Nanna and Jane Ulsøe, sisters from Denmark, have organically built their company CanvasPlanner over the last few years. They say that “being able to build a healthy work environment together as sisters is really nice”.
After working as a project manager in different countries for several years, Nanna was frustrated by the lack of visual input in project management software: “everything was very text heavy and uninspiring”.
Driven by the passion to change the way we work, Nanna founded CanvasPlanner, a software as a service (SaaS), in 2014, that helps people visualise and better communicate with their teams through post-its, notes, charts etc. displayed on a canvas.
To get started, Nanna made the decision to get loans from regional banks rather than city ones and following the venture capital path. After finding support, she contacted developers in Pakistan to start coding the first version of the software and has been working with freelancers ever since. Nanna’s sister, Jane, joined the adventure a year later.
Working as sisters, Nanna worried that finances would get between them, but she believes that there is a certain balance as the founder and the younger sister. Trust is the foundation of their cooperation. “[Jane] will always make decisions, do things and say stuff based on the best interest of both of us and our business”, said Nanna.
Jane also believes in the importance of trust: “I always tell others that they need to find a co-founder that they can really trust, I know a lot of people who have struggled because trust wasn’t there from the beginning.”
Running a business without investors made it easier for them to move at their own pace and fully understand customer needs. With their fill of ups and downs they have never let go of their project: “Our journey has taken some time, but on the other hand, it’s our business and we love it and that’s why we’re still going.”
Going from strength to strength
CanvasPlanner has been on the market for 2 years now, the software is available in Danish, English, Spanish and Portuguese. With users in more than 100 countries, there is interest in expanding internationally in 2019.
Jane said that her vision of entrepreneur has changed a lot over the years, finding it much harder than she initially expected. “You have to be comfortable with the fact that you don’t have all the answers and that was the tricky part for me,” she said.
Nanna regrets the lack of a role model, as “there was no [one] who had built a tech company that wasn’t funded by angel money or capital money. It was difficult to identify with many of the young tech male role models.” However, she does not regret approaching her business non-holistically: “You have to get money, hire a bunch of people and figure it out fast otherwise you crash, and I have seen too many people crash in the time that we have slowly been building our business.”
As entrepreneurs, Nanna and Jane received a lot of advice along the way, but they warn “all advice is free, but you are dealing with the consequences of the choices you make”.