Tip for Startups: make sure you don’t hire a**holes

Some time ago I had a chance to enjoy Mikkel’s interview at Startup Grind San Francisco. Mikkel Svane is a Founder and CEO at Zendesk.com, a web-based, SaaS-delivered help desk that enables companies to provide better customer service. How did it all begin? In 2007 three guys in Denmark had a simple idea – to make their customers happy. The idea soon became a business model, and nowadays over 100 M people around the world receive support from Zendesk (you can read the whole story from Mikkel himself here – Zendesk: What is the founding story of Zendesk?).



Mikkel was very open about Zendesk’s startup experience and also entertained us with his laugh-at-life humor. Just a couple of things to take away:

Why does Customer Service is such a big thing now?
Nowadays Customer Service is not only relationship with one client, it’s the relationship with his family, friends and all connections in social media. If you make him unhappy, a lot of people will find out about it.

Your customer is your main marketing channel. You just need the right technology to expend it. Maybe, Zendesk? 😉

How do you find people to work on your startup?
The company is all about the people, so look for the great team initially. Now it’s harder and harder to get bright people on your team. The market is crazy. That’s why, you can get very lucky if you built a startup in a bad economy.

How do you build a company culture?
You can not create a culture in the company. Company culture is a reflection of people whom you hire. Make sure you don’t hire assholes 🙂 Hire people with the right values. When you need to choose between an ok but a loyal employee and a kick ass asshole, think long term. You can never easily get rid of an asshole.

Should you start your business in Silicon Valley?
The diverse culture of SF makes it the best place to built a startup. However, if you build for SV, most probably you will fail. There just too much things going here. Start in SV and, If you get some early adoption, it means you are on to something special. But you need to be brave and go out. You can build a big business only in the real world.

What if you fail to make your customer happy?

Relationship with your customer is kind of like relationship with your spouse. Sometimes you really disappoint each other. Then you need to figure out a way to look each other in the eyes and say “I am sorry”. And start over from there.

I must say that we all make mistakes. It’s inevitable. They say that if you are not making mistakes, you are not running fast enough. Your customers will forgive you the mistakes. Going through a crisis together can actually make your relationship stronger. The main point is you need to care and over-deliver.



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