Entrepreneurs’ journey – we catch up with Danish start-up CanvasDropr
It was back in September 2011 when we first spoke with Christian Rasmussen and Cathrine Andersen, the co-founders of the Denmark-based CanvasDropr (Facebook | @canvasdropr). But nearly a year later, how have things developed for the start-up?
Very well, it seems. Nine months later the company and its innovative cloud-based media sharing app have swallowed up award after award – including the prestigious IBM Smart Camp challenge and the 2012 Best Cloud Startup award at EuroCloud Nordic – and column inches from TNW to PCWorld.
For those not in the know, CanvasDropr is a cloud application that allows multiple users to upload and organise rich media on a visual canvas – think visual mind-mapping/presentations meets Google Drive without the narrow linear flow.
With the positive outlook and go get’em attitude you would expect from modern entrepreneurs Cathrine and Christian explain to us how CanvasDropr has developed since we last spoke; how European governments appear to be opening up to entrepreneurship; and how the Euro Crisis is changing the start-up scene.
It’s been nine months since we last spoke – tell us about developments with CanvasDropr?
Since we last spoke, things have been going fast and the platform has developed in a very exciting direction. CanvasDropr started out as an image and video sharing platform and caught on pretty well with users. However, we kept getting feedback from businesses who were interested in using the technology as a collaboration platform in their organization and from teachers that could see huge potential within education.
We felt like we couldn’t ignore this. So, in the past six months we redesigned the platform with all the user insights we had gathered to create a wonderful tool making everyone, private users, businesses, students and educators, able to collaborate visually instead of just sharing files statically. This can make any project more efficient and is actually fun to work with.
The CanvasDropr platform is cantered around the canvas, a virtual blank sheet where an unlimited amount of people can upload images, videos and documents at the same time. All changes, movements and comments happen real-time on all screens connected and everything is visualized instantly. The tool has developed into a kind of “Visual Dropbox” mixed with synced collaboration possibilities known from Google Docs.
Tell us about CanvasDropr’s international growth.
The past few months have been really crazy when it comes to international growth. When we last spoke we had 30 countries on the map. Since then, we’ve added a hundred more, meaning that we now have users in 130 countries around the world.
This shows how important it is to be international from day one
This shows how important it is to be international from day one. We’re happy that we didn’t spend years developing the product in Denmark alone but have had users from all over the globe give us feedback and tell us what they think. This means the product is inherently global.
At the moment, we’re seeing good growth in China and as users started ticking in from there, the first thing we did was to set up a China-team to take care of an extensive roll-out in China coming up soon. We are doing the same for India.
One the B2B side, our first customers are from the US and is particularly popular within the field of education across the Atlantic. In Europe, the word about CanvasDropr is spreading fast within media agencies, designers and photographers in particular.
That being said, our growth starts with private users who are spread all over the world.
CanvasDropr has moved from image and video sharing into the field of B2B collaboration
CanvasDropr has morphed into a very broad tool. It is still used by a lot of people for sharing images and videos and for just having fun. However, as we have moved into B2B and education, we have of course added a bunch of new features and benefits for paying users. CanvasDropr remains free to use for anyone who wants to try it out or share up to 2GB of content.
The advantages of being a ProDropper ($9 per employee/month) is that you get to set up an organization, invite employees to join it and if you sign up now, you get unlimited storage. There are a number of different file types that are added to Pro accounts and it’s possible to create unlimited projects and invite partners and co-workers to collaborate for free.
The enterprise solution (starts at around 50 employees per organization) is where schools and larger businesses will get individual pricing, more extensive support options and much more.
For B2B and Edu users, features such as the change log and synchronous presentations for large crowds (presenter changes the slide, the slide changes on all viewers screens, mobiles or iPads at the same time) are really catching on.
How did this change come about?
