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"I belonged to a laptop, not a lab" - Zendesk Co-Founder Zendesk CTO talks about his team's journey from Denmark to San Francisco and his ambitions in India

By Sneha Banerjee

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Eighteen years back, Morten Primdahl was studying biotechnology when he saw himself gradually getting drawn towards computer science courses. The CTO and co-founder of Zendesk, had back then realized that he belonged to a laptop and not in a lab! In 1999, Primdahl joined a start-up in Copenhagen, where he met one of his co-founder Mikkel Svane, who is now the CEO at Zendesk.

Zendesk, which had filed for an IPO with U.S. regulators in 2014, makes SaaS suite tools that helps connect companies connect to their clients online.

From Denmark to San Francisco

Very often start-ups are seen complaining about the dry spell of funds and stringent economic situations. Zendesk sets an example of how a company was actually built during the period of Lehman's crisis period. Primdahl and his team moved to Boston from Denmark after it raised Series A round of funds, and also relocated their families and IP to Boston. "That move told all the investors in the United States that we were committed to this for the long run and post that move, we had four Series B offers," Primdahl adds.

Talking about starting up during the recession period Primdahl said, "We were very optimistic about what we could do. We came together and saw the market size, saw that the products were broken, compared to what we thought it to be, modelled and useable. We really just felt that we had a fighting chance of building a business here!"

Primdahl said that they were successful in roping in customers like Dropbox, Airbnb and Uber early in their journey. Zendesk, which was now based in San Francisco, has seen these companies explode, as category leaders over the years.

Scaling SaaS-based business models

When asked about how should start-ups should go about scaling their business models in India, Primdahl said, there were thousands of start-ups competing in the same space today, hence it's much more difficult to scale-up today.

"What I had learnt personally was that once you get through Series A, it's time to think about execution really seriously. You have to start building your organization. You can't let yourself get pulled into the day-to-day drudgery. You have to find people who are inspiring, with whom you can take part in the business and grow it for you. I didn't think like that when we got to Series A, I wasn't matured enough back then. I didn't understand Silicon Valley. But, once you get through Series A, it's time to make a run for it. It's a make it, or break it situation, someone else is going to do it, if you don't," Primdahl said.

Team Zendesk said it's super-excited to see campaigns like' Make in India' fostering fast growing startups in the country and believes it is a good time to be in India. The company is equally excited about working with government organizations and non-profit organizations in India. The company has opened an office in India and has also signed three local partners to support its growth in India: Cloudcover, Powerupcloud and Virtuos.

(This article was first published in the November issue of Entrepreneur Magazine )

Sneha Banerjee

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

She used to write for Entrepreneur India from Bangalore and other cities in South India. 


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