Interview with Cathrine Andersen (CanvasDropr)
CanvasDropr is a visual collaborative web based application – a virtual meeting table.
I interviewed Cathrine Andersen, CanvasDropr co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and thirty third in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Cathrine!
As you put it, CanvasDropr is like Google Docs for images and videos. Tell us more.
CanvasDropr is a visual collaboration tool. Imagine how many people and companies use text based co-editing and collaboration tools like Google Docs every day. Now think about many people work not only with text but also need to work real-time across distances with visuals such as images, videos, Photoshop files, etc. CanvasDropr makes that possible; a virtual meeting table where you can see everything your collaborators put on the ‘table’ and where everyone can comment, edit and draw, etc. at the same time.
What made you and co-founder, Christian Rasmussen, decide to start working on CanvasDropr?
Christian and I started working on CanvasDropr in the summer of 2011 – we were both done with university and doing consulting jobs. We were quite bored in our jobs and wanted to do something great. Christian had been working on a prototype for CanvasDropr for some months and asked me whether I was up for working with him on that project. I was psyched and we talked about everything for a couple of weeks, bought two tickets to go to Hong Kong and South Korea to start testing it around universities and schools. It’s safe to say that our core target group has changed a bit since then but this served as a great kick-off for CanvasDropr and a good place to test and get feedback.
How long have you known your co-founder Christian?
Christian and I have been friends for 6 or 7 years already and therefore we knew each other quite well before we started doing business together. This has been very valuable in this rollercoaster ride that we’ve been through together :)
With feedback from both consumers and businesses, you have undertaken a total redesign and rethought the concept and product over the last few months. How different is CanvasDropr from first launch?
CanvasDropr has changed A LOT in the past year. CanvasDropr started out as an easy way to exchange images and videos real-time in private or public. We tested the early alpha version around universities in Asia and that’s where we got our very early traction and feedback. Until December or so we were working with these initial users and everything we kept hearing was how this platform would be so useful as a collaboration platform for more professional use. After a while we simply had to react – companies were calling us up asking specifically if they could use it for real-time visual collaboration. Some of our very early thoughts included the potential use for both private, business and educational purposes but it was too broad to start out with.
From January we started working with a number of companies and included the feedback from the many early private users who had been testing the platform early on and released a complete make-over of CanvasDropr in late April 2012. With the new CanvasDropr it seems we’ve hit something that truly solves a pain for a lot of professional users and we’ve increased user signup and retention remarkably. It’s tough to change the product so drastically and to pivot in this way but for us it was certainly a great decision! Apart from hitting a sweet spot with business users, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the edu space; both K-12, post-graduate and among both teachers and students.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing CanvasDropr?
This question is best answered by Christian, Co-founder and CTO. One critical and complex part of CanvasDropr is the synchronous behaviour and the protocol to ensure this real-time experience. The team has been working non-stop to optimize the experience. Furthering the cartesian coordinate system built as the backbone of each canvas was a major challenge in the development of CanvasDropr. The team built CaRTS, the Cartesian Real-Time System, which is a unified generic communication protocol to ensure a solid and sound visual representation on each user’s screen.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
5 years ago I was 19 years old and I had just started studying business administration. I didn’t know what a startup was, I didn’t know anything about the stuff we’ve been working with for the past year and a half. Looking back maybe a year from now there’s a lot of things that would have been useful to know. The most valuable lesson that we have learned is how important it is to work systematically with user feedback in order to avoid developing features in the wrong direction. When we started working with cohort charts, measuring use and implementing a feedback loop in the development process, we quadrupled user retention over 8 weeks.
Have you picked up any tips from other startup founders?
We’ve learnt a lot from Dropbox founder, Drew Houston and the experiences he’s shared (e.g. on Slideshare) about learning from users, measuring the right things, maximizing viral effects and much more.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
We just took the leap over the great pond and are currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area and are really excited about the new opportunities this (still temporary) move brings along.
Can you convince the reader to start using CanvasDropr in under 50 words?
If you ever needed a tool to show people something visually over a distance or work with people located in different places around the world on text, images or video then CanvasDropr is your new favorite tool.
Finished reading? Check out CanvasDropr!