The change was really pushed by our users. Our original idea was that the technology was useful in much more scenarios than ‘just’ image and video sharing and it turned out that we were right. All the feedback we got pointed in the direction that this was a much more broad tool and that we could create something to encompass a wide range of use cases, markets and industries.
Our business development team, lead by two young guys with a burning fire in their eyes, is ready to go all-in and exploit the huge potential CanvasDropr has as a tool to make teams and organizations more effective. We’re really amazed at how far listening to our customers has taken us
What’s next for the company?
Next for CanvasDropr is to keep up the international growth and to nurture the viral effect as much as possible. Our coming roll-out in China and India is something we’re looking forward to as well.
On the B2B side we will start actively pushing the platform in a number of different industries where we’re seeing stronger viral growth already. Edu is a field that sees natural growth but we also have an extensive plan to go into this market.
We’re soon launching a new feature on CanvasDropr that will allow users to add a collaborative layer to virtually any content- or file sharing service online. At the moment, only the team that knows exactly what we have in store but it will definitely by a game changer within cloud collaboration. Really.
How has the economic crisis affected the local start-up scene?
It doesn’t feel like the local start-up scene in Copenhagen is affected much by the economic crisis. Au contraire, Copenhagen seems to be buzzing with start-up enthusiasm and new companies are popping up everywhere.
Copenhagen seems to be buzzing with start-up enthusiasm and new companies are popping up everywhereThe start-up co-working space where we’re based, Founders House (@foundershouse), is swamped with companies that want a space in this invite-only, vibrant environment – and no wonder, it seems like everyone here is about to burst with ambition, drive and talent. The economic crisis doesn’t seem to be a topic among young start-up entrepreneurs locally.
However, funding is scarce and in particular the business angel funding opportunities seem to be pretty much on the down-low at the moment in Copenhagen. This might be partly due to the economic crisis but surely, the Danish “Entrepreneur Tax” is not helping. This tax means that the marginal tax rate for any shareholder with less than 10% ownership of a company is 67% – not really helpful when you’re raising smaller angel rounds to keep your start-up running as lean as possible.
Do you think it has become harder (or easier) to start a business in Europe?
It’s difficult to answer this question for Europe as a whole. The EU is starting to put more focus on making it easier to start a business in Europe – and rightly so! However, it is still very much national legislation that rules this process. Speaking only from experience in Denmark, especially the digital process of starting a new business could be improved. Having set up a Delaware corporation makes you realize how relatively inflexible the process still is Denmark. In Delaware, all it takes is an online form and a minor fee and you’re flying.
Without being an expert on the matter, it feels like the political approach to measuring and conquering the so-called ‘administrative burdens’ when setting up and running a business is still very marked by a traditional and highly academic approach. Possibly, more hands-on, qualitative, entrepreneur-driven feedback to get a feel for the actual extent of obstacles people meet when starting and running a business compared to other countries would be beneficial.
However, let’s not despair – it’s still quite easy to set up a business in Denmark and it is a topic that is being discussed everywhere in Europe. It just feels like such a drag to spend time on administrative stuff when you could be out there making your product more awesome instead.
Does the Euro crisis worry you as a young company/entrepreneurs?
The current European sovereign debt crisis is not something that we worry about as a team right now. It seems as though in a time of economic downturn and crisis, people and Governments realize that it’s important to foster entrepreneurship and enable young people to start something instead of waiting around for a job that never comes (e.g. Merkel’s proposal for quick-launch programs for start-ups as part of the six-point program to bring Europe back on track).
[The Euro crisis] It might even benefit us a bit as we see a lot of interest from young people to join our start-up and create opportunities for themselves
The Euro crisis is something that we’re aware of as a young company and we do talk about the consequences but it is not something that affects our daily lives as entrepreneurs. It might even benefit us a bit as we see a lot of interest from young people to join our start-up and create opportunities for themselves. We mostly see worried old men in black suits talking about the gloomy outlook of the economy rather than feeling the effect in our everyday lives.