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Entrepreneur Stories

Zendesk
We are redesigning a category and are doing it by treating our customers like they wanted to be treated – which is like human beings. Building a great product is nice, but we are in the customer service business and their opinions, frustrations, and feelings are the heart of what we do. - Mikkel Svane, Zendesk

Mikkel Svane and his two cofounders set out not only to redefine and humanize customer service, but also to make something beautiful.

Building Something Beautiful

Mikkel Svane spent his early career working with software in the realm of customer service, having what he describes as “vastly discouraging experiences.” Systems were unfriendly-- no one could figure out how to use them. At the most basic level, they did not deal with customers.

The Denmark native felt inspired, however, on his first trip to the Bay Area in 1995. There was an “amazingly cool” energy around the Valley and everything was geared towards the Web. Upon his return to Denmark, he created one of the country’s first horizontal community portals, which was acquired within the year. Mikkel then founded Caput, a company focused on creating standard software components for community building and social networks. In 2002, he left to become General Manager for the German service management consulting group Materna.

It was at Materna that Mikkel began to think about how great it would be to build a customer service solution that worked right out of the box, something that would give everyone outstanding customer service, something slick, something beautiful.

In 2007, Mikkel reconnected with friends and former colleagues Alexander Aghassipour, and Morten Primdahl to create Zendesk.

“I felt an undeniable pull to get back to building products. I want to make cool stuff, stuff that makes an impact. I want to change the way companies work with their customers. It should be personal,” explains Mikkel.

From its infancy, customers loved what Zendesk offered, so much so that the founders decided to move the company from Denmark to the United States less than two years after it started. It was important to be a part of the culture that Mikkel found so electrifying in 1995.

Mikkel’s energy was contagious. The company grew at a remarkable pace while staying true to the mission of making customer service not only easier, but more human.

“We are redesigning a category and are doing it by treating our customers like they wanted to be treated – which is like human beings,” says Mikkel. “Building a great product is nice, but we are in the customer service business and their opinions, frustrations, and feelings are the heart of what we do.”

Upon moving to San Francisco, Mikkel connected with Matrix. Mikkel knew and had developed enormous respect for David Skok in Matrix’s Boston office, who was excited about the Zendesk opportunity. David made the introduction to Dana Stalder who was based in Silicon Valley and could be more hands-on. Dana and Mikkel immediately hit it off and spent a lot of time together before Zendesk actively looked for a new venture partner. When Mikkel felt it was time to raise funds, Matrix was a natural fit.

“Mikkel impressed me from the first time I met him,” said Matrix general partner, Dana Stalder. “He was humble, customer focused and had a vision for how servicing customers was going to change in an era of social networking.  That focus allowed him to build a product that had tremendous product-to-market fit from a very early point in the life of the company and it is that maniacal focus that has allowed Zendesk to continue its growth trajectory.”

Today more than 65 million people in 137 countries receive support from Zendesk-powered customer service departments and help desks. The company is ever increasing its global presence with offices in London, Melbourne, and Copenhagen and now totals more than 200 employees. Even as the company has scaled, Zendesk lives its values, keeping things simple, authentic, democratic, and human. Whether it be the cafeteria-style lunch tables that foster discussion between colleagues from all departments or Mikkel’s “door is always open” policy, Zendesk breeds respect. 

Mikkel Svane

Founder & CEO

Zendesk

Web-based customer support software that provides your technicians with elegant ticket management and a self-service customer community.

Matrix Partners Board Members

Dana Stalder