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Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business

ISBN: 978-1-118-98081-1
224 pages
December 2014, Jossey-Bass
Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business (1118980816) cover image

Description

The real story of what it takes to risk it all and go for broke.

Conventional wisdom says most startups need to be in Silicon Valley, started by young engineers around a sexy new idea, and backed by VC funding. But as Mikkel Svane reveals in Startupland, the story of founding Zendesk was anything but conventional.

Founded in a Copenhagen loft by three thirty-something friends looking to break free from corporate doldrums, Zendesk Inc. is now one of the hottest enterprise software companies, still rapidly growing with customers in 150 countries. But its success was anything but predestined. With revealing stories both funny and frank, Mikkel shares how he and his friends bravely left secure jobs to start something on their own, how he almost went broke several times, how they picked up themselves and their families to travel across the world to California and the unknown, and how the three friends were miraculously still together for Zendesk's IPO and (still growing) success.

Much like Zendesk's mission itself—to remove friction, barriers, and mystery in order to make customer service easier and more approachable—Startupland removes some of the myths about startups and startup founders. Mikkel's advice, hard-won through experience, often bucks conventional wisdom and entrepreneurial tropes. He shares why failure (whether fast or slow) is awful, why a seemingly boring product or idea can be the most exciting, why giving back to the community is as important as the bottom line. From how to hire right (look for people who are not offended by swearing) to which personas generate the highest response rates, Mikkel answers the most pressing questions from the perspective of someone still in the trenches and willing to share the hard truth, warts and all.

While there are books by consultants who tell you how to build businesses, or by entrepreneurs now running billion-dollar businesses, there are few books from people still in the trenches who acutely remember the difficult daily decisions, the thrill (and fears) of the early days, the problems that scale with growing a business, and the reason why they all went on the adventure in the first place. Startupland is indispensable reading for all entrepreneurs who want to make their ideas the next big thing. The book will inspire and empower you to follow your own dream and create your own story.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Alexia Tsotsis ix

Introduction: The Pursuit of Happiness 1

1 The Honeymoon 7

Believing that what you’re doing is great and knowing nothing of what’s to come

2 The Salad Days 31

Keeping it together when things should be falling apart

3 Going for Broke 57

How to turn down money and keep your company (and your soul)

4 The Bubble Redux 69

Battling circumstances beyond your control

5 The Game Is Not Over 81

Getting investors and getting along with your partners

6 Coming to America 97

Chasing the dream—and dealing with the reality

7 Go West 115

Leveraging location and upending our lives

8 Growing Up 133

Going from building a product to building a company—and messing up along the way

9 Innocence Lost 151

From idealist to realist, and the uncomfortable journey in between

10 Going to the Show 167

Becoming a public company and remembering where we came from

Epilogue 179

A Few More Thoughts 185

It’s all about relationships

Notes 189

Acknowledgments 191

About the Authors 193

Index 197

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Author Information

MIKKEL SVANE is founder, chairman, and CEO of Zendesk, Inc. (ZEN), a global software company with a beautifully simple web-based customer service desk, loved by tens of thousands of organizations in 150 countries including Uber, Adobe, Red Bull, and Pinterest. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and children. For more information, please visit www.zendesk.com, or follow Mikkel on Twitter via @mikkelsvane.

CARLYE ADLER is an award-winning journalist and coauthor of several bestselling books. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. She lives in New York. For more information, please visit www.carlyeadler.com.

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Reviews

“Mikkel Svane’s Startupland is a refreshingly honest and provocative account of his journey building Zendesk, complete with the hard choices, unexpected turns, and sheer terrors involved in running a startup. Svane blends practical advice with deeply personal reflections on the company, the industry, and Silicon Valley as a whole. A must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs.”
—Aaron Levie, cofounder and CEO, Box

“Mikkel Svane is a great founder who wrote a great book about some of the not-so-great moments throughout his entrepreneurial escapades. With honesty, humor, and humility, Startupland shows what it’s really like.”
—Paddy Cosgrave, founder, the Web Summit and F.ounders

 “I read Startupland over one weekend. I laughed, I cried, and mostly I was so happy I was on the other side. Mikkel Svane knows what it’s like and tells it as it is. A must-read.”
—Julia Hartz, cofounder and president, Eventbrite, Inc.

“Startupland is a refreshingly honest and humble inside look from Mikkel Svane, a Silicon Valley outsider. Startup founders will want to keep it as a reference for whenever things aren’t going according to plan (which is all the time).”
—Ben Chestnut, cofounder and CEO, MailChimp

 

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