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Customer service superhero start-up Zendesk lands in Paddington

With $26m investment and a new London office we meet the man behind Silicon Valley’s latest export

May 10, 2012
London Loves Business
by Gabriella Griffith

Zendesk is the newest addition to London’s technology scene. Based in Silicon Valley, the company enjoyed a double celebration yesterday as it cut the ribbon to its new London office, and celebrated its 5,000th European customer. Globally, its customers include Adobe, Sony, Yammer and Groupon

The customer service software company was founded in Copenhagen in 2007 but soon gave in to the call of the Valley and moved to San Francisco. But instead of moving across the pond to London’s sprawling east London tech-mecca or Silicon Roundabout as it’s known to its friends, Zendesk has now set up shop in Paddington.

I managed to grab founder Mikkel Svane for a quick chat as he flew in from Berlin, before the party kicked off in Zendesk’s new west London HQ, to find out more.

So Mikkel, how is the new office shaping up?
Good! We’ve got people walking around everywhere with lights and other equipment but we are almost there.

We have had quite a lot of help from people like London & Partners and UK Trade and Investment, and found good people all round - from our agents over here to the people that did the fit out of the office - so the move has been very smooth.

Glad to hear it! Can you tell me a little bit about what you do at Zendesk?
Sure, it’s been a very exciting time as we have grown very fast and quite virally. Basically we power the customer service experience that our clients offer their clients. We offer a cloud-based solution and community support to enable our customers to engage with their customers through different channels such as call centres, online forums and social media.

Why do you think this is an important service for businesses?
In many way we came up with the concept because we wanted to get better customer service and thought there needed to be a product to create that. Today companies focus more heavily on customer service than anything else. It has become more important to retain existing customers than get big one off sales.

We empower our customers to create these lasting relationships through our platform.

What is your revenue like?
We don’t publish our figures, but we tripled our revenue year on year from 2010 until now and we are growing 30 per cent quarter on quarter. We have received $26m investment to date from Charles River Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Matrix Partners.

So why the UK and why now?
We are growing very quickly in Europe at the moment and we have 15,000 customers worldwide. The UK is by far the most important market outside the US and an important hub for servicing the rest of Europe.

Also London is a great place! We can attract talent being based here.

So did you do a lot of recruiting from inside the UK for did you bring staff over from San Francisco?
We haven’t moved anyone from the States. In our London office we now have French, Italian, German and Spanish speakers most of whom already lived in London. For those who had to move here from Europe it wasn’t a hard sell, we say, “Hey do you want to come and work for a hot technology company in London?” and people jump at the chance.

We have been quite choosy, you have to make sure you give yourself top notch talent and find people with the right background and skills.

So why buck the trend and move to Paddington?
We weren’t sure if there was any space left! We found when we hired our London team that we had the majority of people living in west London. We were hiring quite a senior team and most of them have moved out of London with their families so Paddington is an easy place for them to get in and out of.

We also have the Heathrow Express landing on our doorstep which is very handy.

There’s a real buzz about the area and we are catching the attentions of larger companies. There are lots of different companies around us - architecture, design and technology businesses. Although we do seem to be taking a lot of meetings from people on their way to east London!

How do you think London compares with Silicon Valley?
I don’t think that you can compare any place in the world to Silicon Valley – it’s the HQ of the internet. But that doesn’t take away from what is happening here, London has grown a very unique scene and we have great customers here who have a presence both here an in San Francisco.

I understand you are also doing some work with charities?
Yes we pledged to raise $1m for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital near our San Francisco office and hope to do something similar for the community here. Part of our team culture is to focus on local initiatives. If we give attention to these good causes our customers can learn too.

We looked around for local charities to work with and found St Mungos and COSMIC (Children of St Mary’s Intensive Care). We will help with fundraising activities for the causes – for example COSMIC is trying to buy a local house for the parents of sick children to stay in when they are in hospital.

Wow that’s great. I’m sure you’ll be a huge part of the community in no time!

Customer service superhero start-up Zendesk lands in Paddington

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