26th January 2015

Meeting Mikkel: Lessons from Startupland

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic, and Zendesk founder Mikkel Svane has written a personal account of his and his fellow founders’ journey from a loft in Copenhagen to running a billion dollar organisation headquartered in Silicon Valley and going public on the New York Stock Exchange. Zendesk is a CubanEight client and when we knew that Mikkel was going to be in London it presented an excellent opportunity for him to share his insights, both to the media and the business community in person.

We set up several meetings for high-profile journalists to meet with Mikkel throughout the day, before the main event in the evening at London’s prestigious networking space One Alfred Place. Having joined CubanEight just last week it was an exciting opportunity for me to experience a press event with an important client at first hand.

A guest list of journalists and directors from a number of backgrounds – including technology, small business, startups and even a Scandinavian lifestyle business blog – collected their bright name badges and gathered in the conference hall. The evening began at around 6.30pm with Zendesk Senior Vice President of Marketing Matt Price formally introducing Zendesk, Mikkel, and the story of how they came to work together. After detailing “that fateful day” when he was offered his position at the company, Matt introduced Tom O’Meara of StrategyEye who hosted the questions.

Starting with his reasons behind setting up Zendesk – notably disillusionment at how companies were treating their customer service divisions – Mikkel answered charismatically on a range of topics with his brilliant sense of humour entertaining the audience along the way. He talked about what makes a successful business, the difficulties that he encountered along the way, and why he had chosen to publish his story.

Mikkel Svane and Tom O'MearaAs an International Business Management graduate myself, I found his advice for business bosses and employers very interesting, and his light-heartedness certainly engaged the crowd. Most notable to me was his assertion that attitude was a more valuable asset in an individual for a small business than any particular skill when it came to hiring staff.

After answering Tom’s questions the floor was opened to the audience, who were keen to dig deeper into his philosophies on recruitment and the skills that he felt needed to be possessed to realise business growth aspirations. He spoke of his “American dream” having visited San Francisco and discovered a hotbed of technology, an abundance of capital, and plenty of “healthy competition” (as well as the glorious Californian weather!).

Once the questions had been answered Mikkel was tasked with signing copies of his book for guests, getting through a long queue in the process. Journalists and attendees then continued to mingle and compare notes, which gave me an excellent opportunity to meet people and find out a little more about their interests and angles. I also met Mikkel who was still able to talk and laugh after the day’s various engagements.

After books had been signed and pictures had been posed for, we saw guests out and had one final team photo with Mikkel before making our way back home.

As first experiences of press events go, this was a great education. The guests were very positive about the evening on departure, and there was great demand for a chat with Mikkel after the Q&A.

Startupland by Mikkel Svane is published by Wiley and available on Amazon if you fancy a read – highly recommended and quoted in The Times this week as Book of the Week!

CubanEight Mikkel Svane Zendesk