businesses to run multiple application and operating system workloads on the one server) training modules for their employees. I noticed that it took three to four months for us to manually do everything in a physical data center.
“So, I thought to myself, if a company as big as Accenture experienced this problem, there must be something here. It meant that other companies and even schools might also think of this as a problem.” He raised a very small angel round from former Microsoft and Yahoo execs in the US, which he then incorporated in Hong Kong.
By 2014, he became an entrepreneur-in-residence at Future Now Ventures, while he was still running his first company. Mentoring him was John Orrock, one of the most sought after venture capitalists in the Philippines and Australia, from whom he learned more effective business strategies and leadership skills in running companies from scratch and scaling them to the next level.
The venture floundered, however, due to what the young entrepreneur says was a lot of mistakes involving the company’s “capital table,” which determined the shares of capital among the founder and the investors. “There was really no direction,” he explains. “It was fine when it came to the product, but I lacked experience and was really super naïve with everything. It was also the first time for my early-stage angel investors, who were not professional investors. Everything was new to them as well.”
Leading in learning
Armed with lessons from this experience, he founded CloudSwyft in 2015, raising seed investment from Future Now Ventures and built his lean team of 25 from the ground up to offer products that would solve tough problems in professional upskilling and the higher education sector. The aim was to be the leading future-ready skills and online labs provider.
CloudSwyft Virtual Labs Platform digitally transforms an education institution’s physical campus computer lab facilities into fully automated Cloud-based virtual lab environments to increase productivity for students and lecturers for all their lab classes that use multiple software applications and tools, anytime and anywhere.
This was a need that was shown to be crucial, especially when the education system had to implement online learning at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In such an environment, CloudSwyft’s growth could only accelerate. Dann says: “In 2020, with Covid-19 hitting the world, EdTech companies became one of the most exciting behemoth clients in the industry. It was definitely our most productive year, and it felt really good being able to solve the biggest problems in the higher education sector. We also had the opportunity to kickstart our global brand.”
CloudSwyft landed one of the most prominent universities in Indonesia as its client, along with other major corporate customers. It was also tapped by Microsoft for its upskilling programs across the region. CloudSwyft became the first and only Philippine and Southeast Asian specialist organization partner of the UK-based FutureLearn, one of the largest open online learning providers in the world with over 17 million enrollees.
Crossing into 2021, the company formed one of most exciting local joint ventures with the publicly listed DITO CME to provide a massive national upskilling platform tailor-fit for Filipinos across the country and abroad where it partnered with top tier local universities and global technology partners Microsoft, AWS, Alibaba Cloud to launch Luna Academy.
Dann (back row in blue jacket) with some of his 25-member team, which aims to be the leading future-ready skills and online labs provider. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
This year, they also forged a strategic partnership with the Imperial College of London’s Insendi, which has given them access to the global Ivy-league business schools and more. Dann says: “All these happened with raising only that initial investment funding during the early years, without any fancy capital raising, and being able to just focus on establishing highly strategic valuable distribution channels and long-term customer relationship building.”
This is what differentiates CloudSwyft from the unicorn status that other start-ups aspire for, Dann believes. He calls CloudSwyft a “camel,” a more sustainable model where they rely on client revenue to sustain them instead of investor funds.
Looking into the shift in education from classrooms to the Cloud, he says that tech-enabled education will thrive even post-pandemic, “I believe that we are not going back to face-to-face classes, and this is where TechEd and connectivity comes in. The Philippines is already called the ‘text capital’ of the world, and we need to be able to harness that. Eventually, it will be able to level the playing field when it comes to education, and this is already a big push towards that. We just need better infrastructure for connectivity, and more institutions should also undergo digital transformation.”
Now 31, the hands-on CEO talks about the lessons he has learned along the way. “As a CEO and entrepreneur, you need to be able to think on your feet. With RocketLabs, my excitement to get things done led to some uninformed decisions, especially about my shares, and that led to more and more mistakes.
“The number one job of an entrepreneur or CEO is to make the right decisions to keep the wheel turning. Then, it is about choosing the right investors, who will give the right strategic value and contribution to the company and then, choosing the right team to work with you.”
My dad, Danilo T. De Guzman. He may not have finished college, but where and who I am today is an outcome of his hard work.
To be a globally recognized tech entrepreneur and investor. To make an impact and give back to next generation of entrepreneurs
First paying job
A student assistant at Mapua University Manila
I wake up at 5 a.m; meditate for 30 minutes; walk for an hour when I can while I listen to an audiobook and then start reading emails at 7 a.m.
I have a special skill when it comes to follow ups and cold outreach. I also play billiards.
Time spent on social media
I use social media mostly for business purposes – an hour or two maximum when necessary.