IBTM World recently announced the winner of its inaugural Event Business Accelerator, a mentorship and investment program for entrepreneurs in the meetings and events industry. Nine finalists took part in two months of workshops, webinars, and personal interviews with industry experts. The $5,500 cash prize and ongoing support went to Canvas Planner, a new tool for event planners which enables them to create a visual path for collaborative project management.
Jane Houlind Ulsøe, who with her sister Nanna created Canvas Planner, spoke to MeetingsNet about the experience and where they will go from here.
MeetingsNet: What is your experience in the meetings industry?
Jane Houlind Ulsøe: I worked with events in the movie industry and my sister Nanna’s background is in both small- and large-scale events as well. We co-founded Red Lab Experience, a Meeting & Event Agency, with Majbritt Sandberg from Denmark. Our experience with that collaboration made it clear that we should incorporate event planning into Canvas Planner.
MN: What challenges did you create Canvas Planner to solve?
Ulsøe: Both of us experienced a work life with too many inefficient meetings, e-mails, and interruptions. We felt that work culture didn’t use digital tools enough, and Canvas Planner is our solution to this issue. When you look into the way we interact online with people outside work, images, gifs, and videos are often preferred over text. People understand visual information
We hope that Canvas Planner can bring in a new perspective to the industry, and that people are ready to change their habits to be more productive. And I want to emphasize that being more productive doesn't mean that we should work more—we should spend the time we gain as time off to avoid stress and overload.
MN: How did the IBTM event incubator help your company?
Ulsøe: The exposure at the IBTM Event Business Accelerator Zone was amazing, both on stage and because we were provided a pod that made it possible to show Canvas Planner to a lot of people. We were lucky to be mentored by Richard John from Realise Me, who came up with some excellent suggestions for my pitch. The accelerator judge, Jason Allan Scott, has also offered to mentor us going forward. That was a huge surprise and we are so excited because he has so much knowledge about the event industry and a network that we can only dream of.
MN: How does the tool work?
Ulsøe: The program combines the visual canvas, or whiteboard, with task management. You can structure your work using boxes designed to resemble Post-it Notes and add them to the canvas. Your team now has a shared visual overview of the project and workflow in real time.
MN: How does pricing for the tool work?
Ulsøe: Canvas Planner has a monthly or annual subscription and starts with a free 14-day trial. MeetingsNet readers can use code IBTM-MN (activate by writing the code in the chat function) to get a 46-percent discount.
MN: What companies are using Canvas Planner so far?
Ulsøe: We are brand new within the meeting and event industry and most of our users are located in Denmark, but we have customers like Radisson Blu Hotels, CPH Lounge, and Philip Morris.
MN: What plans do you have for Canvas Planner for 2020?
Ulsøe: Event planning is one of the most stressful jobs in the world; I read recently that it is just slightly less stressful than running into burning buildings! We want to change that, and we believe that visualizing projects with a simple tool like Canvas Planner is an obvious way to do it.
MN: Can you share anything you learned from your journey so far?
Ulsøe: First, remember that advice is free for others to give but you alone have to live with the consequences. Second, don’t try and do it alone. Find people who are smarter, more experienced and talented than you to work with. Third, everyone makes lots of mistakes when starting a business—it’s how you learn. Try to recover fast and don’t be too harsh on yourself. Fourth, make sure your family's financial situation is sorted (or have a weekend job) so you can focus on building the new business without failing because of cash-flow problems. And fifth, everything takes longer than you expect.
Jane Houlind Ulsøe, cofounder of Canvas Planner