Cloudwise was founded by three people who were unknown to each other but who shared the same idea: “Furthering education with the best that technology can offer“. Gert-Jan, Gijs and Huig are the three entrepreneurs. They met through a joint networking company called g-company. At that time, in 2012, they were self-employed and, thanks to that network, were able to win larger contracts . “By combining our skills, we were able to offer a fully integrated solution instead of going it alone. Huig was mainly focused on sales, Gijs created our software solution and I was responsible for ensuring that the solution was a good fit for the schools we migrated”, Gert-Jan tells El Referente.
For Cloudwise, modern education deserves modern IT solutions. This is where they can help their customers. Their solution takes the school network to the cloud and provides a structured school environment without servers, where it doesn’t matter if you are at home, travelling or at school.
Currently, more than 120 people work for Cloudwise and its ‘Cool’ service is now active in 14 countries and available in seven languages, including Basque. The company is primarily focused on several countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Spain.
It is in Spain where it has big plans to expand its business, either by working with partners or opening an office in Spain to gain a real presence on the ground. “Spain is an interesting market, above all because there is great take up of Chromebooks, Google Workspace and well digitalised editorial content,” say the entrepreneurs.
For this mission, they have had support from ICEX-Invest in Spain’s Rising UP in Spain, which focuses on attracting foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up and grow in Spain. The selected start-ups receive resources to develop their business in Spain.
For this integration in Spain, Cloudwise is urgently looking for Spanish schools or IT partners working with Spanish schools that would like to test their new Cool-Check solution and give them feedback. This is what its founders told El Referente.
After the initial uncertainty caused by COVID-19, where are you now? To what extent has the use of your solution increased?
Like everyone else, we were overwhelmed. But also many schools had faith in our software and services, so we were in the right place to help our current schools work remotely and in hybrid situations. We acted very quickly to create manuals and to guide schools on how they could operate during the pandemic. This generated a large amount of interest in schools throughout Europe and also in Spain. Within just a few weeks, we brought in hundreds of schools that needed digital tools to support working from home and assisting teachers, and ensured the flow of Chromebooks and laptops into schools was properly managed.
How has education changed as a result?
There was already a trend in the Netherlands to make everything much more digital and to have schools equipped with devices for their students, so our software solution is designed for that. In some other countries, this (forced) growth sped up due to COVID-19. International interest in our suite and modules therefore skyrocketed. I believe that this trend of digitalisation in education will continue to grow rapidly, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.
And how do you think it will evolve from now on?
Schools, teachers and students have seen the benefits of making everything more digital and online. There are so many advantages that the use of devices and working online will increase.
What are your plans in Spain? Will you eventually set up an office or work with partners?
We are currently supporting some schools and districts with our solution and in talks with multiple partners to see if we can work together, either reselling our solution through them or integrating into Spanish software products to make our product even stronger for the Spanish market. We are actively looking for more partnership opportunities and see many opportunities for Cloudwise in Spain.
How is ICEX helping with this? What do you get from this programme?
ICEX assigned Javier Alonso as a mentor who really helped us to understand the Spanish school system, how schools are organised in Spain and how they are financed. He also introduced us to a partner company and talks on cooperation are now at a very advanced stage with them. It was extremely helpful to have someone by our side who knew the country and could help us with research.
What about Spanish schools? How do they rate your solution?
They like it a lot, particularly its simplicity. Teachers sometimes have IT issues, but we get a lot of praise because our solution is so intuitive.
For example, Miren Arrate Arrieta highlights “the security it affords teachers in their classrooms. You feel much more comfortable because you can see what your students are doing on their computers from your desk. It also gives you the freedom to do different classroom activities.” This explains it very well.
Where else have you taken your solution and how do you adapt it to where you are?
Many schools in Europe and the United States struggle with the same technical difficulties. Therefore, our solution is needed all over the world. But we make country-specific iterations as needed, of course. Local languages are one of the most important aspects that we have to add. Currently, we have Spanish and Basque, and we are assessing Catalan too.
A brand new module was introduced this year that allows exams to be sat digitally using a Chromebook or laptop. What are the implications of this development for your customers?
This is the latest release. We are preparing a huge launch for Spain, since we have high expectations. It’s a digital means of sitting exams on Chromebooks. It allows teachers to carry out quizzes, tests and exams in a secure environment, all on our platform, which is very intuitive and easy. The first pilot tests have been very successful and many schools are asking if they can test it as soon as possible. It’s the new way to sit exams and has many of the necessary controls built in.
To what extent do you take customer demands into account when developing new functionalities?
As a company, we are 100% focused on primary and secondary schools and many of our employees were teachers or administrators, for example. We understand schools and we also have a number of schools in our decision/advisory committee, so we try to get them actively participating in our roadmap and listen to them very carefully when designing our modules.
What product would you like to add for 2022?
Currently, we are working to connect to information systems like Alexia for Spanish students. But we’re also looking at new modules around the inventory of devices, student portfolios, and more information for teachers and administration so they can better understand the software being used in schools.
What support did you receive when you started?
We are a bootstrap company, so we managed to finance and create this company together. Our great success stems from our first customers, who believed in our solution and our approach, even though the software was not nearly what it is today. The funny thing is that the customers we started with, are still with us. We haven’t lost a single customer from day one.
And now? Who are your investors? Where are they at in that respect?
We are still in the bootstrap stage, so we don’t have any investors yet. Cloudwise have grown into a company that is now in a position to accelerate internationally and, of course, this presents new challenges that will take our adventure to the next level. We are looking at all market options at this time, so if the right investor or partner comes along, who knows.
What do you feel is essential for entrepreneurship in education? What advice would you give for those just starting out?
Listen carefully to your customers and identify their problems. Then try to eliminate those problems one by one and create something that is easy to use. Try to get inside their head and look at your product or service from their perspective. Try to improve that every day.