Donn Carlo Gamboa: Breaking Into Entrepreneurship At A Young Age Beyond Conventional Strategies

Donn Carlo Gamboa
Donn Carlo Gamboa
CEO & Co-founder, White Cloak

“I’ve always wanted to start my own business, something that I’d create from the ground up,” Donn Carlo Gamboa began talking as he shared his success journey on being the CEO and Co-founder of White Cloak, a leading fast-growing startup software development company in the Philippines.

I guess it’s the one common thing that every aspiring entrepreneur must be born with—having a clear vision and a strongresolve to make things happen.

“Both of my parents are successful entrepreneurs with different lines of businesses, so I developed a business sense at a very young age but didn’t want to just continue my parents’ legacy,” he continued.

People sometimes assume that entrepreneurs from a well-off family have it easy because of their access to capital and connections. In stark contrast with the poor assumption, being able to start from a clean slate entirely on your own in a world with readily available assets just turns the whole scenario upside down. And this is where Donn happened to break the stereotype.

The Downfall and The Windfall

Even though a stable, lucrative career path was his for the taking, Donn did not take the paved road. Just like other inspiring entrepreneurs out there, he has his fair share of sacrifices, massive financial losses, and the pain of stumbling and getting up.

He was 25 when he hit the road of entrepreneurship.“Before White Cloak, I was a financial analyst who automated some of our reports using programming. As I relied mostly on online resources, I conceptualized this idea of building an investment recommendation system—a stock screener but designed for laymen with no background in the stock market.” While conducting a feasibility study, he hit a wall in developing a sound business plan. Hence, instead, he decided to bootstrap a software company with his school friends and used his house as their office for a few projects they got from asking peers and cold calling prospects. Donn exhausted all his skills to prop up the small firm that he even self-learned and specialized in iOS development to fill in the lacking role.

He was 26 when he had his greatest losses. They eventually acquired big projects from an established firm which required them to build prototypes for free. Because they were only a budding firm with no portfolio, they bought into the deal and hired a couple of new developers. Rotten luck, the projects did not materialize, which incurred a huge loss of investment. Everything crumbled down when all except from Donn and his first employee, Miguel, parted ways to look for new career opportunities. Just when they thought it was already their breakthrough, things unexpectedly went down into flames. “I lost all my savings including the money I borrowed from my parents to pay the extra workforce that we later had to let go of,” he let on.

During his lowest point in life, he had Miguel who believed in him despite the defeat, and so Donn remained steadfast to his dream. Back at square one, they hustled for two years, taking smaller projects at a breakeven price just to build a portfolio.“I did the legwork of developing the iOS app and took on multiple hats from admin to sales, while Miguel took care of Android apps and quality assurance” he explains their setup.

He was 28 when he got his first hundred million pesos of annual sales. Determined to get a second bite at the cherry, Donn speculated on how to scale up their business and be more visible. “I saw an online ad about a software development competition to solve a problem within 24 hours. I realized that it would be the perfect way to market our skills without having to pay anything.” Donn continues as he shares his turning point. With a superb, fully-functional prototype, his team won their first national hackathon on a landslide victory. The panel of judges were so impressed that they offered one of their biggest IT projects yet – an online banking app developed from the ground up. In a span of six months, they did a public launch of the new banking app which garnered multiple international awards in its first three years.

Donn and his team literally went from rags to riches in just a few months. The client awarded White Cloak as one of their major partners in their radical digital transformation. Not long after, even some of the nation’s biggest conglomerates took notice of their work. “With zero budget on marketing, we were able to expand our customer base just from word of mouth,” he proudly says.

Today, White Cloak has over 140 full-time professional innovators. With their successful projects in diverse industries, Donn was able to draw their firm as a premier software development firm in the country.

White Cloak as An Innovation Company

Leading from the front, Donn turned White Cloak as an innovation company, being proactively involved in their clients’ tech strategy and implementation. There are many unique strategies that made them stay in their laurels.

He says, “Commitment is probably one of the most important values for me. There are many external variables that could impact the project’s goal and timeline in software development. That is why commitment becomes the glue that holds everything together. Our clients know the intricacies of IT projects very well, and that’s why our team’s formidable commitment is one of their top reasons for always choosing White Cloak.”

Donn credits company culture as the key to making talent scalable. Their consistency in project delivery stems from meticulous hiring process, rigorous training, and superior project management methodology. Moreover, White Cloak uses a framework-driven approach, which is instrumentalin replicating success over a greater number of projects.

The Roadmap Moving Ahead

As a leader, Donn envisions a future for White Cloak to become the top-of-mind when it comes to innovations partners, in the same way that Apple is for high-end consumer devices.“As an individual, building my own tech product company is definitely in my pipeline. Alongside, I’m eager to apply my tech expertise to support my personal advocacies—just like my original dream to build an investment recommendations platform,” he concludes.