On the evening of June 12th, Silicon Vikings co-organized the "Nordic Pitch Night with Mikkel Svane" together with SCALEit and Innovation Center Denmark. Mikkel Svane, CEO & Co-Founder of Zendesk, recounted his entrepreneurial journey in an intimate “fireside chat.” Afterwards, in the entrepreneurial spirit, 12 Nordic startup companies presented one minute “elevator pitches” to the audience. Attendees had ample time for networking and the opportunity to chat with Mr. Svane, all while enjoying complementary beer, wine and appetizers.
The host introduced Mr. Svane by quoting a recent tweet where he summed up the creation of Zendesk, “From 'Pisserenden' to Wall Street in seven years, thank you everyone for your support.” Mr. Svane and his cofounders bootstrapped Zendesk from a small Copenhagen loft.
Forming Zendesk was an uphill battle, as Mr. Svane describes, “no one cared about customer service ten years ago […] customer service was something you needed to have but it didn’t drive your business.” With modern social media, sharing one’s experience as a customer is effortless, but when Mr. Svane was starting Zendesk social media wasn’t the powerful tool it is today. However, Mr. Svane saw the importance in creating great customer service, because a satisfied customer becomes your “sales force” by sharing their positive experience with others. Mr. Svane estimates that 70 percent of his company’s yearly growth comes from customer service alone, demonstrating a customer’s ability to become a powerful sales force.
The interview took on a more personal tone as Mr. Svane talked about the joys and hardships of raising four children while building his company and the difficulties of living in the United States while still having strong ties to Denmark.
Other topics included: the importance of sometimes disagreeing with one’s cofounders to stimulate innovation; the passion involved in a bootstrap company; the value of creating user-friendly interfaces; pivoting your startup company as you gain real-world experience; identifying targets for your products; using modern technology to simultaneously work with small and large clients; dealing with the likelihood of failure as an entrepreneur and the joy of being an entrepreneur.
After Mr. Svane left the stage, representatives from 12 different Nordic startups presented one-minute pitches to the audience. The nature of the startup companies ranged from maritime software to dermatological smartphone applications. Following the presentations, attendees had additional networking opportunities while the appetizers and drinks continued to flow.