The Role of Luck in a Startup

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Marketing podcast with Mikkel Svane

When you look at a seemingly successful company – say one that went from meager to startup to household name to public phenomenon – it’s easy to gloss over what it took to get from the garage to the board room.

ZenDeskMy guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Mikkel Svane, founder and CEO of Zendesk.

From humble beginnings: “Zendesk was started in a Copenhagen loft by three friends who used an old kitchen door as a desk. They wanted to bring a bit of zen to the chaotic world of customer support. And they wanted to do it with software that was nice to look at and easy to use.”

Today Zendesk is a publicly traded company located in San Francisco with customers worldwide and a market cap around $1.65 billion.

Svane chronicles the ZenDesk story in his new book Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business.

Perhaps most notable in the story is the role Svane assigns to luck. Many great companies are often in the right place at the right time, but of course it’s what they do with that timing that makes the difference.

Zendesk was started at a time when the voice of the customer movement was still a bit of a whisper. With the mainstream adoption of social media, customer service became a public affair and companies large and small had to get very serious about providing higher levels of service in the instantaneous and often public manner in which the customer now demands.

Zendesk met the market demand with a product that brought together both customer and market with the fusion of design and functionality that was perfect pitch.

It’s both interesting and inspiring to hear founders talk in such humble terms about how they took side gigs to pay the bills when far too often what we see today is simply the fruit of luck and hustle coming together.


Mikkel Svane, Startupland, ZenDesk

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  1. It’s nice to hear about the beginning of a huge company like Zendesk. I tend to forget that they started small like all of us. Now they are the giant it’s hard to compete with but they used to be the small outsider too.
    Inspiring podcast 🙂

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  3. It seems to me that somehow the trick is not to incur in big errors and let the luck to the rest of the work. Perhaps instead of teaching people how to succeed someone should start teaching people how NOT to fail!

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