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Zendesk: This Entrepreneur From Denmark Brought His Company Stateside To 'The Most Fantastic Place In The World To Build Technology'

January 18, 2012
Business Insider
by Matt Lynley

Meet Mikkel Svane, one of three co-founders of customer service ticket processing app Zendesk.

Not really sexy, right? Well, not so fast — Zendesk is growing by leaps and bounds and its service processes more than 100 million help tickets. It’s built on iPads, iPhones and just about every other mobile device.

And these apps are definitely sexy. Zendesk is one of a big batch of “Enterprise 2.0” startups that are taking the lessons learned from Facebook and other social networking service and applying them to the enterprise.

Here’s how it works: Zendesk licenses out its software to companies that then build customer support applications. Whenever someone tweets, or posts a Facebook message or directly contacts the company, it opens a ticket that you access through the Zendesk application. It’s the customer service app of the future.

We spoke with Svane about his red-hot enterprise startup, and here’s what we learned:

  Starting the company was a series of coincidences. Svane and his co-founders decided it was a space that was under-covered and went after it.

  He’s happy to be in Silicon Valley. “I know California pretty well now, it’s just the most fantastic place in the world to build a technology business. We wouldn’t have been able to scale at the level we’ve been able to scale anywhere else in the world. It’s also been very rewarding, being in a place where you are the center of the universe.”

  Zendesk handles more than 100 million personal service requests each year. It’s the back-end for a lot of those customer service forms and Tweets you see on a daily basis.

  They’re developing an app for every platform because it’s easy. The Windows Phone app is the newest entry — which is doing something much more different than Android, a copycat of the iPhone, says Svane.

  For the nth time, enterprise applications are actually easy to use and just as exciting. Seriously. They are like Facebook and Twitter now. Get used to it.

BUSINESS INSIDER: So, how’d it all start? Let’s just go from there.

MIKKEL SVANE: We launched in October 2007, there were three founders. Two of us have been working in this industry for a number of years and were dramatically unsatisfied with the systems available in the industry. We didn’t feel they were internet generation ready. We just sat down and said let’s do this all over again, let’s build a completely new system for our current generation that can be a beautiful system but also a system that helps companies focus a lot more on the actual customer engagement rather than metrics and measurements and deflection and all these old school ways of thinking about customer service.

We founded that in Copenhagen, and moved in California in 2009. Until then it was a pretty bootstrapped operation and we’ve been through three financing rounds with Charles River, Benchmark, Matrix, raised $26 million. We have 160 people, headquartered in San Francisco. We have offices in London, Melbourne, and a new engineering office in Copenhagen and are growing at a crazy rate.

BI: How crazy?

MS: We are in the run rate of handling 100 million personal service interactions a year. We have 1 billion self service interactions every year. Every time somebody calls out to a service center or a help desk or gets somebody on the phone or email and somebody helps someone with a problem or an issue, that’s a personal service interaction. We provide a self-service interface and we have about a billion self-service interactions.

BI: So what are you guys trying to accomplish at Zendesk?

MS: It enables you to open your channels. We bring you a help desk back-end that makes it easy for an organization to delegate and to be transparent about what’s going on. When requests come in, all requests are being answered and routed to the right people at the right point in time. You make sure you have this streamlined communication. Then we put the tools in your hands so you can use them wherever you want.

We have an awesome iPhone app, a great iPad app, a Windows Phone app, Blackberry and Android, or your web browser. Wherever you are, we give you the ability to engage and deal with your customers. What your customers experience is that suddenly they can call that number, email that email address, write on your Facebook wall, and you as a company are able to deal with all these requests that are coming in.

Traditionally, dealing with a support center or a help desk, it’s not an experience you’re going to tell your girlfriend about. It’s one of these things we normally hate doing. But we help our customers turn that upside down and become really great. It becomes a good experience for everyone. That’s very much how we, as consumers, that’s what we want from companies. You want authentic, truthful and open communication.


Zendesk: This Entrepreneur From Denmark Brought His Company Stateside To 'The Most Fantastic Place In The World To Build Technology'

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