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CEO INTERVIEW: MoveUp - upskill and unlock your team’s potential

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New Success Stories  -  MoveUp

PAUL ESPINAS -  CEO


Please share with us briefly what you do.

I'm the founder and CEO of Move Up, a microlearning app that helps companies launch learning programs that drive engagement, performance, and development. My background is in digital marketing, so I use that extensive background in my day-to-day work in the company. Of course, as the CEO of a startup, I also handle partnerships, business development, basically, wearing multiple hats when needed.


What were you doing before this?

Before running the company. I was the marketing director of the biggest job portal here in Vietnam. We were handling around 8 million job seekers on an annual basis and servicing around 80,000 companies in Vietnam, both multinationals and local conglomerates and corporates.


Describe your product, how does it work?


Move Up is really a digital learning hub. For companies, we help them onboard and continuously train their teams. For experts and content creators, we help them create their exclusive Learning Hub.

   


                                                      What are the key benefits?

The key benefit for a company using Move Up is really combining your internal training with readily available, public training. Move Up also allows companies to measure engagement, completion, and achievement of teams on their internal training materials, be it on PDF, or video. A lot of companies right now put these contents on their cloud storage, without really knowing the actual impact and result of these learning materials on their employees. 



                         



Who are your closest competitors?

A lot of our customers, when we first speak with them, have a misconception that we are a marketplace. We do work with marketplaces, here in Vietnam and across the region to integrate their content in Move Up but it's only 30% of what we do. At this current moment, at least in our market, there is no direct competitor doing what we do. So, to answer that question, I think the closest competitors we have are either learning management systems or content marketplaces.



Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?

When we started Move Up, we really wanted to focus only on large corporations. In tech services, you call it white-label. We came up with the idea for Move Up in early 2020 pitched the idea to a couple of our existing customers. The first one we signed is Saigon Binh Chau, a 300 pax company here in Vietnam that was investing heavily in their training and development. Previously, they were doing offline onboarding and training for their companies. However, with the rapid growth that they were experiencing, they thought it would be more sustainable, and smarter to create a hybrid online-offline onboarding and learning program.


The primary reason for Saigon Binh Chau was really to continuously onboard. They were having an average of 20-30 new hires per month. And to also continuously train and equip new skills to their already existing 300 employees.


What motivated you to start this business?

A couple of things. First, it was my experience as the head of marketing for the biggest job portal here in Vietnam. I had an opportunity to engage with the HR directors of some of the biggest multinationals and global conglomerates here in Vietnam. Part of our initiatives in marketing was to provide added value to them aside from recruitment. So, we continuously conducted focus group discussions and surveys. One of the biggest demands in their response was for digital training and continuous training as part of their talent development programs. So back then, I knew that there was a demand in the market for something like Move Up


Ultimately, when I was deciding on what industry to focus on, the main decision-making factor was my love for education. I credit my achievements today to the scholarships I got in my schooling which allowed me to eventually get a good job and to open Move Up.


What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?

My biggest sacrifice would be my time spent with my family. And of course, the possibility of becoming a very senior digital marketing executive for a large company. Being the founder of a company in Vietnam but originally from the Philippines, it’s hard to find the time to visit home. 

I think every entrepreneur, every adult, would realize that you can't take back time. 


How did you get funded?

Initially, I bootstrapped the company and invested a couple of $100,000 of my savings in the business in the early stages. I tried out some concepts and hired the core team. Eventually, we got funded around $350,000 from a group of my friends who are serial entrepreneurs in France and here in Vietnam.


What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Well, that would be our secret recipe in the business, so I'm going to be spilling some of our secret weapons by answering this question! I guess our most successful approach in marketing was really building a community. It's easy to look at the cost per acquisition. It's also easy to look at reach and awareness as immediate impacts on the investments that we put in marketing. But what makes our marketing strategy effective and sustainable is that we make sure that everything that we do either offline or on digital platforms all revolve around being a part of our community. And we make sure we continuously provide value to that community. 


Describe a typical workday. 

A typical workday is not consistent. Every day changes. I always say that I don't believe in work-life balance. I think it's a work-life blend. My day is always packed with meetings either internal or external, but definitely, there's no typical workday. It's pre-booked most of the time, meaning all meetings are usually booked two weeks in advance. But office, home, car, there's always a part of it that is work.


Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?

There are many people who have inspired me or influenced me to push forward with the business. I think early on it was really my mom, who showed me so much perseverance, despite all the difficulties. 

We were also given an opportunity to be part of an accelerator program, which we initially joined really for business development and investment. But then the founders of that accelerator program helped us really polish our vision, most importantly, and what we're trying to achieve as an organization. I think at this point in the business, it was a very big leap for us. 


What has been your proudest achievement in the history of your business and why?

There has been a lot of awards. We were recently recognized as the best new startup in the ASEAN startup awards. 


But for me with Move Up it's really seeing the number of certificates issued in the platform. For me, that means people are learning. Secondly, the platform is effective because the completion of the courses is there. Thirdly, and most importantly, people have access to training that otherwise they wouldn’t have. Either because the cost is too high or there's no platform available in this part of the region that offers that type of experience and content. 


What is your favorite business failure, and what did you learn from it.

I think my biggest business failure so far is really thinking like I'm still in the corporate world. I did this more at the beginning of my startup journey. I was thinking and operating like a big conglomerate, without the backing of big brand multi-million dollar budget. I think a lot of startup founders that I meet here in Vietnam also have experience working for conglomerates. The biggest fault or failure I've had in the beginning is thinking, acting, and making decisions as an executive in a corporate entity. Which is completely different from how you should think behave and decide as a startup founder.


If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?

That would be 12 years ago. I would tell him, look, you're in a perfect place right now. Try to learn as much as you can. But the toughest periods, you're going to experience. Your most memorable experiences you're ever going to have will be in your 20s and early 30s. You will never be ready for it. It's going to come. But eventually, you'll realize why they happen, and they're going to be very fulfilling the day you realize why.


What is one productivity hack that you can't live without?

A lot of people will disagree with me, but in a startup, it’s the exact opposite of how corporates work where there is so much bureaucracy. In a startup, you need to be a fast-thinking decision-maker.


So, for me, the answer to that question is: “what would Machiavelli do?”. Because in a setting where things happen so rapidly, decisions need to be made much faster than in a corporate setting. You need to be smart and decisive with anything and everything that happens.



MORE ABOUT PAUL:

First job - Internship at Procter and Gamble

Someone you admire- My previous boss Jonah Levey.

Favorite book - Steal the fire

Favorite film - The greatest showman

Favorite music - Nina Simone's jazz

Favorite author - Paulo Coelho

Favorite gadgets - Mobile phone

Last holiday - Three years ago, and every day.

When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you?  At work. I'm always at work!



FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Website : www.moveup.app, or 

Download Move Up App on iOS or Android.

LinkedIn : MoveUp or Paul Espinas 



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