Starting a business can be simple, fun and impactful – and the founder of Cuttles is out to prove it

5 min read
06 Mar 2020

e spoke with Christian Nicolai Thiesen, founder and CEO of Cuttles, to learn about his second-time startup journey, what it takes to start a business in 2020, and the importance of a good user experience when building products people love.

Admin tasks are not the most enjoyable part of starting a business. From business plans and models to financials, these can be daunting projects and time consuming to complete. Those looking for advise on the best way to start a business can find hundreds of thousands of resources available online, ranging from twelve-step listicles to business school textbooks, but these can make for dense reading, and it’s difficult to find information on starting and scaling a business that’s not only easy to understand but also fun to use. 

These were some of the problems Christian Nicolai Thiesen, founder and CEO of Cuttles, faced when starting his first company with his two partners. As CTO of Byrd, a photo and video-sharing app for news outlets, he struggled to find easy-to-use tools for reporting on the business’s health for their investors.

“When we started the company, I used to spend hours online on how to write the perfect business plan,” says Christian. “It was hard to find something that was understandable if you don’t have a business degree. Also, a lot of things have changed in the last ten years in the startup scene, and there are a lot of resources with outdated practices online today.”

Cuttles, founded in January 2019, is a self-described startup builder. “An idea and business-planning tool that’s easy to use and understandable,” Christian says. While developing the idea in Lisbon (after leaving Byrd in 2018), he wanted to learn about the challenges other founders were facing. “After doing market research, we actually found out that in at least 50 percent of cases, startup failure has something to do with poor business planning,” he says. “We can’t say if they would have survived if they had a business plan, but some of them might have pivoted or done something else sooner.” This is why Cuttles provides tools that help founders plan better businesses. “We hope Cuttles can help a lot more startups who commit to doing something. Most of all, we want this to be a good user experience and to make planning a business simpler and more fun.”

We hope Cuttles can help a lot more startups who commit to doing something. Most of all, we want this to be a good user experience and to make planning a business simpler and more fun.

The content available on the web app is a hand-selected mix of industry best-practice documents, including the business model canvas, financial forecasts and business plans. Those who will benefit the most from Cuttles are founders of SaaS startups or people looking to grow their businesses exponentially, though anyone starting a business can use it. “Much of the content follows the lean startup methodology,” says Chief Customer Officer Julie Navntoft. “We have traditional business plan templates, but these are focused on making the content less heavy and boring. It’s not just easier for people to make plans, but it’s also for those who don't want to read thirty pages when they can see good information on one.”

The web app is designed to be a founder’s partner all the way from just starting out to reaching scale. That sometimes involves taking on investment and having all the necessary documents investors want to see, such as pitch decks, one-pagers and cash-flow forecasts. Without a designer, it can be difficult and time consuming for founders to make these on their own, so Cuttles formats these documents and makes them easy to download and share via private or public links. In the future, entrepreneurs will be able to connect with investors directly through the web app.

Christian’s personal focus on providing a great user experience is core to how the product is built. In the end, he believes that simplicity is the most important. “There are already tools out there, but they are not great in terms of user design and experience,” he says. This is why Cuttles incorporates adaptive design principles, allowing the user to personalize their experience from the first interactions with the program, including adding their own logo and brand experience. There’s also a personal digital assistant called a Cuttlefish (which is both the mascot for the company and the name-sake) that provides personalized guidance to founders as they use the product.

Companies will be hard-pressed to find designers who might create pitch decks or consultants who can help develop high-quality business plans at the annual subscription price of Cuttles. “We hope that Cuttles can be the go-to place for entrepreneurs, so they build even stronger businesses when going through the early stages,” says Julie. The web app launches on March 9, 2020, and anyone can sign up for a two-day free trial. Then, solo entrepreneurs pay €10 each month, or €100 annually, for access to the software. Team plans are €20 per month or €200 each year.

Though Cuttles’ main users are early-stage entrepreneurs, the team believes that incubators, accelerators and university entrepreneurship programs will see a lot of value from the platform. Cuttles is already experiencing interest from these users and is about to close a deal of a paid pilot with a large Danish incubator. 

Initially, Christian bootstrapped the company, financing it from his consulting work on the side. In 2019, he raised a convertible loan from his business network, and in 2020, Cuttles will close a second convertible loan.

Cuttles Canvas

Becoming part of the Copenhagen ecosystem

Beyond the web app, Cuttles has begun creating content for their startup academy, which currently features a collection of online articles explaining certain processes and providing lists of recommended tools. All the information on starting a business is delivered in startup-friendly language, complete with emojis and GIFs. Cuttles has also opened a coworking space in the center of Copenhagen, just a few minutes from Kongens Nytorv, called Cuttles & Friends. “We wanted to create a physical space for aspiring entrepreneurs to become better entrepreneurs while contributing to the ecosystem in Copenhagen,” says Julie. 

The space is already attracting entrepreneurs and digital nomads from across Europe. Visitors can purchase a day ticket or pay by the hour, coming and going as they please. Christian explains that the space is not about making a profit but about bringing people who are interested in starting a business together. It also offer two seats for free to university students interested in entrepreneurship.

“In the near future, we’re going to do startup workshops, pitch slams and a lot of different, cool startup events,” he says. The neon sign in the office that reads “Never Give Up” is a constant reminder for members to love what they do every day.

Photo: Cuttles & Friends, a coworking space in the center of Copenhagen / All photos: © Cuttles