Startupland | Mikkel Svane

Summary of: Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business
By: Mikkel Svane


Dive into the world of startups and learn from the experiences of Mikkel Svane, the co-founder of Zendesk, in his book ‘Startupland’. The summary takes readers on a journey filled with risks, failures, and success while offering insights into the entrepreneurial mindset, perseverance, teamwork, and the importance of adaptability. Throughout the tale, Svane navigates the challenges of starting a business, searching for investors, handling financial fears, and balancing family life, all while discovering the differences in business culture between the United States and Denmark.

Start-up Lessons from Columbus

Columbus’s egg-cracking trick illustrated an important lesson that even today’s startups can benefit from: it’s easy to do something once you know how – when you don’t, you have to take a risk. This was precisely the entrepreneurial spirit that inspired the author of Zendesk, a software tool that streamlines customer support. Through his own startup experiences, the author emphasizes that startups need to take risks, have faith in their ideas, and be prepared for setbacks and failures on their journey to success. The best ideas may not be the most exciting at first, but with strong execution, they can become highly attractive ventures, as evidenced by Dropbox.

Finding the Right Investor

Starting a business requires a good investor, but not all investors are good. Notably, startups don’t have a lot of options for their initial investment. As such, the best thing for them is to turn down selfish investors and hold out for a bit longer. Sometimes, friends and family members make the best investors. Zendesk founders raised $30,000 from a friend, and word of the project spread to his colleague’s bosses. It’s advisable to have low expectations, give investors no influence, and be prepared to disappoint people. Also, don’t turn down a good investor, even if you’ve collected enough funds. Zendesk accepted another angel investor’s investment which allowed them to grow even more ambitiously and gain an experienced financial partner.

The Value of Team-Building Skills in Entrepreneurship

Starting up a business requires good team-building skills to keep everyone focused and on the right track. This skill is particularly crucial in fragile situations when disagreements arise, and decisions must be made with caution. In the early days of Zendesk, three founding members had a hard time committing to the project. To keep the team together, the author offered to pay one of the founders a small salary, which was more important than giving in to lack of funds. However, the team faced a bigger hurdle when they acquired major funding. The founding members realized they would become a minority among stakeholders, which led to disagreements and stress. The author lost his temper during a meeting, but they eventually came to accept that getting major funding was the only way forward. In summary, being able to build and manage a team is an essential ingredient for success in entrepreneurship.

American Optimism and Start-up Success

American optimism has helped create an environment that fosters start-up success. The United States is the birthplace of major internet-related businesses and the internet itself. San Francisco embraced the internet early on, and its enthusiastic community showed that the country was the best place for innovators and investors to congregate. Zendesk founders were not surprised when their first major deal required them to relocate to the United States. When the team accepted venture capital funding, they had to move to Boston, where the venture capital firm was based. Despite Boston not being their ideal destination, the author convinced the team to make the move.

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